December 17 Beekeeping notes by Amanda Millar
There is little to do in December except checking that the hives have not blown over, or been damaged by woodpeckers, damp or vandalism and that the entrances are not blocked by dead bees. Put the insert in mid month for a week (or do an icing sugar dust to get a more accurate and rapid assessment) in order to assess the mite drop and decide whether oxalic acid treatment is necessary at the end of the month. Sussex University believe that if any sealed brood is removed just before doing an oxalic treatment, this will last for a full year. Do take appropriate personal safety measures and read thoroughly the dosage etc to prevent harm to yourselves and the bees.
On one colony at the Divisional apiary and one at home I found the icing sugar was not coming through well and discovered some dead bees on the mesh floor. These colonies had a lot if mites last month so this is probably a sign of varroa-induced viruses and are a warning that they may not make it through the winter. It has been quite mild at times though and pollen is still going in at the end of November.
A red admiral
Equipment can be cleaned, I still have a load of frames to scrape and boil up to sterilise. Mead and candles can be made, also any stored comb should be checked to nip any young wax moth larvae before it does too much damage. I shall be looking at my records to decide which colonies performed best this year and might be used for queen rearing next year.
As explained previously, I tried out an Apishield floor manufactured by Vita Bee Health this autumn and now have the results. This floor is primarily designed to trap Asian hornets but also wasps, robber bees and wax moth. It is intended to be in place from August to November. Instead of replacing the current floor (as otherwise I would have been unable to carry out icing sugar dusting), the Apishield floor was placed under the normal floor as suggested in a recent BBKA news. It was put in place on 31st August and removed 25th October, after about 8 weeks. From the second week in September the colony was unusually angry. There was a large build up of debris on and in the drawer which probably encouraged wax moth, of which I found at least 8 as larvae and pupae. There were also well over 100 varroa (some alive) in the draw debris and inside the drawer there were 465 dead worker bees and 1 dead drone, and 375 dead wasps, mostly Common wasps but some German, one or two were queen wasps but it was rather difficult to tell as they had all shrunk and decayed to varying degrees. I did blame their awful temper on the smell of dead and dying bees and wasps so close to them but unfortunately their temper has not improved much since it was removed about 4 weeks ago. Other aspects of the Apishield are that it is quite a complicated design in rather thin plywood and 8 weeks worth of debris took a bit of removing. I shall have to blow torch it rather carefully because of the plastic traps in the sides. It remains to be seen how effective it is against Hornets but I was disturbed by the number of bees killed. I am glad they only recommend one per apiary. I am not sure whether I shall use it next year, unless we get more Asian Hornet sightings.
A dead bee and wasp locked in combat
The mild weather has seen a lot of lovely butterflies around and sunning themselves on my hives, see picture. But the wasps are also still around. Outside the entrance of my apidea I found a dead bee and dead wasp locked together with the bee’s jaws around the antenna of the wasp. Presumably the bee managed to sting the wasp. I wonder how many bees the wasp stung to death with its unbarbed sting before it was killed, there are not that many bees in an Apidea anyway. See picture.
Wasps under a hive
In the news
Michael Gove, not particularly noted for pro-environmental policy, has said the UK will back a total ban on Neonicotinoid pesticides in fields across Europe. Let us hope he keeps his word, and follows this through to an actual lasting ban. I have already reported on the research showing how garden centre plants are poisonous with pesticides. I read with horror today that bulbs are also drenched with neonics, so all those I planted this autumn may poison my bees, oh grief!
Have a Happy Christmas!