June beekeeping notes, Amanda Millar
Last September, I had an outbreak of Greater Wax Moth in my garage, but after going through every box and stored frame I failed to find the source of the infestation. Well, this week I found it! It was my home-made solar wax extractor, which I did not use at all last year (not enough sun?) and still had a bit of slum gum on the mesh. I found it just in time as the box was now full of Lesser Wax Moth larvae and eggs. They had demolished one side of the polystyrene sheet too so I have now re-made it, lined it with new foil and put it to use. Reading a book by Ron Brown, he suggests just using it for frames with some yellow wax in and leaving dark brood frames for boiling to remove more wax. But I boiled up some slumgum this morning and there was no noticeable wax on the top, so the solar extractor is efficient enough for me. Now all I need is some sun if you please.
Solar wax extractor just waiting for the sun
Swarms seem to have started the week before the Bee Festival; much later than usual. Two of my largest have had artificial swarms carried out. So far the rest have just needed several supers, but I will have to be vigilant. If any beginners find a number of queen cells, they first need to decide whether they are emergency cells (usually on the face of the comb) indicating the loss of a queen, or swarm cells (most frequently but not exclusively around the edges; top, bottom or sides). Supersedure cells are less common at this time of year and usually are only one or two in number. Panicking and removing swarm cells will not stop the swarm from leaving and they will probably just make poor quality emergency queen cells. The most reliable method is an artificial swarm, merging later if you wish to return to a single hive. Three of the easiest and most reliable options, with diagrams are to be found in our training course notes. I have heard of beginners' nuclei trying to swarm in the last few years, so don't assume you are safe from swarms in your first year.
It is also warm enough to do shook swarms if they need it, this is good if you have dark comb, Chalkbrood, dysentery etc. but best if there are at least 5 seams of bees to work with or they may not be able to generate the heat to build new wax quickly.
The oil-seed rape is now nearly over, if you are in an area with OSR, within 3 miles then you need to remove any surplus honey and extract it straight away otherwise it will set hard in the combs. Mostly, I found it to be along the Downs when I looked, and fortunately I have none near me this year.
View of OSR fields from above
The photo is of an area to the south and slightly east of Lewes I think. As I write, the Horsechestnut and Hawthorn are nearly over and we need to make sure are large colonies do not go hungry if we have a June Gap before the blackberry nectar comes on-line.
World Bee Day:
Sunday 20th May was the first World Bee Day and I took a photo of my bee house which I bought last year from Nurturing Nature Ltd. At the beginning of the month only a few cells had been laid down although the owners (and can you spot the lurking spider in the middle?) were spending the night in the tunnels (first photo), 16 days later they were all full and the spider had been ejected (2nd photo).
Bee house, with bees and a lurking spider spending the night in the tubes
16 days later, all full and spider ejected
Certain pollens (and other parts of the plant) contain toxic compounds produced by the plant, possibly to deter herbivores, although the nectar (as an attractant to pollinators) is often much less toxic. Adult bees have been found to have a high tolerance of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in Viper's Bugloss pollen, at levels normally found when bees have access to a diverse diet, while the larvae are very susceptible. It was found that the worker jelly was produced with much lower levels than found in the pollen or beebread the nurse bees feed on.
This is another reason why bees should have access to a diverse range of flowers and explains why some solitary bees which feed their larvae on pollen, have specialised on certain plants. Almond pollen can also be toxic; pity the American bees forced to live on that monoculture while pollinating Californian almonds!
There are now four advantages for feeding larval honeybees on jelly; more rapid maturation than on a pollen diet; it is 90% digestible so there are less faeces to deal with; jelly has antimicrobial properties helping to reduce infections and finally it protects them from toxic pollen.
All EU countries have agreed a neonicotinoid ban on outdoor crops. Hurray!