Beekeeping notes from Amanda Millar
Jobs for October:
The bees should all be fed, treated and tucked up for winter now. Because of the good summer, I have not had to do much syrup feeding. I also had some winter stores rescued in the spring, stored in the deep freeze, to give back to a couple of colonies. One colony had its full complement of stores as honey so needed no topping up. It is a shame that when I did their final health/brood/stores check in the second half of September, this colony only had sealed brood, no eggs or larvae and I could not find a queen. I shall have to check them again, having given them two empty drawn frames next to the brood as they had little space but might end up harvesting another 30 lbs honey if I have to cull them. Even though I could not find a specific problem, although during the summer they had some patchy brood unlike the rest of my garden colonies; their temper is good and no queen cells. I am a bit uneasy why they may have lost their queen so shall not merge them with the adjacent colony in case it is one of the symptom-free viruses. Apart from this one, I shall not be going into the colonies for some months. All my entrance blocks are already 5.5mm so I don't need to put mouse guards on, but if you have higher than this, remove them and put metal mouse guards in their place. One of my checks is to ensure they have some insulation on the crown board now the feeders are off, and put straps round those in windy out-apiaries. I also do another varroa check in late October, by insert or dusting, as I know I will get a late influx of varroa from neglected, dying colonies within robbing distance of my bees, and will probably have to do more dusting. I should be scraping supers and frames and storing things away for the winter but am still held up by my injured thumb; most annoying. Meanwhile, we have to negotiate stacks of supers in the garage, awaiting attention.
asters in the garden
Plating for Bees:
Up to now, touch wood, we have not had any very cold weather although tonight (23rd Sept) it might go down to 5 degrees; the coldest yet, so with the earlier warmth and that bit of rain many nice bee plants have had a second flowering. I am happy to see bees all over my borage, calendula, campion and meadow cranesbill. I think the sedum is over although it retains its attractive red for some time. My scabious, rudbeckia and wild yellow wallflower are still going strong and the asters and caryopteris have recently come into flower.
Hoverflies and Carder bumblebees in particular seem to like a large clump of wild Catnip Nepeta cataria. I still have time to collect seed and take cuttings of these. My garden is pretty stuffed with crocuses etc so this year I have bought bulbs of several different alliums which bees love. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact locations of existing bulbs so deciding where to put them so they are not on top of something else might be challenging. I have the same problem with some bee plants I sowed last autumn to plant out somewhere now the soil is moist. Slugs and draught delayed me in the spring; Caryopteris, Tansy, Perovskia, Verbena bonariensis, Agastache anisata.
Catnip with Carder bumblebee
I brought my bait hive into the shed last week and as usual accidentally disturbed a solitary bee’s nest under the edge of the roof. Last year it was the red mason bee, this year a leaf-wrapped tube of a leafcutter bee which has remained intact thank goodness. See photo. I shall carefully store it in a cool location and hope to be around when they emerge next year. I have also brought all my solitary bee houses into my cold greenhouse for the winter as there was a lot of rain forecast this weekend and they are all full up now. There are several tunnels used by leafcutter bees and I have a suspicion at least one has emptied and reused a tunnel already filled by the earlier Red Mason bees. I might have to make some more homes for next year.
leafcutter bee tube