Beekeeping notes from Amanda Millar
Yellow faces from oil seed rape and brick red pollen from the horse chestnuts and the latest research:
I noticed the Oil Seed Rape flowers were fading on 15th May so I hope those un/lucky enough to be near it have been able to take any honey off before it granulates. The problem arises if there is not really enough to be worth taking off, as may well be the case with low-nectar modern hybrid OSR, but enough to contaminate the rest of the summer crop causing it to set later. I am thankful my nearest is only a few fields, and just over 3 miles away as the bee flies and I have only seen one or two with yellow faces. Now mine are coming in with brick red pollen from the horse chestnuts in the next few gardens, and it has sugar rich nectar so I am hoping my bees will prefer that now. There has certainly been a strong odor of nectar, but not quite as pleasant as the blackberry or early flowers I think. We may get another early maincrop this year. My cultivated blackberries are all in flower (mid May) and the wild ones are usually 2-3 weeks behind. Most of the alliums I planted last year are in flower and visited by various bee species.
I have been kept busy catching up with my cleaning and sterilizing of super frames – because I have run out! This is partly because I am now almost completely on shallow boxes so needing more, but also because I carried out 5 artificial swarms and a split (well nuc really); all the while they have been quite busy bringing in nectar and I tend to give them space in advance of their requirements to prevent them making swarm preparations. The split/nuc was on my equal-best colony, which was showing no signs of swarming (that’s partly why it is one of my best; no trouble, big and healthy), but I wanted some queens off it and the parent to be established and mated before the main flow. So scraping frames until late into the night and I had a big boil-up today of 5 boxes worth of frames, but I am still going to need to buy some new frames for the Divisional out apiary where the inconsiderate so-and-so’s required 3 of the 4 to have artificial swarms this month. I will go tomorrow to see if the queens have variously hatched and/or mated. Then by mid June I should be able to merge them back in time for the main flow, perhaps keeping both parts from the best colony. Actually I cannot complain about their timing this year, it is spot on. Not too early that they caught me on the wrong foot but in time to be sorted by the nectar flow.
My Apidea all mated last week
At home the odd spells of really nice weather have enabled my first 4 Apidea to all mate and now have eggs. I cannot remember this sort of success before. However, the parent colony of these has lost its virgin (I did see her at one point) so may have to use one to requeen it. The old Queen in the Artificial Swarm part is slowly increasing but she is a late 2015 supersedure so I can forgive her not laying like a one-year-old. I expect she will be superseded this year; I shall miss her.
I cannot over-emphasise how useful it is to have a batch of Apidea in the wings in case of queen loss. Virgins mate much quicker from Apidea, and very few bees are required so do not deplete the main colonies, whereas large colonies can take 3-4 weeks before finding eggs, by which time all the brood has hatched and unless you keep a close eye on them and give them a frame of young brood now and then, you could easily end up with irretrievable drone laying workers. So I keep a note of dates and check a day after she was due to hatch to make sure it was a good hatch. For example one I checked today in which I had left two queen cells, one had hatched yesterday and she had then gone to the other and stung her to death and the bees had started to tear down the cell. In the Apidea I heard the virgins piping to ascertain whether any competitors were present, which she needed to despatch. Then about 10 days later I check for eggs. If no eggs, then by this time only a little sealed brood remains (perfect for a little icing sugar knock-down of any phoretic mites) and if they seem out of sorts or I don’t see the queen/virgin I put a frame of young brood to prove a virgin is still there (if not they can start emergency queen cells on it).
Keep up with their space requirements for nectar, which they need to spread out to process so require more space than the finished honey will occupy, and I am afraid swarming is still on the cards, especially if they run out of room.
This bee could not leave the Allium karataviense alone
In the news: on
World Bee Day, on 18th May; Bee Market Day, a report was published by WWF and Buglife about the status of bees in eastern England. The author Laurie Jackson is a friend and only lives a mile from me - small world. L Jackson, L. (2019) East of England Bee Report: A report on the status of threatened bees in the region with recommendations for conservation action. Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Peterborough.
Of the 228 species recorded in Eastern England, 17 species (7%) are regionally extinct, 25 species (11%) are threatened and 31 species (14%) are of conservation concern. They identified loss and fragmentation of specialised habitat; changing land management leading to loss of key forage plants, nesting and over-wintering sites; pesticides and pollution; climate change; invasive species, disease and pathogens. Their recommendations include improving honey bee husbandry and management practices as one of the principle sources of cross species disease spread, so lets all do our bit to keep clean colonies and equipment so we do not spread viruses etc. to our other bees.
Guess what my Red Mason Bees were up to!