Amanda's Beekeeping Notes September 2019

Beekeeping notes from Amanda Millar

Main jobs for September

The main jobs for September are giving the colonies a thorough check of each frame for health and disease, whether queenright, assessing the stores they have and topping up with strongest sugar syrup you can make, as soon as possible. Only give them what they need otherwise they will fill the area which is required to produce the all-important winter bee brood, also surplus could get into next year’s honey crop and it’s a waste of money and effort.  Depending on their size, nucs will need between 25-35lbs total, up to large colony filling the equivalent of a double brood, which will need a total of nearly 50lbs. Most of mine already have some honey so I will not need to feed this total thank goodness. Other things to think about are insulation, wasp traps if they are a nuisance, and towards the end of the month; mouse guards. Queen excluders should be removed if not already taken off with the honey supers.

This year I seem to be up-to-date with bee chores; most unusually. This is mainly because I did not have a lot of honey to remove as I only had four production colonies (due to queen loss last winter and culling because of Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus). The survivors of CBPV had depleted populations and did not collect as much as they could have. I am pleased to say they have recently shown no further signs of the virus and seem to have lots of brood. I hope they have worked it out of their system and with old brood removed hope I do not have a repeat next year. I have been unable to find much information about durability etc of the virus but it is passed by contact with infected bees and faeces. I made up my losses by rearing quite a few nucs and collected swarms. So now I have lots of colonies again. These not-so-small nucs are relatively trouble free, no honey to worry about, good tempered, low mites because most had brood breaks so apart from a few dusting sessions with icing sugar for a couple of them, all I have to do now is feed them.


I have given them two feeds already (a small rapid feeder of 2:1 sugar syrup equates to 5lb of stores). I have also given them all their full health check for brood quality and any disease (none thankfully), quantity of stores so I know exactly how much they need to be fed, and state of comb so I know which need new comb in the spring. This will be the last invasive inspection before the winter, I will just check now and again for presence of eggs (ie queenright) and leave them to it. However, I am expecting a mite invasion and will have to do Oxalic Acid Vapourisation late November. Most of the nucs and all the swarms started with clean comb so only a couple will need new comb in the spring, and with a bit of luck those will have moved up into the boxes with stores so I can just remove the empty bottom box (I run all mine on the same sized shallow boxes so can do this easily). One mature colony I put Apiguard on a week ago as it dropped 50 mites after dusting and has dropped 1300 mites in that time but it was tailing off and yesterday I removed the empty tray and insert because of the heatwave we are expecting this bank holiday weekend. I shall have to wait until it is below 25 degrees before considering if they need another tray, but I can use icing sugar in the meantime. The only other colony showing serious mite drop was one which dropped 500 in 5 days of natural drop - horrors! A dust next day produced  ~ 200 and then the numbers dropped right off before I had made up my mind between Oxalic acid vapourisation and Apiguard based on the prevailing temperature. At first I was afraid they had become queenless or broodless and all the mites were phoretic at that time but on inspection they have at least three shallows full of brood so I am at a loss to the cause of this mite blip. It is too early for my regular invasion in late October and none of the other colonies had it.

The Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, which lays its eggs in wasp and hornets nests


I was surprised that all three swarms I collected are a bit grumpy, I have heard the suggestion it may be because there are so many hybrid Buckfast queens being bought (by beginners who lose their swarms…?); the second generation open mated queens tend to produce bad tempered colonies. Another good reason to use locally reared queens. 

This last few weeks, (apart from that wet week in August) some butterflies and lots of lovely hoverflies have been around, particularly on my wild scabious. I have had three species of Volucella; V. Inanis, the Hornet Hoverfly (V. zonaria) Britain's largest, and the Great Pied Hoverfly (V. pellucens) the superficial resemblance to the European Hornet should not give cause for concern; they are completely harmless and very beautiful.

The Large Pied Hoverfly, Volucella pellucens, lays eggs in wasp nests

I started a Prairie bed in the spring with Autumn flowering Rudbeckia, Echinops and Echinacea. The young plants have a few flowers on now and are very popular with honey and solitary bees. Now is the time to plant spring specie crocus corms and allium bulbs and plan your bee-garden for next year.

Solitary bee on Rudbeckia


In the News: recently there have been reports of mass bee deaths in Brazil, Russia, and elsewhere. There is little doubt that pesticides are at the root of it

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