Beekeeping notes by Amanda Millar
I have now frozen all my honey supers for a few days to kill all wax moth stages and they are stacked in the garage in large plastic trays with solid boards on top to exclude any unwanted visitors. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the bottom of the pile, the wax moth larvae had already found them, so when I find time to go through them all and clean up the runners and contact surfaces, I shall have some patches of webbing and dead larvae and pupae to remove. Mostly the wax moth go for areas which have had brood in or pollen in but are quite capable of damaging clean comb and woodwork too. As I now use foundation strips, I can cut out the damaged area and leave the clean comb behind for the bees to repair. I carefully mark each super with the colony number it came off, so there is no chance of spreading any disease.
I had given all my colonies a thorough inspection and disease check in August and all looked well. On 13th September, nearly a month later, I went through to assess the stores they had and calculate how much syrup to feed. It was a shock to discover that three colonies had no laying queen, two had sealed queen cells (one had emergency cells and one supersedure cells) and a bit of sealed brood and the third had recently emerged emergency cells and no brood so I gave them a frame of eggs from another colony. Were these imperfect supersedures which had gone a bit wrong leaving them queenless ? My colonies frequently supersede in autumn but usually it is perfect supersedure where the old queen overlaps with the new queen, sometimes all winter with no brood break. It is now 8-10 days since they would have emerged and the weather last week was over 20°C most days so there is a good chance of mating, although few of my colonies have any drones now. One of the three, whose queen had emerged first, had thrown a pile of unhappy looking drones out a fortnight ago and when I checked this afternoon I was relieved to find 5 frames of brood. The other two had loads of fresh pollen, areas of polished cells and not roaring at least, so fingers crossed. I will check in 3-4 days time and as the weather has changed to cooler and showery, if those two still have no brood I must merge or requeen with my nucs (if I can find a slippery virgin!). The lack of brood at this time is not good, as the winter bees upon which the colony survival depends, have not been made, so any new queen will need to lay very well while there is pollen still available to make up for lost time.
a bunch of unhappy drones thrown out on 2nd September
I had noticed that the mite drop had been increasing particularly in these three colonies, now I know the reason. Rather than an early mite bomb the mites are on the bees as there is little brood. This makes it the ideal time to do a treatment. I do not normally do an Oxalic Acid vapourisation (OAV) treatment as early as mid September but it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss, for a one off treatment rather than weeks of 5-daily treatments. The result was quite satisfying with several hundred mites removed. A subsequent monitor with icing sugar showed them to have low mites compared with the queenright colonies. A job for early October will be to start OAV on the rest; this is when they acquire a lot of mites from elsewhere. As OAV does not penetrate sealed brood, I shall need to do it every 5 days for a full brood cycle before seeing an improvement in the mite drop.
Although I had leveled the hives from side to side in the spring after winter, wet ground movement, so my foundation starter strips would be drawn vertically within the frame bars, I did not pay too much attention to the for and aft direction (I run the ‘cold’ way) filling the feeders with syrup soon showed up any discrepancy and I had to resort to some thin plastic wedges under the corners so the bees could access all the syrup in my rapid feeders.
Comma on Aster
Today I detected the strong, pleasant smell of ivy around the hives. This is three weeks later than in Eastbourne. I hope it will be warm enough for the bees to make some use of it, although most of my colonies have taken down the syrup they require and I have removed the feeders. I find it useful to have a checklist of autumn jobs to keep track of my dozen colonies and tick off when I have finished feeding, removed feeders (I missed one last year and by the time I found it, it was all stuck up with propolis), mouseguards, insulation over the crownboard (back on now the feeders are off), final mite treatment etc. I shall not need to disturb them by opening them any more this year, except for the two with no brood, so can leave them to seal up between the boxes and crownboards with propolis to manage their own ventilation as they wish. Most of mine have already sealed up the plastic mesh I put over the crownboard hole.
The wasp traps of jam and water were a bit slow to show results, I think it needs to ferment a little to attract them, I normally add a bit of beer sediment from the homebrew but did not have any available at that time. There are still lots of wasps around, and may account for why some of the colonies have been a bit grumpy recently.
There is a lot of fresh pollen of different colours being collected still. The asters are very good this autumn, attracting lots of gorgeous butterflies and hoverflies. I have bought some bulbs for the spring for tubs, as the flowerbeds are so stuffed with crocus etc I risk damaging the existing if I try to plant more.
Hoverfly is likely Eristalis arbustorum (dark form) Red Admiral