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John the BeeMan's Blog - August 2015 - Uniting Colonies & Cut Comb

BBKA News - August

An interesting article on observing the entrance and the results of the winter surveys, including comparison on treated colonies against untreated ones.

Yet another chapter on “Winter Bees” and the varroa treatment.   The advice here is to use the MAQS formic acid method, giving all the advantages.   I have used these very successfully for the last 3 seasons and intend to continue with them.

Apiary Up-date

July has been the start of harvesting.   I extracted 8 full supers of dark honey.   4 were from the Murphy bees, 2 from the rogue one and 2 from the Cemetery.   I hope that there will be another 7 or 8 supers, although that may result in a much greater sugar feed at the end of September.   I will have to weigh up the pros and cons.

Murphy bees with 5 supers each with very busy bees
Murphy bees with 5 supers each with very busy bees

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I collected a medium sized swarm at the corner of Covent Garden which attracted plenty of onlookers, photography and discussions while I waited for all the bees to find my swarm box.   I then carried them back on the rush hour tube!   This swarm has now been united with another nuc, consequently the cemetery has its full complement of 6 colonies, all but 1 having 2015 queens.

I had to ensure that all my colonies were left with some space and plenty of stores as I went away for the last 2 weeks in July.  On my return I inspected the supers only of my colonies to see if there was any further honey to extract and if the cut comb frames had been filled.   I have 10 frames for cut comb; see my methods for this at the end of this Blog.   I also put the clearer board under 3 very full supers.

Another’s Bees

These are proving a real nuisance.   I combined a shook swarm with uniting with a nuc with a well behaved queen.   A major exercise involving putting the hive to one side to get the flying bees out of the brood box, they flew into the new box with the nuc wrapped up in newspaper.   Then, shaking the original brood frames over a queen excluder in case I couldn’t find the queen.   Luckily I did find her and delighted in squashing her immediately.   The complete hive assembly then had to be put together, including 4 heavy supers.   Meanwhile I tried to warn passersby to walk on the other side of the road, not always with any success.   There were bees everywhere, I was glad to finish the process and get away while the bees settled down.

A week later I opened the brood to check how it had gone.   The new queen was laying, but the bees were still unhappy.   One thing that I have noticed over the years is that bad tempered colonies can collect loads of honey and this one is no exception.

My shook swarm/uniting in progress
Clipped winged queens can crawl up under their hive and attract the swarm, great place to stay??
My shook swarm/uniting in progress
Clipped winged queens can crawl up under their hive and attract the swarm, great place to stay??

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Cut Comb

Cut comb proved a great success last year, so I prepared 20 frames with unwired foundation.   I looked at these in the middle of the month and most still have some open cells, so left them on the bees in the hope that they would be fully filled when I returned from holiday.

Two weeks later I removed 10 good frames and have now cut them up.   I use Thorne’s ‘crystal comb containers’ which are a great improvement on the original ones.   I can fill 7 containers from each frame, assuming that all the comb is capped.

The kitchen is the best place to use.   I fill the sink with hot water for cleaning my hands, often?   The frame is laid on a cake grid over a baking tray to catch the dripping honey.   I check the container size and measure the cuts accordingly, before cutting through the comb, then easing each piece away from its neighbour.

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You should allow time for most of the dripping to finish, before placing each one in its container.   The easiest way I find to do this is by hand with a finger and thumb each side on the wax central rib.   Each piece will weigh differently, but I like to have 3 or 4 standard sizes/weights for ease of pricing, so I use an acurate electric scales and add small amounts of honey if needed, to increase the weight.   I can then label each one with its net min weight.

I will check during this whole process for any good example to put to one side for our Honey Show later in September.   This one should be allowed to drain fully and weigh about 8oz (200g). If you have some good combs that you would like to cut, but they have wired foundation, you can remove the wire from the back of the comb which will be hidden when in its container.

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August Forage

Most of the good forage has now finished.   The privet is still out, but it is too early for ivy and Michaelmas Daisy.   Honeydew is a possible, I noticed large sticky patches under the Lime trees which can be a sign of this.

Because of the shortage, you must keep an eye on the colony’s stores and feed if necessary.

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