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John the BeeMan's (Final) Blog - December 2015

This is my last Blog after 2 years keeping you in touch with my beekeeping, my successes and failures.   I keep bees in my own way which suits me and, so far, with some success.   Ask 5 beekeepers the same question and you will get 5 different answers!

It would be very interesting if one of our less experienced beekeepers was to start an honest Blog which may show how we can learn from experience & mistakes!!

Apiary report

The very mild weather kept the bees unusually busy this month and one wonders if they are using up their vital stores.   Let’s hope not.   I have always recommended feeding the colonies after Christmas with either candy or icing fondant as a safeguard.   Temperatures of 16 degrees + are good enough for inspections, so, if you are desperate to see what is happening in the brood box this could have been an opportunity.   It is certainly not necessary and will only disrupt their lives, so I suggest that they should be left alone from October through to March.

I made just one brief visit to check that all was in order.   The weather had turned very cold, so there were no flying bees.   All the crown board feed holes are now covered to help prevent through draught.   The high winds had not blown any over as both sites are quite sheltered.

I finished by cleaning plant and earth debris off the tops of the pallets to allow them to keep clean and stop them rotting too quickly.

Doing it MY WAY (in random order)

1.   I unite brood horizontally (sideways), not vertically.

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2.   The floor inserts are only used when treating for varroa.

3.   My smoker fuel varies, shredded cardboard from Thorne’s packaging, dried grass, very rotten & dry wood, fir cones once they are squashed by cars.   The grass and shredded cardboard are best for initial lighting with a small piece of newspaper.

4.   My entrance blocks stay in throughout the year with a 5mm x 80mm entrance, anti-mouse and anti- robbing.

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5.   I only use latex or nitrile type gloves that are a close fit.

6.   I clip the queens wings and mark her.   I use red and white markings for alternate years as they show up best and my queens never last any longer.

7.   I use sugar syrup for the large autumn feed and ‘ambrosia’, kept at the apiary, for feeding during the season.

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8.   I use the shook swarm for healthy bees, clean brood combs are so much easier to handle and see brood.   Alternatively, I replace 3 or 4 frames with new foundation at the beginning of the season.

9.   I have in the past, made most of my hives, except the frames and queen excluders.   I now tend to buy from Thorne’s sales as I am getting lazy with old age?

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10.   I have my hives on stands that bring the top of the brood box to a level where I don’t have to bend when lifting out the frames.

11.   I use a solar wax extractor as the first step to cleaning wax.   This is good enough for “wax exchange” for foundation.

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12.   I use the “Nuc Box” method of “artificial swarm”, see the Information Sheet under Knowledge on our website.   This keeps the old queen as an insurance policy until the new one is mated and laying.

13.   After swarming I can restrict my “brood” inspections to every 3 or 4 weeks.

14.   I often breed queens from a frame with queen cells from a swarming colony, put into a Nuc Box with frames with stores and extra bees.

15.   I take varroa seriously and try to keep them under control.   Dusting with icing sugar has been made so much easier with the technique of dusting along the brood seam lines, much quicker.   I must try this next season.   Apart from formic and oxalic acids, I keep up with drone culling and open mesh floors.   Shook swarms also play their part.

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Lecture on the BBKA

The talk by Jane Molesey on the 11th November may have seemed a bit dry, with Jane blowing the BBKA’s trumpet, when you might have expected an informative lecture on how to keep bees.  I, therefore, need to explain the benefits of an organisation that you support through your subscription to the North London Beekeepers:

  • Over half of our subscription goes to the BBKA and you become a registered member.
  • You receive their monthly “BBKA News” which is an excellent magazine.
  • You receive 3rd party insurance covering you for claims regarding your beekeeping activities and the bee products that you process and, maybe, sell.
  • They organise beekeeping education for all registered members, i.e. you, with written exams (modules on many subjects) and assessments to test our competence.   Not everyone wants to do these, although our association encourages it.   This is assisted with excellent teaching materials which we have used for many years, especially for the beginners’ classes.
  • They organise a “Spring Convention” in April, held in Newport, Shropshire. Rather far away??
  • They sponsor and promote research.
  • They have a wonderful website with information for beekeepers and the general public.   It is well worth looking at.   To access the members section you will need your BBKA membership number which is on your membership card and also by your address for the BBKA News, and the password is “bbka_surname”
  • They promote the education of the public, especially through schools and provide excellent teaching materials.
  • They have a swarm page on the website where you can be included.   This is for the public to access.

A summary: the BBKA plays an essential part for beekeepers and beekeeping in the UK and is there for our benefit, especially if you want to improve and keep up-to-date with your own beekeeping.   BBKA News is brilliant.

Forward Planning

Do not forget the winter treatment for Varroa. See details for this in my November 2015 blog.

Api-Bioxal can also be used on swarms and shook swarms during the active season, that have yet to produce any brood.   The mixed solution can be stored for long periods in a refrigerator.

The National Bee Unit points out that the “use of any other oxalic treatment is illegal??”

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