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John the BeeMan's Blog - Jan 2014
Wax, varroa treatment & January jobs

Beeswax

I will be demonstrating the making of dipped candles next month (date to be advertised in the NLB Newsletter) when you are invited to come to my house to see how I do it.

In preparation for this I have filtered the blocks of wax that I processed in my solar wax extractor last summer.   These are pretty clean, although some propolis does drip through and is found, stuck to the underside of the block and is easily scraped off when still warm.

The final filtering is done in the kitchen oven at 85 degrees C in a 2½ litre varnish tin with the bottom replaced with a piece of sheet or T shirt material (the filter) tied securely around the tin.   This is suspended over a roasting tray lined with foil.   All will be explained during the demonstration and the following pictures:

The wax block before filtering
The Oven set-up for filtering
The resulting, squeaky clean beeswax
The wax block before filtering
The Oven set-up for filtering
The resulting, squeaky clean beeswax

Varroa treatment

I treated all my colonies in August, with the new formic acid pads “MAQS” and found it very effective.   In fact, I reckoned that it was really too powerful and could have been a danger to the bees (and even the queen).   The National Bee Unit (NBU) feels the same.   It certainly has the advantages that:

  1. It only takes 7 days.
  2. It can be applied when honey is still on the hive.
  3. It penetrates the brood cappings and kills the mites within.

I got away with it and didn’t lose any queens.

I have just counted the December mite drop over the last 13 days on 4 hives and found:
Hive no. 1 – 15 (22)
Hive no. 2 – 11 (57)
Hive no. 4 – 14 (82)
Hive no. 5 –   4 (50)

NB: The first figure for each hive is after 13 days, before treatment.   Figures in brackets are the mite drop in the 2 days after oxalic acid treatment.

Therefore the worst case (before treatment) averages out at 1.1 per day.   The chart on “Natural Daily Mite-Drop” in the FERA “Managing Varroa” booklet and the Information Sheet "Integrated Varroa Management" on this website indicates that for the end of December anything under 2 per day should not need controlling.   All hives, except no. 5 have a super under the brood box which could stop some mites from falling through.   The debris on the inserts gives a good indication of the strength of the colony and position of the cluster.

Varroa count on insert, showing location of winter cluster
Varroa count showing a larger cluster
Application of oxalic acid using Trickle 2 bottle
Varroa count on insert, showing location of winter cluster
Varroa count showing a larger cluster
Application of oxalic acid using Trickle 2 bottle

I’m not a great advocate on mite drop, as it can be misleading!!   So I have treated all colonies with the 3.2% oxalic acid syrup (warmed to blood temperature before application) and checked the mite drop again after 2 days, to prove it one way or the other.   I’m not sure what I’ve proved as I have no reference figures to compare these with.   The variable count is roughly in proportion with the size of the cluster, but averages at 52.   If this quantity was left in the hive, they are capable of expanding their population to 1,400 in the following 20 weeks.   On this basis I feel that the oxalic treatment was worthwhile.


Jobs for January

  • Apply winter feed, either fondant, candy or “nektapoll” (fondant + pollen substitute)
  • Preparation to make candles
  • Check, repair and clean equipment
  • Keep an eye on the colonies

I will report on these at the beginning of February.

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