NLB logo

NORTH LONDON BEEKEEPERS

BBKA logo

John the BeeMan's Blog - October 2014 - Winter preparations & feeding; Microscopy

Winter Feeding

I had left a full super on each of my 8 colonies which equates to approximately 25lbs of honey to go towards the winter stores.   Most books and articles recommend that a full colony needs approximately 35 to 40 pounds of honey to last them until the end of March.   I therefore checked each colony and added up the estimated honey on each brood frame + the super.   A matter of deduction then gives me the amount I have to feed each hive.

According to Ted Hooper’s book, 16lbs of sugar made up as syrup = 20lbs of honey equivalent.   The shortfall for my colonies varied between 2 and 6kg of white granulated sugar made up into syrup.   The total I required was 33kg, so off I went to the Bookers cash-n-carry where the cost was 75p per kilo.   This is much cheaper than the readymade Ambrosia syrup which I only use for the occasional summer feeding, for convenience.   I use the empty cans for the sugar syrup.   The whole process of making the syrup only took 2 ˝ hours for 8 separate quantities.

English (plastic) feeder
Ashforth (home-made wooden) Feeder
English (plastic) feeder
Ashforth (home-made wooden) Feeder

I use the plastic rapid feeders for the smaller amounts and the Ashforth or English for the larger.   These are all put over the brood boxes during the day, ready for twilight filling.   My Cemetery apiary is wonderful at that time of the day, birds still singing and the sun sliding below the trees.

Rapid feeder
Cans of sugar syrup ready for twilight feeding
Rapid feeder
Cans of sugar syrup ready for twilight feeding

All feeders have protection to stop the bees from drowning, so once the bees have finished, usually after a week, I take the protection off and the bees will clean up any syrup residues.

Go to top sign Go to top.

Final Health Check of the Season

I checked all 8 colonies for healthy brood and found no abnormal larva.   I was looking for any signs of EFB, sac and bald brood.   If EFB was suspected I would have had to call the Inspector.   I have found sac brood in some of my colonies, but only minor, similarly with bald brood which can be caused by varroa.

I have 2 colonies that caused me to think about what to do:

No. 6 hive had replaced its queen during August and I had marked her.   On this inspection there was plenty of open and sealed brood, indicating that the queen was doing her stuff, but she appeared to have deformed wings?   If this was the virus, she would have been born with them and couldn’t have flown on a mating flight.   My marking was rather smudged and all I can think is that the workers tried to clean her up and damaged the wings in the process.   However, there was also a sealed queen cell?   If this hatches there is no chance of her getting mated as there are very few drones around.   I cannot decide what to do, so I am doing nothing and hoping it will be OK for the winter.

The hatched queen cell
 Marked queen with no wings (sorry for the poor photo)
The hatched queen cell
Marked queen with no wings (sorry for the poor photo)

No. 5 hive has no brood at all, whereas all others did.   I am therefore confident that the queen is dead and I have been trying to find a replacement.   I think that this was caused by the MAQS formic acid treatment.   None of my friends have one spare, nor have any of the main queen breeders got any left.   One option is to unite the colony with a weak one, which I don’t have, so I am going to leave it on its own and monitor it.   Obviously there is no possibility of a new queen being raised, so there will soon be workers starting to lay their unfertilized eggs into worker cells creating mini drones.   I will keep you posted on this.

Go to top sign Go to top.

Microscopy Checks

I have just taken bee samples from Hives no 1 & 6 to check for ‘nosema’.   The samples of 30 workers from each colony were collected from the hive entrance to ensure they were older bees.   I will describe the checking process in my next Blog.   The results showed a positive sample in hive 6 and clear for hive 1.   Bearing in mind the problems with hives 5 & 6, I may lose these during the winter.

Go to top sign Go to top.

Winter is Coming

I have had a busy beekeeping season, especially recording my activities for the Blog.   I have to remember to take photographs during inspections, avoiding making the camera sticky, selecting the better shots, cropping them and downloading them for inclusion.

I may not be inspecting my colonies again until March next year.   I usually visit my two apiaries about every month during the winter, mainly to check that nothing has been disturbed and to see flying bees on sunny, warm days.   Always a good sign.

Go to top sign Go to top.

Winter Hive Ventilation

There are two references to this in the October BBKA News worth taking note of.   The consensus appears to be to leave the mesh floor open, only using the insert if you need to check mite drop over a few days only.   Do not prop the crown board up with match sticks and do cover the feed holes.   This will prevent a through draught.   Whether you insulate the roof is up to you, I do not, although, many years back I fixed 1” of polystyrene to the underside of the roof and the bees chewed it up!

There are more articles about whether to treat varroa and, basically, if you don’t treat, you will probably lose the colony within a year or two.

I noticed 'Japanese Knot weed' near my Cemetery hives and after reporting this to the Manager, I have just cut all the shoots back and injected a herbicide into the hollow stems.   Apparently it takes about 3 or 4 treatments to eradicate the plant.

Go to John's Blog main page

Go to top sign Go to top.