Sunday, August 31, 2014

My thoughts on feeding post harvest.

Feeding for the autumn and winter

With the honey harvest complete its time to consider feeding your bees. I would love to know the weight of each of my hives, but being a hobby beekeeper its very difficult to weigh each hive empty then calculate what the ideal weight should be. 
Each of my hives are a combination of different parts, some bought, some made so assessing individual weights is very tricky.
For me the easiest way is to take a look at each hive and assess it. Its still a bit open to interpretation  of how you asses the stores in a hive, but to me a good arch of honey across the top one third of each frame in frames 4 to 7, some larger stores in frames 1 to 3 and 8 to 10 would be ideal. Slightly less is of no major concern but empty outer frames and minimal in the brood sections is a real worry.

An ideal frame, neat brood space, pollen beneath and plenty of sealed honey in the top sections

I have made a small video on making up sugar and feeding. 

Its looking like a very positive ending to the year. The ivy is nearly in flower and with the 100mm plus rainfall we have received  this august, its looking very likely that the bees will be going in to the winter with hives packed full of honey.  Lots of flowers have had a second or third flush, plantain and clover to name but a few, are supplying plenty of pollen, theres not really a shortage this year, in others theres literally nothing around, so its all good news.
Ivy in some years can be very generous and is similar to oil seed rape honey in that it crystalises quickly. I have heard of some people putting on honey supers to take a last crop from their bees, but thats sheer folly!!!, its the bees moment to gorge and store around the main hive and prepare for the winter. We might just have a normal winter this year with snow and ice as well as milder periods.

If i can and theres time, I  believe in giving the sugar slowly, over at least a couple of weeks, to much results in a flooded brood nest, the queen must lay and lay well this time of year, its these bees that will last well in to next march, essential for the colonies survival.
 Queens are all to precious now, a lost queen after the end of august is as good as a lost colony in novemebr or december. The chances or re queening within the next 3 weeks are minimal, so be extra careful when assessing your hives. 
You don't get any second chances this time of year, or indeed up until the end of march next year, when the first few drones are produced.

Varroa mite treatment will again be done in November when the brood size is at very small, but thats another 3 month away, but its planning that keeps you ahead with beekeeping.  Its already time to think ahead, consider getting some frames in kit form.

Save yourself some money and build them yourself. Its not difficult, just takes a little time and patients. Something i don't appear to have a lot of these days, where has this summer gone!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer flowers.

Theres not much left for our bees now.  Close to my apiaries i have a nice field of phacelia in flower. I took this short video as it was such a lovely sight!!

Wholesale robbing

This is a frame taken from a hive combination. It contained  some honey and was completely cleaned out in under 4 hours. just incredible!!

Good results so far!

The artificial swarms I carried out 2 weeks ago seem to be doing very well. All had at least 2 or more queen cells which is excellent and the first queens were due to hatch out this last saturday. on the whole the weather is good. Thats the beauty of doing splits (artificial swarms) this time of year. the weather is good, the nectar flow has finished and you can put your bees to good use. For mating the weather is at its best.

Queen mating
 Reading up on the subject, summer mating is always a better option. The quality of ripe drones is at its highest, as too is the number of drones.
Queens are known to fly to  certain areas where drones congregate in warm summer afternoons.  This gives a much better genetic diversification,  rather than early spring mating, where a queen might have to settle with whats in the apiary. This for me isn't a real problem, as i keep a good selection of swarms, trapped over about a 50 kilometre radius so I can't see this ever being a problem but the summer gives a better product by far.
This year I had a colony that became queen less very early in April. Remarkably a new queen took over but only laid for a few weeks, badly mated i assume. The new one that took over from her is a much stronger and better layer, uniform brood in clear patterns. What we all want in our hives.

End of the swarm season

So with the dearth setting in its also the end of the swarming season. Time to collect back in the traps, sort out the frames, clean them, remove wax moth and put them away for the winter.

Frames in the deep freeze, easy when your divorced!!!!!!

To leave your traps out is just sheer folly. With the previous mild winters we have endured, wax moth numbers seem to be up. To combat this problem I remove all the frames from each trap and freeze them down to  minus 16. This kills off most of the larvae and eggs. Then the hive is scorched with a blowtorch and the frames are replaced, the front of the hive sealed off and the hive stored back in the shed for another year.

As I have a good number of colonies in nucs, I have been utilising the resources I have and have been swapping colonies in well propolised nuc boxes, to nuc boxes that are newer, in an attempt to get them more acceptable for next year.

I transfered 7 last night and it gave me the opportunity to mark some of the queens and assess for winter stores, amongst other things. Thats the next thing on the horizon, starting to plan for next year. not nice but thats the reality of beekeeping.