A beekeeper’s notes for November

http://missapismellifera.com/2015/12/13/a-beekeepers-notes-for-november

In November the leaves fall from the trees and the drones fall from the hive. The trees are preparing to rest for winter as their leaves drop to the ground, and the bees are getting ready to close the hive factory as the drones are thrown outdoors. Autumn and winter are good times of the year for consolidation. The beekeeper can take stock of the hives and colonies, clear up apiaries, clean up equipment, disturb a few spiders, and plan ahead for the next season. The ebb and flow of the seasons are not constant, however, and the points on the beekeeping calendar can move each year. The autumn syrup may be poured a month earlier in August for late summer rains. The mouseguard might be pinned to the entrance a month later in November for the workers still bringing home baskets of pollen. Wasps may be seen gliding around the creepers beside the hive, and drones found sitting on the roof as late as December. This sometimes makes the question “What does a beekeeper do in winter?” a difficult one to answer. This is because a beekeepers’ checklist is only a guide to the beekeeping year and not a set of rules. My step-nephew Sam films what beekeepers do in winter at the apiary, while Andy Pedley tells a visitor what the bees do in winter. Emily put on the mouseguards at the hive entrances when she noticed that fewer bees were carrying home pollen. The hives were wrapped around in chicken wire as a precaution against woodpeckers watching from the bare branches overhead. We tackled the task of removing the syrup from Peppermint’s hive and replacing the feed with fondant, despite a crowd of protesting workers, because the days had become cold and short. Winter also comes to London despite talk about our city’s microclimate and of bees making queens to swarm on a warm October’s day, which, of course, might happen. But if it’s true the season can sometimes be mild, overall there are fewer days when either bees or beekeepers feel like going outside. On those days both bees and humans are glad of a well-stocked cupboard, an insulated roof, and secured entrance. Every autumn and winter, Emily and I will ask each other “Shall I bring more syrup?”, “Have you got pins for the mouseguard?”, and “Do you think the fondant can go on?”, and each week our plans change as frequently as the weather. We both know that between the two of us the bees will be ready for winter as and when they need to be. We both watch the days and the bees, and tick off items from our checklist when it feels right to do so. A beekeeper’s notes for November often turn to thoughts of what we have and haven’t done, none of which matters now, and then to dreams of the bees returning in spring.

— gReader

New Apiary

Good news !! I got the go ahead to have bees on the allotment. The start of a new era, beekeeping close to home.

Now I need to clear out the shed and paint it, then finish the netting enclosure, create a level base of the hive (currently on a slight slope), etc, etc… Then I need to swap hives around to get some friendly bees on site; the last thing I need is to move bees in that are less than compatible with nearby people.

Wish me luck

Surprise visitors.

For the past few weeks I have been wondering where all the swarms were, others on the swarm  collection list were picking swarms up from around me, but I’d not seen one.

Friday, I am just on a lunch break and working from home I had popped to the allotment to have a look about. My better half calls and says there are bees all over the garden – which is not usual because I don’t keep bees at home.  I went home to look and true enough they had perched themselves in a hedge by the side of the road. For added fun it was right by the local primary school and there was about 30mins til the kids got out and the road would be swarming with home time mums, dogs, prams, etc. I called the school to warm them but they said there wasn’t much they could do. This is where facebook comes in handy. My better half is on the school group and drops them a line warning them. The result of that was very effective in the end.

Anyway with the use of wheelie bins a neighbour and I blocked of the path on the swarm side of the road and I got on with collection. It was only a small swarm but better to take it than leave it there to nest in someone’s roof later. I snipped away some of the bush (must sharpen those secateurs) and dropped them in a temporary home then put 4 frames with them; smoking the bush heavily afterwards to lose the queen scent. I left them til it was dark, as is the way to do it unless you want to leave some behind, then took the to the new allotment apiary.

I checked on them Sunday and they seem healthy and happy. In the end, surprise but not unwelcome visitors.

Damn, escaping queens

So week before last I did two artificial swarms and a demaree. Now both old  queens on the artificial swarms have put up new cells and swarmed even with loads of room to expand, and it looks like the demaree’d one has too.

What is it with these bees, they need to read the books more. I did my part and they skipped a chapter and swarmed anyway.

Arghh!

At least I have some nice queen cells in nucs and a couple of hatches.

The queen in the demaree hive wasn’t one I wanted; her children keep giving be a bit of a hard time – during the demaree quite a pasting, swollen for 3 days afterwards. But the other two were very nice. Fortunately it’s their children I have in mating hives.

Using pollen patties

Regarding pollen patties, I made a discovery. I had been putting them on with some cuts in the paper to allow access, over the crown board hole. Some loved them, others ignored them pretty much completely.

Then I put some on the top bars; there was more interest and they were getting into them.

Then I pealed them completely and pushed them down on the top bars. This resulted in them being rapidly consumed in all hives.

(At least I assume they were eaten – and not just thrown out.)

Lesson learnt.

Also I have artificial swarmed two hives, so I am going to add additional patties to those to build up the numbers.

Too long without posting – update

Its been too long since I posted anything here; I’ve been keeping my local beekeeping group site up to date though. So what is news… Well. lots.. So I decided to break it up into several posts

I’ll get on with those other 4 posts as soon as I get chance

That’s not a swarm

Yesterday I caught a swarm, but I’ve not got the photos yet so that story will have to wait. Today, I was called to a swarm, but the lady said it was in a bird box. I suggested it probably wasn’t a swarm as it was in a bird box, but I went anyway.

When I got there there were some tree bumble bees in the bird box and larking about near the children’s swing set, etc.

I took the bees away and emptied the box in some undergrowth. It was a shame to see all the eggs come out in a clump, but I think had I left them there they would have suffered a worse fate

From this site:

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/Garden_bumblebees.pdf

Tree bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

Queens, workers and males all have a black head, brown-ginger thorax, black abdomen with a white tail. The proportion of white on the tail does vary significantly but is always present. This species was first found in the UK in 2001, but is now found throughout most of England and Wales. It prefers to nest above ground, often inhabiting bird boxes.

Another swarm… but where from?

Yesterday morning I got a call just as I got to work. “There is a swarm, 12ft up a tree, next to your hives”. Well it had to stay there for the day, I had only just got to work and I commute 90 mins each way. On Tuesday, 2 days before I’d been an caught a swarm, and put it in a super on top of the hive because I’d run out of equipment, then the day before I’d been finding queens and had noticed that the swarm had left. I had a good look around and had not seen where it had gone to, so I figured it had found a new home; meanwhile crossing my fingers that it had found a hollow tree or similar and not someone’s roof space. I had not looked straight up. I figured with that history that it must be that swarm.

After work I headed for the apiary, and there it was 12ft up and about 10ft to the right of the super where I had put the swarm 2 days before. Fortunately I was supplied with some scaffolding to wheel into place under the hive, far safer than trying to use a ladder I’m sure. I got my collecting skep and went up. I only just managed to reach the branch on my tip toes, and held the skep under the swarm. I pulled sharply down on the branch and … fudumph… 80% of the bees went straight in the skep. This was ‘not’ the swarm from the other day, it was far larger, and far heavier, twice as much if not more.

I got down and prepared the nuc I had brought. The boot of my car is like a travelling bee equipment emporium these days. I poured the bees in, and there were too many. Luckily I had closed up the entrance or they would be pouring straight out the front. I was putting the frames back in and they were sat high on top of the huge mound of bees in the bottom; and I hadn’t even collected all the bees yet. There were a fair few bees flying about and still a clump on the branch, which had risen out of my reach when it was relieved of this mighty clump of bees I’d already retrieved. To cut a long story short I got the bees and closed them up and put them in the boot of the car.

I checked through all the hives and with the exception of one that was small before anyway they were all full of bees, so where had the swarm come from, especially if it was not the swarm from the day before, because it was much larger.

But, as usual with my bee adventures that was not where the fun ended… There was another swarm, this one hanging under the hive that had swarmed two days before. Now trying to get a swarm out from under a hive, that’s ‘fun’. Oh, hang on, no its not. I was brushing them off and trying to get what I could in the skep, and dropping them on the floor on a sheet and brushing them off that into the skep. Then I was smoking them, so that if, per chance, I had already got the queen in the skep, I would maybe be able to hide the queen scent left behind. If I hadn’t got the queen in the skep, maybe she would move out of such an inaccessible area, and hang on a tree, like Tuesday’s swarm when I smoked the grass and weeds it was sat in on the fence.

After far too long, I was pretty much giving up trying to get them out, they kept dropping on the floor and running back up the leg. Then I noticed that they had started making little spots of wax. Well I know that swarms do do that, but this was on the underside of the mesh floor of the hive. In nature, bees start at the top of a cavity and build downwards; maybe that’s what these were up to. Maybe it was far fetched, but maybe not.

I’d had enough for the evening. I didn’t know if I’d got the queen or even if it really was a swarm. I put the skep on a hive floor a few feet away (on a step stool, not on the floor), propped up so the bees could get in and out. I figured:

  • If it was not a swarm the bees would wander back to the hive when they got bored…
  • If it was a swarm and I’d caught the queen and got her in the skep, they would find her in there and stay there
  • If it was a swarm and I had not go the queen, well… I guess they would just have to fend for themselves.

I took the large swarm in the back of the car to the other apiary and put them in a national hive, but I also put a queen excluder between the brood box and the floor so they would not swarm because the queen can’t get out. That’s what I’m told the theory is anyway.
Its now the next night, I’ve not been back to the apiary to check the skep and not been to the other to remove the queen excluder. Three days in a row is enough, especially as I’m doing all this writing up now, and I’ll have to go over the weekend anyway, and I need to build more commercial brood boxes to home everyone…