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July Hints and Tips

Posted on 20 July, 2016 at 4:55

I’m sorry we are now well into July and I have not produced these earlier. The observant amongst you will realise that despite the long evenings that we are now heading back to winter and have had our annual ration of 2 weeks of warmer sunny weather. Doom and Gloom? Maybe we should be looking forward to the second half of summer being blessed by large crops of honey, but so far the weather pattern has been very similar to that of 2015, with the exception that our winds have often been more northerly this year, rather than the north westerlies of early summer last year. And oddly enough this results in drier clearer conditions in our part of the country as the moisture is deposited ‘up country’.

There also have been a fair number of swarms reported with telephone calls to both our secretary and self about ‘swarms’, many of which turn out to be solitary ‘miner’ or ‘masonary’ bees or wasps or bumbles upon further interrogation of the caller. At least our children seem to be receiving a better education about bees in primary school which will hopefully leave them better informed in future than the previous generation.


By and large swarming should now be over however recent reports from Glasgow B K A indicate many ‘call outs’ in the last week or so. Maybe the bees have been inhibited from swarming due to inclement conditions and have taken the opportunity of the first blink of sunshine to make their move. However the need for weekly inspections should be just about past. Should you find queen cells from now on, then unless they are in large numbers, you should suspect that it’s supercedure which you are observing. This is the bees attempt to replace an aging or infirm queen with a new and vigorous one for next year. The success of this replacement policy will be very much down to our forthcoming weather (there I go again, back to weather). Surprisingly often, the virgin queens are unable to fly sufficiently often to become properly mated (if at all) and the result may be drone brood next spring as the queen runs out of sperm and is only able to lay unfertilised eggs. The colony is then doomed.


Loss of a queen can occur at any time of year but before any attempts are made to unite this dwindling band of ancient bees with another colony, it’s important to ascertain that it’s a failed queen which you are witnessing, rather than laying workers. Uniting laying workers with a good colony will almost certainly result in that colony becoming similarly ‘doomed’ as for idiotic reasons the bees will often then reject their own good queen in favour of the laying worker. It is often better with laying workers to let nature take its course and just throw the few old bees away at some considerable distance from their home site. That way the fliers can go back and join with a neighbouring colony but the layers (presumably non fliers) are left behind to perish.


In the early part of summer we witnessed many nectar sources flowering almost in unison and so the pattern seems to be repeating post mid-summer with Clover, Bramble, Willow Herb, Bell Heather and presumably Lime all out at the same time. Do the plants know something which we do not and does this perhaps prelude an early onset of winter? There is an old saying “Many Haws, Many Snaws”, however ‘snaw’ (snow) has been much lacking in recent years. I will however draw your attention to recent solar activity with zero sun spots and for the more inquisitive will let you do your own research into comment about this. Mini Ice age??


Those of you who anticipate a crop of Heather or Balsam Honey should now be reducing colonies from double brood boxes to singles to coincide with the queen’s reduction in egg production, otherwise the bees will just fill the brood boxes with winter stores and the beekeeper gets little. So cram the remainingbrood box with frames of brood and remove the combs of honey into safestorage. This can be an ideal opportunity to boost your Nucleus stocks with anysurplus brood frames. As these smaller units are not going to produce anyhoney this year, you can now start setting them up for winter with doublebrood boxes and by keeping the stimulative feeding going.


Please bear in mind the recent warnings about colony starvation, especially ifthe recent dull and wet weather continues, although I must admit to being pleasantly surprised at the vigorous flying on Saturday past when we had some very warm balmy conditions.


It’s never too early to think about winter feeding. Sugar is currently a very cheap commodity, especially from the ‘Discounters’ so it may be worthwhile to start stockpiling this in your bee shed now. I have long since been of the opinion that the earlier I fed my bees, the better they came through the winter. Last spring I think I may have discovered the reason why, having seen nucs which had taken down lots of stores BUT had obviously not had the time or energy to cap them over. The knowledgeable amongst you will realise that uncapped stores draw moisture from the atmosphere and eventually ferment.


Bees feeding on fermented stores are then often subject to dysentery. It’s not long until our monthly meetings recommence and the Executive committee are working hard to ensure that we have an interesting programme of events for the forthcoming winter.


Austen Brown


(July 16)

Categories: Beekeeping Hints and Tips

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