This diary is a running blog of our activities at Moy Valley Honey.   Don't forget that you can get an automatic update in your inbox or your favourite RSS feed reader simply by subscribing to our posts using the button below.   For more information about this, take a look here.

Spring Management Begins

posted Apr 11, 2019, 2:25 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Apr 11, 2019, 2:26 PM ]

We did some cursory inspections on 28th March, and found that queens were laying well in most cases. 
The only exceptions were a few of last years queens were beginning to fail. It was as if they had laid an initial round of brood, but after that, completely stopped laying, to such a degree that we found laying workers had just started in a few colonies.  it would appear, from reading online forums, that queen failure of this nature is a slight problem this year. We chose to cull the queens, move the nucs/colonies to a new site, and after a week in the new location, placed beside a chosen hive to be strengthened, the brood (if present) was united to the host colony and the bees were shook out in front of it, and they were gradually accepted into their new home, without any risk to the existing queens.

Another problem this year is Varroa.  Indeed, it seems as though last year's Apiguard treatment was not effective in some colonies.  We have noted the genetic line in question, as there is a genetic component to Varroa susceptibility.  Some colonies are now displaying DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) as well, and we have chosen to apply two strips (one dose) of Apivar (active ingredient Amitraz).  It is not a chemical we like to use, but it is effective at 10 degrees celcius and Oxalic Acid is not suitable when there is brood in the colony.

The good news is that, even in weaker colonies,  there are lots and lots of foragers out, with new bees orienting all the time and lots of gorse and dandelion pollen being brought in.  Some white thorn is already in blossom and the sycamore is not far behind.  This time last year, four frames of brood was not seen until the beginning of May, due to the extended cold Spring, and we still had a record honey crop.  So swarming could come early this year (there is drone brood in stronger colonies - so count 40 days until swarm time, i.e. the length it takes to rear sexually mature drones) and we may be able to start rearing queens in early May (I wait until I see the first natural swarm cells).  So this weekend we will be waxing new brood frames that have been recycled after old wax was rendered. And we will be taking stock of equipment- we just never seem to have enough hives or nuc boxes!!!  Enjoy the Spring build up.  We will continue to maximise laying space in single brood boxes by taking out honey bound frames and gouging out honey the top corners of brood frames, once supers are on for them to move the honey into.

Time and Tide waits for no one

posted Mar 18, 2019, 4:41 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Mar 18, 2019, 4:47 PM ]

We are very relieved at this week's weather forecast for milder weather.  The river Moy, behind these colonies, has burst its banks in many places and I had to take a much longer route to get to these colonies.  The weather made for arduous trekking across muddy fields, and this is a new site for us, so evidently, it takes a full 12 months to really assess the quality of a site.

Colonies, despite the recent cold and wet weather, are in good shape.  Brown cappings and pollen on inspection trays indicate the rearing of brood, which puts pressure on the old winter bees.  A final quarter pack of fondant was given if needed, but this was rare. Roll on the week ahead, as buds are bursting to open and temperatures will be up above 12 C, if not more.  Enjoy seeing new bees fly for the first time.  They will be fluffy looking, and will have to take initial orientation flights in order to find their bearings. Don't forget, there are still a few weeks to go before we can say for definite that all colonies have made it through the winter. Be ware of isolation starvation.

Practice makes perfect

posted Mar 6, 2019, 2:28 PM by Helen Mooney

Last evening in Westport, I had a chance to meet up with my old study group- a group of welcoming, knowledgeable and engaging beekeepers, who continue to motivate and support beginners, as much as they did when I came through their door as an absolute beginner around 8 years ago now. My first experience of the study group, was joining it late, as I did not know it existed, and being made very welcome but being very confused as I grappled with all things practical, such as swarm control, queen rearing, splits and nucs etc etc. Evidently, it was time well spent and I was fortunate enough to be asked to return last evening and share my experience of maintaining productive colonies. 

It has been a busy few weeks, and no two lectures have been entirely the same (farmers, Athlone IT students, intermediate study group etc.), so I hope all of this practice will enable me to deliver the main precepts of beekeeping as clearly and effectively as possible.

A busy week! Knowledge is power

posted Feb 18, 2019, 2:38 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Feb 18, 2019, 2:43 PM ]

We had a great visit with the intermediate study group in Ballyhaunis yesterday and are delighted at their progress so far.  We shared some notes and book suggestions and shared our approach to studying for the same exams a few years back.  They key to a successful study group is 100% commitment from every member, and that was certainly evident yesterday.

We now turn our attention to a lecture on honey bee behaviour in Athlone Institute of Technology this Thursday and then to the Ballina club beginners course which takes place this coming weekend - Feb 23rd & 24th. Check out our brochure at the bottom of our "Education & Training" link for full details.

2019 Beginner's Course Fully Booked

posted Jan 27, 2019, 5:12 AM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Feb 9, 2019, 2:20 PM ]

We have had an unprecedented response to our 2019 beginner course held in the Teagasc building, Bunree, Ballina taking place on February 23rd & 24th
Thank you to all who have signed up.
I will put up a link to the brocure which outlines the course in more detail and I will e-mail a copy to those who have signed up.

Fat Bodies consumed by Varroa mites

posted Jan 16, 2019, 7:32 AM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Jan 16, 2019, 7:38 AM ]

New research published on January 8th 2019 suggests that Varroa mites consume fat body tissue in adult bees. 

Parasitisation of the western honey bee by this mite is a huge area of research and it helps the drug companies to select the most effective treatment.  We like to adopt an integrated pest management approach in our beekeeping whereby we only use licenced chemicals as and when they are required, and in accordance with the manufacturer's  guidelines.  We cover all of this during our training course (Feb 23rd & 24th, Teagasc, Ballina).  In the meantime, enjoy treading the many headlines that this research has duly generated.

The photograph shows what happens when an inncocent bee flies onto an inspection board after a treatment by MAQS, which caused hundreds of near dead mites to drop.  Note, it did not kill the mites.  They are extremely resilient creatures!

image © Helen Mooney 2017

Time to sign up for our annual beginner's course

posted Jan 6, 2019, 1:25 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Jan 6, 2019, 1:25 PM ]

It's that time of year again - time to find your nearest beekeeping club and sign up for beginner's classes.  Every club in the country generally offers some form of training before the busy season kicks off.  Spring is a good time of year to cover the theory and in May, hands on training is generally offered too.

We are offering our three day course on the weekend of February 23rd & 24th this year, with the hands on training taking place as soon as weather permits. I will be in the Teagasc building on the 7th January and 4th February, taking names for this course, which will also take place in the Teagasc building and later at a training apiary.

If you are interested, please fill in the registration form and bring it to one of the Ballina Beekeepers club registration evenings (6th Jan or 4th February) to secure a place.  We will only be running one course for Ballina Beekeepers this year.

Yuletide visits

posted Dec 22, 2018, 9:42 AM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Dec 24, 2018, 9:53 AM ]

Despite the business of Christmas, it is always possible to free some time to visit the bees, if only to make sure of no storm damage or damage by wandering cattle and so on.  It is also a good time to put in the inspection trays for a week or two and monitor mite drop.  There will always be surprises, all we can hope for is that they are pleasant surprises.  So on arrival to one of our more sheltered apiaries today, which is surrounded by hazel and Blackthorn bushes, I found that  some of the hazel bushes were in full 'bloom', as in the catkins looked how they look in Spring when the bees just start flying and are in need of vast amounts of pollen to begin rearing brood.  I don't question nature: nature knows best and maybe some pollinators are benefiting from it, but it certainly was surprising.

Although mild, the bees were not flying.  When we had finished feeding syrup a few months ago, we swapped feeders and empty supers (to house the feeders) for shallow ekes.  Some of these we left over crown boards, some under- it really depended on the weather on the day.  The danger is that the bees could fill it with brace comb, but on the other hand it is very disruptive to be lifting crown boards now to put ekes underneath.  So we have done 50:50 and today it was mild enough to very quickly put ekes under the crown boards, and put on 1kg of fondant. The amount varies but generally for a single brood box, with 5 - 7 frames of bees, this will suffice for a number of weeks and then we can come back with more of the same or protein supplemented fondant.

I chose to wear just a bee hood and my winter work coat with a pair of jeans and wellies, but I would recommend a beginner use a full suit.  Temperament varies and the bees can be forgiven for being ready to sting when they are disrupted mid-winter. You know your bees best, so again, the choice is yours but my advice would be to always wear a hood.  Always be ready for the unexpected and have everything ready before you open up.

The mite drop varied considerably among just four colonies checked today so I noted that, and may use oxalic acid when there is no evidence of brood rearing.  I saw plenty of brown cappings today in the form of crumbs on the inserts, but some of that material could be weeks old, so I will check in a week or two, as lots of fresh brown crumbs means brood has emerged recently and the queen may still be laying.   I will put up a post about oxalic acid when we have treated, I know that in some parts of the country people have already done so and there is good information on the beekeeping forums.

And then there were three....a third Nosema species confirmed in Uganda

posted Nov 22, 2018, 2:19 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Nov 22, 2018, 3:35 PM ]

It is so important to be on top of disease, and the winter time lends itself to checking out new books on all aspects of beekeeping, let alone disease.  For anyone taking written bee exams, disease always features strongly, making up a minimum of one full question, often more. So candidates are encouraged to form study groups, practice exam questions and, at senior level, be up-to-date with the most recent research, particularly with respect to diseases and veterinary medicines and associated licensing laws, as well as documented use and secure storage of medicines.

In preparing for yet another exam, I found reference to a newly discovered species of the microsporidian, Nosema, which has been named Nosema neumanni.  For now, it appears to be limited to Apis mellifera in Uganda, but as is often the case with this kind of discovery, it may be the ever improving molecular techniques that has made it possible to distinguish this species from N. apis and N.cerana- it could be more widespread than we think. We are still coming to terms with Nosema caranae, and it was officially (publication year) announced in 2006- that's 12 years now!  It just goes to show how rapidly diseases can appear and spread and how  beekeepers have to stay well informed and adapt to new regimes in terms of disease control. 

Download the full article here:

Microscopy Measurements

posted Nov 21, 2018, 8:56 AM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Nov 22, 2018, 1:53 PM ]

One of the more common microscope accessories is an eye-piece graticule (EPG).  It is an eye-piece with a scale incorporated into a ocular 10X lens.  It can be used to measure all manner of things such as venation in wings- believe it or not, different sub-species, have different patterns, and key points can be measured and referenced.  This is called wing morphometry and it was very popular before DNA research became accessible to beekeepers. Another is pollen measurements.  Measuring pollen in a sample of honey helps us to identify the plant source and ultimately gives us an idea of the forage available when the nectar associated with that plant, was abundant. 

As you can imagine, the divisions on the EPG scale, equate to vastly different measurements at different magnifications.  At each magnification, the eye-piece graticule must be calibrated against a reference.  This reference is called a stage micrometer (SM). This is a microscope slide with an accurate scale.  We count 100 divisions on the EPG and compare it to the stage micrometer. Generally at 10X, the scale almost exactly superimposes the stage micrometer scale, but there is always a slight margin of error. The manufacturers guarantee that the SM scale on such a slide is highly accurate.  The stage micrometer we use has three scales.  The centre scale is most suited for our needs.  It is 1mm in length, has 100 divisions, so each division is 10 microns (0.01mm, as labelled on the slide).  The EPG is calibrated at each magnification and on each microscope used.  This procedure does not ever have to be repeated.  We just document the measurements. 

In 2019 we may be in a position to offer some training, so keep an eye on our RSS feeds (please subscribe).

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