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Full Circle

posted Aug 27, 2019, 2:49 PM by Helen Mooney   [ updated Aug 27, 2019, 3:15 PM ]
Well, just like that, we have come full circle, and are, technically at the beginning of the beekeeping season. For the past few weeks we have been dividing our time between indoors and out: harvesting the crop, treating colonies for Varroa, uniting colonies where queens have failed, mentoring beginners with similar problems, rendering beeswax, and bottling honey.   It is a very demanding time for beekeepers- the days are getting shorter and there seems to be an endless to do list, so prioritising is a must. 

Priority number one- the welfare of the bees, so treating for Varroa mites is done now to safeguard the winter bees that will bring our queens through winter.We use apiguard: one tray on top of brood frames (supers removed, an eke in their place) for 2 weeks, followed by a second for a further two weeks: this means every bee, pupa and larva will have, at some time in that 28 days, been exposed to the active ingredient, thymol.  This is a licensed treatment, so must be bought from a reputable source within the Republic of Ireland, and its use must be recorded in your medicines records.

Priority number two for us is bottling honey before it sets.  We do not heat our honey.  This means it will set (localities differ- this is our experience) after around 4 - 6 weeks and if this were to happen in large buckets, we would have to heat it for a week or so to soften it.  Who knows what delicate medicinal proteins are denatured during the heating process?  So we avoid this but it's a race against time to bottle it all, but worth it we feel.

Meanwhile, take your eye off the colonies for a day or two and you could find that wasps have decimated the weaker colonies or colonies with fully open entrances, colonies with stores to the front and the nest to the rear, colonies with non prolific queens, colonies being fed syrup for whatever reason (we avoid this at all costs until well after wasp season is over).  Once robbing starts, it is almost impossible to stop, so prevention is better than cure.  This is why we unite colonies just after the harvest when it becomes apparent that some queens are just not up to the job, or if we have problems with defensive bees (usually hybrids) or diseases like Nosema and chalkbrood.

All in all, the measures taken now to safeguard the winter bees and ensure only the best queens, and disease free colonies,  are kept, dictates our successes or failures from early next year, starting with colony losses in the Spring, to a good breeding programme and finally, and without co-incidence,  the honey crop.