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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.