How to attend?
DUE TO COVID-19 THE APIARY IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. WE LOOK FORWARD TO RE-OPENING AS SOON AS IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
Members are welcome to attend the Association Apiary meetings as advertised. If you would like to go along, please check timings and remember to take clean gloves and boots. There are always plenty of suits available to borrow from the apiary.
Remember that the weather can lead to last minute changes … a quick phone call could save a wasted journey!
Latest reports from the Apiary Management Committee:
On 1st August we took off the second lot of Apiary honey. In all a further nine supers were very kindly extracted by Carole Brown, a marathon effort in her conservatory.
The Apiary bees have had another productive year with a total of 325lbs of honey (this is approximately as some has not been bottled) from the five colonies with which we started this season.
We left supers of partially capped honey on most of the colonies, expecting to have to take off more by the end of the month. However the combination of poor weather and lack of forage resulted in very light hives and hungry bees with only one hive feeling heavy on hefting.
So all the remaining supers had the frames scored, if capped. They were put above the crownboard and on top of an empty super to encourage the bees to take the honey down into the brood chamber. All of the colonies apart from one had taken this down by the end of the month and three have already been given four gallons of syrup between them.
The autumn varroa treatment was started on the 15th August. Two colonies had all their brood removed in July and have since had low mite drops so will not need chemical controls. Two late nucs have been treated with three consecutive weekly doses of VarroMed as they are too small for Apiguard and the remaining four colonies all had their second Apiguard trays put on the hives on the 29th August.
At the last two Apiary visits we have observed enormous numbers of wasps trying to gain access to the hives. All the entrances are narrowed to give the bees the best chance of defence.
As soon as the varroa treatments are finished we are expecting to continue to feed heavily with sugar syrup.
Kindly by Carole Astbury
The Apiary now has eight queen-right colonies. One has a 2018 queen who made attempts to swarm in both April and June. Two have 2019 queens which have not made attempts to swarm this year. As a result of swarm manipulations there are three new queens which mated in May and two new queens mated in July. One new queen this year, in Hive 8, caused us some head scratching as she seemed to be producing occasional eggs but she turned out to be a drone layer.
We have decided to overwinter all the colonies so that we will hopefully have plenty of bees for teaching sessions next year.
The two colonies which have not tried to swarm and so have not had a brood break this year underwent a shook swarm for varroa control at the beginning of July. We removed all the frames of sealed brood, replacing them with frames of foundation and left two frames of open brood in each hive. All the brood from the old frames was destroyed along with the varroa. The theory is that the remaining mites all migrated to the remaining two frames of open brood, which was removed two weeks later when it was sealed.
It felt quite brutal. However we were very pleased with the progress of Colony 2 in a 14×12 polyhive which very quickly drew out and laid in the new frames. Hive 5, on national frames, made much slower progress and we ended up putting in frames of drawn comb instead of the foundation to help these bees along.
Hopefully neither of these colonies will need any chemical autumn varroa treatment. There are around 10 supers of honey to be taken off and extracted in early August and then we plan to treat the remaining colonies with Apiguard. We chose Apiguard as we have a stock of a couple of boxes approaching their expiry date.
We have noticed a wide range of temperament in the Apiary bees this year. Looking back on our records: in April they were mostly lovely, in May some were a bit ‘clingy’ with one queen culled because she was so unpleasant. June was a bad month with some poor temper and persistent followers but they all seem to have settled down in July. Only one of us has been stung so far this year but we still have a lot of honey to take off next month.
Kindly reported by Carole Astbury
There have been a few surprises and a puzzle at the Apiary this month. The Apiary Management Committee have continued to check and manage the colonies weekly in alternating teams of two.
At the start of June we had six queenright colonies and one hive in which we were still waiting for the new queen to start laying.
Two of the colonies have not shown any sign of making preparations to swarm so we have been checking those carefully each week. We had been easing up on the inspections of the new queens in colonies still building up and also the older queens that we thought had got their swarming over and done with earlier in the year. However it seems that we still need to be vigilant with all our colonies.
On the 20th of June we found queen cells in one hive that had produced a new queen and built up following a split just a month previously, so that colony has had to be split again. We then found queen cells in a colony headed by a 2018 queen which had been split after making queen cells in April. We couldn’t find the queen and we were not sure if they were superseding or making another attempt to swarm so we divided the queen cells between two further splits. It appears that some queens who swarmed or tried to swarm early, and some new 2020 queens, are making swarm preparations again having built back up in the hot weather.
Hive 8 should have had a new queen after a swarm manipulation in early May. The bees don’t appear to be queenless. We have been unable to find a queen but we have observed queen cells with eggs in them. However no eggs have been seen in any worker cells and there has been no other brood. Some of the queen cells have progressed and we are waiting to see what happens. We can’t explain why there are only eggs in queen cells in this hive.
We are planning to do a shook swarm for varroa control in early July on the two hives that have not had a brood break this year. This will give them clean comb for the winter and a good start to rearing winter bees by reducing the varroa load.
Kindly by Carole Astbury
Becoming a member of West Dorset Beekeeping Association puts you in touch with a network of experienced Beekeepers. We enjoy our hobby and love to share our enthusiasm for our craft. See the list of benefits on the Membership page. A monthly newsletter keeps everyone involved and up to date with events and activities throughout the year.
Meeting other members and comparing colonies in the Association Apiary helps to develop practical experience and knowledge.
Yes! We would always encourage anyone who might be thinking about starting to keep bees to access some training. The WDBKA annual course for beginners is a good introduction and gives access to ongoing training with attendance at the Association Apiary throughout the season.
The time commitment varies through the year. During the active season each colony needs regular weekly inspections. Depending on the manipulations required this can take over an hour … or a matter of minutes! It is likely that your Beekeeping will absorb as much time as you are able to spend … once you catch the Beekeeping bug it seems to grow.
A good bee suit can cost up to £100. A hive and basic equipment will be around £300. A small nucleus colony will be about £200. Sometimes local swarms are offered to members for a donation to club funds.
The amount of surplus honey each colony produces will vary from one year to the next. A good beekeeper will always be sure to leave plenty of stores for their bees to use during the winter.
A strong, well established colony could give around 50lbs if the forage and weather are favourable … but there are always a lot of variables to consider.
The Association has close links to Kevin Pope, our local Seasonal Bee Inspector. He is always available to give advice and will visit your Apiary to check your bees.
Timely reminders are shared through the Association newsletter to guide members in good practice and to encourage close monitoring of Bee stocks.
All Beekeepers should register with the National Bee Unit. Their website contains a wealth of valuable information. They will also send direct email alerts to raise awareness of potential issues to Beekeepers e.g. reported sightings of Asian Hornets, how to identify diseases etc..