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:
There was only one planned visit to the Apiary in November. We did a routine winter check on the 7th. Another mild day so the bees were all very active for this time of year.
We have chosen to leave in the varroa trays all winter again, so the debris gave some indication of what was happening in the hives. Although mite drops counted over the month since the last visit would not be highly accurate we did calculate the average daily drop. Six of the colonies had dropped less than one to up to three mites a day. Colonies 5 and 8 had much higher drops with a huge amount of debris on the tray from colony 8. The average for these was over eight mites a day which is moving into the severe risk level. These queens are unrelated, Colony 5 is a 2018 Exmoor line queen and Colony 8 is a 2020 Beaminster line queen which has had persistently high varroa counts. All the colonies were treated in August.
We therefore plan to do our winter varroa treatment with Api-Bioxal as soon as possible but it is clear from the debris on the tray of 5 that the colony is actively rearing brood. We need to wait until we get a colder spell, hopefully in the next few weeks so it will be more likely they will be broodless. Otherwise the oxalic acid, which doesn’t penetrate sealed brood, would not be effective.
The hives were hefted and although all were reasonably heavy, three of them were significantly lighter than the others, so have been given a block of fondant, to ensure they don’t starve before the next check in December. This is probably the earliest we have needed to give fondant as the very mild autumn has meant that the bees are using up winter stores. We shall continue to monitor with regular hefting.
We are still trying to work out how we can organise practical sessions at the Apiary next year for students and members. It is lonely down there without you!
With the work at the Apiary winding down there is not much to report over the last month so we thought it would be useful to look back over 2020 to see how the colonies fared and what went well.
We are advised that we should all be evaluating our colonies against the criteria that are important to us.
At the Apiary, docility and calmness on the comb are probably the most desirable attributes of the bees we keep there, as in normal years we need them to cope with slow inspections and inexperienced handling. Following is definitely unacceptable when there are large numbers of members and students trying to change out of bee suits after a session. Reasonable honey yields help to boost Association funds but a massive crop would be intolerable extra work for whoever draws the short straw of having to extract it all, in addition to their own honey crop. Low swarming is something for which many beekeepers select, but actually at the Apiary it is helpful to be able to show students swarm preparations and how to manage them. Health, in particular varroa tolerance is clearly beneficial in reducing the need to treat with chemicals.
So how did our colonies do against these criteria in 2020?
We started the year with seven colonies but two queens failed in March. The remaining colonies were:
Because of the two attempts of the 2018 Exmoor queen to swarm, we have ended the year with three of her daughters as well as the original queen. We will need to evaluate the performance of those queens next year but in retrospect we have possibly ended up with too great a proportion from one line. Her daughters appear to be very docile but may have inherited their mothers swarminess.
Looking at this evaluation, if we decide to selectively rear queens in 2021, it would seem that we should be trying to produce queens from the two colonies which didn’t attempt to swarm in 2020 as they have good temperaments and the lowest varroa counts.
Kindly by Carole Astbury
Work is gradually reducing at the Apiary with a final clean-up session planned for the beginning of October.
All the varroa treatments have been completed with moderate to high post-treatment mite drops on most of the colonies.
We have been feeding heavily as although the bees have been bringing in pollen and nectar from the Himalayan balsam, all of the hives felt light at the end of August. They have taken down between one and four gallons each from a rapid feeder, and feel much heavier.
At our last session we will also complete the end of year inventory, sort out the stack of super frames and make sure the cabins are ready to hopefully welcome students and members back next year.
On behalf of the Association I would like to thank Carole Brown, Chris Thompson and Trevor Ford for all their work at the Apiary throughout this year.
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..