Oxford Bees

Similarities between colonies

Submitted by will on Sat, 17/06/2017 - 06:19

There are some patterns and similarities that emerge from watching a group of colonies in an apiary. Here are some from my out-apiary:

Temperament: the colonies are generally fairly calm. Some bees will almost always inspect me, bumping at my head to warn me away, so I always wear a veil. During the summer some of the colonies (D, E) become very defensive. They'll follow for 20+ metres from the hive and they don't readily lose interest. I've been pursued by a cloud of bees. This tendency to follow might be exacerbated by their position on a building roof - in line of sight with no trees or bushes to hide under/behind.

Size: The colonies are usually big. The exception was Hive B, which superseded twice after being established and may have been suffering more than usual from Varroa.

Brood production: The colonies produce lots of brood. The brood area is often full, with hardly any stores. They appear (to me) to produce too much brood but I haven't seen evidence of brood dying from neglect.

Honey production: modest but this might improve. This is only the second year since most of the hives were established. I'm putting in empty frames and I'm not usually feeding, so quite a bit of their forage is going on comb production. Between brood and honey production, I think that the colonies favour brood.

Response to Varroa: they tolerate the Varroa mites but they don't appear to manage them by hygienic behaviours. Lately I've seen very high mite fall in established colonies. Only Hive B seems to have been held back by Varroa.

Robbing: I see no evidence of the colonies robbing each other. I have seen a Bumblebee robbing this year. I saw some wasps last year.

Propolising: The colonies love propolis. A rich, red resiin is daubed over the frame tops; the brood cells and all the joints. The removable floor of Hive D is caked in it. The colony in Hive A carefully apply it where needed. The colonies in the out-apiary just slap it on everywhere. I assume that it comes from the Lime trees because they're so near.