Oxford Bees

Colony 07

New swarms looking agreeably settled

Submitted by will on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 19:28

I opened all the hives today to look inside. Apart from the issues caused by queen exclusion, everything seems to be going well.

Hive G is building comb and looks healthy.

Hive F is building comb but still dropping lots of Varroa.

Hives C, D and E have space and show evidence of recent comb building.

They're all going well. I still see no evidence that any of these colonies swarmed to produce Hive G. I assume that it was a coincidence. That means that it has not come from an untreated colony.

Swarm in a tree but where did it come from?

Submitted by will on Wed, 17/05/2017 - 08:43

Yesterday I was called to my out-apiary because of a swarm. It had settled in a tree right in front of the building where my elevated hives are kept. The swarm was about 10m up the tree; the hives are at a height of about 20m. There was no way to reach the swarm.

I had a spare hive ready for this. I put it out immediately, ensuring that there was a bit of used comb inside to give it a more hive-like smell. All afternoon the swarm stayed on the tree. After nearly 6 hours I had to go home. This morning I'll find out whether they have moved on. Hopefully their scouts have found and liked the new hive.

Immediately after setting out the new hive I tried to see which of my hives the swarm had emerged from. I couldn't tell. The entrance traffic still seemed busy in each hive. I expect to see a large amount of capping wax on the removable floor after a swarm, dropped as they fill up on honey, but it seemed a normal amount.

I was cautious about opening the other hives. I supposed that alarm smells from neighbouring hives might put scouts off (although I've no evidence that it will). I had a look into Hive C but it seemed normal. I looked into Hive D and found that moving the excluder has trapped drones in the super box, and that the Queen appears to be in the lower box. I noted a Queen cell in the upper box, above the excluder. Hive F is still dropping Varroa, but I imagine that quite a few of the phoretic mites have infected the newly laid brood. More on that later.

Hive F still shedding lots of Varroa

Submitted by will on Thu, 11/05/2017 - 05:53

I looked at Hive F's removable floor again on Tuesday 9th May. I counted 24 Varroa mites which had fallen out of the colony. That's 8 per day. Will they survive?

UPDATE: I visited the hive on 12th May after dark. There were another 32 mites. I've counted 88 mites in 7.5 days, an average of about 12 per day. That's very high. This colony has been untreated for a couple of years but it was from a bought queen before that. I don't think much of its' ability to manage Varroa.

Hive F settling in and shedding lots of Varroa

Submitted by will on Sat, 06/05/2017 - 12:37

I put the a swarm from Helen into Hive F on the evening of 2nd May. I had a look at the entrance and the removable hive floor this morning.

The colony appears to be settling in well, despite the colder May weather. There is shed wax on the removable hive floor; there are bees coming and going. It appears that they've been building comb and orienting themselves to their new area. I didn't look for pollen, but I wouldn't expect to see it this soon anyway.

I was very suprised to see a large number of Varroa on the hive floor. I counted 32, which is approximately 9 per day. A conventional bee keeper might urgently treat for Varroa in this situation. I'm inclined to wait and see what happens.

There may be exceptional reasons for the high level of mite drop in this new colony. They were contained for in the skep with a sheet under them before I collected so the varroa may have been shed over a longer time. I whacked the skep to dislodge them so that they fell in a heap on the hive floor. The fall of around 50cm may have dislodged more mites than would otherwise fall. Perhaps this colony is tolerating a higher number of mites. The parent colony seems to be thriving.

Introducing a new swarm to the apiary does raise concerns for me. This colony has not been feral for as long as the colonies from hives C, D and E. They may have genes which help tolerate Varroa and their attendant diseases but it is less likely. This colony may also introduce new strains of viruses which are present in the existing hives. There are known several strains of DWV. I consider this risk low because these strains tend to be geographically separate. It would be unlucky to introduce a new one. There is a risk of exposing the new colony to diseases already present in the apiary. I have seen evidence which suggests ABPV in Hive D.

I'll have to see what happens.

A bumpy start for Hive F

Submitted by will on Tue, 02/05/2017 - 14:47

I collected a new swarm today from Helen, another low intervention bee keeper who has a Top Bar Hive near the John Radcliffe Hospital. She had kindly caught them in a skep with a sheet under it. Collecting it was simple: tie up the sheet and carry it all away.

The colony from which it comes has been untreated for 2 years. Before that it was intensively managed by a keeper in Wolvercote.

I have placed it in my out-apiary in a new Commercial brood box: Hive F. I'm using frames without foundation, with only the lolly stick guides.

The arrival of the bees was easy; the arrival of the hive was not. I stacked all the hive parts together (roof; floor; crown board; brood box and 2 supers) and secured them with one hive strap. On arrival I hurried. I was afraid that the bees might overheat. The hive parts had been knocked askew so that that strap was slightly loose. Unsurprisingly the whole thing clattered to the floor. The damage was minimal: minor dings and dents and a slightly broken shallow frame. More haste gives less speed.

Dropping the hive was not the only unforced error. I meant to take a legless hive stand and some bricks to make a simple plinth. I forgot to take either. What will my bike feel like carrying 8 house bricks? I'm not sure that I want to find out.