Oxford Bees

Autumn Feeding

Colony 11 moved and apparently fine

Submitted by will on Sat, 01/09/2018 - 05:45

I moved Colony 11 on Thursday night (30th Aug). The move was simple and worked smoothly. I removed empty supers during the day and then strapped up the hive. I then waited until after dusk, blocked the entrance and then lifted the whole hive down to a waiting car. At the other end it was simple too. After half an hour on the stand in my garden I opened the door to the hive. No drama.

Yesterday morning (Friday) there were orientation flights leaving from the hive. All day there was activity. The bees were not even slightly defensive. I will look out for pollen coming in today.

The next question is how to recover them before winter. I will have to feed them but I don't want to create the conditions for them to be robbed here too. There are active foraging wasps here. I don't think that they're as aggressive and persistent as those in central Oxford. If there is an opportunity today I shall cover the entrances and try to get a feeder onto the hive.

A Dark and Windy Night

Submitted by will on Tue, 12/09/2017 - 21:59

It has been hurricane season in North America and the Caribbean. We get their weather second hand. No sharp edges or extremes, just a bit out of the ordinary.

Tonight we are forecast to have winds gusting up to 45mph (72km/h; 39 knots). That's a big blow for England but still only Beaufort Force 8 Gale.

I visited my roof top apiary this evening to fit the hive straps. It's bad news for the hives to blow over, but even worse if they break apart. They won't break apart now.

I have mixed feelings about the close down for the winter. I don't know whether the bees will survive the winter (or the more perilous early spring). I am unsure whether to feed them. This year I'm going to give them some set honey mixed with sufficient sugar to stop it re-setting. I'm generally against feeding but they feel light after a patchy season.

Closing down also has other downsides. I fitted straps tonight in the dark. There was a gusty cool wind and a smattering of rain. The undersides of the hives had thick cobwebs which I had to put my hands into. It contrasted strongly with this morning when I brought equipment up to the roof. Dawn brought a golden glow which lit up the still air. I had a coffee and tried to stay still long enough to enjoy it.

EDIT 13/09/2017: The hives were all upright the this morning but I'm still glad I fitted the straps to them. Also I was wrong about the weather being second hand:

The Met Office said there was no connection between high winds in the UK and the recent extreme weather in the Caribbean and the US. The UK's weather system is coming from the north, in the Atlantic, the Met Office added.
source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41241014

Whether to feed

Submitted by will on Sun, 14/08/2016 - 11:57

Everyone seems to feed their bees - even most of the low intervention bee keepers. I'm not convinced.

Bee keepers feed their bees for several reasons:

  1. to advance their brood production in spring
  2. to help the bees through hungry gaps during summer
  3. to ensure that the bees have adequate stores to survive the winter
  4. to compensate the bees for honey harvested in autumn (see 3)

I've read that I've spring feeding is ineffective (citation needed; I think it may have been Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper).

Feeding as a compensation for harvests is understandable but could conceivably reduce the nutritional quality of the honey. I have no evidence to offer to support this but it is my concern. I wonder also what proportion of the harvested honey will have come from bought sugars.

A colony will balance of brood production against foraging. Brood must be fed and kept warm. Expanding brood too quickly in spring will exhaust stores and tie up foragers keeping brood warm. If the nectar flow stalls there could be starvation. Slow expansion of the brood in spring will leave relatively few foragers when nectar flow is strong.

Feeding to ensure the continuation of the colony seems to do more than the vicissitudes of the environment. It risks changing the behaviour of the bees. My concern is that it supports colonies which over-produce brood. Feeding leads to more feeding.

3 of my 5 colonies are definitely from feral stock. I reluctantly decided to feed honey to B, C and D earlier this year during the June hungry gap. They were new colonies so felt it was justified.

With some reluctance I  have started feeding them for Autumn (for the same reason). I hope that I'll have the resolve not to do this in their second year.