Oxford Bees

Colony 12

November weather

Submitted by will on Fri, 30/11/2018 - 07:44

It's been windy and rainy recently. I checked yesterday on the 3 colonies in my out apiary. They're all upright (which is nice) and ticking over. There is evidence of brood emerging, with lots of Varroa mixed into the chewed cappings. The cold spring must have knocked back the Varroa but they built up again in the Autumn.

So far, so fine.

The Varroa finally appear

Submitted by will on Tue, 25/09/2018 - 05:51

The weather has turned colder, with only a few hours when it's warm enough for the bees to fly. Yesterday they were very busy in my out apiary.

My bee group remarked that their hives had a lot of activity at their entrances, with lots of orientation flights. They suggested that there had been a burst of young bees hatched in the previous days and these were getting to know the area. The drop off in brood rearing may also have been releasing nurse bees to fly.

There were a lot of chewed brood cappings on my hive floors showing that there have been lots of hatching. The flip side of this was that there were finally a few more Varroa bodies to count. The volume of hive floor debris made it hard to count accurately -- I would have needed to mix the debris with Methylated Spirits to see them clearly. I estimate that there were 2-4 dozen mites on the floors of colonies 8 and 12. There were only half a dozen or so on the floor of colony 4. I suspect that colony 4 had less because their dearth of stores may have reduced their number of brood.

All the hives look fine. All had strong defenses and plenty of flying bees. There was not very much pollen coming in, nor was there much pollen on the hive floors.

Wasps everywhere but none appear to be getting inside

Submitted by will on Sun, 05/08/2018 - 06:36

My hives are surrounded by at least half a dozen wasps which want to rob them. They zig-zag in front of the entrance; they crawl in under the Varroa screen; they wait at the edges and drink from the water tray. They want the honey but they can't get in.

All of the hives in central Oxford have small doors and strong guards. Three of the four have at least 20 bees visible on the outside of the hive entrance. One hive had fewer visible but appeared to be just as effective at guarding.

Having so many Wasps around makes it hard to open the hives. Once robbers get in they are more likely to return. They're as happy to gain entry from the roof as through the door. I think that they're also more likely to successfully return and re-enter the hive because they smell of the honey from that hive. Robbing can become a storm which only abates when the hive is moved out of range of the robbers. That's a lot of work just for a look inside.

Robbers notwithstanding, I took a very quick look inside the hives in central Oxford to check that none had run out of space. They all have sufficient space for the moment. They are also all dropping pollen, which suggests they're still laying and thereĀ  is forage for them. There is plenty of door activity at all the hives. I found no Varroa mites on the base board. I was some evidence of Wax Moth and some evidence of new comb.

Colony 1 in Headington is also faring well. There are some wasps, but fewer than in central Oxford. There is pollen being dropped and plenty of door activity.

Busy but steady across all hives

Submitted by will on Sat, 21/07/2018 - 20:06

Things seem to be going well in all my colonies. They're all busy at their entrances. There are wasps near the entrance to every hive but they don't appear to be getting in. The Varroa counts are very low and there's pollen on all the base boards.

Colony 1 still has ants infesting the base board so it's hard to be confident that I'm seeing the whole story. Certainly the bees are still removing and dropping crystallised honey -- presumably from last season. They are bringing in pollen which suggests they have unsealed brood. There are brood cappings which suggest that they also have emerging brood. All good signs. I saw what I took to be wax moth around the hives but I may have been mistaken.

Colony 11 is still vigorous. It has pollen and cappings on the base board. There was a smattering of wax platelets indicating new comb. I looked hard and found one solitary Varroa mite. It was alive.

Colony 04 is collecting pollen again which suggests that it now has brood again. I suspect that it took a break an unconfirmed swarming event in late June. There may be some wax moth in the hive but otherwise everything looks good. I found one solitary Varroa mite in this hive too.

Colonies 08 and 12 are doing fine. Bringing in pollen; keeping out the wasps. Colony 12 had about half a dozen Varroa mites, all dead.

I'm curious about why there are so few Varroa mites visible on the base board. The season is getting on and I would expect to see a lot more. I have ideas about what is going on which I'll put into another blog post.

Occupation or Robbery pt2: Welcome to Colony 12

Submitted by will on Thu, 31/05/2018 - 06:14

The evidence on the floor of Hive E pointed to an occupation. That is exactly what has happened. At some point in the last few days a swarm has occupied Hive E. Welcome to Colony 12.

The signs that this was not a robbery included detritus which looked too dark to be from capped honey. That was a sign. The most striking thing though was the Wax Moth larvae. An infestation of Wax Moth must have been under way because there were 3 or 4 larvae on both times I looked.

I don't know the origin of Colony 12. I haven't seen evidence that it has come from one of my hives. If it had then Colony 04 in Hive D would be most likely. I don't see evidence that has happened, although there was less dropped pollen than on the floor of Hive G.

Colony 12 seems to be a decent size. It has arranged itself vertically through the hive, which has a Commercial brood body and a super on it.

I took the lid off to check that they really were occupying but I didn't lift out any frames. Their temperament seems fine. They didn't attack, even though I didn't use smoke.

I put a feeder on the hive with some of last years honey in it. I was concerned afterwards that this may be improper haste -- the settling swarm probably won't have exhausted the honey in their stomachs so there may be a greater risk of bringing a disease like AFB. On balance I don't think that I've done anything silly. The swarm wouldn't have needed to build comb so I'd already missed that opportunity to empty their stomachs. There have been few sunny days lately and lots of rain. The last of the spring tree blossom has gone so feeding looks like a good way to encourage brood rearing. I'll inspect in mid-June to see whether there are any disease signs.

Hive E: Robbery or Occupation?

Submitted by will on Tue, 29/05/2018 - 21:18

Hive E was showing some unusual activity today, given that it's supposed to be empty. There were bees coming and going from the entrance and a large amount of debris on the hive floor. There were wax moth larvae; large bits of comb and wax which had been nibbled from white and heavily propolised comb

The obvious explanation for the activity is that the empty hive is being cleaned out by robbers. The new occupants in Hive C, colony 11, are building up just after the Horse Chestnut blossom has finished. Pollen in Hives G and D shows a change in colour to bright orange which vividly illustrates the transition. I find it difficult to follow the bees flight path when they leave the hive. I've always found it hard to follow a tiny black dot as it moves quickly across a variegated background. Maybe they are robbing?

The pattern of debris makes me doubt robbing. We're in peak swarm season now, and how often do robbers evict 2 or 3 wax moth larvae? Then there is the wax on the hive floor. The cappings are seldom very dark, even in the brood area, but the floor had very dark material. It looked more like cell cleaning.

Time will tell.