Oxford Bees

Colony 15

Colonies 15 and 16 getting settled

Submitted by will on Fri, 24/05/2019 - 16:50

I took a quick look at the stuff which has been falling out of Colonies 15 and 16 today.

The removable tray under Colony 15 had lots of new wax platelets, indicating that they're busy building comb. There were also at least 3 Varroa bodies. This shouldn't be a surprise. Varroa are in all the colonies which I've encountered. This period after swarming has no brood so all the Varroa in the hive are clinging to the bees. Every mite which dies now does so before it can infest a brood cell, which is good news.

While Colony 15 had very little comb in their hive, Colony 16 had lots. Much of this was brood comb from a previous colony. It was beginning to suffer from wax moth and was heavily propolised (brood cells are lined with propolis). After only 16 hours were was a thick mess of dropped comb on the removable tray. There were half a dozen wax moth larvae in various stages of development -- a vigorous swarm doesn't tolerate them. The detritus was so thick that I couldn't tell whether there were any Varroa. I'll have another look in a day or two.

One method of detecting Varroa mites amongst a thick layer of muck is to use Methylated Spirits (a mix of Methanoic and Ethanoic alcohol). This separates the mites from the muck, making them easier to see.

edit 25/05/2019: the flight patterns of colony 16 appeared to be the increasing circles which indicate orientation flights. It's hard to be certain. Individual bees are hard to see -- they are small and dark; they move quickly across a patterned background and there are lots of them.

Arrival of colony 15

Submitted by will on Tue, 21/05/2019 - 17:08

Yesterday I collected a swarm in a box which originated in Tackley, near Bicester, Oxfordshire. The swarm was collected by Paul from Oxford Natural Beekeeping group.

Paul believes that it is a prime swarm and that it comes from an established feral colony. This is great news; I believe that feral colonies have adaptations which make them ideal for low intervention beekeeping.

I was unable to hive the swarm last night but they were safe in their ventilated box. They stayed outside at my out apiary over night. This morning I was up early and watching the temperature rise at my local amateur weather station in Headington. The temperature eventually crawled above 9C and I got to work.

I spread a thin cotton towel in front of the hive, tucking it in between the lander board and the entrance. I then opened the travel box and gently poured out the bees onto the towel. Member of my group recommend the walk-in method of hiving bees. I usuall favour using the big opening at the top of the hive instead (ie take the lid off and tip them in). Today I felt like trying it their way.

Walking in is more theatrical and it does ensure that they've willingly gone into the hive. I recently lost a swarm which I tipped in. I think that they would have absconded anyway but getting them to choose the hive might have improved the chances of success.

The bees on the towel started to climb upwards. This led them to the door. Some went in; then more. Within 10 minutes there was a crush at the entrance to the hive. I kept an eye out for the Queen and for workers fanning to indicated her location. Eventually, after at least half of the workers were crowding the door, I saw her. She crawled up and around the crush and disappeared in through the door. A little while later there was a bit of fanning, but not much.

I left for work and returned at lunchtime. The colony was now getting organised. There was busy traffic at the door and the crush at the door had cleared. There were very few dead workers left on the towel, which recommends Paul's ventilated box (he uses wire mesh taped to the inside of a cardboard box). On the removable base board there were signs that the bees had been cleaning up -- fragments of comb and propolised cell linings cleaned up from the previous occupants. Also they were building -- there were platelets of new wax on the base board. The wax is especially encouraging because it suggests that they will make their home in the hive.