Oxford Bees


Winter Losses: 5-NIL

Submitted by will on Sun, 12/03/2017 - 14:55

Colonies can fail over winter. Surveys suggest that about 10% fail in a good year; more in a bad one. At the moment, none of my colonies have failed. I'm happy.

It's too early to be certain that all will survive into summer. Each colony will strike a balance between brood production and foraging. If they make too much brood when the forage is poor, they may starve.

Failure can happen because of disease, starvation or an external event. There are lots of diseases and lots of events. There is only one cause of starvation.

My big event this year (the knock-down during Storm Doris) could have been fatal for the two hives if they hadn't been secured with hive straps. The exposure caused by an unsealed hive would have chilled and killed some of the bees; brood might have died from exposure and consumption of stores would have risen[1]. Instead the damage seems to have been slight. The hives toppled so that the frames were end on (rather than face on). The hive body stayed together. I arrived soon after the event.

Disease does not seem to have adversely affected them. There is Varroa in all five colonies. Four of these are untreated, but were only established last year. One was treated in Spring last year before I resolved to stop. It's too early to be certain that all have become Varroa tolerant but I have reason to hope. There are signs of CBPV and a worrying pile of rotted bee bodies outside Hive D. We'll see how that hive fares.

Even the late swarm in Hive E seems to be ok. I'm optimistic coming into 2017.

[1]: An article published by Thorne in Nov 2016 suggested that weekly consumption of stores by a colony would double if they are disturbed.

Knock down update - no visible problems in either hive

Submitted by will on Wed, 01/03/2017 - 10:47

I've been keeping an eye on the two hives which were blown over during Storm Doris.

Neither is showing any significant visible sign of damage:

  • There were no dead bees on the floor of the hive (as far as I could see).
  • The fall of wax cappings appears to be the normal.
  • Hive D had some drops of honey on the removeable hive floor, but only just enough for me to taste (yum)

I'll see in a couple of months how these hives have fared. I'm still seeking data on the peak wind speed.

A double knock down during Storm Doris

Submitted by will on Fri, 24/02/2017 - 06:43

Storm Doris blue through yesterday. Two of the three hives in my out apiary where knocked over. Fortunately all had hive straps so the boxes did not separate. The stand for Hive C cracked when I righted it, but it stayed upright.

The lesson for hives in exposed positions would seem to be:

  1. Always fit a hive strap. I used a strap bought from Thorne. I'm very glad that I have the version with the ratchet. The extra tightness certainly ensured that the boxes stayed together.
  2. Take hives off their stands, if possible. The disadvantage is that there's a greater risk from damp. This could be mitigated by moving them only during storm conditions. There are more stable hive stands than the type which I'm using. Multiple hives can be placed next to each other but this has disadvantages during summer because of drifting and robbing.
  3. Tether the hives to something stable, if possible.
  4. Keep hive height to a minimum by removing excess super boxes at the end of the season.

I'm trying to find out the peak wind speed for the apiary.