Oxford Bees

Extreme Weather

Heatwave 2018

Submitted by will on Sun, 05/08/2018 - 17:35

The UK has been experiencing a heatwave for at least six weeks:

Maximum temperatures at RAF Benson airfield, Oxfordshire during heatwave of June-July 2018
Source: UK Met Office Weather Observations Website

The bees have been fine. There has been forage and there are water sources for them to use. We have not been fine. It's hot and we're not used to it.

A few days ago I put on my bee suit at 4pm and in under 10 minutes I was drenched with sweat. Sweat dripped from my nose and puddled on the visor of my veil. It soaked my t-shirt and my socks and ran down my chest as I leaned over. It wasn't nice.

This is a downside to bee keeping. Suits are really hot. If you have an angry hive it also helps to layer up under your suit -- which makes it even hotter. It's enough to make you want to be a low intervention bee keeper who inspects mostly be examining what falls out of the hive :-)

It hasn't only been hot. It's been very very dry. Weather stations around Oxford show that there has been rain in the county, but in Headington we've seen only about 3 occasions of rain during the 6 weeks, and those were only a few minutes of light rain. Oxford city and Headington seem to have lower rainfall than the surrounding county. It may be the topography, but equally it could be my imagination.

The consequence of this extended hot, dry period haven't been too bad. The winter was wet so we haven't had a drought. Most deeper rooted annuals and perennials have been fine, with excellent flowers, fruit and seeds. There was almost no June gap in flowering, possibly because the cold spring delayed the onset of flowering. Grass has fared very badly where it's been cut and I expect to see heat stress affecting trees which we'll see for several years. The grass has particularly affected the look of the heatwave, with brown parks and gardens. Where grass has been left uncut it hasn't been badly affected.

Cooler Autumnal weather is on its way. There's even rain predicted. I'll be interested to see whether it turns up.

Cold Weather Starvation Anxiety

Submitted by will on Wed, 28/02/2018 - 17:14

The weather has become cold. There's heavy snow forecast and my hives are light on stores. It's an anxious time.

I don't like feeding but I will once the weather warms sufficiently. I've made up some fondant (the recipe didn't really work but it's good enough). I didn't think that I'd over-harvested but the forage was patch and the wasps were relentless. I misjudged.

For now, I wait. Maybe the weekend will be warmer.

Hive E appears to be alive after knock down

Submitted by will on Sat, 20/01/2018 - 19:17

I checked on Hive E today. There was evidence of uncapping which suggests that the bees are still alive. There was also some small pieces of broken comb which is unsurprising following a knock down. One unexpected find was a wax moth larva.

All the other hives in my out-apiary are showing evidence of recent uncapping. I assume that they're ok

Hive E knock down

Submitted by will on Thu, 18/01/2018 - 07:15

Poor Hive E. It was knocked over last night during the high winds. I righted it this morning. No bees came out but that isn't conclusive. I'll check in a few days to see whether there is sign of life from inside.

Data for: Benson WOW station
Report Date / Time Wind Direction Wind Speed (kn) Wind Gust (kn)
Min SSW 19.1 31.3
Max W 29.6 53.9
Mean WSW 23.2 41.5
18/01/2018 06:00:00 W 19.1 40.0
18/01/2018 05:00:00 W 22.6 42.6
18/01/2018 04:00:00 WSW 29.5 53.9
18/01/2018 03:00:00 WSW 26.9 51.3
18/01/2018 02:00:00 WSW 22.6 37.4
18/01/2018 01:00:00 SW 20.9 33.9
18/01/2018 00:00:00 SSW 20.9 31.3

 

Submitted by will on Thu, 07/12/2017 - 08:57

Storm Caroline blew through overnight. It was worst in Scotland but we had higher winds. All 5 hives in my out apiary stayed upright. During my check this morning I also found evidence of activity in all 5: brood and honey cell cappings on the hive floor. The entrances are all clear.

I hefted and found that Hive E is a bit light. I really need a comparison. The complete Commercial hive weighs at least 20Kg according to Thorne. The guidance is that a colony needs 25Kg to see it through the winter. I don't think that Hive E has enough. I'm not sure about the others. Luckily I've held back some solid honey which I can give to them.

Submitted by will on Sat, 14/10/2017 - 21:29

It's mid-October. The weather is supposed to be cooling but that's not what we're getting. Ex-Hurricane Ophelia is on its' way, bringing high winds and high temperatures. In Oxford we're forecast to get 40mph winds (fearties! fearties!) and 20C temperatures. The average October temperature is 10.1C (source: /node/191).

The weather must be helping the bees to forage because Hive H shows the tell-tale white wax platelets on the hive floor. These indicatethat they're building new comb.

October is also a time when there are some sources of nectar and pollen available. Ivy, Michaelmas Daisy; Evening Primrose and Golden Rod are in, or have recently been in, flower. The most significant is probably Ivy which can produce significant amounts of nectar. It isn't very nice honey to eat and it sets in the comb but it's useful for the bees.

I hope that this means that Hive H will survive the winter in good order.

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