Oxford Bees

out apiary

The first Wasp

Submitted by will on Sat, 01/06/2019 - 15:00

I saw the first worker wasp of the season. She was hovering near Colony 1.

Earlier this season we saw a lot of Queen wasps. This suggests that it may be a waspy year. There have also been lots of aphids for the wasps to feed on. Wasps require mostly protein early in the seasons which they use to feed their brood. They switch increasingly to needing sugar during the season, which is why they try to rob honey bee colonies.

I have annual problems with wasps. These are most noticeable in central Oxford. I've seen wasps trying to rob my hives at dawn (6am), at dusk (10pm) and all through the day. This continual onslaught would destroy a weak colony so I stop down the doorways to a space about 9mm by 25mm. Even so the wasps still get in and may even be attacking the bees through the Varroa screen under the hive. It's brutal.

Welcome to Colony 16

Submitted by will on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 21:53
Walking Colony 16 into their new home

I received a call at lunchtime today that there was a swarm settled in Portland Rd, Summertown, Oxford. I went immediately.

The swarm was big. It was in the lower branches of an apple tree where it hung over a fence. I borrowed a ladder and just knocked the bulk of the swarm into the box and waited while they got organised. In went the remainder. Boxed.

Collecting could hardly have been quicker or easier. From phone call to me leaving with a box of bees was only just over an hour. Quick work given that I must have taken 30 minutes just to get there.

I was very grateful for the kind assistance of the neighbour Chris and to the home owner who gave us access. They were superb. This sort of help fantastic -- freely and kindly given -- and much appreciated.

I took the bees back to central Oxford where I left them, boxed, to calm down. At about 8:45pm I tipped them onto a sheet in front of the hive. The movement was immediate. In they started to go.

After a while the door became jammed with bees. More bees climbed up over the entrance and onto the front of the hive. It was a bit chaotic. The evening is still warm though so I hope they'll get organised before it cools down too much.

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.

No drama from my city hives

Submitted by will on Tue, 14/08/2018 - 16:51

There is very little to report from my hives in Oxford. They're bringing in pollen; there are Drones leaving and returning; there are very few Varroa falling onto the base board*; there are lots of wasps but none getting into the hives.

It's all very calm.

* maybe a dozen between the 4 hives

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 there  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.

Colony 11 arrives in a Nucleus

Submitted by will on Thu, 24/05/2018 - 06:50

Colony 11 appears to be a feral colony which was forced out of a roof by building work. It was collected by a member of my bee group and put into a nucleus box. Unfortunately the colony was behaving very aggressively so she gave it up.

I collected the colony last night in its nuc' box. As I gently wheeled it on the back of my bike I could smell the alarm pheromones coming from the ventilation on the top of the box.

When I arrived at my out-apiary I moved the hive box from the stand where Hive C was positioned. I then placed the nuc' on top and went home.

This morning I awoke to fairly heavy rain. There were puddles showing that it had been raining for some time. The nuc' box is ventilated at the top so that rain can get in. I decided to move them to a hive with a roof as soon as possible.

The nuc' box does not have frames in it, so the bees are building comb which is anchored to the box. This presents a tricky problem: How do I transfer them? The lid of the box -- which the comb is fastened to -- fits across about half of a national hive body. I decided to move the roof of the nuc' into Hive C and pack the remaining space with framed comb. I took a large piece of wood which will pack the top of the hive so that it is level with the nuc' roof. Put together the hive is part nuc lid with free comb and part framed comb. I hope that the bees will prefer the framed comb. Experience has taught me that they seldom do what I hope.

I arrived at about 0530 this morning. The temperature was around 10C and it was raining steadily. The bees were not flying. I moved the nuc' off its stand; arranged the framed comb to the correct size and then lifted the lid into the hive. Some of the free comb stayed attached to the body of the nuc'. A large number of the bees stayed in the nuc' box too. I didn't try to find the Queen. I just placed the nuc' body on top of the area of framed comb, secured it with a hive strap and left them to work out what was best for them*. I'll go back later today to see what they've done. If the Queen was on the comb then I hope that they'll move down to her. If she's still in the nuc' body then I'm not sure what I'll do. The bees were seen bringing in pollen before I took the nuc' box last night, which suggests brood. She should be with the brood, which give me hope that she's inside the body of the hive rather than the nuc'.

1st Feb 2018 -- all hives in the out apiary showing signs of activity

Submitted by will on Fri, 02/02/2018 - 14:00

It's cold, so there isn't much to see at the hives. I'm still keeping an eye on the colonies by inspecting the removable base boards.

All the hives (C, D, E, F, G) are showing evidence that they're uncapping honey and eating it. There are some darker cappings which indicates that brood may be hatching. The colour of the wax suggests that it is from brood comb but the cause is not certain. They might be tidying or repairing damage. Midwinter brood is more common than some literature suggests so I'd be confident that they're still rearing.

Varroa drop count is very low (<10 per hive). That's also not much of a surprise. If there is brood then it's likely to be very heavily infested with Varroa. I'll look out for crawling bees showing signs of Deformed Wing Virus. I didn't see any this time but the numbers are low enough (and the ground wet enough) that I might have missed them.

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

A winter honey feed for Hive E

Submitted by will on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 16:00

I don't really know how to heft. This means that I've been concerned about the stores in a couple of the hives for a few weeks. Today I visited and put some honey in to feed them. They honey had set to a stiff paste or fully hardened.

I took a super which had empty comb. I removed enough frames to fit 2 tubs and a jar. I then quickly popped the lid off; placed the super and honey and put the lids back on.

It's said that a colony never freezes but it can starve. It all comes down to stores. This is an admission that I probably took a bit too much honey from them. I wasn't intentionally greedy but the colony may have put stores above rather than adjacent to their brood frames. That would have left them lighter than intended.

I didn't have a spare super to sort out Hive C. I'll take one up and add some honey in for them soon.