Oxford Bees

E Hive

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.

Hive E appears to be dead

Submitted by will on Sat, 24/02/2018 - 17:00

I looked today at the floor of Hive E. No sign of activity. I assume that it is dead.

I'll have a look inside when the weather warms up.

Wasps; Varroa; a knock down in the storm. All too much for them.


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

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


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.

Activity in all 5 city hives (December 2017)

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 Sun, 15/10/2017 - 20:28

I visited my out-apiary today and examined the removable hive floors for evidence of recent activity.

Three hives (D, F and G) show evidence of recent brood emergence. There were also hundreds of dead mites. Hive D had been especially prolific. There was also crystallised sugar which suggests that old honey is being eaten or cells are being cleaned out.

One hive (C) was so wet with condensation that it was impossible to tell what had fallen to the floor. There must have been wax and pollen. Presumably mites but it was hard to tell. The hive is ventilated but I assume that there has been a strong honey flow and the ventilation has been insufficient.

One Hive (E) was in crisis but activity seems much reduced. Fewer mites and fewer hatchings. This might mean that the crisis has abated or that the colony is in deep trouble.

The overall picture is that foraging is still strong during the warmer parts of the day. Brood rearing is strong which is supporting very high levels of mites. This picture is matched by Hives A and H in Headington. A is dropping lots of mites. Both A and H are bringing in large amounts of pollen. H is building lots of comb (which A doesn't need to do).

The Varroa population models suggest that colonies risk collapse when total mite numbers is greater than 1,000. I would only be confident that hive H has fewer than that.

What happens next? This is where my commitment to no-treatment beekeeping is tested.

Mite Crisis in Hive E

Submitted by will on Tue, 12/09/2017 - 23:01

Hive E is having a Varroa mite crisis. I checked today and for the previous 2 weeks. Each time I found hundreds of dead Varroa mites.

High mite drop can be a factor in colony collapse. I don't expect them to perform well next season - if they survive through the winter. I expect them to be weakened, and any brood raised in early spring will be heavily infected with Deformed Wing Virus or other diseases symptomatic of Varroosis.

I had hoped that the colony would be better able to manage Varroa. They've been untreated for a significant period of time. The swarm came last season from a feral hive in Barton.

Earlier this season they were very bad tempered which may be related. I should have checked whether they were Queen-Right (you bang the side of the hive. If the roar calms down quickly then they have a Queen. If not then they may be in distress and Queen-less).

I doubt whether replacing their Queen this year would have led to this situation. Even if she had no mite tolerance there would have been a time lag to produce vulnerable brood, and then a further lag to build up mite numbers. It seems more likely that this is the difference between mite resistant and mite tolerant. In the former there are hygenic behaviours or adaptations which inhibit Varroa mite reproduction. In the latter the bees just tough it out. I suspect that Hive E is only tolerant. We'll see whether it is tolerant enough.