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Meon Valley Bee Disease Day

One of our neighbouring Associations, Meon Valley BKA, is holding a  Bee Disease Day on 24th June and Fleet has been invited to attend.

There are two sessions, each being led by David and Celia Rudland who  you may have met before on one of their excellent courses.

As an ex Seasonal Bee inspector of many years, David has a license to handle frames of EFB and AFB and will be bringing some for us to see. If you haven’t seen frames of foul brood before, now is your chance to update your skill and experience. David’s experience as an SBI also makes him very well qualified to instruct us all about bee diseases. Together David and Celia now run East Surrey Bees with over 200 colonies and offering a number of excellent beekeeping courses.

There are two sessions – morning and afternoon. The morning meeting is 9.00 for a 9.30 start – the afternoon session starts approx. 1.30 with lunch in between and each session lasts for approx. 3 hours.

The event takes place at East Meon Village Hall (Workhouse Ln, East Meon, Petersfield GU32 1PF)

A simple ploughman’s lunch and refreshments, for each session, are included in the charge of £10.00.

Please let Jean Frost jeanterry@uwclub.net  know as soon as you can if you would like to attend saying which session you prefer and she will send payment details.

Heather Honey

Our county association (HBA) is privileged to have an arrangement with the New Forest management allowing us to take hives to selected sites between July and October.  We have about 20 sites to choose from, some inevitably are better than others and they vary from year to year depending on the management work that has been done during the year.

The benefits to beekeepers are that some wonderful honey is gathered and that brood chambers are filled – a good way to start winter.

Cost is about £5 a hive plus a repayable deposit of £20 for a New Forest site key.

Strong and healthy colonies, free of disease with lots of capped brood that will be ready to produce a young and energetic work force on site are needed.

Old hands know the drill but if you are newish beekeeper and think you want to try your hand at this end-of-season activity, please get in touch with me before June 2017 sending your contact details to me (details below) including your email address as most of the business is done by email.

Jim Stuart

Pear Tree Cottage, Upper Clatford, Andover, Hampshire SP11 7QL

Email: pearity@lemonia.org

Phone: 01264 323185

Asian Hornet

A useful update from the BeeBase resource/National Bee Unit regarding the Asian Hornet:

Following recent press articles there have been many reports of potential Asian hornet, (Vespa velutina) sightings across the UK. We would like to re-assure everybody that there have been no confirmed sightings of Asian hornets in the UK, and so far all hornet reportings received by the National Bee Unit have been identified as the native European hornet, Vespa crabro.

Experts at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology confirm that the hornet picture taken in Kent and featured in the press is not an Asian hornet – which would be darker in colouration, and that the size suggests European hornet.

The Asian hornet or yellow-legged hornet, is smaller than our native hornet, with characteristic yellow legs, a dark velvety thorax, and a dark abdomen with a distinctive yellow band on the fourth segment.

We are aware of the potential impacts they could have on honey bees and have contingency plans in place to remove them if they are identified. This includes comprehensive monitoring and teams ready to destroy any confirmed nests.

For those who think they have seen an Asian hornet please first read the Asian hornet ID sheet which outlines the main differences between the native European hornet and this Asian hornet.

Spring time 2016

Good to see the bees busy today, on a nice sunny and mild Easter Good Friday. Haven’t inspected my hives yet, but judging by the pollen being brought in and the fact the hives are still a fairly good weight would suggest that there’s healthy colonies in them all following the winter.

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Bailey Comb Changes

Why it’s important to replace old comb
One way in which beekeepers can keep their bees healthy is to ensure that the colonies brood comb is changed regularly. Over a period of time the levels of pesticides, bacteria and other pathogens can build up within the comb to the point at which it can threaten the viability of the colony.

Therefore it’s important to regularly change your brood comb at least every three years to keep your colonies clean and healthy.  However, it’s difficult to remember the age of each individual brood comb frame over time and so a good idea is to mark one end of each frame with a blob of the same paint used to mark that years Queens. This is the current colour sequence that repeats every five years.

2013 – Red
2014 – Green
2015 – Blue
2016 – White
2017 – Yellow

In the Fleet BKA training apiary, the hives are all new and therefore almost all the frames are marked with green blobs and probably won’t need changing until 2016/17 when they will taken out, sterilised and reused marked with the correct colour. Putting the colour on one end only also ensures that all the frames in the hive go back the right way round!

The Bailey Comb Change process
Assuming that the colony is still relatively healthy, the best and least disruptive method of changing combs is a Bailey comb change. This simply requires an additional brood box of the same size as the original complete with a full suite of frames containing foundation and a feeder with sugar syrup.

This process can only take place when the average day temperature is above 12-15C as the bees need to raise the temperature inside the hive high enough to enable wax to be manipulated by the bees. Assuming the weather is suitable, you simply lift off and remove the super and Queen excluder (shaking any bees back into the brood box) and place the new brood box with frames of foundation on top of the existing brood box. Unless there is a big inbound flow of nectar, its probably a very good idea to feed the bees with a sugar syrup solution so that they have a ready access of food from which they can generate the large quantities of wax needed to replace an entire brood box full of new comb. We typically use large top feeders holding up to 10l of syrup at a time placed on top of the new brood box.

Stage 1 of a Bailey comb change. The new brood chamber is in place  with a full feeder on top.
Stage 1 of a Bailey comb change. The new brood chamber is in place on top of the old one with a full feeder above.

Leave the bees alone and after a few days you should start to see the sugar syrup levels fall within the feeder that lets you know that the bees are feeding and probably building comb. After about ten days or so have a quick peek in the top of the hive to see if  the bees have started to create areas of fresh comb, probably on one or two frames to begin with. It’s highly likely that the Queen will soon come up into the new comb to start laying eggs in the fresh cells – A quick visual check will confirm this.

Once the bees are building full-depth comb across more than one frame you need to ensure that the Queen is either already in the top brood box or move her there yourself and once this is done insert a Queen excluder between the top and bottom brood boxes. This will ensure the Queen stays up with the new comb and once she has started raising brood the nurse bees will transfer up to look after her and the new eggs that she is laying.

Bailey comb change stage 2 - The bees are now well established in the upper brood chamber and a second entrance has been opened.
Bailey comb change stage 2 – The bees are now well established in the upper brood chamber and a second entrance has been opened.

After three weeks or so all the larvae in the old brood box will have hatched and the bottom box can be taken away once any remaining bees have been shaken off the frames into the new brood chamber. The old combs will need to be disposed of and the frames and old brood box sterilised before they can be reused.

The Bailey comb change process really works well and whilst it can’t make a huge difference in the case of Varroa, it for almost all other pathogens and pesticide residue build-up, it ensures the colonies continued survival.