We’ve been off for a week, and back again, then off for 4 days, and in between we’ve seen the bees a few times, applied Apiguard, and helped with Simon’s honey harvest. The bees seem fine, we’re relaxed, so all is well.
The Apiguard bit has been interesting. As I said last time, I left the board in under the hive to see how many mites fell through onto it in a week, and figured we got maybe 2 a day that it was there – which is very low and healthy. None would have been a miracle.
So, I then put the Apiguard on, and went back 8 days later to see how we were doing. One of the side effects of doing this though is that the bees clean themselves more, and so what I had to inspect that time was a little harder to work on:
Lets see you find mites that are about 1 or 2 millimetres across in that. Most of it is wax and lose propolis. Or just dirt. I think there was about 2-3 mites a day in there, but really have no idea.
So anyway, I put the first one on, and a week later moved it to ensure it all spread. Then another week on I put the second pack in, and will be visiting today to move that. Next week I’ll go back, and will probably remove the super and put a feeder on.
As best as I can make out, while they’ve been building comb in the super, they’ve not been using it for storage. The queen has been winding down on laying, and they’ve been filling up the brood box with food as the cells have become vacant, ready for the winter. And I want to make sure they’re well supplied to survive what may be a long and very cold few months. So more sugar water will be going in for the next few weeks.
Last Sunday and Monday the girls and I went over to Simon’s place to help him with his honey harvest. Sunday night was mostly cutting the caps off of the comb from the three supers from his other Apiary, and then spinning the honey out of them. We’re going to do a full blog post on that separately, with photos, so I wont go into depth here, but suffice to say that in that first evening, with three supers, we got over 5 stone of honey out. By the end he had about 170 pounds of honey, and while we filtered some of it Monday, he had a lot more work to do. None has been put in jars yet, last I heard. But what I tasted was fantastic – and I’m not normally a honey person.
Monday last week also saw me watching from a distance as my Eldest walked one of her best friends through the hive, so to speak. Unfortunately she didn’t take the end board out first, and so didn’t separate the frames from each other before starting to lever them up, and one of the frames broke. So I’ll probably need to replace it. But it’s full of food right now, so I’ll leave it until the first Spring opening, and put a new frame of foundation in, hopefully before any laying happens. They can then build it and fill it without any risk of them starving for want of that food. They’ll stick everything together with propolis until then.
And then this last Sunday Fleet Beekeepers had an Apiary meeting at a local member’s house. Well, it’s an old water mill with the most incredible grounds, so “house” just isn’t fair. And she had three very interesting hives that we all got to take a look at, along with the most experienced members, to discuss and learn. All three had been without queens for some time during the summer, and had taken a lot of effort to keep going. One of them was unlikely to survive the coming winter without further help, too. It’s only through her continual care any of them will make it though. My wife, youngest and I learned loads listening to the others discuss this and other members’ problems, and asked and had answered a number of questions we had about ours, too. It seems pretty certain now the swarm that just turned up in my hive came from a feral colony, of which there are more left than I thought around here. Keith, who’s day job is the local pest control, told me that he regularly sees colonies in roof spaces, too. And my bees are definitely darker than the others around here, suggesting they’re more closely related to native British bees.
This in turn makes me wonder whether I really want to re-queen them, which would lose that connection. It’s going to go in time anyway – any mating the queen does will be with the surrounding European bees, and it would give us far more docile bees, as the ones around here have been bred for that quality. But I think I’m willing to put up with a bit of aggression to keep some native bee genes in there. My Eldest has also been looking into the British Black Bee, so I know she wants to keep them this way too. We’ll have to see how we manage them in the longer term.