Not had much to say for some months, but I’ve been back to the FreeBees three times now since the last post.
The first two were to give them more food, and since it was getting so cold, this time it was candy, not syrup. The bees can’t work the syrup once it gets too cold, so you know that stuff bakers put on top of buns? Yeah, that:
I’d bought a big bag of it some time ago – the Summer BBKA show, I think – so it was just a matter of breaking it up into portions, putting it into sealable sandwich bags, and rolling it as flat as I could, so it would fit in under the lid. The second picture is of a bag in situe, with a bag they’d previously emptied on the right. You lay it on the frames, take out a craft knife, cut a big diagonal cross in the bag corner to corner, flip it over so the cut is down over the frames, and put the lid back on on top. All done, little bother or heat loss to the bees.
On the second visit, the main hive had cleaned out that bag, so I gave them another. The newer hive had only half-eaten their first bag, so I left them to it. This third visit today, little more had been taken by either, so I just left them where they were – the hives were very dormant, so they’ve not needed much yet. This early spring had worried me, but my hives haven’t really woken up yet.
The first thing that met my eyes on reaching the apiary though was the damage done by last week’s wind:
Fortunately I had some cable ties in the car (I’m an engineer – I’m never far from gaffer tape, cable ties and WD40). So I repaired what I could, using some of the thin bamboo rods stashed at the entrance to try to hive the fence some more strength, like this:
It needs more work, but the wind has died down now, so it’ll do until the weather’s better and I can talk to The Powers That Bee™ about how to fix it properly.
On to the Hives. I removed the anti-woodpecker wire, noting no sign of attack, opened them up, saw the bees still there (relief) but dormant, and then trickled in some of the acid into each gap, gently trying to get an even run onto the bees all the way along. I did the main hive first, and put it all back together again before remembering the camera, so all these shots are from the newer hive:
And so that’s what you see here. The bottle contains the acid. You squeeze it to fill the little 5ml reservoir at the top. The nozzle is an unscrewable thing, so you loosen that, and then tip it so that just that 5ml is poured slowly into the gap, onto the bees. Both hives took 1.5 of these bottles total. The acid has no affect on the bees, we’re told – and none noticed in the years this has been used by my friendly experts. But it melts the legs off the mites…
This time of year, there is no brood. Verroa prefer to live in the cells with growing brood, feeding off them, but outside of season, they have no choice, and life on the backs of the bees in the colony, feeding directly off the adults. This sticky acid dropping on them then has two effects. One, it melts the Verroa’s legs, making it far harder to hold on. Two, it gets the bees to clean themselves, hopefully knocking the Verroa off and out the bottom of the hive. It should do a better job than anything else in our armoury against them.
Both hives are now back together, treated and fed. And I’ve patched the fencing. It’ll be a few more weeks before I return.
One Last Thing – this is a great video of a hornet attack on a beehive.