Today we were back in the training apiary continuing to prepare the bees for winter. The Apilife VAR anti-varroa treatments have been in place now for almost 5 weeks and the smell has permeated the entire apiary. The mite drop count has come down on all but the largest hive which still has a lot of dead mites appearing on the removable tray. Never mind, we will have to leave them until the Oxalic acid treatment in December.
Having hefted all the hives, last week we identified a couple that required feeding with syrup. Today all the syrup had gone and so we will top them up again later tonight. Those hives that have a full super of stores plus loads of food in the brood chamber were “flipped” with the super placed on the floor and the brood chamber on top. (Note how clean the floor is) We have done this process for a few years now and it pays huge dividends in a number of ways.
When the bees cluster as it gets colder they will start at the bottom (in the super) and work their way upwards into the brood chamber by mid-winter. When we trickle the Oxalic acid anti-varroa treatment into the hive after Christmas, the syrup will trickle straight onto the brood and be far more effective.
Also in past years, the Queen typically starts laying eggs in February when its still too cold to do an inspection and in the past that has meant that we end up with the queen laying eggs and raising brood in the super which is very difficult to deal with. With this method, the Queen ends up laying eggs in the brood chamber where we want her to. Rapid feeding is also easy as you can simply place a slim pack of candy on top of the brood chamber close to the bees if we need to. This method gives us time in the Spring to wait for a good warm day before conducting a full inspection at our leisure, reversing the hive back the normal way with the super on top and Queen excluder in between.
We have also had a report of woodpeckers attacking a members hives nearby and so we also showed how to protect a hive from these critters who can rip through a hive in seconds if they want to. In the past, I have wrapped hives in chicken wire, but whilst this works, it’s really difficult to store the chicken wire away from the hive.
So now I use plastic garden mesh (20mm) that is easy to cut to size and can be rolled up and put away when not required. The mesh is simply wrapped round the hive and secured with wire wraps as shown above. Heather Morss suggested a little twist at each corner against the hive roof to stop the mesh falling down. It also means that the wrap can be lifted off the hive in one piece if we need to get inside the hive for any reason.