Photos by Nick Thorp.
Spring has sprung and the bees are collecting already for some.
Today started with Alan talking about the top bar hive, this one
is currently empty meaning a great opportunity to see the
Graeme continued with some things to look for in the spring
inspections such as Queen health, nectar collection, varroa
levels and formation of swarm cells.
He aso reminded us to be on the lookout for uncharastic brood
cells, anything with dark caps, having depressed caps or caps
with holes in can be a sign of AFB and a second opinion should
be saught if you are in any doubt.
A very mild autumn day today with a small crowd but still
useful work to be done. Probably the last time we will open
the hives on a club day till August or September.
We reduced the hives to one brood box and one honey box each,
placing the brood chamber at the top, then the queen excluder
with the honey box underneath. This allows the queen a better
chance during the winter by keeping her warmer.
Checking the club hives for winter stores and noting how much
feed they would need. Quite a surprising difference between the
four hives, that's right we have four now, with one needing
nearly 12 litres of feed and another only 4 litres.
Wrapping up with a cuppa and some honey tasting from a few
different sorts of honey collected throughout the year.
Thanks to those who came and to the couple of volunteers who did
the manual work :)
For those that didnt have an early Varroa inundation its
probably time for an autumn treatment, while you're at it
probably a good time to see how much in the way of winter
stores your hives have.
Remember to use your smoker like a sheep dog, a bit here and a
bit there to drive the bees where you want. Check frames for
brood and place strips in brood areas, leaving enough bee space
Here we can see the little red disk (at the end of the
stick) that is the varroa female, followed by the resulting
deformed wings caused by a virus they transfer to the bees
This coffe coloured prepupae has succumbed to the sacbrood
When removed by piercing with a stick, they will come out like a
small sack of runny liquid, where as AFB will not stay together.
Differential diagnosis is very important, ask for help if you
A German wasp queen cannibalises a drone comrade that got
squashed, (right) check out the wasps
page for identification pictures.
Cleaning one side of the queen excluder carefully so that an
overwintering cluster board can be used. This will allow the
worker bees to cluster with the queen under the excluder, rather
than go up further into the honey box and potentially leave the
queen under the excluder to die from cold in the winter, while
allowing easy access to honey stores above. (remember to remove
in spring) The board should be made of something hard such as
thin ply, MDF or corflute for example, the bees will chew
cardboard. These boards are good where all full depth boxes are
being used or where the colony is a little smaller than ideal
for over wintering.
Thanks to everyone for coming along, we will be looking for
others who are keen to help Graeme open hives and share their
knowledge with the group to help the learning process.
Well the start of autumn has brought about a little rain and
some cooler winds, the flowers coming out in the last few days
have eased the robbing tendencies a bit as well for us.
First honey of the season for some of our members, the electric
uncapping knife makes life a little easier, very tasty.
Looking for the new queen that had been placed in the bottom
section of this hive, she has mated and is laying well (left
picture). The old queen is still laying well after 18 months so
we wont kill her, just run this hive as two colonies.
Can you see the slightly darker cell at the tip of the finger
shadow? The next picture is close up, just in front of the right
hand bee. Turns out it was some pollen with honey over the top,
but it could have just as easily been a disease of some form.
Lift off the lid of any suspect cells (darker, sunken, chewed
holes etc), remember you wont find any problems if you dont
look. Some might say thats a good thing right? well no, finding
small problems are more manageable, leaving it and hoping is
just asking for trouble.....
Sometimes referred to as an "acorn cup" these can be useful for
making emergency grafts into. Some healthy bees hatching and a
sorry, deformed wing syndrome worker (caused by mite build up)
Today we also checked for honey stores in the hives, most seem
to be doing well and slowly starting to winter down, placing
steadily more honey and pollen in the brood chambers.
Overall the hives have done quite well, partly due to the
irrigation of the surrounding farmland.
Thanks to all who were able to make it today and wishing
everyone who couldn't, happy beekeeping.
Today Graeme demonstrated how to graft queen cells in the
field, along with warning about sloppy practices leading to
robbing and personal injury.
Opening the hive for inspection and to graft queen cells can be
problematic once the robbing season gets under way. Working
quickly and neatly is important for your own health and well
being as well as the bees health.
It is important to remember when working the hive, not to pull
the first frame out too fast. Rolling bees, or worse squashing
the queen can happen, lift the frame at the speed the bees can
get out of the way. Once one frame is removed there will be
plenty of room to work quickly.
Checking the brood pattern and looking for a suitable grafting
frame. Once a good area of young grubs has been located, working
with the sun behind you makes seeing inside the cells much
easier. These grubs are being taken from a strong new queen and
placed into an older hive for a better acceptance rate.
Graeme demonstrating how docile these bees are and not
getting stung, though some of us may disagree!
(It may be Graeme's mind control powers or his 200 years of
experience coming into play as well) :)
What do do with cappings and wax? Feed the cappings back to
the hive they came from by placing a robbing board (a hive mat
with a 20mm hole at one end) on the top box with a 1/2-3/4 depth
box on top of that to enclose it, then place the cappings or
sticky wax into an ice cream container or other something
similar, for the bees to "rob" back into the hive. After a few
days you should have a load of nicely chewed wax that is clean
and ready to melt. (the brown on the top of the brick is bits of
propolis, dust and other fine debris)
Not pretty, just functional. (the firewood is to stop the
sheet of glass sliding forwards)
Making a solar melter is quite easy and pouring it into a
container for making candles or bricks to sell/use is straight
You need a bee proof box of some description (pictured is a hive
mat on the bottom, a 1/2 depth box, a plastic feeder tray
inside) and a sheet of glass to go over the top. Place wax in
containers in this mini oven and it will melt away slowly. Just
make sure its secure, cant slide apart or grant access for bees
as they will die instantly if they get inside and its hot. Angle
it slightly towards the sun for a faster melt (just remember to
pour off the melted wax before the sun goes off and use an old
sieve to catch big lumps)
Beeswax melts around 62-64C and starts to discolour above 85C,
the melter pictured gets to about 80C in full sun after a while.
Some of the frames that were made in
a previous hive building day have unfortunately started to come
apart with the weight of honey in them.
Having the correct bee space can
mean much less brace comb and nuisance wax build up. 6mm is the
ideal gap between frame and box, you can have this gap at the
bottom of the frame (first picture) or at the top (second
picture) just make sure all boxes are done the same way
otherwise you could end up with a 12mm gap and heaps of rogue