A talk by Simon Foster at the Bee Shed, 16th July 2022
The honey crop is looking good, the nectar flow looks like continuing for a while, so now is the time to start thinking about ‘What happens next?
For the new beekeepers the next few weeks may be critical to the colony so here are some notes on the topics covered that should help you avoid some of the pit falls at this time of year.
First and foremost, Simon emphasised the need to check colonies for brood diseases now. The usual advice is to check twice per year, once in the spring and again at the end of the season, so now is an ideal opportunity to check, so you go into the winter with healthy bees.
- Big Colonies survive better, whether it be the cold, wasps or diseases.
- Cold weather in October makes it difficult to process nectar & syrup.
- Old comb harbours disease; notifiable, nosema, chalk brood.
- If you have not used shook swarm or used bio-mechanical varroa control, then you will need to reduce varroa with proprietary product
- As the colony is smaller it is easier to find Queen and mark her.
- Queens do not seem to last as they used to, so best to replace after no more than two years.
- A new queen may improve any chalk brood or nosema issues.
- Wasp predation has already started! Reduce entrances now.
- Small colonies and casts are unlikely to survive the winter, so unite small and weak colonies now to strong colonies with preferred queens.
- Need to ensure winter bees are strong and long lived, so start varroa control, if needed, after the honey crop has been removed.
- Thymol and formic acid based products are temperature dependent, so read and apply the instructions.
Ideally, these methods should be carried out when there is plenty of forage around. You may still have to feed if the weather turns cold. If you do not want to change the whole box at once then just replace the old frames you have moved to the outside of the brood box.
- 18kg should be sufficient, unlikely to need more in the south west, but keep checking in Feb/Mar to make sure and use some candy if necessary.
- If you use a brood and a half, put the super (eg honey crop) on the bottom, they will eat out first and not fill with brood come spring.
- It is damp that kills bees not the cold alone, so make sure your hives are ventilated, which ever configuration you use. With a solid floor, have the roof vents open and provide a little extra ventilation with matchsticks under the crown board. This is not necessary with varroa mesh floors.
- Need ventilation – 20% water in honey that needs to go somewhere as the bees consume it.
- I do wrap my hives in smooth plastic to deter woodpeckers.