The wild bees I found a couple of years ago are thriving and I’ve never seen them so busy. The photo directly above shows them catching the February sun. Curious to know where their nest is, I borrowed Mac Card’s amazing wee infrared camera and Linton photographed the tree from the front, first photo, and from the back looking south, see below.
I think that the nest must be directly behind the entrance and quite low down according to the glowing yellow light. Athough perhaps not totally conclusive it’s fascinating never the less using modern technology to solve puzzles in nature. The following photo by William Hesbach shows where the winter cluster (bright light yellow ball) is situated in a winter brood box for comparison.
If they have swarmed they haven’t used the des res situated a couple of hundred yards away in the oak tree which is disappointing. I’ve worn a path to the tree and sat on the stone dyke watching scout bees take a look inside.
last year, this same bait hive situated in the garden attracted a prodigious swarm that turned out to be one of the best stocks in the apiary.
Sugar Roll Tests.
I’ve spent most of the week doing sugar roll tests to get an idea of varroa levels in the colonies so that the winter bees can be as healthy as possible. You can see how I do them on this previous blog.
Once you get the hang of doing them they don’t take long at all but I can understand why people with many colonies might use the alcohol wash method. When you shake bees into your bucket they regurgitate nectar and the bucket needs to be cleaned between colonies. Icing sugar at this time of year attracts wasps, as does having a hive opened up for too long so working with as assistant is helpful to get the job done faster.
At my new out apiary, I helped Sally harvest honey then she and her visitor came to help me sugar roll test my 2 colonies. Martin assisted and took control of my stop watch as I shook vigorously for 2 minutes. I was tickled pink to learn that he is an official timer of athletics at the Olympic games. Beat that beekeepers!
One of my other assistants this week couldn’t believe that my 1/2 cup measuring tool held 300 bees and suggested that I might be using the wrong cup. The queen bee, who has been doing this for years, was not amused but not prepared to prove the number! So, I was more than delighted to see my Facebook friend Michael Lancto’s post yesterday announcing 346 bees and 3 varroa in his sample. Michael used the alcohol wash method otherwise it would have been impossible for him to count the bees. See his photos below.
The Significance of Monitoring Bee Health.
I’m aware that this is only a snap shot of varroa on bees from one brood frame but it gives an estimate and, along with counting daily varroa mite drops over a week, it is a useful tool. I am delighted that 2 is the highest number of varroa in the samples so far, and I am not seeing deformed wing virus. However, the colony in the quarantine apiary is not thriving and has just superseded its queen for the second time this year and I’m seeing crawling bees suggestive of chronic bee paralysis virus. They were placed on fresh new brood frames earlier this year but I didn’t re queen then with new stock because I wanted to assess them. Now I shall get a replacement queen and see if they improve but I will not be sacrificing another colony by uniting this with a stronger one. If they are unhealthy then sadly they will dwindle but there are no other colonies near this out apairy. Varroa levels are miminal.
Well alas, the thundery weather I reported on last week continued another week with heavy rain interspersed with warmer drier days and so the super frames are still not quite ready. I think that the honey is probably ripe, but for cut comb I want it sealed to present nicely to the customer so I am waiting patiently for the second heat wave due to arrive next week. For us, a heat wave means temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius!
The ling heather is blooming in the woods which confounds my plan of extracting pure lime honey, from some of the wired frames, easily as it will be mixed with heather. So, what I must do is remove the extractable honey first then go back over the frames and agitate each cell with my hand held heather loosener and extract the frames again to remove the thixotropic honey which remains liquid for about 10 minutes after stirring up the gel.
One of our visitors to the apiary this week was a small boy visiting his aunt for the summer and they both watched a hive inspection and sugar roll test. The bees we looked at are the calmest and most prolific colony with hygienic behaviour too, and even in dodgy weather threatening rain they were calm, apart from the bees returned to the hive after the suger roll test and shaking in the jar. Even without studying my hive records, I’ve picked this colony as one I want to rear queens from next year.
The highlight for Luke was when I got spoons and collected some honey from bulging stores on a brood frame. He ate honey in the garden warm and straight from the source. Even the aunt who doesn’t like honey tried some.
The goldenrod, Solidago spp. patch is in full bloom and I’ve spent a lot of time watching in sunshine with powerful perfume all round me and the insects clamouring over the bright yellow blossom. Irridescent blue and green flies, hover flies, bee flies, solitary bees, honey bees and bumble bees are bumping into each other so this is an ideal venue for sharing viruses and diseases. This year, I saw my first sighting of a tree bumble bee, Bombus hypnorum in Nairnshire. They have been moving north through Scotland with our warming climate and I’d seen them in Dumfries 2 years ago for the very first time.
Family from the far south pay a flying visit and enjoy watching bees at the end of the day as I attend to the barbeque. As the week draws to an end, I prepare the guest room for a close friend who arrives from Cork on Monday and will be helping harvest the honey: Tricia doesn’t know this yet!