Saturday, September 24, 2022
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Eats, sleeps, bees – The Apiarist

Synopsis : The beekeeping season is beginning to get busy. Swarm management is just not solely important to maintain your hives productive, but additionally presents straightforward alternatives to enhance the standard of your bees. Good data and a selection of bees is all you want. This week I talk about inventory enchancment along with a couple of semi-random ideas on honey labelling, colony behaviour and wax basis. One thing for everybody. Maybe.


Could is normally a stunning month in Scotland. It’s typically dry and sunny sufficient to spend a lot of the time open air, the times are lengthy sufficient to get quite a bit performed and it’s early sufficient within the 12 months to keep away from the dreaded midges .

Normally and typically.

Sadly, the climate up to now this month has been unseasonably cool. It was in all probability higher for a lot of March than it’s been for the primary half of Could.

However that good climate in March gave the bees an actual increase – significantly in my apiaries on the east coast of Scotland.

Consequently, there’s nonetheless a variety of beekeeping to do now – swarm management, preparations for queen rearing, catching up with all of the issues I didn’t do within the winter ( 🙁 ) – typically in between some relatively iffy climate .

The following couple of months are normally just about full on … therefore Eats, sleeps, bees .

Latitude …

The variations I mentioned in Latitude and longitude a month in the past are significantly marked now.

Beekeepers in Sussex or Kent have been complaining about working out of supers since mid-April. Different have been proudly displaying their first (or second) spherical of grafted queen cells.

In distinction, a couple of of my west coast colonies are nonetheless solely on 6-7 frames of brood. It will likely be no less than one other fortnight till I even assume about whether or not they’ll want swarm management.

Which may be a fortnight earlier than they’ll really want it.

These are completely wholesome west coast native bees, tailored to the local weather and forage out there right here.

The great west coast of Scotland

They’re basic late builders, evolution having timed colony growth to suit with the native forage and the supply of climate ok for queen mating.

There’s inadequate forage to provide oodles of brood in late April and plenty of colonies have but to provide any mature drones (although all of them now have drone brood). As an alternative, they construct up relatively slowly, and are in all probability on the peak in July when the heather begins to yield.

That is all fairly new to me and I really feel I’m nonetheless studying how the season develops right here on the west coast. I’m positive I’ll get the dangle of it.

Ultimately 😉

Going by the speed colonies are presently build up, and their efficiency final 12 months, I anticipate to be rearing queens from these colonies in June and early July .

… and longitude

In the meantime, in Fife issues are progressing a lot quicker.

My apiaries there are about 160 miles east and at an identical latitude, however many of the colonies are already overflowing their containers. Swarm prevention is a distant reminiscence and I’m now busy with swarm management.

The genetics are totally different. My east coast bees are all native mongrels, once more tailored to native situations.

Nonetheless, I believe an excellent larger distinction is the early season forage and – though it’ll be completed within the subsequent week or so – the oil seed rape (OSR).

Oil seed rape … and rain

The OSR offers colonies a large increase. They gorge on it – each the nectar and pollen – shortly filling supers and a mess of hungry larval mouths. Fairly robust nucs made up for swarm management on the 1st of Could are actually in a full brood field and will probably be greater than prepared for the summer time nectar circulation when it begins.

Queen rearing would have began already if the 2 containers I’d earmarked for cell elevating hadn’t develop into somewhat overcooked and produced queen cells at the start of the month 🙁 .

The very best laid plans and so on. .

And, so as to add insult to damage, the (pretty high quality) colony I’d meant to supply larvae from produced queen cells the next week.


High quality management

One of many (nominal) cell elevating colonies – we’ll name it colony #6 for comfort was borderline when it comes to temperament.

On a balmy afternoon, with a great nectar circulation, the bees have been calm, unflustered and a pleasure to deal with.

Nonetheless in cool, damp or blustery climate they weren’t so nice.

This is likely one of the causes that file conserving is so vital. Though I’d not inspected them this season in very poor situations , my data from final 12 months additionally confirmed they have been, let’s say, ’suboptimal’. Not psychotic and even massively aggressive, however definitely hotter than I’d choose and nothing like as secure on the comb as I like .

After all, the easy reply is to not go burrowing via the field in cool, damp or blustery climate’ 🙂

Nonetheless, I don’t at all times have a selection as these bees are 160 miles away. Met Workplace forecasts are good for tomorrow, questionable for subsequent week and primarily guesswork for subsequent month (which is after I’m reserving the motels).

So, having realised that each swarm management and high quality management have been wanted, how have I attempted to enhance the standard of this colony?

Controlling high quality

I found open, charged queen cells in colony #6 on the 1st of Could. With out intervention the colony would have swarmed earlier than the top of the primary week of the month . The queen was clipped however, as I hope I made clear final week, queen clipping doesn’t cease swarming.

Swarm management

I used my most popular swarm management technique by making up a nuc with the previous queen and a few frames of rising brood with the adhering bees. I put these, along with a body of shops and a few new frames right into a nuc field and moved them to an out apiary a number of miles away.

By transferring the nuc away I don’t have to fret about shedding bees again to the unique hive. I can due to this fact make the nuc up somewhat weaker than I might in any other case have to. An out apiary (or two) isn’t important, nevertheless it makes some duties quite a bit simpler.

I then went fastidiously via colony #6, shaking all of the bees off every body and destroying each queen cell. There have been nonetheless eggs and younger larvae current, so they’d undoubtedly make extra queen cells earlier than my go to every week later. Nonetheless, by shaking each body and being rigorous about destroying each queen cell I ensured:

  • there can be a bit much less work to do the next week
  • I’d not missed a extra mature cell someplace that might have left a virgin queen working about at my subsequent go to. This was unlikely, primarily based upon the timing of brood improvement, nevertheless it’s higher to be secure than sorry.

Colony #6 is in a double brood field. Whereas ransacking the brood nest for queen cells I additionally hoiked out a body of drone brood and lower out but extra drone brood from a foundationless body or two. For the reason that genetics of this colony was questionable it made sense to attempt to cease these undesirable genes being unfold far and large.

On the identical time I rearranged the frames, transferring all of the unsealed brood into the highest field.

One week later

Early on the morning of the 8th of Could I checked the colony once more. As anticipated there have been extra queen cells reared from eggs and larvae I’d left the week earlier than.

The overwhelming majority of those queen cells have been within the prime field, however – since I’m a belt and braces beekeeper – I checked the underside field as effectively. Once more, it’s higher to be secure than sorry.

The entire queen cells have been once more destroyed.

Robust love … however if you wish to enhance the standard of your bees you need to exclude these with undesirable traits.

Importantly, by now the youngest larvae within the colony can be no less than 4 days previous. That is actually too previous – no less than given the selection (and I was going to offer them a selection) – to rear a brand new queen from.

Room for another …

I rearranged the frames, leaving a niche in the course of the highest field, closed colony #6 up and accomplished my inspection of the opposite colonies within the apiary.

The final colony I checked was my chosen ‘donor’ colony with fascinating genetics.

Extra swarm management 🙂 and some days saved

The donor colony (#7) had began queen cells someday through the first week of Could and so additionally wanted swarm management. Nonetheless, very conveniently it had produced two good trying cells on separate frames.

Each these queen cells have been 3-4 days previous and so can be capped within the subsequent 24-48 hours.

A 3 and a bit day previous queen cell

I might due to this fact use my commonplace nucleus swarm management (to ‘save’ the queen ‘simply in case’), leaving one queen cell in colony #7 and donating the opposite queen cell to colony #6.

Which is precisely what I did.

Having gently disregarded the adhering bees from the body (you must by no means vigorously shake a body containing a queen cell you need ) I gently slotted it into the hole I’d left within the higher brood field of colony #6. I additionally marked the body to make my subsequent verify (on the 15th) simpler.

The body marked QC is the one one which must be checked subsequent week

By including a effectively developed, however unsealed, queen cell to colony #6 I’ve saved the few days they’d have taken to rear a queen from an egg or a day previous larva.

As a result of the cell was open I used to be sure it was ‘charged’ i.e. it contained a fats larva sitting contentedly in a deep mattress of Royal Jelly .

Higher to be secure than sorry (once more)

There have been additionally eggs and some larvae on the body containing the queen cell (which was in any other case largely crammed with sealed brood). It was possible that a few of these would even be chosen to rear new queens.

They usually have been after I checked on the 15th.

There was my chosen – and now properly sculpted and sealed – cell and some much less effectively developed cells on the donated body.

I know the cell I chosen was charged and the larva effectively nourished.

As well as, I additionally had complete confidence that the bees had chosen an acceptable larva to boost as a queen within the first place. In spite of everything, the survival of the ensuing colony is determined by it.

Subsequently, I didn’t want any backups.

No ’simply in case’ cells.

Moderately than risking a number of queens rising and combating, or the robust colony throwing casts, I (once more) destroyed all however the cell I had initially chosen.

I’m penning this on the 17th and he or she ought to have emerged immediately … so my data carry a be aware to verify for a laying queen throughout my first inspection in June.

This reveals how easy and straightforward inventory enchancment might be.

No grafting, no Nicot cages, no mini-nucs and nearly no colony manipulations and so on. As an alternative, simply an appreciation of the timings and the supply of a body from a great colony (and this might be from a pal who has pretty bees … ).

And in between all that

That was about 1400 phrases on requeening one colony 🙁 . That was not fairly what I meant after I sat down to put in writing a publish entitled Eats, sleeps, bees.

My east coast beekeeping – together with 8-9 hours driving – takes a few days every week right now of the season. On the west coast I’ve fewer colonies and – as outlined above – they’re much less effectively superior, so there’s a bit much less to do .

Nonetheless, there are at all times extra bee-related actions that seem to fill within the gaps between lively colony inspections.

I’ll finish this publish with a couple of random and half thought out feedback or questions on stuff that’s been entertaining or infuriating me within the final week or so.

In between the writing, inspections, Groups conferences, modifying, reviewing and writing … 😉

Honey labelling

I exploit a easy black and white thermal printer – a Dymo LabelWriter 450 – to provide labels that don’t detract from (or obscure) the jar contents.

Dymo thermal label (and a jar of honey)

I’ve used these for over 6 years and been very pleased with the:

  • value of the labels (a couple of pence per jar)
  • flexibility of the system. I can change the most effective earlier than date, the batch quantity or different particulars for every print run; whether or not it’s 1 or 1000.
  • capability to incorporate QR codes containing embedded data, like an internet site deal with or particulars of the actual batch of honey.

Nonetheless Dymo, of their by no means ending quest for extra earnings a ‘higher client expertise’ have not too long ago upgraded their printers and label printing software program .

The latest incarnation of the printer I exploit – now the Dymo LabelWriter 550 – solely works with genuine Dymo labels.

A extra correct spelling of genuine is  e x p e n s i v e , no less than in the event you solely purchase labels in small portions (100’s, not 1000’s).

In case you fancied including somewhat sq. label on the cap of 100 jars claiming ”Scrumptious RAW honey” you’d not solely be falling foul of the Honey Labelling Regulation, you’d additionally must cough up £18 for a roll of labels.

Dymo labels are nice high quality. Smudge proof, straightforward to take away and sharp black on white. In bulk they’re fairly priced (~3p – the identical value as an anti-tamper label – in the event you purchase >3000 at a time).

Nonetheless, you will get comparable labels for a 3rd of the worth … however they gained’t be usable within the new printer.

The Dymo LabelWriter 450 has no such restrictions and continues to be out there in the event you go searching.

I’m tempted to purchase a spare.

Colony to colony variation

I began this publish with a dialogue of variation because of latitude and longitude. Nonetheless, particular person colonies in a single location may also present variation (along with temperament, working, following and so on.) that I don’t actually perceive.

I’ve three colonies in a row behind the home right here on the west coast. I can see whether or not they’re busy or not after I’m making espresso, doing the washing up or pottering within the work room (two of those actions are extra frequent than the opposite 😉 ).

All in a row (although not the colonies referred to within the textual content as they’re digital camera shy)

And they’re constantly totally different, regardless of being fairly comparable when it comes to colony energy and improvement.

One colony usually begins foraging earlier than the others and one other, in all probability the weakest of the three, forages later and in worse climate.

Early within the season these variations have been so marked I believed that one of many colonies had died.

I assume – as a result of a) I’ve not acquired the creativeness to think about different causes, b) it’s the justification I exploit for something I don’t correctly comprehend, and c) I’ve not performed any experiments to truly take a look at what else it might be – that this is because of genetics.

It’s solely as a result of I’m lucky sufficient to look out on these colonies dozens of instances a day that I’ve observed these constant behavioural variations. I believe my different colonies present it, however that I’ve by no means appeared fastidiously or continuously sufficient.

Engaging basis

I’m busy making up nucs for swarm management and sale. Though lots of the frames I exploit are foundationless I additionally use quite a bit with commonplace basis. The frames are constructed (or ought to be constructed!) within the winter, however I add the inspiration as soon as the climate improves and there’s much less danger of cracking the brittle sheets because of low temperatures.

I purchase basis as soon as each season or so and punctiliously retailer it someplace cool and flat. A few of these sheets are fairly previous by the point I get spherical to utilizing them and so they typically develop a white powdery ‘bloom’ on their floor.

Earlier than (backside) and after (prime) half-hour within the honey warming cupboard

I used to run a hairdryer over the frames containing these bloomed sheets. The nice and cozy air brings out the oils within the wax and makes they rather more enticing to the bees. They scent nice!

Frames within the honey warming cupboard (W = employee basis, to differentiate them from D = drone)

As of late I simply stick a ‘field full’ of frames at a time into my honey warming cupboard set at about 40°C for half-hour. Not essentially faster, however a complete lot simpler … so liberating up time to do one thing else associated to bees 🙂


Immediately is World Bee Day. The 20th of Could was Anton Janša’s (1734-1773) birthday. He was a beekeeper – instructing beekeeping within the Hapsburg courtroom in Vienna –  and painter from Carniola (now Slovenia). He promoted migratory beekeeping, painted his hives and invented a stackable hive. 



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