Colony Diary


(ALAN ANDREWS) #1

As posted previously, a wild colony made a home in my empty hive ten days ago. In addition, this coming weekend I am collecting another wild colony. I therefore though it would be interesting to post a record of the development of these two communities on this site. Here then is the first posting.


Ten days ago I put five frames of foundation into the hive that had a small clump of cells and some wild Bees in it. Today, I opened the hive to find that the number of cells have grown, but the Bees are not building on the foundation. There is evidence of stores, and a great deal of activity. See attached pictures.


Comments warmly welcome.



(Zoe Buckley) #2

Terribly sorry to hear about your loss, Brian, we have checked on ours last week, we've only lost about three or four, so that's a huge weight off our shoulders..... There is, however, the problem of them coming out of wintering, and the risk that it might freeze again before winter is over. That has happened in the past, devestating our stock.


(Brian Milne) #3

It happens from time to time. As for buying, well I can buy far closer than Bordeaux, it is simply that I prefer buying from one of the locally apiaries who are cheaper and whose stock is local.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #4

Sorry to hear this Brian.

We have had some heavy rains, and some nights have dropped to around -5°C, but the minus temps. have followed sunny days which have reached 18°C.

You still might be able to order one or two colonies from Apidistribution in Bordeaux for collection in June.


(Brian Milne) #5

I have lost eight of my twelve colonies. I only hope I can divide some of the others. Just after Christmas they were very active then two weeks ago when a few flowers began to appear on top of the gorse and winter jasmine the cold nights came. We had one -12°C night but several in the range of -8 to -10, even this week we are down to -6°C at night. The days were bright, getting up to between 12 and 15, so they were very active. Then we had days of rain with freezing nights and no activity. So I went looking, As with past experiences, it broke my heart. I spoke to a pro at a vide greniers on Sunday who told me she is probably around 30 colonies down on around 200 and other keepers have had a bad winter, so no easy way to buy locally from the sounds of it. Years like this also tend to mean few swarms, so perhaps a couple of years building up again. At least I have a lot of 'unwanted' honey for my own supplies.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #6

The last couple of weeks have produced some really nice days with temperatures in the upper teens. Last week I checked feeders, tubs of candy placed over the holes in the Crown Boards, and changed one tub that was almost empty. Noted that pollen appeared to be go into all of the hives. I did another observation of the exteriors of the hives today and again noted bees and pollen entering the hives. Maybe I will need to change the tub on a second hive next week if we continue to have warm days.


(Brian Milne) #7

Best of luck with that Zoe, hope they survive the cold weather.

I've just been collecting frames at random today. The weather told me to do it, plus the fact we are away for four days and if the weather turns for the worst... Pretty good but not outstanding this year. The two hives I leave as pollinators are really big colonies but little honey. I gave them a couple of neighbours' frames for the winter. Others I swapped about a bit too. Put in food for the winter everywhere and tomorrow to do as Alan did and mash the combs but into my muslin bags to wring it all out. Only about 40 frames after that for us but it will take all day to do it all. Fine, a good supply for us for a while, lots to give to friends and some on reserve should the little women need a kick start in the spring.


(Zoe Buckley) #8

Good to know that even the "problem hive" is doing well.

We've treated, and given what we think is the last batch of food for the year, most seem to weigh in ok, one or two, we gave them frames of honey from their rich neighbours, and tried to level everyon out.

The next month or so we'll be more or less away from home, so hopefully they'll be ok. We didn't move them to the south this year. First year keeping them up here. Less mileage, but a longer and harsh winter.

time'll tell.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #9

Thanks Brian

All mine are on stands, and I always have hay and straw around.


(Brian Milne) #10

Never bother with the bottom, if push comes to shove because I have mine on stand or building blocks, I stuff a load hay underneath if it is getting really subarctic.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #11

Thanks Brian, not been on for a while so I missed this post. So to bring everything up to date, here is the latest.

Still continuing to feed my new colonies, and I have now removed the mite treatment. With day time temperatures still in the low twenties there is a fair amount of pollen still being collected.

My problem colony has produced three half frames of honey in the super, while the brood box is half full of honey in natural comb and six frames of brood and stores. I have extracted the honey from the sooper by mashing the comb and letting the honey pass through a sieve.

With night temperatures dropping to around 5°c, should I cut off the bottom ventilation at night by replacing the metal tray under the floor mesh?


(Brian Milne) #12

Extracting by hand is 'fun' but it works. Take the caps of the cells, if they are flat enough simply slice the lot off. Then into muslin bags and squeeze like hell into a large funnel into pots. I originally had some bags that were made for a bee keeper's father that he had a surplus of.

I have had a cheap three frame manual and later a cheap, then nearly £200, four frame electric. With cleaning after use, then preparing by re-cleaning and sterilising for use, it takes longer than the actual extraction. I rented from our association but going to collect, cleaning and returning and gambling on weather allowing me to harvest took more time than manual. The first required a lot of effort but mashed the combs which locked the gate valves and the latter which was where I got to know the cleaning and preparation pitfalls and total waste of time to basically gain a tiny bit of honey.

I put my bags on something like a roasting spit. I have a large funnel into jars directly. I then have two pieces of square baton, 12x12 or 15x15, either side of the top of the bag, bound by strong elastic bands, I twist spirally, bringing the batons increasingly downward and allowing the honey to run into the funnel. The muslin means that sieving is not really necessary. This method smashes up the combs, but then we melt them down to make candle wax that smells like honey when they burn.

With only a few hives the difference in wastage is minimal since using an extractor does not extract everything anyway. It is simply quicker by the frame.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #13

Cheers Brian

I am feeding, and have been doing so since I had them. How do you extract by hand? Just squeeze the comb and get nice and sticky?

Yes, the weak colony clearly has capped Drone and Worker brood cells.


(Brian Milne) #14

I have had a look in a couple of hives and they are chock-a-block with goodies. As for extracting it, I do it manually since it is a waste of money having a cheap one (as I found twice) and a bad economy to buy an expensive one for less than perhaps a dozen productive hives.

Apart from that, it sounds like your colonies are establishing themselves and should be great next year. With six full frames only you will probably need to feed, eight is the safe side of the line. As soon as the first flowers appear get rid of the feeders and see them go...


(ALAN ANDREWS) #15

Sorry I have not posted since July. Summer boarding, and a week at Argeles-sur-Mer has eaten into my time.

I have continued to feed my the two colonies I purchased in May, but did not open the problem colony till mid August. At that point, although I still had Bees, I could not see any evidence of brood. However, last evening I could clearly see grubs.

Neither new colony has a full brood box. The Colony that has not had problems has eight frames in use, while the problem one has only six. Just hope that the weaker colony makes it through the winter.

My third colony has all ten frames in use, but only two frames in the Sooper have honey. Even then only on half of each frame.

So things go on. If anyone hears of a second hand manual honey extractor for sale, please let me know.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #16

A pm from Zoe has reminded me that I have not posted here for a while, so I thought I should bring things up to date.

The Queenless hive was brought back home three weeks ago, and has not been opened. I plan to do so at the end of next week. This was on the advise of the supplier of my two colonies of Fr Adam's. I continue to feed these two colonies with syrup, having gone back to using my the old round plastic feeders. Both hives show activity, and weekly inspections of the one hive that has a Queen show that all appears well.

The new colony I bought in Charante Maritime last march is very strong and has a nearly full Super of honey, which I will leave for the colony to over winter with.

I will report again when I open the problem hive.


(Zoe Buckley) #17

Used neither type, as we make our own, which are not too much unlike model B, only we make them out of wood.
an amateur friend has type A, and it seems to work really well, the bees have just enough space to crawl up and over, and down into the feeder.
don't worry about the inner worksing and magic of how they get to the feed, but basically, type two, lay it on top,pour in your syrup, and it should be fine. In saying that, I'm not a great fan of plastic in the apiary.


(ALAN ANDREWS) #18

Thanks Chris.

I only got these as I have two new colonies which I was told to feed now for winter. One of these colonies is some 10km away, and I wanted to cut down on visits. I think I will be going back to the round, ridged ones. Much more effective.


(Chris Luck) #19

I think the problem with the large crown board plastic feeders could be the smooth surfaces that don't allow for the bees to get a grip coupled with the long narrow feeding troughs. Personally I don't like them and really are only any use if you need to feed excessively to a weak colony in autumn or if you are one of those keepers that over extracts, (some take the honey from the brood box). They are really designed for plastic hives but I don't use them on those either preferring a standard crown board with central feeder hole should it be required.

I assume your round feeders are ridged?

Chris


(Brian Milne) #20

Lost there. I have only ever used type A.