beekeeping courses, beekeeping equipment

Mantel Farm Beekeeping Newsletter - April 2017

April 2017 Beekeeping Notes from Amanda...

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Selecting the best bees...

At this time of year I am usually trying to decide which of my many colonies is the ‘best’ to raise queens from. Given the many different criteria it is not easy. I did a scientific literature search last month and have come across several things which have changed my views on the priorities I shall select for. Below is a summary of common beekeeping practices which 

interfere with the colony survival, in order of increasing likelihood of being practiced by hobby beekeepers like ourselves, (the first five I hope do not apply to us!):

1) Multiple mating by a queen with many drones is essential for the health of a colony. Artificial insemination presents a limited queen and drone gene-pool, and drones are untested (many not having flown from the colony)

2) Migratory beekeeping puts stress on bees, affects resilience to diseases and prevents them adapting to local seasonality

3) ‘Hard’ chemical varroa treatments increase the exposure of bees to pesticides compromising health

4) Vertical transmission of parasites from queen to offspring favours a stable and more survivable relationship with their parasites. Routine requeening with non-local strains favours horizontal transmission which is more virulent.

5) The immune-priming (‘vaccination’) of eggs laid by queens through the egg yolk protein vitellogenin is disrupted if non-local queens are brought in from elsewhere and if migratory beekeeping is practiced.

6) Beekeepers play a key role in the spread of new and established pests and diseases by importing non-local queens and practicing poor hygiene.

7) Removal of drone brood for varroa control basically castrates a colony and removes well-adapted drone genes from the gene pool (as well as maladapted drones).

8) Treating against varroa prevents host-parasite co-evolution, i.e. prevents natural selection of resistance to varroa, unless adequate selection is also practiced.

What to do this month...

Monitor stores and drone brood...

In April we should continue to the monitor the level of stores although they should be able to find nectar soon. Monitor the arrival of drone brood which precedes swarm preparations, some of mine had sealed drone on 15th March and polished queen cups.  

Manage swarming:

Carry out shook swarms (or Bailey exchange on smaller colonies), these are best early in the month as the honey gatherers will be developing in late April, early May.

Consider queen rearing:

Consider queen rearing which may include giving a frame of drone foundation to your best colony. 

Latest research...

A recent paper by Dave Goulson, comparing neonic, pesticide and fungicide levels in bumblebees foraging on agricultural land and urban landscape, found in general those foraging on agricultural land had higher levels of pesticides but that the highest levels of neonicotinoids were found in urban bees. He speculates that the source may be spraying in ornamental gardens even though neonics are supposed to be banned, or

applications of flea treatments to our many cats and dogs. Short tongued bees had the lowest levels and levels in April and May were higher than summer.  Fungicides can be dangerous because they may act by inhibiting the detoxification system in bees.  All these compounds may adversely affect the beneficial microorganisms (microbiome) in the bee gut.

At a joint conference in America last month, Samuel Ramsey, University of Maryland, revealed that varroa fed of the fat stores of the developing bee rather than the haemolymph as previously thought.

More recently I found a summary by the great US bee behaviourist Tom Seeley who has called this approach Darwinian Beekeeping:

"Darwinian Beekeeping - An Evolutionary Approach to Apiculture" is well worth a read.

Tom Seeley has put the cat among the pigeons upsetting traditional Beekeepers with his Darwinian beekeeping suggestions. I think most of his suggestions are very sensible, however I am not sure I agree that wild colonies never lose beeswax, as I understood that in winter they moved up into their honey stores and the wax moth ate their old brood comb (and associated disease) leaving them to make clean comb in the spring. When harvesting honey we save the drawn comb for them to re-use.  So regular change of brood comb should not be frowned on.


NEW Beginners refresher course
A relaxed, informal refresher evening
for just £25.00

Refresher Beekeeping Course April 20th with Mike Cullen

For those who wish to refresh their knowledge of beekeeping. Tailored especially for 'fairly new beekeepers' keen to do the best for their bees at the start of the new beekeeping season.  

Covering 'Preparation for the new season', 'Swarm control' and a general Q&A session.

Find out more...

Our next advanced beekeepers course:

Advanced Beekeeping Course June 3rd with Amanda Millar

A Saturday Course, for those with 2 or more years experience wishing to keep their bees healthy and content by understanding their requirements and behaviour.

Including important manipulations such as finding the queen, requeening, shook swarms, basic queen rearing, collecting, preventing and control of swarms. Managing the honey crop and how to recognise, prevent and deal with diseases, pests and other problems which may arise.

Find out more...

National Beginners Pack  £300.00:

A complete kit to start your bee keeping. Includes:

National Hive with a 6" Flat Roof, Plastic Queen Excluder, 10 Hoffman Brood Frames, 100g bag of Gimp Pins, 10 sheets of wired brood foundation, Steel Hive Tool, Stainless Steel Smoker, Full Polycotton Bee suit, Soft Leather Gloves.

The hive is made from Western Red Cedar, and includes an open mesh floor, 1 brood box, 1 super, a crown board and a 6" flat roof.

This beginners pack is also available with a pitched roof or with an extra deep (14x12) brood box

Find out more...

Amanda holds regular Training Courses at Mantel Farm and contributes regularly to our newsletters.  Amanda is a professional ecologist who has been keeping up to 25 colonies of bees for about fifteen years. She has attained BBKA theory modules 1-7 with credits & distinctions and has also won prizes at the National Honey Show for honey & other products.

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