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Mantel Farm Beekeeping - February 2017

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February 2017 Beekeeping Notes...
Just a little time left to prepare for the new season...

Frames_and_foundation4_DHFebruary is the month when I make sure I have sufficient brood and super boxes ready with frames and foundation.  I know I have a couple of shook swarms to do (but not until late March or early April when it is warmer).  The first or second inspections in early March are an opportunity to remove any dark empty frames in the brood box and replace them with clean foundation.  Swarms have been recorded in March in the past so I will have a brood box ready and waiting along with the rest of my swarm kit.  

March is such a busy month for many reasons that it is good to know I already have plenty of supers of drawn comb ready to put back on their respective colonies when needed, but I must check there is one ready for each colony;  I have a few new colonies which were swarms or nuclei last year which will need a new super of foundation making up.  


What to do this month...

Be vigilant for queen wasps and hornets.  Warm spells will bring them out in February looking for sweetness and they are attracted to traps - so get the wasp traps up!  When I was counting the varroa mites on my inserts in the first week in January (at 10 degrees) after icing sugar dusting, I heard a deep buzz and a large queen wasp plopped into the sticky insert and started to feed - she got short shrift from my pencil I am sorry to say! But we now must be vigilant for queen Asian Hornets after the two outbreaks in the UK last year.

Check the varroa status in all the colonies. The levels in some of my colonies were persistent this winter in spite of dusting (and oxalic as a last resort on three at the beginning of January).  I think they must have had significant quantities of brood all winter as it was mild at times and the varroa are continuing to breed and are protected from my dusting in the sealed brood.  But putting the insert in for a week recently I was relieved to see most were one a day or less.  Three inserts were clear of mites and debris but had mouse droppings so I shall have to do those again; blocking the gap at the back with something to keep the blighters out.  The debris scatter gave me a good idea as to the size, location and activity of the colonies.  From the brown capping crumbs, most seem to have been busy uncapping stores although one had rather sparse debris, which I shall have to keep an eye on.  It has been cold recently but bright, and I was dismayed to see a couple of colonies were flying in 5 deg C.  If they touched down anywhere but the hive entrance they would have chilled and died.  Looking at the entrances, two have a few streaks of dysentery; not that normal orange stuff but some brown spots.  I shall have to think hard about these and decide whether a shook swarm or cull is more appropriate.  It will depend how big they are at the first proper inspection.  With this long spell of cold, the ground has not thawed and all my snowdrops and crocuses, which were making so much growth, have now been arrested for the moment.

Continue to monitor the hive entrance and make sure it is not blocked with dead bees, especially after this cold spell when they have not been able to do much housekeeping.  We are now coming into the period most likely for them to start running out of stores, so keep hefting regularly and if the hive is not very heavy it would be worth looking inside briefly to check that smaller colonies are not becoming isolated from their stores.  I now have fondant on my three nuclei and the wild colony I rescued in late October.  If any are found dead, seal them up immediately for cleaning and sterilizing when convenient; try to work out why they died, take photos of the brood frames to show to more experienced beekeepers if you are not sure.


Latest research...


In January, US researchers found that a pesticide enhancer (Sylgard 309) used extensively on almonds, grapes and top fruit in bloom, increases the susceptibility of bee larvae to Black Queen Cell Virus. Colonies used to pollinate almonds commonly have dead or dying brood afterwards.
A new strain of bacterium has been found in the upper Mid West of US which is linked to winter mortality of colonies.  Serratia marcescens strain sicaria was found in 48% of colonies and of the colonies which died 73% had the bacterium present.  They have also confirmed that this is the first bacterium known to be transmitted by the varroa mite.
The US has had its first bumblebee go extinct and several solitary bees are endangered.  Given their poor record on the environment I am surprised it is only the first one.  
Sad though




Sat 18th March

This year we have introduced an advanced beekeepers day for those wishing to keep their bees healthy and content by understanding their requirements and behaviour.

This course will cover important manipulations such as finding the queen, requeening, shook swarm, basic queen rearing, collecting & preventing swarms, managing the honey crop and how to recognise, prevent and deal with diseases, pests and other problems.






Our next beginner's course:

Friday 17th Feb

Book now: Just a few places remaining.







Ideal small bags of fondant for use as a winter feed if needed...



Bee Fondant

£2.00 per bag





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