Felt quite depressed at the apiary today. Quite a few people were talking about how big the honey crop was this year, and how many jars they had, and me and Emily (my hive partner) have…nothing. Zero jars. A super filled with pristine flat foundation that the bees haven’t even touched to draw out and make comb on, never mind putting any honey in the comb. If the point of beekeeping is to produce honey, we are absolute failures.
Pat, one of the very nice experienced beekeepers at the apiary, told me he is against having a double brood box as we do. Most of the other beekeepers have one broodbox, so that any excess honey is put into the super(s) by the bees. He thinks ours didn’t bother as they had so much space down below to put the honey around the brood. Losing our queen and waiting ages before we had a new queen laying eggs didn’t help either. A properly mated queen lays 2,000 eggs a day, so in the month we had no brood being laid we missed out on around 60,000 new bees to replace the older ones dying out – fewer bees, fewer foragers, less honey.
However, we can feel satisfied about one thing while we cry ourselves to sleep over the honey loss. A commercial beekeeper from New Zealand visited us last week, and he commented that many of the hives in the apiary are lacking in stores. Not so ours, we have two brood boxes full of honey (and eggs and larvae, which is why beekeepers don’t extract this honey). We can be reasonably confident that our bees have enough stores and are strong enough to survive the winter. Of course they may well all come down with some disease and die, but we’ve done the best we can for them.
Next week everyone is putting Apiguard on, which is a anti-varroa thymol based treatment made from thyme. It comes in foil trays which are placed on top of the queen excluder. It works by giving off a strong smell, a strong thyme smell I guess. The bees don’t like having this smelly stuff in their nice honey smelling hive, so they remove the Apiguard gel and in doing so distribute it through the hive, killing a large proportion – about 93% – of varroa mites.
Autumn is on its way now, and the bees know it. The queen is winding down her egg laying and there is a lack of flowers outside. With less brood to look after and less nectar and honey to collect, the bees are twiddling their thumbs a bit, so to speak. One thing they can do is guard the hive against wasps and robber bees from other colonies, and throw out drones, whose greedy appetites are now surplus to colony requirements as the swarming season is over. I saw one big beady eyed drone ejected today. He rolled pitifully about on his back by the hive entrance for a while, his legs wiggling in the air, unable to get his well-fed body the right way up. In other hives vicious one-on-one bee/wasp battles were going on, the pairs rolling over and over as the wasps fought to sting the bees to death and steal their honey. It is a good time to reduce entrances and tape over any holes.
A plump drone and his wrap-around shades