Happy November bees

Feeling quite satisfied with yesterday’s beekeeping. The following tasks were accomplished:

  • Drinking tea
  • Eating sponge cake with strawberry jam my friend Annie sent from California
  • Purchasing a mouseguard (75p) and putting it on
  • Sawing down our entrance reducer, which was slightly too long to fit in the entrance properly

At first not many of us were down at the hut and I thought we’d have a second slice of cake each. But then lots more turned up and some people didn’t even get one slice!

I shot another bee video which only a bee obsessive like me will enjoy watching, it shows our bees coming back with some pollen about 20 seconds in. It only lasts about 40 seconds in total. I’m pleased that they are finding pollen even in November, but hope they don’t tire themselves out too much before the winter ahead. Workers have glycogen reserves in their flight muscles which last for approximately 800km of flight, after these are exhausted the bee is unable to create more and will collapse and die.

Andy advised me on the right way up to put on the entrance reducer and mouseguard. The thicker edge of both should be closest to the ground. This is so the bees can get out if a layer of dead bees builds up at the bottom of the hive. Something as simple as this can mean the difference between life and death for the colony during the winter. The entrance reducer in the photo and video above is the wrong way up, below is a picture taken after I’d corrected this and put the mouseguard on.

Albert and I had a quick compare of each others’ varroa boards. Think Albert had about 50-60 on his board. There were about 30 mites on Rosemary’s hive board after it had been in for a week. I had a look on the Beebase Varroa calculator to see if this was an ok drop count. It said that the Average Daily Mite Fall = 4.3 varroa mites and the estimated number of adult varroa mites in the colony = between 860 and 1700.

The Beebase ‘Managing Varroa’ leaflet says “in the UK researchers agree that it is wise to aim to keep the Varroa population below about 1000 mites; above this level the risk of damage from the mites, associated pathogens and the effect of feeding on the bees can quickly become very significant. In Europe and parts of the United States, higher threshold levels of around 4000-5000 mites are generally used.” And that a daily winter/spring drop of over 0.5 mites can lead to colony collapse before the end of the season. So our mite levels are probably slightly above recommended levels right now. Andy took a look at the board and said he thought it would be fine to wait to treat until oxalic acid time in December, when we’ll knock the evil buggers hard.

As Andy said, at times of the year when you can’t get in the hive to take a look, the monitoring board can provide a fascinating insight into what’s happening within. At the top of the board, nearest the entrance, is a lot of dropped litter where Rosemary’s brood nest must be. The amount of brood at the moment will be much smaller than in the summer months. But the dropped pollen and wax at the back shows they are busy there too – perhaps storing pollen or uncapping the wax cappings of their honey to eat from their stores. Those of you with really good eyesight may be able to spot the shiny brown dots of the varroa mites, mainly falling down from around the brood nest where they reproduce. The board should only be left in for a week at most as the bees need the ventilation provided by the open mesh floor.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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8 Responses to Happy November bees

  1. daveloveless says:

    Yeah… count me as another beegeek who thoroughly enjoyed the video! I quite enjoy watching the bees come back with pollen because it’s obvious proof that their labors are amounting to something.

    And it’s nice to see a successful hive after I lost that hive over the weekend. I’m taking it well enough, but only because I’m currently in the denial phase! 🙂


  2. hencorner says:

    Hi Emily,

    The video is fab… it’s amazing how much pollen they can find in November!

    Thanks for the tips – I see I’ve put my mouse guard on wrong (a job for tommorrow!)..



    • Emily Heath says:

      Proof there must be flowers out there somewhere! Make sure to wear your veil even for changing the mouseguard, cold weather doesn’t put bees in a good mood and it would be gutting to get stung in the eye or something doing a little job like that.


  3. Bee care is really fascinating. I wish I was not allergic. There is so much to do for them to keep them healthy and productive. I have seen a few carpenter bees in early November and was amazed they were still collecting pollen off the remaining garden flowers. Temps will be 60 degrees F on Friday, wonder if I will see any again?


    • Emily Heath says:

      There is a series of desensitisation injections which allergic people can get from their GP – someone who used to be allergic turned up at our apiary this summer and told us this. After having to give up keeping bees due to his allergy, he’s now able to keep them again. You’re right, there is definitely a lot to do!

      I don’t know much about carpenter bees, but I had thought they were similar to bumbles in that the nest dies off in autumn and the queen hibernates alone over winter before starting her nest in spring. Bee artist Val Littlewood has some photos and info about carpenter bees on her blog at http://pencilandleaf.blogspot.com/search/label/carpenter%20bee.


  4. hencorner says:

    Thanks Emily,

    I discovered that I’d not just put my mouseguard on wrong, but had to move the brood box to line it up with the floor (which is why the guard didn’t fit)… they didn’t like that on a cold damp Wednesday!

    I wore my veil, but they found the hole in my gardening jeans… ouch!


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