I had the day off today so went down to the apiary to take a look in the hives, as several days of rain plus work have meant there haven’t been many chances for Emma and me to inspect. Today was the first chance since starting the Bailey exchange two weeks ago.
As I opened Rosemary’s hive, I was expecting her drone laying to have got progressively worse, and to possibly find a supersedure cell as a result. Sadly I found something worse – brood disease. I’m not sure what type of disease yet. Hopefully maybe John or Andy or someone else more experienced can have a look at the weekend, and see if we need to call in Caroline, our local bee inspector.
I didn’t see Rosemary or eggs, but I did see uncapped larvae – but it didn’t look healthy. Some of the larvae looked dried and crusty. Some of them looked bloated, twisted and lacking in the segmented definition of a healthy larvae. There were some perforations in the wax cappings – a bad sign as it means the workers have recognised a diseased larvae and are trying to remove it. Some people online have suggested chalk brood, but it doesn’t all look like the photos of chalkbrood to me. What do you guys think?
These bees are usually so calm that we hardly bother smoking them, but today I smoked them a few times. They were irritable. They have no healthy brood, and possibly no queen – certainly not a worker-laying queen. There was a thin film of honey over some of the stored pollen, something Ted Hooper mentions in his Guide to Bees and Honey as a possible sign of queenlessness, as the honey preserves the un-needed pollen from going mouldy. The workers returning to the hive were not bringing pollen in.
Seeing the diseased brood reminded me of how inexperienced I am. It seemed to have a whole mix of different problems, not like the photos I’ve seen illustrating one particular issue. Books help give a background to what you do, but they’re not a substitute for having seen this sort of thing before with your own eyes and hives.
Hopefully John or Andy or someone else who knows what they’re doing can take a look this weekend and see if we need to call Caroline, our local bee inspector, in. We will need to call her if European or American Foul Brood is suspected. I am worried that it may be EFB as the brood looks a bit similar to the EFB photos in the FERA ‘Foul Brood Disease of Honey Bees‘ leaflet. It is an E-arly brood infection, killing larvae before they’re sealed in their cells. The culprit is a mass of bacteria inside the gut of an infected larvae, which can cause death from starvation. The brood pattern will often appear patchy and erratic as dead brood is removed by the bees. When an uncapped larvae dies it lies in an unnatural attitude suggesting pain – twisted spirally around the walls, across the mouth of the cell or stretched out lengthways. The remains may dry to form scales, which are variable in colour, loose and somewhat ‘rubbery’, unlike the hard black scales of AFB. I hope I’m wrong and it is just chalk brood as EFB is nasty stuff.
After inspecting Rosemary’s hive I changed my gloves and hive tool before looking in Lavender’s in case I transmitted infection. It was so nice to see that they at least are doing well, Lavender is laying superbly and they are getting on well with drawing out comb following the Bailey comb exchange. Tons of bright yellow, orange and even greeny pollen was being taken in.
I noticed this gorgeous object up in one of the apiary trees. I think it must be a swarm trap.
I love this view as I leave the apiary on a sunny day – blossom and rushes. Even next to a busy dual-carridge way some beautiful things can exist.