Today I had a little crowd of watchers round me as I opened up our hive, including a newbee and a professional photographer named Megan who is documenting Ealing’s ‘sub-cultures’. She is hoping to visit some Ealing monks next! I hope she got good photos of beards and tea drinking.
Our bees are doing well. I put their second Apiguard (thymol based varroa treatment) dose on; hopefully in two weeks time they will have cleaned that out and we can start feeding sugar-syrup to help them fill up the brood box with stores before winter. Sadly not all the hives in the apiary are doing so well:
I had visited earlier in the week and assumed that these piles of dead bees in front of John’s hive of yellow New Zealand bees were drones being kicked out. But as Andy Pedley pointed out, none of the other hives have such huge piles of bees in front of them, and not all of these bees are drones. Many were not yet dead but crawling around in front of the hive very lethargically. I asked Andy if they could have been poisoned; however when he inspected the hive the answer was found inside: the bees had hardly any stores – they have been dying of starvation.
Andy showed us a very interesting technique to help bees which need emergency feeding – I will try my best to remember this. Before putting a contact feeder with sugar-syrup on top of the frames, he poured some of the syrup into a couple of empty frames and tilted the frames up and down, so that the syrup ran into the empty cells. This should be done over the hive, so that syrup is not spilled elsewhere, which could encourage robbing.
Rocking the frame back and forth, getting the syrup to fill the cells. The bees started drinking immediately. Hopefully this will save them from starvation – but unfortunately they have already started robbing other colonies for food.
I found this cluster of New Zealand bees patroling a small gap in my hive, trying their best to force their way in through a tiny gap. Their bright yellow colour gives them away compared to our dark British mongrel bees. I stuffed some leaves in to try and put them off.
They were also trying their best to get in under the hive, but the open mesh floor should prevent that. Poor hungry ladies, but my ladies need their honey too!
I went to a talk in March on ‘Improving your bees and beekeeping‘ by Roger Patterson, in which he mentioned that he has noticed that the darker British style bees tend to pack more honey stores around the brood in the brood box, whereas the more prolific yellow Italians, such as those bred in New Zealand, tend to fill the brood combs with brood and put all their honey up in the supers. This means beekeepers need to be extra careful with Italian bees when removing supers to ensure that the bees have enough stores left in the brood box.
I’ll leave you with a few photos from a recent visit to the lovely St. Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital near Aylesbury.
Think she’s a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)?
And the bumble I see the most, the Buff-tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris).
And finally, the rare great black bumble, viewed from a distance. She looks rather like a cute duck struggling to get back up on her feet, but I assure you this is a bee. Hunted almost to extinction by over-enthusiastic collectors, this species now exists in only a few isolated pockets of southern England. Do not let her waggling feet fool you, this young lady is perfectly equipped to forage from flowers using her long neck and large proboscis.