Winter at last?

Last weekend brought a surprise – snowy rooftops. The white stuff melted fast, but the chilly air remained. Down at the apiary the ground was hard and all was quiet, with no bees flying.

Snowy roofs

When the bees are tucked up, the varroa boards provide a clue to the size and position of the cluster. The white flakes are particles of wax dropped by the bees as they uncap honey stores to feed. The dark brown oval shapes are varroa mites killed by oxalic acid trickling.

Varroa monitoring board

Each board tells a different story – some of the clusters are small and tight, others cover several frames. We have taken the boards out now as it’s not a good idea to leave them in all the time. This way the bees have ventilation at the bottom and plenty of insulation at the top, thanks to Tom’s specially built insulated roofs plus insulation foil from Wickes which we pack over the crown boards.

Varroa monitoring board

I checked the hive entrances and discovered that Melissa’s mouseguard had somehow come undone and fallen down on one side, leaving the entrance open. I put it back in place with extra drawing pins; hopefully I wasn’t trapping a mouse inside!

Varroa monitoring board

At this time of year I wish I could spend my winter huddling inside like the bees.  I don’t enjoy my winter commute – leaving for work and coming home from work in the dark, waiting at chilly bus stops.

Frolicking frost

The solution? A nice cup of tea. This lovely ‘Bee puffer mug‘ by Lush Designs was one of my Christmas pressies.

Beekeeper mug

I can put my bee mug down on a bee coaster from Chickidee too, another lovely Christmas present. Finding bee-themed baby clothes is my next mission 🙂

Bee coasters

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper living in Ealing, west London. I have been keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary since 2008 and created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully - future successes. Busy taking the British Beekeeping Association module exams too!
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25 Responses to Winter at last?

  1. We had snow last weekend and it’s not got above about 5’C all week. We moved our bees to their new apiary, apart from one pair as it had got dark and was snowing by the time we’d moved ours.
    We strapped a ladder to the top of the hive and lifted them with that. It worked really well but my elbow hurt after one so someone took over from us at the front. In theory four of us could have held a corner of the ladder each. It kept the hives really level. Was too cold to take a photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lindylou says:

    5°C that is almost summer…. We have had -10°C at night and not rising above -2°C in the daytime. Now that is really cold. If I didn’t have dogs that need to go out and actually love snow…..I would probably cluster in the living room all day too. We still have to move our hives to their new location as well. The ground was too wet to drive the car anywhere near to where they are now, but frozen like in the last couple of weeks has it’s own dangers. Good luck Diana with the move.

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  3. Grower says:

    I’ve got mitey bees now despite treating them last fall. I think since the warm weather lasted so long they had more time to go out and get reinfected. Wish we had the warm opportunities you do to hit them with oxalic acid.

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    • Emily Scott says:

      The Apiarist did an interesting post recently, using a special simulation program called BEEHAVE to model the effects of mite treatments at different times of the year: http://theapiarist.org/time-to-beehave/

      The results found that one treatment is better than nothing, but “It’s only when you combine early autumn and midwinter treatments that mite numbers are really well controlled.” At least your cold weather will keep brood levels down and stop the mites reproducing. It doesn’t need to be warm to treat with oxalic acid, as the more tightly clustered they are the easier trickle treatment is. If you feel it’s too cold to open the hive, maybe vaporisation would be a better option… but I appreciate that the equipment can be expensive.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Our bees are very lively at the moment and K decided to treat them with HiveClean but only got a drop of 1 a day which is what I would have considered a normal for this time of year and not post treatment. I have the feeling they think it is springtime already. Poor confused girls! Amelia

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    • Emily Scott says:

      That is a great drop Amelia, wish ours was so low. What percentage efficiency (kill rate) does HiveClean have? Oxalic acid on a broodless colony is meant to achieve over 90% dead mites, whereas I haven’t seen HiveClean’s efficiency rate mentioned anywhere before. But with a drop like that I wouldn’t be worrying anyway.

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      • In their literature they talk of a nearly 100% efficiency for three consecutive (almost weekly) treatments. K went for it as it is supposed to be gentle and we do not feel the bees are broodless. Still, I would have expected a higher drop if any treatment had been used.

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  5. I like the plates 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Erik says:

    Baby clothes are the best! When they grow up you get less of a say in picking out their clothes. Perhaps something like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flannel-Pajamas-Cosplay-Sleepwear-Nightwear/dp/B014IEPU6W. I even went to the UK site just for you 🙂

    In the U.S., we just got pummelled with a couple feet of snow yesterday and today (actually, it’s still snowing out there). We are definitely clustered in our homes. I was planning for an OA treatment this weekend, as our mite drop is 4 in one hive and 6 in the other. A bit too much snow to make this happen right now, perhaps next weekend depending on the melt….

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  7. Here we had a day or so of winter and now its back to the wet mild weather, mustn’t complain though.

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    • Emily Scott says:

      Yes, seeing the extreme weather other people are going through around the world does make me feel grateful for our mild climate. We have been lucky in London to escape the flooding too.

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  8. P&B says:

    Very cool coffee cup. Do you always remove the Varroa mite board in winter? I’m interested to know what are the pro’s and con’s. I remove mine in summer and keep it on in winter because I think it helps the bees to regulate the temperature in the hive when it’s really cold out. I’m still new in this and it’s still trial and error for me.

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    • Emily Scott says:

      We do always try to remove the boards and only leave them in for a week each time we monitor the mite drop. This is for ventilation and also because if you leave the boards in, any live mites that fell down from the bees grooming will be able to climb back up into the colony rather than falling through the mesh floor. That’s the theory anyway – I haven’t sat and watched them make the journey back up!

      Liked by 1 person

      • P&B says:

        I have a screened bottom board so the mites fall through the screen on to the corrugated sheet (with a grid printed on) below. I coated the sheet with either Vaseline or vegetable oil so the mites will stick to the sheet. I only keep the sheet on during late autumn until spring to help the bees stay warm. I remove it in summer so the hive gets more air flow and the mites would fall through to the ground. At least that’s the plan.

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  9. theresagreen says:

    It must be a relief to the bees to be mite-free, if only for a while. Happy baby clothes shopping-there’s so much gorgeous stuff out there!

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  10. I love those lush cushion beekeeping designs and the bee mugs and coasters are perfect for all that tea we need to drink right now!

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