Tis the season to drizzle

The Mite Before Christmas – a beekeeper’s poem

Twas nine days before Christmas, when all through the bee house
Not a creature was stirring, (thanks to the mouse-guard) not even a mouse
The roofs were lifted up with great care,
In hopes that the beekeeper would not need to swear.

The bees were nestled all snug in their comb,
While visions of plum-tree sugar in their heads did roam.
And queen, workers and varroa snug in the centre gap,
Had just settled their minds for a long winter’s nap.

When at the hive top there arose such a clatter,
The bees sprang from their bed to see what was the matter.
Up to their beekeeper they flew like a flash,
Showed off their behinds and made to gnash.

She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
And drizzled every seam, to each varroa irk.
And you may have heard her exclaim, ‘ere she hastily retreated out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, unless you’re a mite!”

Just a bit of winter silliness… I think that’s the limit of my rhyming skills.

Bees through palm trees

Back on Sunday 16th, with the assistance of an accomplice (my father-in-law Tom), I completed an Api-Bioxal oxalic acid drizzle on my two hives as an anti-varroa treatment. Back when it was legal to do so I used to use pre-mixed oxalic acid from Thornes, so this was my first time using Api-Bioxal. I’ve made some notes here about it, in the hopes that I’ll remember for next year.

  • The Apiarist’s Oxalic acid preparation and Trick(le) and treat posts are very useful. David recommends using a weaker 3.2% acid to sugar solution rather than the 4.4% solution given on the Api-Bioxal box recipe.
  • Next year it would help to replace the battery in my digital scales!
  • The Api-Bioxal powder can be mixed with the sugar syrup in a tall plastic milk carton before carefully transferring to the trickle container through a funnel.
  • When you live somewhere very rainy it helps to have an assistant holding an umbrella over the hive.
  • Afterwards any remaining solution can be neutralised by adding an equal amount of milk before disposing of it (at least, I hope it can – another beekeeper gave me this tip).

I’m not feeling too confident this winter as this is my first time overwintering hives in Cornwall. The bees barely seemed to be clustering at all when I did the drizzle. They have fondant on, so I need to keep an eye on that over the next couple of months. The hives are strapped down against the wind and badgers; mouse-guards are on; chicken wire has been loosely fastened round to protect against green woodpeckers. I think mostly all I can do for now is get spare equipment ready, in the hope that I will need spare boxes come spring.

Happy New Year to you and your bees.

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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12 Responses to Tis the season to drizzle

  1. I LOLd! Smite the mites! Best of everything to you and “the girls” in 2019!

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  2. tony2k17 says:

    Love the poem! I stroll down to my hive on warm days but have seen no movement. This is our first winter as beekeepers so we don’t feel entirely confident that they’re ok although we’ve fed them, attached mouse guards + wire for woodpeckers etc. I also help a friend with two top bar hives where the bees often appear when the sun comes out. Ah well, will have wait until Spring. In the meantime, I’ll be interested to read up on the varroa treatment you describe. My children’s novel CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE MITES is published in Feb — can’t be many children’s books woven around the life of the varroa!

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  3. I, too, love the poem! And now I’ll have to look up Tony’s books…

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  4. That’s quite some versifying! I wish you could relax a little about your bees. They don’t always behave as we would like or think appropriate. And maybe Cornwall bees are a little less cooperative than Ealing bees (it was Ealing, right?). I am going to go out on a limb and say all will be well….

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    • Emily Scott says:

      I’m a worrier generally! But being a worrier can be positive too, as it keeps you focused on the details. I’ve never lost bees in the winter before, only in the summer, but there has to be a first time. We’ll see!

      Liked by 1 person

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