By Bill Cadmore
A thought for our new members
Many of our newest members will only have received their nucleus colonies in late June or
even into July this year due to the very poor spring. The lucky ones received ‘nucs’ prepared
last year and over-wintered to be ready for early sale – the others got an early lesson in
just how weather dependent beekeeping is. Queens can’t mate if there are no drones nor if
the sun fails to shine.
Those who did receive ‘late’ nucs will be worrying about preparing colonies for winter –
making sure that as many frames in the brood box are drawn out, making sure that you have
a nice strong colony and making sure that the bees pack the food stores in. 20Kg is a lot of
food stores. The National Bee Unit provides an excellent leaflet, via the Beebase website,
on preparing bees for winter but having seen some of your colonies I think that additional
advise is needed.
Remove any honey supers you might have – these will be a mix of un-drawn foundation, partly
filled new comb and filled comb. There is not enough time left for your bees to fill a super
for you to get a big honey crop – Borrow an association extractor to spin off any unsealed
liquid and store this in a container ready to give back to the bees. If you have some capped
honey then uncap this and spin it out, strain it, bottle it and celebrate even a couple of
pounds of honey.
Carry out a varroa drop test – count the number of varroa on the mesh floor insert and if
there is a high count then give some form of varroa treatment – leave the insert in for at
least 3 days and then do the count.. Again Beebase is useful here as it will do any
calculations for you. If in doubt treat anyway – but follow the instructions very carefully.
If your colony was treated for varroa before you purchased it then you will probably not
have a problem and you can wait until mid-winter to do an oxalic acid treatment. This is a bit
tricky so get some advice on how do do it well.
Also take this opportunity to make sure your colony has a nice laying queen – you don’t need
to see her so long as you can see eggs, larvae and pupae. If you can find no evidence of a
queen being present then contact an experienced member of your local association for help.
This does not have to be a disaster – an experienced beekeeper will advise based on your
colony based on observation.
If all of the frames in the brood box have been drawn out you are doing well. If you still have
some frames that are just foundation it would be good to get them drawn out as soon as
possible – if we can. In both cases, if you haven’t already got a feeder on you need to put a
feeder on the colony – a direct feeder is best but use whatever you have – frame feeder,
contact feeder, rapid feeder etc. Then feed your bees with a thick sugar syrup (make your
own – 1 Kg of sugar dissolved in 500 ml of water – or buy ambrosia syrup).
If you are using a small feeder (2 or 3 litres) you may have to fill the feeder every evening.
Bigger feeders can be filled at less regular intervals. The important thing is to get a
continuous feed of thick syrup onto the hive and to continue to feed until the bees have filled
the brood box or until they stop taking the food down. Do this even if the weather is nice and
the bees are bringing in lots of stores. This may seem expensive but buying sugar or syrup is
cheaper than buying another ‘nuc’ next year. If using a rapid feeder remember to dribble a
little syrup down the entrance so that the bees know the food is there – they can be a little
thick at times. Do not put ‘candy’ on the hives at this time of year.
When you put the feeder on make sure the bees have only a small entrance to the hive; If
necessary put in the winter door. Wasps will try to attack the hive if they can get to the food
– one of the reasons we feed in the evening. If you have a lot of wasps put a simple ‘jam and
jar’ wasp trap near the hive.
You do not need to look through your hives every week at the moment but I understand the
temptation so have a quick peek if you have to but otherwise let the bees get on with what
they know how to do. Be aware that you are not going to look through the hive once the
weather starts to get colder – patience is a virtue in beekeeping – and you’ll not lift those
frames out of the hive from October through to March or April.
Remember – if in doubt about anything – ask for help
Chairman & Editor