The memory of swarms

I’m writing this waiting for the drizzle to clear so I can go to the apiary and make up some nucs for swarm control. Without implementing some form of swarm control it’s inevitable that my large colonies will swarm . Swarming is an inherently risky process for a colony. Over 75% of natural swarms perish, […]

Swarm prevention

Swarm prevention is an important component of early season colony management. There are a number of drivers of swarming – ageing queens, overcrowding, the age-old urge to reproduce – some of which can be effectively ‘managed’ by the beekeeper, so delaying (or even preventing) the need for swarm control. It might even prevent you from having to climb a wobbly ladder to recover a swarm from the top of your neighbour’s apple tree. Time spent on swarm prevention is time well spent.

Darwinian beekeeping

Darwinian beekeeping (beecentric, beefriendly or natural beekeeping) sounds appealing. The very name suggests that those of us that treat for mites or actively manage colonies are ‘unnatural’. However, although the underlying science is sound, the activities involved in Darwinian beekeeping are at times the very opposite of ‘beefriendly’. As beekeepers we have a responsibility to our livestock and to other beekeepers we share the environment with. Many ‘beefriendly’ activities outlined in Thomas Seeley’s proposals for Darwinian beekeeping are likely to be to the detriment of bees, beekeepers and beekeeping.

The Lives of Bees

The Lives of Bees reviews our current understanding of how honey bees live in the wild i.e. when not managed or manipulated by beekeepers. Thomas Seeley provides a comprehensive account of honey bee survival before and after the arrival of the Varroa mite. Can our understanding of the activity and choices made by wild-living honey bees beneficially influence our beekeeping?

Weight for spring

Colonies use stores at a faster rate in early spring than in midwinter. This is because they need to raise the cluster temperature high enough to start brood rearing. If stores are low there is a real risk of starvation. The colony weight needs to be regularly checked and additional fondant should be given promptly should any be low.

Polyandry and colony fitness

Colony fitness in honey bees is directly related to the level of polyandry (multiple matings of the queen with drones). Does hyperpolyandry offer additional fitness gains? Are naturally mite-tolerant colonies more polyandrous? Are there any practical beekeeping considerations related to polyandry in honey bees?

Questions & Answers

“There are no stupid questions” … really? In this review of comments and questions about beekeeping it’s clear what the priority topics are – mite control and when to manipulate the hive. Far better to understand what’s happening in the colony and so avoid a calendar-centric approach to beekeeping. Keep asking questions, but try and make sure that they’re going to generate a useful answer.

Midwinter, no; mites, yes

The earlier you reduce mite levels in late summer the more mites will be present in the colony during the broodless period in midwinter. This means it is important to treat in the winter. And if you are going to treat, it is important to treat when the colony is broodless. Which is often earlier in the winter than many beekeepers realise.

Crime doesn’t pay

At least, sometimes it doesn’t. In particular, the crime of robbery can have unintended and catastrophic consequences. The Varroa mite was introduced to England in 1992. Since then it has spread throughout most of the UK. Inevitably some of this spread has been through the activities of beekeepers physically relocating colonies from one site to another. […]

Flower mites

Where do all those pesky mites come from that transmit pathogenic viruses in and between colonies? Unless you are fortunate enough to live in the remote north west of Scotland or the Isle of Man then bees, whether managed or feral, in your area have the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. And if you take a mite-free […]