Friday, October 1, 2010

One Bee

It has been a while since I last wrote on this blog and that is because there is not very much for me to write about. The six bait hives I set out in different locations were not successful in catching any swarms this last season and there seems to be a distinct lack of honeybees hereabouts. I don't attribute this to anything sinister, just the previous long hard winter which had snow from October 2009 until April 2010 with temperatures going down to minus 35 degrees celsius. I despaired at not seeing any honeybees at all until I saw activity of bees coming and going at one of my bait hives at a neighbors farm. Turns out they were robbing out some old crystalysed honey in the comb of the bait hive. Well at least they cleaned the comb up for me. What made it really bad was that I had not seen one honeybee all year in my garden, not one! Then one sunny day, I was admiring the peacock butterflies on my aster flowers when I spotted a ragged wing old worker foraging on the asters. That sight lifted my spirits and gives me hope for next season. My six bait hives will be waiting to go out again and I am confident of success next year.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Feral Honeybees

I seem to be in a minority of one when it comes to my position on ferals. I am still at odds with all of the posters on the NBN forum at this thread.
Personally, I think if you take the view that all bees are 'wild' and beekeeping itself is not natural for them, and if you keep bees that have been produced by mans' design rather than what mother nature has allowed to evolve in their local climate and flora, then it becomes clear to me which is better to propagate from. Taking a feral colony with it's queen and hence it's genetics is for me a desireable tactic to breed from and allow to repopulate other feral niches. Most ferals are runaway swarms from beekeepers anyway, managed bees originating from who knows where. These bees may have been previoulsy treated with acaricides, anti-biotics etc. In other words bees propped up by pharmacauticals and genetically weak! Are these the bees we should be using or true feral stock that have been known to exist for a number of years untreated and obviously suited to the local environment. If we increase from these true ferals and allow them to swarm and take up these feral niches, we are not commiting a 'wildlife crime' as one poster put it but rather a service to honeybees in the long run. I honestly think that some people can not see past the issue of 'disturbing nature'. Nature has already been greatly disturbed by the fact that we are keeping the bees partly for our own ends. If we accept the fact that this is the reality of the situation then my proposed using of feral genetics to bolster the feral genetics as well as my own stocks is not only desirable but indeed worthy. Rant over!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bait Hive Success

For the first time this year, I have seen honeybees here in Sweden, and the really great news is they were going in and out of one of my bait hives!

For the second year runnning I have baited a swarm in a tiny old Svea 8 frame hive. It's about the same volume as a single warre box so not within the so called optimum volume for bait hives. I have had success for a few years with smaller volume bait hives so I think the theory is somewhat suspect. I will leave them where they are on my neighbors farm for the next 3 weeks without messing with them, if it's a cast, the virgin can get mated without me disturbing her.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bait Hives & Leaving the NBN

Today I put out my first bait hive at a neighbors farm a few miles away. I also prepared another which will be set out tomorrow at another neighbors farm. They were both single Svea hive boxes with eight frames, quite small as bait hives go, by volume that is, but one of these caught a swarm last year. The only lure I will be using is the bits of old comb that is still in the frames. My next batch of bait hives will be double warre boxes.
Some of you readers may have noticed that I am no longer the admin on the NBN forum. I have had three separate serious disagreements with three different beekeepers on there so I have come to the realization that the only common factor was me! I guess it is me that is out of harmony with the prevailing thinking. I cannot accept the dogma that is being espoused, dis-allowing certain items for discussion etc. It is my strong belief that you cannot tell someone how they must keep their bees. My way is that I want to show how I keep my bees and the reasons why I do it that way. Anyway, I wish them well and hope they get on better now without my input.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Swedish Deadouts

Neither of my two hives in Sweden made it through the winter. The kenyan hive in the barn had a wood shelf collapse onto it knocking off the roof and the insulation. The follower board was away from the top bars and inside all the comb had been consumed by hungry rodents.The warre hive in the beehouse looks like it was submerged in the deep snow for too long. I have been told the snow was at least a metre deep in most places which would have covered the entrance. If this was for a short amount of time I don't think it would have been a problem.But the snow was around for months and the ventilation of the hive was reduced to virtually nothing. Lots of mouldy combs(pollen) and lots of honey that I was able to salvage.These bees had plenty of stores (honey not sugar) so they did not starve. It got down to minus 30 degrees but I think it was the damp condensation with no ventilation that killed this hive. Some lessons learned about winter in Sweden and time to start from scratch here so probably not many more posts to this blog for awhile.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bee Eaters return & Thermo Bees

Exactly one year ago today on this blog I reported the return of the bee eaters from their winter in South Africa. This evening, I heard them again. I always hear them first, their chiruping sounds are very distinctive. Sure enough they are back, circling over our log cabin and taking bees in flight. How incredible that they return on exactly the same day!

My friend on Facebook and the NBN forum, Gary Fuqua from Illenois in the USA recently had a thermography assessment done on his house. Whilst the guy was there taking thermal images, he got him to take a thermal image of one of his kenyan top bar hives. Gary has kindly allowed me to reproduce the image here. It was 20 degrees F outside the hive when this was taken. You can see the large red area of the winter cluster and the 3 red entrance holes. My conclusion was that it shows the entrance holes ventilating hot(warm & moist) air out. The thermal cycle created by the cluster drives the ventilation of the hive. My theory is that if the cluster of bees dwindled to a less than 'critical mass', the thermal cycle would slow down or stop and hence the ventilation would also stop. Maybe this is this the reason that some beekeepers are seeing mould in their hives?

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Bees have company

Photo taken from my porch.

click to enlarge

The other day a lorry turned up in the field opposite my house about 200m away. They unloaded 4 lines of Layens beehives, at a guess just over 100 hives. Seems my bees will have some company. Luckily there is a good deal of forage just now, lots of spring flowers. An enquiry found that they would be moved on in June. The Vipers Bugloss has begun, lavender and rosemary keep on flowering and lots of other flowers that I have no idea what they are called. I noticed their bees coming to my bee watering pots as that is in short supply around here. There is an open spring about a mile away so they will never go without water but my water is nearer. I console myself by thinking that any virgin queens I may get with caste's may be outcrossed and gain some hybrid vigour.

Modifications to my Perone Hive

Further modifications to my Perone hive include fitting six British National top bars as 'spales' perpendicular to the combs. I nailed 3 to the top and 3 to the bottom of the intermediate brood box. This is to prevent any comb collapse during hot weather.

Here the spales are shown at 90 degrees to the comb above.

Hive complete but still no signs of swarms.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Making a Perone Box from Pallet Wood

Someone on the forum mentioned that my 88 litre version of the Perone hive is too small and that it should be 100 litres plus. I have no more British National Boxes so I decided to make one to British National sizes. This ended up with internal dimensions of 42cm x 42cm x 19cm high, therefore a further 33+ litres. My Perone box will now be a staggering 123 litres, and that is without the supers!

I took all the slats off just one side of this old cement pallet.

Denailed the slats

Cut 4 lengths of 50cm, 4 of 42 and 4 of 19cm

Screwed the bottom parts together like so.

then added the top section. I had to true the last two sides up on the table saw so they were flush with the rest.

I have given a coat of Linseed mixture and hopefully tomorrow it will sit nicely under the bottom National Brood box of my Perone bait hive.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bees Drinking

These bees were in a container of soil I had dug out of a post hole. The rain had partially filled the container.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Oscar Perone Hive

There has been much discussion here about a vertical top bar hive that is quite different both physically and the management methods employed than the warre hive. I have decided to try one here in Spain as it is also a 'leave alone' type system suited to my needs. I have some concerns about it though, namely is it OK for my race of bee and also comb collapse may be a problem. The manual of instructions provided by Oscar are here and there is a translate facility at the top of the right panel.

My version of the Perone bait hive is a floor stapled to an empty British National Brood box with a further brood box above that have been fitted with BN top bars, some with old comb, some with starter strips and separated by plastic narrow end spacers. Above that is a BN Super with Manley frames with foundation. This configuration is smaller than the recommended Perone bait hive but my version is 89 litres volume which I feel is the top end of the spectrum for bait hives.

Here is my Perone Hive set out with some Lemongrass oil dripped inside and lemongrass gell smeared on the outside. I also painted white around the entrance as with my other bait hives.

If I manage to bait a swarm, I will add another brood box to bring it to about the size Oscar recommends. I am a little uncertain where to add this brood box. If I follow Oscar, it would go in empty under the current bottom box. My concern about comb collapse makes me think I may add top bars and starter strips and put it between the top brood and the super. More thought needed. First catch the swarm!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mini Bait Hives

The two home made mating hives I mentioned earlier are being put to use as mini bait hives to possibly bait a cast. I know that some people say that the size of a swarm doesn't influence their preference for a certain hive volume but I have had a cast in one of these before. Furthermore I have heard of casts setting up house in upturned flower pots before so I think, as I have them hanging around, I may as well utilize them. Both hives were prepared in the same way.

I put one wider top bar in with an old piece of brood comb waxed onto it. The other six bars have section starter strips and I have set screws on each side of the top bars to give a comb spacing of 32mm. The screws are also utilized with a wrap around wire to act as a hinge between two adjacent bars. I have opened a pair out on this first photo to show that when two adjacent bars are wired together, in order that if they bait a cast, the bars can be lifted out, opened out and easily wired together on the non hinge side. The two top bars opened out are exactly the length of one warre top bar. Therefore the cast can be transferred directly into warre box as 3 full size top bars and allowed to expand naturally without much disturbance.

Click on the photo to enlarge

This shot shows the top bars in position. You can see the wire hinges if you click the photo.

I have stapled a flap of mosquito netting to cover the top bars and make the top bee tight.

A piece of wool carpet as insulation.

Roof on. Notice white paint around entrance and landing board.

A concrete roof tile is put over roof and overhangs all sides. One end is wedged up to shed rain.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No More Papercrete

The papercrete bait hive I mentioned on a previous post has been destroyed by the storm. I have now found two major negative factors with papercrete as hive material. They are not rodent proof nor storm proof! The photo below shows the remnants of the papercrete hive right next to my drawer bait hive. I will now utilize the drawer bait hive in the out apiary where I was going to site the papercrete one. The drawer hive, made from an old cupboard drawer, has a kenyan insert and has baited two swarms in the last 3 years. I am reluctant to put good hives in out stations lest they be stolen. This drawer hive looks like a heap of rubbish and if someone steals it, then god bless them, they must really be hard up! My mini kenyan bait hive was also thrown around by the storm but you can see it is robust enough to take such punishment. No more papercrete for me!

Please excuse my messy workshop!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mini Hurricane

Last night for over 12 hours we experienced what can only be described as a mini hurricane. The Spanish neighbors said they had never seen the like! Trees broken and torn out by the roots. Concrete roof tiles flying threatening anyone stupid enough to venture outside. I was lucky in that I only lost a few roof tiles, but I just knew that my hives would be decimated. First light when it had settled down. I ventured down to the apiary to find my hives all scattered. After having had a few blow overs last year, I had repositioned some hives close to trees for shelter and leaned planks against the hives but this was just too much! The winds were about 85 miles per hour, it said on the news. The bees were in foul mood at being not only knocked apart but also buffeted by these winds for 12 or so hours. I put back together what I could, even though they resented me for it. I am sure I will loose a few but hope that at least some will pull through. At least the temps were warm and there was no rain.
A sad day for bees but I heard that 15 people had died in France from the same storm. That sobering thought puts it into perspective.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Bait Hives

The time has arrived for me to start deploying my bait hives ready for the imminent swarming season. Tomorrow I will be setting out 4 x double warre within Layens boxes and 2 single warre + ekes, as mentioned in my previous posts. These will go nearby my home apiary. I have a couple of other locations in which I will put just a single bait hive, hoping to catch a feral swarm. One will be a small Kenyan (about half size)

And another my papercrete box. Both will take standard Kenyan top bars.

This photo shows the papercrete box upside down having repairs done to the entrance hole. Whilst in storage, some rodent had enlarged the hole, gained access and munched on the combs. You can see the remains in this photo. I have already repaired the hole with sawdust mixed with wood glue.

A couple of years ago, I made these two queen mating boxes. I never got a chance to use them, so I stored them away. I found a cast had entered one of them. They drew one comb in which you can see the remains of some brood. They obviously decided to find somewhere else more spacious. I consider this my donation to the feral population. Anyway, it shows that even with a tiny bait box, it is possible to catch bees!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bees on Rosemary

A beautiful sunny and warm today and I planted my first batch of Inula seed bombs on my morning walk. I noticed first thing that the bees were all over the Rosemary and the Almonds. Yesterday, I sat and watched bees on some planted Lavender Stoechas, taking both pollen and nectar at the same time. They were doing the same this morning as I stood amidst the almond trees watching bees taking both pollen and nectar simultaneously. All my hives are now flying strongly. I also watched the bees on the Rosemary, the stamens of the flowers, being arched, painted mauve coloured stripes on the backs of bees taking the nectar. I tried to photograph this later with a macro lens. Unfortunately I didn't get the shots I wanted but here are two of the best shots. Dont forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guerrilla Norm

Reading and watching You Tube videos about Guerrilla Gardening got me to thinking how this could benefit my bees. My dearth period is broken by a plant called Inula Viscosa which flowers in September. This is the most important plant for my bees. It grows in odd places around and I have been collecting the seed from last year. It makes good sense to spread these seeds within flying distance from my hives. I was struggling trying to make some tiny newspaper envelopes for them when my wife says she has a stamp for cutting out tiny enevelopes that she has for greeting card making. Worth a try I thought.

It didn't cut cleanly through the thin newspaper as it is meant to cut card but it did OK. It also scores a square of fold lines that is hard to see but makes the folding easier.

I folded three sides with a dab of paper glue.

I did a dozen or so, waited a few minutes to let the glue dry then put a little compost in the envelope.

Using tweezers I put a few seeds in the packet and stirred them into the compost.

Folded over the remaining flap and with a dab of glue I had my first mini seed parcels.

It took no time at all to make this dozen parcels and I will be making and distributing many more on my morning dog walk. A quick hoof of my heel, drop in the parcel and sidefoot the soil back over the parcel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photo of Warre + Quilt Bait Hive

Here is the photo to go with the previous post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eke for single warre box bait hive.

On further reflection, a single warre box is only 18 litres volume. My successes in the past have been mainly in a little larger volume. I have now decided to use the warre quilt with the mesh removed as an eke to go under the single warre box increasing the total volume to 27 litres. If it succeeds in baiting a swarm, I can quickly transpose a new box under the top one and remove the quilt before they build down too much.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More on Bait Hives

I know I said that 2 warre boxes are the ideal volume for a swarm and that is true but I have had some success in the past using smaller boxes. As well as the two box warre in the Layens boxes mentioned before, I will also try a couple of single warre boxes. I prepared one today re-using old materials.

I started by adapting a standard warre floor. I think the standard warre floor footprint is too small when the hive gets taller so I am adapting all of mine by adding boards as feet. I used two pieces from the pallet beams from my recent post. I used 8 long screws previously recovered from my blue kenyan hive to screw the beams to the old floor.

Sat an old warre box on top, still with 8 top bars and starter strip foundation. Then stapled a square of mosquito netting over the top of the box.

I am not putting standard warre quilts on these bait hives but cut squares of wool carpet.

The roof is finally put on and now just waiting until I am ready to set them out. There is no old comb in this one, just the starter strips, so I will insert a couple of pieces of propolis in the entrance well to give it a welcoming smell to any scout bee that comes near.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ugly Warre Boxes

Now that I have run out of the wood that I had brought back from Sweden, I took apart two old pallets. These are pallets used for delivering building materials and have been stood outside in the elements for 3 or 4 years now. Anything nasty that may have contaminated them has long since gone. Here is the amount of wood I got from two pallets.

I cut each piece into 35cm lengths.

Then I ripped each piece 3 times to true them and size them down to 7cm wide. Selecting the best for the long sides, cut them all to length. I glued and dowelled 3 pieces together to get 21cm panels. Cut the rebates in the short sides and made up 6 warre boxes. The dowels I used were made from the rebate cutouts. The end result is not pretty but these boxes are going to sit inside Layens outer boxes.

I made a mistake cutting the top bars! I cut the lengths too short. I had a senior moment and cut them 28cm instead of 32cm! Trouble was I didn't realize until I had cut and grooved about 60 of them! Luckily I used the pallet beams to make a batch the correct length.