Thanks to everybody who reads this blog. I enjoy writing it and sharing whatever is exercising my tiny grey cells at the time of writing. I still suffer from some lingering COVID symptoms, but they seem to be improving. It’s mainly fatigue plus a very disconcerting light-headed feeling that comes and goes.
Mike Palmer raised my awareness of the fascinating video below, featuring Dr Kaira Wagoner talking about research into the Unhealthy Brood Odour (UBO) assay. It looks like a very promising way to assess colonies that are likely to manage mites and diseases better than others.
Must Do Better
Having seen the comprehensive review of 2021 by David Evans (The Apiarist), I was incredibly impressed with the clockwork regularity of his posts. Alas, I’m a lot more erratic – only 24 posts in the year, scattered all over the place. Must do better. As time goes by, it can seem as if everything repeats. The seasons roll by, and the various beekeeping tasks change in synch. It’s impossible not to repeat oneself from time to time, but some things are probably worth repeating again and again.
Swarms in 2021
2021 was a fairly average year for me, honey wise. When looking at colony performance, I mainly focus on the inclination to swarm and the ability to keep varroa mite numbers down, plus honey crop, of course. Of the colonies that came out of the 2020 winter and survived through 2021, I lost 11 swarms (30%). I also ‘controlled’ seven (19%) using the nucleus method or vertical splits. I lost four swarms in April, five in May and one in June. My main lesson was that yes, they can leave as early as April, so I need to inspect and provide space a bit earlier than I used to. I also collected two swarms and provided homes for them, so my net loss of swarms was nine (24%). Some people say they don’t lose swarms, but I don’t believe them. Maybe they don’t notice.
When I tested them in June, the three queens I identified as breeders for 2022 showed no inclination to swarm and had mite counts of zero or one (from a sample of 300 bees). They produced reasonable honey crops, which tends to happen with large healthy colonies that don’t swarm. I may also buy some well-bred queens from top UK breeders for grafting next season. I love raising queens and can’t wait to get cracking next May. I’ve currently got sixteen nucleus colonies over-wintering headed by lovely 2021 queens raised by me. It’s a good feeling.
New Apiary, New Hives
Next season I’m starting a new apiary at a small farm near the airport. I have ordered a load of new hives and frames from Paul Beardmore at Modern Beekeeping. I wish there were more suppliers of cedar Langstroth hives in the UK, as I still haven’t decided whether wood or poly is better. In this case, I’m going with Honey Paw poly hives because they are compatible with my current kit and were reasonably priced. Once they arrive, I’ll be busy painting boxes and putting wax in frames.
I’m planning on changing my beekeeping too. I currently tend to end up with double Langstroth brood, then supers above an excluder. Next year I think I’ll try sticking the excluder between the two brood boxes. It means that my first ‘super’ above the brood will be a heavy one, but I’m now pretty sure that single Langstroth is ample for brood space, as long as I move honey frames upstairs. I need to remove honey frames from the brood area to provide space for brood; two honey frames are ok but not more.
If I move house in 2022 to somewhere more rural and pretty, I may acquire a suitable bee truck or a trailer – I need something bigger for moving equipment around. Currently, I live in a busy city on the main road, and it’s driving me mad. Just reversing out of my drive is a stressful and time-consuming task. The recent addition of a cycle track has massively increased the chances of killing somebody as I drive in and out of my property. Note to self: don’t buy a house on the main road opposite a school.