I don’t know why, but this tickled me. A couple of enterprising chickens managed to hop onto the tree. They were furiously pecking at the green leaves, the only green things available at the time. These were raised from chicks at the farm and are nearly ready to go out into the main area with all the other grown-up birds. Unfortunately, the massive price increases in chicken feed have meant that there won’t be chickens here from next year – a sad loss. They have been producing thousands of organic eggs for years, but that’s ending.
Here are some of the swarms I caught this year. They were all from my hives, which shows how little I know about swarm control! The first two were in early June, and the last one was two weeks ago after I had decided that “swarming is over for another year.” I clipped many of my queens this year, so I don’t lose the bees if they swarm. The idea is to leave just one queen cell so they can re-queen themselves. I probably missed a cell, and these were swarms containing a virgin. Bees find a way.
On a more serious note, a recent Randy Oliver presentation is out, which is worth a look. He is making good progress in breeding varroa-resistant bees, but after five years and intense selection pressure, 80% of his hives still need treatment to survive. It’s still a significant achievement that 20% are fantastic, productive gentle bees that need no treatment at all. He has a lot of hives (over 1,000) and does mite washes throughout the season – a considerable effort but worth it. Each year he starts with 1,500 nucs headed by daughters of varroa-resistant queens.
I had a good chat on the phone with Mike Palmer at the weekend. He’s been working with the University of Vermont on breeding varroa resistance. They are using mite counts, virus loads, frozen brood assay, and soon, the new ‘unhealthy brood odour assay’ to test and select. Some of his colonies are doing well after 18 months without treatment, but many died. I think we should listen when people with 1,000+ hives and as much experience and bee knowledge as Randy & Mike say that it’s a long, slow process. It’s asking a lot of somebody with ten hives in a busy area to find and propagate resistant bees. We’ll get there one day.
Lately, I have tried using a syringe for queen candy. I make the candy by mixing powdered sugar and corn syrup. It goes in my queen cages. It takes bees less than an hour to munch through the candy to release her majesty, which is fine in nucs or when the old queen has just been removed. If the recipient colony has been queenless for a day or longer, I think a much slower release time is safer. Anyway, squirting the soft candy from the syringe into my queen cages works well and is far less messy than lumping it in using a hive tool.
I prefer to use wooden frames in the brood boxes, with wax foundation, but plastic frames in the supers. The one in the picture is from Paul Beardmore at Modern Beekeeping, as are the poly supers in the following image below. Once the bees have drawn out the comb on plastic frames, they are great as you can’t get ‘blowouts’ in the extractor. If I get blowouts, it’s usually with brood frames, but I like the plastic super frames. They are tough and can be scraped down, sterilised if needed, and re-used. The trouble is, bees don’t like them anywhere near as much as wax foundation. You need a good flow and a generous coating of melted wax on the frames; otherwise, they make a mess. I melt bees wax from KBS and paint the frames using an old brush.
The weather today is beautiful. It’s 32 deg C outside but nice and cool indoors with a fan on and shutters closed. It’s supposed to peak at 37 Celsius (99 deg F), which is crazy hot. It’s ridiculous that I’ve been to Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and the USA…and never experienced 37 degrees C. Those poor folks down in Spain and Portugal must be roasting. Meanwhile, the bees are loving it.
Finally, congratulations to my youngest daughter on her engagement to marry!
That’s all, folks, happy beekeeping.