The very good weather in October has given honey bees plenty of opportunity to collect pollen and nectar from any plants still in bloom. Dahlia, cosmos and ivy in the garden are being exploited to the full. Viburnum ‘Dawn’ is in full flower and its scent can be detected from more than 10m away which means that the honey bee has no problem in finding it,
The large amounts of pollen indicates that the queen is laying. Any colony in the apiary which is not flying vigorously should be investigated even at this late stage in the season, especially as mid-day temperatures are 12°C plus. It may be that it is too small to survive the winter. If the small colony is free of disease, its queen should be removed and then it is united with a strong colony.
The winter cluster needs to be large enough to function as a means of preserving heat during the coldest nights of winter.
“The honey has been extracted from the supers and they have to be stored safely for the winter. There will be a residue of honey in the cells and a decision has to be made as to the best way to deal with this. Some beekeepers will put the supers out in the open air and allow the bees to ‘rob’ the honey and carry it back to their hives.
This is bad practice as it encourages the bees to start robbing the weaker hives in the apiary and any disease present will be spread to all the others.
A second method is to mark each super as to which hive they came from as they are removed during the harvest and put them back on their own hives for the bees to help themselves. This can still encourage robbing. Thirdly, the supers can be stored ‘wet’, that is with the remains of the honey still in the cells.
To do this, they must be stacked so that bees, wasps and mice etc. are not able to gain access to the supers or, indeed, to detect them by the aroma of the honey.
Sheets of newspaper can be placed between each pair but this is not strictly necessary. It is thought that this will discourage the infiltration of wax moth.
Supers stored wet will smell of fermented honey in the spring when they are needed. When put on the hive the bees will move up readily to clean up the cells.
where the wax moth larvae feed on the pupal skins and faecal matter which the bee brood leave behind when they hatch.
The wax moth larvae will eat their way through the wax and destroy it completely. Thus any brood frames must be treated differently from the super frames. Brood frames worth saving and not in use should be fumigated using 100ml of 80% acetic acid per one brood box. The method is to place the brood box plus its frames in a very large plastic garbage bag, having first coated any metal parts with petroleum jelly (to prevent corrosion). Place an absorbent pad on top of the frames and pour on the acetic acid.
This must be done with great care as the acid is very strong. Wear plastic gloves and a face mask, taking care not to allow fumes to get in the eyes or splashes on the skin.
The acetic acid will vaporise and the vapour will fall through the frames, killing wax moth, its eggs and larvae, as well as nosema spores. Other brood boxes can be placed on top and the process repeated. Tie the bag up so that fumes cannot escape, place in a well- ventilated spot and leave for one week.
Open the bag and only use the equipment after about three weeks when the vapour has dissipated. This method may also be used for any supers from colonies with nosema as acetic acid does not affect the honey.
It is encouraging for beekeepers to see newspaper coverage of the emphasis on preserving wild flower meadows. Bees need a variety of pollens in their diet as not all pollens contain all the nutrients which they require for good health.
If they can access more diversity of forage in wild flower meadows, it will improve their chances of survival in an ever more threatening environment.
The pollination which honey bees and other insects provide is underestimated by many people. Not only do they improve fruit crops in our gardens and orchards but they also increase the yields of seeds and fruits which many wild animals depend on during winter months. The attached photographs show some of the plants which benefit, elderberries close to the apiary, haws and ivy flowers and berries which pigeons especially love.
“More wild flowers will also add to the flavour of the honey which they will produce. Honey is renowned for its taste which changes from year to year depending on the forage available and the weather enabling the bees to collect it. We are very fortunate in being almost totally dependent on what nature provides rather than large scale crops such as canola or field beans.”