Bee status – local and American; and a useful beekeeping forum

While others seem to be seeing swarms, none have dropped by our own attractively scented and desirable bait hive yet. Perhaps we should advertise it on Zoopla. Indeed, the only “bee action” outside our hive I’ve been involved in, is being asked to deal with wasps and bumblebees that get trapped indoors at work. (“You know about these things…”)

Forage and numbers

Bee_garden

Hive under apple tree. The bees ignore blossom not in sunlight – too cold to smell the nectar? Foreground: wildflower bed, optimised to supply food in the local June Nectar Gap.

Our hive is doing well but after an initial impressive increase in weight, is significantly lighter now. It doesn’t seem overfull or heavy with honey, so seems unlikely to be on the verge of swarming, as I gather they tend not to swarm without leaving significant stores for the old hive. They must be balancing the nectar flow with the appetites of what must be an immense number of brood – given that the nectar flow has been constant they must have vast numbers about to hatch out, so shortly I will do another inspection to look for queen cells. I suspect another reason for the drop-off in weight is that they are now having more competition for available resources from the three other colonies within 400 metres owned by neighbours, which are also growing in numbers.

I also had the opportunity to look in Helen’s hive in Oxford a couple of weeks ago, 10 miles south of here, and it was in a similar state to mine at that point, great arcs of honey and pollen. So it looks like the first half of 2013 is a good one so far, for those who survived.

Contrast this with the situation in America, where the media seems to be waking up to the implications of pollinators declining as it seriously threatens their agricultural output. Melvin sent me this link to a Guardian article and Kevin, this one to a 5 minute audio documentary. To summarise, their bee numbers are down at the threshold where they almost can’t pollinate all their crops.

Varroa mites

I did a varroa drop count. Up to 15 a day already. I’m determined to help the colony to reach an equilibrium rather than rely on constant chemical inputs. Gareth and other natural beeks have varroa-tolerant colonies, UK bees reached equilibrium with tracheal mites, and there are endless instances of other animals developing resistance to parasites, so I know it’s possible, but the colony will probably suffer badly later in the year.

Interesting forum

Are you aware of this major UK beekeeping forum, beekeepingforum.co.uk ? Because it’s got a large user community, the subjects range over a broad range of themes. For example – I had no idea some people heat their hives. Yes, here in the UK. Here’s the thread. To my mind, this seems to be treating a symptom rather than a cause. And there’s a really thought provoking article here about what to do if someone steals your bees… (incidentally, OBKA just sent out a warning about a couple of hives being stolen near Banbury. The poor survival rate over the last winter means those colonies which have survived are at a premium.) There is a TBH section. Discussions of the merits of different strains of bee. And much more. Worth a browse on a rainy evening.

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