ONBG meeting, 25th August 2015

10 people came to Brian & Faith’s place in Summertown

Main topics covered: Autumn prep, feeding, honey, wax, wasps and badgers

Desensitisation courses and stings. 2 or 3 of those present are on, or have completed a desensitisation course; results of a sting yet to be seen.

Most people have been stung at least once in the past year. This highlights the need for some safety considerations. If you have had a reaction to one sting and tend bees alone then an epipen is probably a good idea. We also discussed the importance of eye protection as a minimum when around bees. Bees behaviour can change between visits. Helen described being caught by surprise when she crushed nepeta (catmint) near a normally calm hive and the strong smell aggravated them. Queenlessness also causes unruly behaviour.

Ann has looked into ventilated suits. These appear to be cooler, more expensive and very thick.

Colony progress: Ben described his 2 Warre colonies. He got these as swarms 2 weeks apart earlier this year. One is thriving (3 boxes) and the latter one never really got going. He suspects the 2 weeks’ head start made a big difference though there are always other factors.

Everyone except Helen and Ann reckon their colonies need at least some feeding – the NBU’s nationwide starvation alert certainly applies to the bulk of Oxfordshire.

Ann has made a steeply pitched roof for her TBH allowing use of a shallow doughnut-shaped “English” feeder in the roof space. You need to have a bar with a gap in it to allow the bees access. Brian & Faith are using a Mini Ashforth Feeder from Thorne which is now getting a lot of bees using it. The rate of consumption suggests that although the bees looked ‘happy’ previously they were indeed hungry. Since feeding started some additional comb construction has also begun. So for us novices the answer to the question ‘when to feed?’ would appear to be ‘when everyone else says that they are feeding’. There was some discussion of hefting but that does rely on some experience. Since the meeting B&F have rigged up a weigh-in process for a Warre box. This should allow the total weight to be monitored over time and hence the change in weight can be logged (and the rate of change).

Mary mentioned the beekeeping film ‘The Wonders’ at Penultimate Picture Palace. Full review next time?

Honey & Wax processing – Most melt wax in a pan of water and strain out yucky bits. Lighter fluid useful for clearing up wax spills – beware wax’s low flashpoint.

Ann has made a trap out box. (Put harvested comb in, bee escapes – one way valves for bees – mean bees on comb fly out but not in). After a couple of days no bees allowing easy harvesting.. (there is an email update to this; briefly whilst the bees left the wasps came in and helped themselves; design mods required?)

Paul demonstrated honey crusher / strainer. Key points are the fragility of the filter and the need for keeping everything clean. The strainer does let some hive debris through. But an extra muslin filter would lose a few jars of honey. But we are natural beeks so extra hive material is a good thing! Paul also showed us some comb with unripe honey. This has a distinctive smell and would only be any use if consumed within a day or so. It will ferment after that and be useless.

Hive issues Mary is having problems carving the end panel of her log hive (incredibly hard wood). Di offered disks of whatever size needed, having been chain sawing lots of trees recently.

Di has potential problems with badgers and we discussed her idea of using 4 foot high tree stumps as Warre platforms. Thought it would make hive manipulations very tricky and potentially unstable in adverse weather etc. As most Warres are simply stacks of boxes we discussed some methods for avoiding toppling. Guy ropes and pegs is the obvious start point.

GroupAtBrianAndFaiths   We looked at a Warre in the garden (slightly modified to accommodate a swarm box from Peter).  No hive inspection was done but all seemed ok through the window.

ThroughWarreWindow

And also a bee hotel. Some bees used this within days of it going on the wall in the spring. They seem equally happy with canes or holes in wood.InsectPalace

Biosecurity. The bee inspectors reckon the recent outbreak of AFB in Bucks was due to someone leaving used jars of foreign honey open, to feed bees. Helen described how her allotments are using some old honey containers from Rowse as water butts. One has lots of New Zealand manuka in it. Bees and wasps gorged on this.

Next meeting: Saturday 19th September, Fringford, NE Oxon

 

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4 Responses to ONBG meeting, 25th August 2015

  1. itsonlyausername says:

    Two quick observations. A recent article in a Saga Magazine (I think) highlighted the plight of solitary bees and the need for some sort of habitat/home. One thing that surprised me was that these Bee Hotels are a source of fodder for the parasitic wasps. Being as all the bees lay their eggs into these tubes, all in one location it means the parasitic wasps have a field day. Its a buffet and no work involved once its found. I would try putting individual straws/tubes/bamboo canes in odd places around the garden well above ground level and out of the direct impact of cold weather. Alternatively leave cow parsley stems cut into short lengths strewn around the edge of your garden hedges or walls. May look untidy but the solitary bees will thanks you.
    The other thing I have had some experience with is badgers. They visit my garden frequently and have never toppled a hive yet. However the same idea of putting the Warre hive on a 4 foot log did occur to me. Problem being as you have noted regarding tending the hive. But we don’t meddle with them that often so getting a low hop up bench like those sold in Wicke’s for decorating etc is probably a way to overcome the height issue. Alternatively two sturdy fence posts in those met post spikes either side of the hive and a bungee cord around it may help to stop a push over of the hive. Don’t fox the posts into the met post base so they can be lifted out when you do maintenance. Don’t do what I did and use guy ropes. The rats and mice are great tightrope walkers and I know this also very well. Lost one colony due to mice getting into the bottom of one hive but the rats and mice managed also to get into the top above the quilt box by tightrope walking their way up. Don’t you just love nature? 🙂

    One last point that may be of interest. Today I noticed a mass invasion of my back yard by my bees looking for forage or honey stores. They were attracted by the empty couple of hives I have there. This tells me there is a shortage of food available so feeding is essential in North Oxfordshire too.

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  2. ValC says:

    I would appreciate more information on bee sting desensitisation and also on the bee suits mentioned. Have only been stung 3 times and each time had a massive albeit local reaction — i,e, whole limb swelling and stung only once whilst actually manipulating bees — through the arm of my bee suit!! where a poor bee had got herself trapped under a fold near my elbow — hence a thicker suit. Suggestions as to where to buy suits in person rather than online welcome as I have found quality to be wanting. I find my bees are mostly very calm on the whole but as I react badly feel a suit is a must.

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    • Paul says:

      Here’s some more info on thicker bee suits, from one of our group who has researched this:

      I’ve found three manufacturers in all: Golden Bee in America, Mann Lake, and Maisemore. I’ve decided to go for the Mann Lake version: http://www.mannlake.co.uk/beekeeping-supplies/category/page86.html at £134.34 inc. postage, mainly because the hood/veil is self supporting, unlike the Maisemore one, which one user reports has such a light veil, it can blow against the face, allowing the bees to sting you. However, if money were no object then I would most probably have chosen the Golden Bee version at £195 including shipping, the big benefit being that Golden Bee will make it to measure for this price !

      Maisemore’s is cheaper than Mann Lake at £113 http://www.bees-online.co.uk/view.asp?ID=1250

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  3. Paul says:

    About desensitisation:

    Desensitisation is for anaphylactic reactions, not merely bad sting reactions. The former is a problem with your immune system, the latter is “merely” increased sensitivity to bee venom.

    In other words, if you have an allergic response to a sting – for example a reaction in part of your body which wasn’t stung – you are in increased danger of a runaway response from your immune system, which can kill you by e.g. choking you with a swollen neck. If you suspect this is happening see your doctor. They can refer you to a specialist. In the UK, they put you on a 3 year desensitisation course. This is paid for by the NHS but as it costs £20k or so it is incredibly annoying to see some people give up after a year because “they haven’t had a bad reaction yet so they must be cured and it’s a real hassle for work, showing up every 6 weeks”. Reactions to stings are like rolling a die. ANYONE could have an anaphylactic reaction, it’s just the chances are higher for some people. The point of the course is to get you down to normal levels of chance, it is not a complete cure. Desensitisation works by giving you regular exposure to controlled amounts of bee venom, injected with a syringe. This is done in a hospital in case you go into shock.

    About very bad sting reactions which are simply that – there are some folk remedies to address this. For example, grow plantain (in pots – it’s invasive), or greater celandine, nearby and if stung, apply a poultice of the plant to the wound. There are others you can find on the Web. I don’t know if they work.

    Obviously if you can get the sting out as soon as possible, you reduce the amount of venom injected and its effects. Stings seem to hurt more in some places, and some people eventually develop a partial tolerance to the stings.

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