Comb is not reused, and each new brood cell is constructed and stuffed with food stock just before the Queen lays an egg in it.
Varroa has not infected stingless bees .... yet.
There are currently about 550 species of tropical stingless bees. I found the whole world of stingless bees thoroughly absorbing, offering new insights into the working of evolution. There is so much still to understand about stingless bees which may help us with caring for our honey bees. The slide set used by Christoph is also available to download:
The Queen's genetic inheritance, her age and mating experience are all significant factors governing the colony's Spring recovery. The weather clearly affects the colony's foraging activities, but poor flying conditions can sometimes increase the Queen's egg laying. Foraging bees depend on blossom and flowers being available in the neighbourhood, without which the egg laying will diminish and then halt.
Stephen spent some time on the topic of supplementary feeding. Hefting or weighing the hives can immediately alert the beekeeper to lack of stores. But colonies may be tempted to break out of the Winter cluster configuration too early, and suffer from the low temperatures. In addition, there is also a danger in over-providing the colonies resulting in too little space on the brood combs being available for egg laying. Nutrient balance was also discussed, with carbohydrates (from nectar) needing to be accompanied by proteins (from pollen).
In all there was a lot for beekeepers to think about! Many thanks to Stephen for an excellent start to this year's club events.
All organisms, including honey bees, balance the resources and effort dedicated to three primary aims: Survival, Growth & Reproduction. For the honeybee, the latter includes the production of drones and their dispersal for mating activities. A colony will start the necessary drone comb production as one of the first signs of maturity, long before Queen cells start appearing. This activity marks a developmental milestone, but how do bees determine this moment?
After a series of practical field experiments using enlarged display hives, it seems that bees are capable of assessing their own population density; so "squeezed up" bees make more drone comb.
One memorable experiment involved mechanically stroking the bees with slowly rotating tickling sticks. Though Ken Dodd would certainly have approved, the bees remained unaffected. Tickling is not their thing! Also, large, dense colonies produced more drone comb. Michael Smith then remarked that worker bees default to making drone comb when there is no active laying Queen.
It is remarkable that after centuries of beekeeping experience we still need to find good answers to such simple questions about honeybee behaviour.
The recording can still be viewed with passcode: M#^98!xN
Jennifer placed the temperament of the Queen as the most important aspect of choosing breeding stock, something that I think most of us would agree with. She also emphasised the importance of developing good drone lines as well as good queen lines in our breeding programmes. She advocated inserting a frame of drone foundation into each good colony to ensure a plentiful supply of drones from these colonies. I think that many of us just assume that "there will be drones up there" rather than actively producing good drones.
One of the attendees at the meeting was Julia Common from the University of Vancouver, who had delivered one of our previous talks. I found it fascinating that we, as a small bunch of beekeepers in the UK, were able to facilitate a live discussion between a beekeeper who had kept bees in a Georgia jail, and a beekeeper who had kept bees in an inner-city area of Vancouver!
A recording of the talk can be viewed using the passcode rh!LR76f at:
David Capon 7/1/20
Martin then played acoustic recordings from three different activities: Queen piping, an alarm reaction termed "whooping", and the classic von Frisch waggle dance.
By simultaneously recording with a high frame-rate camera it was possible to identify individual bees responsible for the higher frequency (340Hz) whooping alert. The normal 250Hz wing movement is constrained by air drag, so to achieve 340Hz the bees use a rotational wing movement in place of the usual flapping. Two dimensional frequency plots highlighted the vibrational changes.
Honey bees appear to communicate more through substrate vibration than acoustic air waves. Indeed, they may not have any "ears" at all. They react by freezing all activity when subjected to higher energy vibrations. This was compared to the anecdotal accounts of beekeepers singing to calm their hives and beating saucepans ("tanging") to force flying swarms down to earth.
The prediction of imminent swarming was also an aim of this research. The indicators from vibrational data required an extended analysis over a period of time for this to be of practical value to beekeepers.
The talk was universally acknowledged to be fascinating and has stimulated several members to kit up and try their hands at vibrational analysis!
The talk and discussion can still be seen using the following URL with an entry passcode: vDWH8&9M.
Julia then went on to talk about large scale pollination with her bees and especially inside 6 hectare greenhouses where the bees were tasked with pollinating strawberry plants. Her honey bees were being used where the farmer had been unable to get the usual bumble bee pollinators. Julia now has this as a regular arrangement as her honey bees worked so well.
Finally Julia talked about beekeeping using nucs only and how she was focusing on this as it involves far less heavy lifting and the bees are doing as well for her as they did using full size hives. Hopefully this will be a topic of another talk for us in the future.
Julia’s talk was recorded and can be viewed at this link:
Propolis is the apicultural term for plant resins that many species of honey bee collect and then lay down inside their nest cavities. The prophylactic property of propolis has been recognised and exploited by humans for many centuries. Both fungal and bacterial agents can be inhibited. Several active chemical components have been identified, but these vary according to the season and plant source. There is no clear, single molecular component providing the anti-microbial performance but flavonoids are significant in all types of propolis. Honeybee colonies have been shown to perform better if they are allowed/encouraged to lay down a full propolis envelope on the inner walls of their home in the same manner as wild bees. Roughening the internal walls of a wooden hive will encourage the bees to provide a propolis coating. Whether beekeepers should now refrain from flaming their spare brood boxes to kill pathogens, and so burn off all the protective propolis coating, was still an open question. Besides reducing the opportunity for infections to develop across the colony, it has been discovered that the internal microbiome, contained within the bee's gut, is healthier when a protective coating of propolis has been extended throughout the hive.
Early detection and removal of infected pupae is essential to avoid spreading spores throughout the hive. Both AFB and chalkbrood have an early "non infectious" phase before spores develop to spread the infection. Immature varroa mites simply need to be released from the pupal cell and exposed to predation. Honeybees use their probosis to detect dead or infected pupae, including those afflicted by mites and microbes, so uncapping and removal can then take place. Oddly, drone pupae seem not to be included in this hygienic behaviour, only worker brood.
The usual method of beekeepers assessing the level of hygienic behaviour expressed by a colony involves sacrificing an area of worker brood by freezing with liquid nitrogen and seeing what percentage of the dead pupae have been removed after a fixed interval. The correspondence between detecting dead pupae and those living but hosting mites is not perfect, but the freeze-killed brood assay has been judged a good way to screen colonies. Alternative experimental assay methods which avoided handling liquid nitrogen were also described. To breed bees to maximize hygienic genes, it is considered necessary to use instrumental insemination techniques. Just relying on wild drone insemination of chosen queens is not sufficiently effective.
Interestingly, Apis cerana, the eastern honeybee, does not collect and use plant resins but demonstrates vigorous hygienic behaviour to control varroa mites. It also has adopted the strategy of sealing in the infected pupae in such a manner as to prevent them emerging.
A very thought provoking and well presented talk, many thanks to Marla Spivak!
Lynfa has been keeping bees since 2005 with her husband and currently has approximately 30 hives. In 2015 she became a Master Beekeeper after working her way through the modules and practical assessments and then in 2019 she achieved the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB). Lynfa enjoys teaching beekeeping and is passionate about helping new beekeepers to learn the skills required to keep bees healthy and productive. Covid-19 might have curtailed many activities but Lynfa has adapted to this and regularly gives talks via digital platforms. She also regularly writes articles for beekeeping magazines. Lynfa is a member of the Welsh Beekeeper's Association (WBKA) Learning and Development Committee and has delivered courses for the WBKA as well as being a tutor for the NDB short courses and contributing to workshops at the BBKA Spring Convention. In her day job, Lynfa is a Knowledge Exchange Manager on the Farming Connect programme in Wales.
3. Don't name your Qs or grow too attached to them. Culling aging Qs is a necessary part of the beekeeper's job.
4. Cover over the escape holes in crown boards to stop the bees entering the roof space. This gives you extra time to assess the hive, and more roofs, acting as bases, to stack supers on.
5. When assessing advice from other beekeepers take into account their "hive years" of experience. Try to increase and broaden your own experience by assisting your colleagues.
6. Bees generally flourish whatever the beekeepers think they should be doing.
7. Don't forget to clean your tools and gloves in the handy bucket of washing soda. Also have a container with lid for the hive wax debris.
8. Are mouse guards really necessary?
9. Float a piece of wood in the water trough or feeder container to prevent bees drowning. An old tea towel can serve the same purpose.
10. Refill your honey jars!
The annual display of our best apiary products, with competitive categories including: clear and set honey, cut comb, home baked honey cake and biscuits, candles, and mead, took place on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Memorial Hall. David Capon kindly acted again as Judge and Commentator, with an audience of around 20 members taking notes as he progressed through a record number of entries for all the categories.
David Charles – A History of Somerset Beekeeping: 26 January 2019 at Shipham Hall, New Road, Shipham, BS25 1SG.
David’s talk starts in 1870 when the first SBKA was formed. Somerset was then a large county which included the Bristol area. The SBKA is now on its fourth association and celebrated its centenary in 2006. The talk will be about the structure, activities, politics and personalities, including great men like L. E. Snelgrove of Yatton. The effects of WW1 and the IOW disease, followed by the restocking scheme will be described. More recent challenges, such as Varroa and the Asian Hornet, will be presented in an historic context.
Here’s what you should be doing this month:
Things to do this month:
Vespa velutina or the Asian hornet, also known as the yellow legged hornet, is native to Asia and was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the South West of France in 2004. It was thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China and it quickly established and spread to many regions of France. The hornet preys on honeybees, Apis mellifera harming beekeeping activities. It has also altered the biodiversity in regions where it is present and is potentially deadly to allergic people. All beekeepers should remain vigilant and be on the look out for it in their apiaries. For identification use the button below:
If you think you have seen an Asian hornet, please notify the Great British Non Native Species Secretariat alert email address at email@example.com immediately. Additionally, you can report sightings on their website (http://www.nonnativespecies.org//alerts/index.cfm?id=4). As well as this function, the website provides a great deal of information about the wide ranging work that is being done to tackle invasive species and tools to facilitate those working in this area.