Monday, 26 October 2009

Time to close your hives down for the winter

Well the weather is just now turning a little colder, a reminder that winter will be here soon. The clocks have now been set back for daylight savings time. So now it's time to begin closing down your hives in preparation for the long winter months ahead.

If you have feeders on, now is the time to remove them. Pour any unused sugar syrup into a container and tighten the lid. This can be used for a feed in the spring. You removed all your honey supers during the feeding period, so if you held back a super to feed to your bees for winter than now is the time to put it back on. You will have completed your Varroa treatment by now and with little or no brood your bees should be fairly Varroa clean.

Ventilation is important at this time of year. Condensation within a hive is dangerous to bee heath so take steps to avoid this. Make sure your hive is tilted slightly, the front lower than the back. This way if any water collects within your hive it will run down the inner walls towards the front of the hive and drip out through the entrance. Bees cluster to keep warm, breathing and consuming nectar during the winter. So water vapour is produced within the air. We need to make sure this vapour can escape. A little trick is to place stick matches on the upper four corners of the brood box. Place your crownboard on top of the match sticks. These leaves a tiny gap all around the top area just big enough to allow a little air flow circulation. Air enters via the entrance and up and out through your provided gap space. It's too small to allow wasps or mice into the hive. Which brings me to mice!

Make sure you have your mouse guards in place. Remove the entrance block and put the guard over the entrance. See our earlier article explaining this.

If you have woodpeckers or badgers in your area then cover your hive with chicken wire. You can secure it under the legs of your hive stand or tie it in place. Woodpeckers will not only damage the hive by putting large holes through the sides of the hive, but of course will slowly eat their way through your bees, picking them off one by one. Badgers will just knock your hive over like a tank and eat the lot.

Winds pick up at this time of year so securing your hive roof is a must. If you have a hive stand loop a piece of rope over the roof and through the stand to secure it in place. Any tall grass/vegetation should be cleared from around your hive to avoid a collection of water vapour near the hive. Good outer ventilation is important as well.

Now your bees are clean, fed, well ventilated and happy! You can now get to bottling all that honey you collected during the year!

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Friday, 16 October 2009

Time now to put Mouse Guards on your hives!

Well the weather is noticeably cooler now and that means your bees will begin to huddle together to keep warm. Their movements will be considerably slower to conserve their energy and food supply. This is when an inquisitive mouse looking for a nice warm place to spend the winter will crawl through the entrance of your beehive.

Not only will they find warmth but a very nice food source to last them a time- yes YOUR BEES! Mice love the taste of honeybees and honeycomb. They will slowly pick off one bee at a time working their way through your colony. During this cold period your bees will not be in their normal defence mode, instead clinging to one another to keep warm. Bees are cold blooded insects and need external heat or find it hard to move. This means a mouse can easily attack them without retaliation. So what can be done?

Apply a Metal Mouse Guard. This is a commercially produced metal strip with small 10mm bee size holes in it. If you have an entrance block in place to reduce the entrance size to keep wasps out, now you can remove this block. Fix the mouse guard in place with drawing pins across the entire hive entrance area. If you have a WBC remove the wooden slides and insert the mouse guard behind the porch entrance. Your bees will be able to enter and exit, but the holes are too small for a mouse to fit through. Even if you think there are no mice in your apiary area- they will find your hive.

Remember to check the entrance every week for the next few months to clear any dead bees away from the floor and entrance. At this time of year the natural bee mortality rate is high and this could pile up, blocking the exit for the remaining bees. We make up long bent sticks to scoop any fallen dead bees out of the entrance. It's quick and easy and does not alarm the bees if done gently. In the spring once the weather has warmed up and your bees are flying again, remove the mouse guard. Clean it with hot water and soap and store away until Autumn.

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Bee Feeder- The solution just pours out!

I bought, last week a plastic bee feeder, from your shop.
I was told to put in the cooled sugar solution and then close the lid and place the container upside down near the area the bees were feeding.
The solution just pours out!

Have I misunderstood ?

Mike Nathan

At The Hive Honey Shop we get this question quite often. Here's the answer again.

After you make your sugar solution (1 kilo cane sugar to 1 liter water. Mix until crystal clear. If its cloudy it will clog the feeder mesh). Pour the solution into your feeder bucket. Now have another empty bucket ready. Put two pieces of wood slats on top of the empty bucket. Invert the feeder over the empty bucket and balance the feeder on top of the wood slats. The syrup in the feeder will drip for a few seconds until a vacuum occurs within the feeder, the syrup will stop dripping. The fine mesh of the feeder is tiny enough to contain the syrup, yet allow the bees to suck it through from the mesh. Don't invert it without a bucket as any spills near or around your hive will attract wasps and other bees to come and attack your hive. Have a look at our photo. Hope that helps!
The Hive Honey shop

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Masonry Bees- Advise at hand!

It was very interesting listening to your slot on BBC London this week, and it has left me with a question I would like to ask you.
For the past couple of years in the springtime we have had some masonry Bees nesting in our wall above our patio door, at least I am told they are masonry Bees They get in and out via spacers left by the builders when the house was built. They are only there for a couple of weeks and then they block the holes and disappear. I imagine they will return next year.
As much as I respect the Bee I'm not sure I want them to nest again next year. Can you give me some advice as to what I should do to prevent them nesting next year, I would be very grateful.
Very Best Regards
Andrew Hamshare
Hi Andrew

Thanks for your question. You do have Masonry bees. They are only active in the spring. Your right, they have now laid their eggs in preparation for next year. So you missed the boat for doing anything this year, as its August. Next year when you notice the very first activity, the bees emerging, flying about, THAT'S the time to act!

Try the The Hive Honey Shops Eco-Friendly 'Rehousing Method'

1) Make your plywood barrier habitat
Take a large piece of plywood 15mm thick, large enough to cover the entire area of the wall they are coming out of. Take a size 7 wood drill bit and drill lots of holes through the plywood sheet. Screw that to another piece of plywood the same size. Loosely refill the drilled holes will either sawdust or soil. As you have sandwiched another piece of plywood to the back of the one with drilled holes, the bees can enter the drilled holes only but no further. They will be unable to re-enter the fabric of your building.

2) Fix your plywood barrier habitat
Now around 8am on a sunny day when the bees are flying, screw your plywood to your bee infested wall area, holes facing outwards. As the bees are out flying they will come back to your plywood barrier. They will enter your drilled holes and lay their eggs in the plywood, not the wall of your building.

3) Remove & relocate your plywood barrier habitat
Once the bee population dwindles, about 1-2 months later, remove the plywood and place it in a far corner of your property. You have now successfully caught all the eggs for next year in your plywood habitat. Next year your bees will emerge from the plywood not your property wall.

4) Seal the holes in your property wall
After you have removed the plywood habitat, this is the time to properly seal the holes in your property wall. Use concrete if the holes are in the pointing, fill as normal. Unless you fill them properly you will have the same problem year after year as the masonry bees will reuse the holes again and again.

The nice thing about using our plywood method is that you do not harm or upset the bees and you do not disturb their natural life cycle, just alter the location where they breed.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Danger-WASPS!- protect your hives

This is the wasp season when populations are at their highest and available food supplies are short. So wasps turn to robbing just about anything and everything! The general public will be targeted by wasps for any morsels of food they drop, hold or are in the middle of eating!

My daughter was stung today by a wasp. She is very at ease with bees and wasps, yet it slowly flew up to her and stung her? It had no reason to do so, she had not moved or provoked it. In any case I say this because 98% of stings that people incur are from wasps, NOT honeybees. But people see a flying insect buzzing around and then when stung assume it was a bee (honeybee). Poor bumblebees and honeybees get a bad rap as a result.

So why protect a beehive? Well wasps are meat eating predators. They find a bee colony and attack bees one by one, snapping the bee in half with their strong mandibles and fly back to their nest to feed their young. Wasps are sugar junkies. When they feed their larva, the larva in return produces a liquid high in sugar that the wasp will remove and consume. Once one wasp finds your hive they will come back with reinforcements. They can kill all your bees, clear out all the honey and move on to the next hive in your apiary until nothing is left.

Here are a few tips to reduce wasp attack.
1 Keep your apiary CLEAN. Don't drop any wax bits, honey, sugar syrup in or around your apiary site. Doing so just shouts out COME AND GET IT!!

2 Reduce the hive entrance. Now is the time to put in your hive entrance block. It is simply a piece of wood the size of the opening to the floor entrance with a 6cm wide cut out opening in the middle. As the entrance and exit point is now reduced it gives your bees a better chance of fending off any wasps that try to sneak into your hive to rob or kill your bees.

3 Make wasp traps. You can make a simple DIY wasp trap to catch any scout wasps. Scout wasps look for any good food source, communicating to their nest where a site of easy pickings is. Take out the scouts and you can keep your apiary site a secret for a bit longer.

I have a photo of my little DIY water bottle wasp trap. The bait is simply beer and jam. Its nice to know its eco-friendly, safe for plants, animals and the environment. The base of the drinks bottle is filled with the bait leaving about a 6cm gap from the nearest entrance/exit point. I use plastic cones that are made for WBC roof ventilation for the entrance. Make about 3 per hive. I tested these against a major wasp trap manufacturer and I was pleased to see my traps caught 20-30 per day where theirs caught 6-10!

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Saturday, 4 July 2009

British Lime Trees, nectar producing now!

Well the honey season is truly under way and its been a delightful surprise. The warm weather has been a big help and our honey boxes are filling up very quickly. The reports from other beekeepers throughout the country are the same. So this year should help to make up for the dreadful past three years. The Lime trees are in full blossom so we expect a good yield of lime (linden blossom) honey this year. We have extracted some beautiful spring/early summer honey that consists of blackberry, hawthorn, field bean & wildflowers. It is such a lovely scented, medium light honey. It was a fine catch!

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Sunday, 21 June 2009

5 Steps to Stop Bees Swarming

Aside from losing your valuable bees it could cause a nuisance to your neighbors. So be a responsible beekeeper. Here are a few tips.

1. Clip one wing of your queen.
Simply clip off half of one wing of your queen bee. She will not feel a thing. Its like clipping a finger nail. The queen will be unable to fly and when your bees decide to swarm and take her with them, she will drop to the front of the hive and can be found and put back or she will crawl up the leg of your hive stand and re-enter the hive (see photo). Your bees will swarm away for a small time and when they are unable to find her, they will all swarm back to their hive. You don't lose your bees or have to climb over fences to retrieve them. This also buys you some time to sort out queen cells, add super for space etc.

2. Add space!
When a colony of bees becomes over crowded, the queen pheromone ( her scent) can not be detected by the workers in parts of the hive, hence they believe she is gone and start making queen cells to replace her even though she is still there. So to reduce the risk of this happening give your bees plenty of room BEFORE they need it. Add supers in advance of their needs.

3. Requeen
If you have a queen that is two years or older think about requeening if your bees keep attempting to swarm. It could be that your queen was not properly mated and the workers detect this and are logically insuring the future survival of the colony by replacing her. It could be that your queen is getting too old and as a result her queen pheromone is drying up. The workers can't smell her and think she is not there.

4. Shook swarm technique
This should only be done once you have found your queen, put her safely in a queen cage, then in your pocket. The idea is to work with your bees and their natural instinct to swarm outside the hive. Once queen cells are in place this can sometimes be a point of no return and your bees will swarm regardless. If you have removed all the queen cells and you now believe that this will stop your bees from swarming-you are wrong. Your bees don't recognise that you have removed all the queen cells, they believe that all is well for a successful swarm. They believe that they have left the colony with a future queen and the ability to carry on. So within the next few days, mid day, off they go. You however have destroyed all the queen cells and now the colony is compromised. Yes your workers can begin to make new queen cells from the remaining eggs, but there will be a break in the brood pattern which could have been avoided. (there is more to beekeeping than meets the eye!) So here's what we do!

On a nice sunny, calm day, queen safely in her cage, in your pocket. Remove one brood frame at a time and SHAKE all the bees off the frame in front of the hive. Do this until all the bees have been shaken off each frame. Remove ALL queen cells you see. This is a perfect opportunity to check for queen cells as all bees are off the comb and you can clearly see the entire surface. Use this time to clean the frame or even replace a frame if the comb is old. Put them back in order of how you took them out. Once complete, all frames back in place, release your queen back into the brood box by letting her crawl out of the cage onto the top of the brood frames. She will crawl down between the frames. Don't shake her out of the cage, you could flip her outside the hive. I have seen it done. Close up the hive.

Your bees now feel that they did in fact swarm which was on the cards. You have triggered that response within a controlled environment. This technique works quite well. Remember bees have a mind of their own and even the best laid plans do not always work. This is what makes beekeeping an interesting challenge. If you find you have tried this three times and they still will not stop preparing to swarm try no five.

5. Divide a colony
If you have tried nos 1-4 and your bees keep building up in size and there is no way to stop them making queen cells think about dividing the hive. This entails removing half the frames to a new empty hive in a new location. You will leave half the viable brood frames and two queen cells only in the original position. Next you will take the other half of the viable brood frames to the new empty hive WITH THE QUEEN! The idea is that you have worked with the bees natural instinct to swarm. By removing half the bees and frames with the original queen to a new location you have produced the scenario of them swarming. Only you are in control! You have decided when and where. The original hive now has less bees and two queen cells. They are happy in the knowledge that all is well and their colony has swarmed as planned. In the next seven days a queen will emerge and head that colony. You now have two hives and two decisions. You can keep both going or reunite them back to one hive after deciding which queen you will keep. You will need to remove one queen or they will fight, injuring each other of causing the new queen to fly out of the hive (swarming) taking half the bees with her, which was what we were trying to avoid.

So there are a few tips for you to add to your ever growing beekeeping knowledge base. Give it a try, tailor it to your needs. remember beekeeping still is not an exact science. Bees are wild creatures and will continue to surprise us. Keep an eye on this site, we will always be posting useful tips throughout the year. Any questions post a comment and we will try to respond. Have fun!

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Feed Those Bees!!

Swarming season is truly underway. We have collected quite a number. The key to success is FEEDING. A newly developing colony needs a surplus of food to convert into beeswax and honey. If they have a continuous supply then the workers will feed the queen who will in turn increase her egg laying. So you get a faster, stronger developing colony who are able to draw out all your new foundation.

A simple feeder bucket can be used. Mix a solution of 1 kilo of CANE sugar only and 1 pint of water. Make up about 20 liters. If you don't use it now, you'll need it at the end of the season for their winter feed, around Aug-Sept. time. The sugar solution will keep for over a year. Mix until crystal clear. Invert the filled bucket over the holes in the crownboard. Careful not to drip! Wasps will smell it and you will point them to your swarm. They will kill your bees.

Use an empty broodbox or super to hide your bucket. The roof will then fit neatly on top and be stable. Don't just balance the roof on the bucket. The first good wind will blow it off. Also rain and insects will find their way inside. Feed your swarm until they have drawn out the foundation and have filled 70% of the frames with food stores. Then its time to remove the feeder and put your queen excluder on and supers.

This I will show you shortly so watch this space!

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Swarms of Bees are about!

Wow, last week was full of calls for picking up swarms. Best swarm activity in years! Around 11am on Monday in Tooting I was about to get in my car when I heard a loud roar overhead. I thought to myself, that sounds like a swarm of bees? I looked up and there was a prime swarm of bees in flight passing among the chimney breasts of the Victorian terraced houses. I jumped in my car and gave chase, but lost them a few streets away.

The next few days we were busy collecting swarms here and there, but mainly in SW London. Now is the time to super up your hives. Give the bees plenty of room to reduce the chance of swarming.

We have also been busy doing divides. This means we look at colonies that are very strong and showing signs of wanting to swarm, producing queen cells, over populated. We leave the queen and five frames of sealed brood behind in the original hive position. We take the other remaining frames and put them in an empty hive, add the remaining frames of foundation and remove all but two queen cells. BINGO you have the makings of a new colony. Once the queen hatches and starts laying this will grow in size and if they too expand quickly, produce queen cells, you can divide them.

Feed all new divides (nucs) to encourage the queen to lay and the bees to draw out the wax foundation.

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Little Pollen Traps Work a Treat!

Well the pollen is going in fast and thick. We have tried a new kind of pollen trap, one that attaches to the front of the hive entrance. Its quick to attach and remove and the bees fill it up quite quickly. The photos show it in action. The tray was filled within one day.

photo copyright 2009 ©-The Hive Honey Shop