This changeable weather can be very harmful to our bees, with some Bee Inspectors already reporting low levels of stores. It is the responsibility of the beekeeper to ensure that they have sufficient stores to see them through until better conditions allow them to forage in earnest again.
We need to establish the level of stores within the hive* and if necessary supplement them by feeding syrup** and /or pollen.
Please, do not allow colonies to dwindle or perish, when we can do something to stop it.
Welsh Beekeepers’ Association
Footnote from Pembrokeshire Beekeeper
* Do not let the level of stores fall below about 5 kg. To help with estimating, a BS deep frame full on both sides holds about 2 kg of stores – but of course stores will be spread across several frames.
** A “weak” syrup mixture should be fed 1:1 by weight is a good compromise and easy to remember.
Best Practice Downloads from Beebase which may be helpful:
A vote in the EU has paved the way for the European Commission to restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths in scientific studies.
advice from the national bee unit
With the continued poor weather looking to persist through to the end of March, colonies may be starting to run out of food (if they haven’t already). It would be advisable to check the food levels by opening the hive and making a very quick observation on their store levels. Key points to remember are:
• The colony may still have stores available which are at the other end of the brood chamber to the cluster of bees. If there are ‘empty’ frames between the two then the bees could still starve, despite food being in the chamber. Move the frames of food directly next to the outer frame where the cluster resides, ensuring that you score each frame of food (not excessively, but enough to stimulate feeding). Be sure not to knock or roll the bees when doing this and to be as quick as possible.
• If the colony has little or no frames of food then give them a block of candy or fondant. You want to aim for about 2.5 kg per hive and although this may seem to be a great expense, it is far less than the money you will have wasted should the bees die.
• Mini plastic bags that are used to store loose fruit in from the supermarket are perfectly acceptable for holding the fondant and cost nothing. Pack the candy in the bag and then pierce holes in the appropriate place once you get to the hive. If the bag seems fragile then you can double bag it (just be sure to pierce both bags).
• At this time of the year we would usually start feeding sugar syrup but with these temperatures it is still too cold. Place the fondant directly above the bees, turning the crownboard if necessary so that one of the porter bee escape holes is above the cluster.
Please be aware that this should be done as quickly and carefully as possible and although it may seem too cold to open the hive now, it is far better to do so knowing the bees are ok than not to and find later that they have died.
For more information please refer to Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’.
Many beekeepers are starting to find out how their bees have survived the winter, although the weather is still cold and starvation a possibility.
At a Bee Farmers’ Association meeting recently losses of 35% were being mentioned – mainly due it seems from poorly mated queens last summer. Presumably this meant too few bees going into the winter.
The BeeBase website reports the following consistent losses over winter:
2009/2010 – 21%,
2010/2011 – 19%,
2011/2012 – 16.1%.
Let us know how your bees are doing on the website or our facebook page.
Press Release - February 27th 2013,
MAQS® Beehive Strip has received registration in the United Kingdom for beekeeper’s use. It has received approval by VMD (Veterinary Medical Department).
The beekeepers of the United Kingdom now have a new tool to combat the most serious threat to its honeybees, the Varroa destructor parasitic mite. Left untreated, Varroa mites will transmit viruses that weaken a honeybee colony. Millions of colonies across Europe have died in recent years from this parasitic mite.
MAQS® is a saccharide gel strip formulation of formic acid, an effective active ingredient that is naturally occurring in honey. Because the Varroa mites reproduce on the developing baby bee, transmitting viruses that deform the bee, their control is being approached as a brood disease. The saccharide gel formic acid vapours released from the saccharide gel strip penetrate the brood cap, stopping the mite where it reproduces. The initial target was the male mite, which never leaves the brood cell. However, trials show that it is also very effective on all stages of the female mite. It is the first mite treatment to successfully target Varroa mite reproduction.
The concept of MAQS® Beehive Strip was first developed in Canada, by NOD Apiary Products Ltd. operating in the UK as NOD Europe. NOD’s personnel worked with BASF’s scientists to overcome technical barriers, the solution to which was BASF’s biodegradable and compostable film Ecoflex®. The resulting treatment is just 7 days.
The physical product will be available in the UK from early April 2013.
End of press release
- MAQS® stands for Mite-Away-Quick Strips®.
- NOD stands for Natures Own Design the developers of the product.
- VMD is the Veterinary Medicines Directorate an executive agency of DEFRA (Note that MAQS is not appearing on their database as of 1 March 2013)
You can find out more on the NOD website here.
Randy Oliver has carried out an early summer test in 2011 and the results of this are published on his excellent Scientific Beekeeping website.