I feel like my Honeybees have been dominating my thoughts recently, for all sorts of reasons. If you read last weeks blog, you will know that we recently lost about 2/3 of our Texan beehive – probably due to pesticide poisoning! At the same time our Italian bees were doing ok and we got a new hive going! I’d say that we’ve been ‘busy bees’ but the girls are always busier!
Texan Honeybees – Sad News but Hopeful
Stuart and I were so upset to see piles of dead bees outside this hive a couple of weeks ago. My Texan Bees were a feisty and vigorous hive that we expected to spilt into two separate hives this year. There was no signs of disease in these bees so all we can do is put it down to pesticide poisoning. We estimate that 2/3 of this hive died – a very sad change of events for this hive and for us.
Very quickly we put a quart of sugar syrup into the hive to give extra support to the remaining bees. We also removed two completely empty frames of wax, frames that had been covered with bees a month ago! What we don’t want to happen is for wax moth beetles to get into this hive and destroy the comb. This is something that could happen with such a reduced population of bees trying to keep everything ‘shipshape’.
Ways to support a Beehive in difficulties:
Honeybees are really good at defending their hive with guards at the entrance and workers keeping the inside clean and healthy – until something goes wrong!!
- Remove empty frames – empty wax frames are a tempting target for wax moths, especially if there aren’t enough bees to keep them under control. Small hive beetles can also cause a lot of damage.
- Reduce hive space – a large population of bees can keep a large hive clean & safe, a small population can’t. So by closing empty space off from the colony you’ll allow them to defend the hive better.
- Feed – with sugar syrup or pollen substitute if necessary.
I checked this hive today and was quietly encouraged. These bees are bringing nectar and pollen into the hive; and new larvae are being produced. Will check this hive again in a couple of weeks to make sure that they are still doing ok. They are tough, feisty girls, so we hope that they’ll make a rapid recovery.
Good Italian Bees – Quietly getting on with it!
These girls came through winter (not that we had much of a winter!) as a small but healthy hive. But while I’ve been worrying about the others, these girls have been quietly getting on with it! Nectar and pollen stores are doing ok and there’s plenty of brood being produced. The Italians remain sweet and so gentle; always easy to check that they’re doing ok. Building of new comb is going on we may need to give them more room the next time we do an inspection sometime in mid May.
I didn’t get any photos but I did observe several bees doing a Wiggle Dance, This Smithsonian video, narrated by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough will show you what’s it’s all about. As an aside, I grew up watching nature programs with Sir David Attenborough – a jewel in the hearts of generations of British people.
Beekeeping has certainly taught us to expect the unexpected – good or bad!
- We assumed the Italians would need extra support because they were quite a small hive – WRONG
- We assumed the Texans would fill their box and we’d be making a split into 2 hives – WRONG
Keeping our eyes open and observing each hive is, I think, the key to making sure that we can react quickly if necessary. Even going into a hive for a quick inspection disrupts normal bee business! It’s a bit like a partial factory shut down – takes a couple of days to get back to full production! As we gain experience as beekeepers we expect to have to open our hives only if necessary & less as a learning tool.
New Hive – Beautiful comb building
Just over a week ago we went down to Somerset to collect our new bees from The Bee Place. This ‘Nuc’ (hive nucleus) has a Texas Queen, so we expect it to behave a little differently than the Italians, but maybe not as feisty as our feral Texans. Time will tell & I shouldn’t assume(!), but so far they have been pretty easy to manage.
We put some sugar syrup in their new hive when we got them home last weekend to help them get settled. It’s a bit like us doing a house move and needing emergency supplies while figuring out where the best grocery store is located.
I did a quick check today and you can see that in only a week they have been really busy making new honeycomb. Makes me really happy to see this. New, freshly drawn out Honeycomb is really a thing of beauty. It shouldn’t take them long to full these frames completely with new brood, honey and pollen.
Right from the beginning Stuart and I knew that Beekeeping was going to be a lifetime of adventures. Just this last month has been a series of highs and lows. Through an acquaintance, I’ve made contact with a lady that needs help with some beehives that haven’t been touched for a couple of years. Hopefully we will soon be able to go and have a look at these hives & learn more lessons!