The autumn was unseasonably mild and my bees have been busy working on the ivy. I must check that my colonies feel if they are heavy enough. I have some ambrosia fondant which I can use if any colony feels too light. This is easily digested by bees and good for use over winter. You just score a cross on one side of the pack and peel back the plastic and place this on top of the frames or over the hole in the crown board. They must have plenty of ivy honey as the flow extended into November. They brought in loads of pollen which should set them up for the winter.
Some people worry that the brood nest can be so full of ivy honey that the queen will have no room to lay in the Spring. This can happen but now is not the time to rectify the situation – we will have to wait till the winter is over to check that out. Some people regard ivy honey as a problem – but as long as the bees can get enough moisture to use the granulated honey, it is a more balanced food source than sugar.
It seems a good idea to add some insulation inside the roof if you have any wooden hives.
We all know that bees are important. According to an article I read recently it is estimated that 1.4 billions farming jobs and three quarters of the world’s food supply – worth about $577bn – depend on the pollination of bees. And of the 100 species that feed 90% of human beings 70 depend on bees to pollinate them.
In the past 50 years the level of agricultural production that depends on pollination has risen by 300% but the bee populations have dropped. In the UK the number of bees fell by 54% between 1985 and 2005. In the USA domesticated bee colonies fell from 5.9 million to 2.4 million between 1947 and 2008.
As we learnt recently 40% of invertebrate pollinator species – especially bees and butterflies – are facing extinction.
The reason for this decline could be overuse of insecticides, loss of habitats, the varroa mite or even interference from electromagnetic radiation or a combination of all these factors. And now we have another threat with the Asian hornet on our door step – when this hornet gets into a hive the bees surround it and effectively cook it to death by raising their body temperatures. If we could measure the hive temperature we could detect the presence of this predator and do something about it.
The World Bee Project has linked with Oracle, the large IT firm to create a network of ‘smart hives’ to gather data about bees and their relationship to their environment. They plan to monitor the health of bees across the world.
They have developed sensors to place on hives to capture the sounds, the weight of honey, hive humidity, temperature, local weather and the levels of air pollution. They are using Artificial Intelligence to analyse the data. This will allow them to understand what they describe as the “signature” of ‘healthy and unhealthy hives.” John Abel of Oracles says that “sound is probably is the most important data”.
The key is the possibility of identifying early indicators of problems. For instance bees can swarm due to poor ventilation or high temperatures – getting live data might provide the beekeeper with information and allow them to take preventive measures.
This project will give objective data from around the world and may help us to slow or stop the decline of bees. If the technology becomes more generally available it might allow us to manage our bees using objective data and cut out unnecessary interventions.
If you are looking for a Christmas present for a beekeeper – a book recommended to me is one called, “The Honey Bee Inside Out” by Celia F Davis. It details the inner and outer workings of the bees. The same author has another book called “The Honey Bee Around and About” which explains how the bees fit into their environment and much more.
Happy Christmas….and here is to a bumper 2019.