Bee Blogs – August 2018

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You will, I hope be reaping the harvest from the wonderful summer. That said, I noted last week that my mother, living in Clonakilty had no apples at all on her four or five trees whereas last year the trees were groaning with fruit. Her big complaint was that no one came to rob them…. ‘They must all be too busy on their phones’, was her comment!

My bees made a recovery during the year and are stronger going into the autumn. I was glad to find  plenty of brood which should provide a good supply of winter bees.

I have taken off some honey but have left them with plenty and so I am not feeding them any sugar syrup.

There is always the question of how best to clear the bees from the honey supers.  Carbolic Acid was used for this process but only worked if temperatures did not get too low. It was a dangerous both for bees and beekeeper and it is banned today. Another chemical Propionic Anhydride was used in the 1960’s – it too failed if temperatures were not high enough.

Benzaldehyde (smells like almonds)  was another chemical I tried but it is no longer in use. I use ‘Bee Quick’ which is very efficient and safe. It is a mix of natural oils and herb extracts. I spray it on a fume board (40mm wooden frame with an absorbent cloth stretched over it-  you could simply pour on an absorbent cloth) and place it on top of a super and the bees clear in a matter of minutes.

Why do bees like honey

A young person asked me recently, “why do bees like honey”? It is a good question. Bees like plants which produce nectar with a high sugar content. The higher the sugar content the better they like it. Hence they go for dandelion rather then for apple blossom and it is why they love oil seed rape as it has a very high sugar content. But honey is what they love best – nectar is mainly water with a small amount of sugars – the bees process it to form honey by adding enzymes and driving off much of the water.  Twenty five pounds of nectar yields approximately five pounds of honey. A National honey super contains about 25lbs. To fill a super with 25lb of capped honey the bees need to drive off over 100lbs of water!  So honey with its high sugar content is the bees favourite. All the work has been done – the water content reduced and the sugars processed.

An new treatment for Varroa!

I read recently about interesting work in Poland on the use of rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum) leaves to treat varroa. Rhubarb leaves contain small amounts of oxalic acid. It is most active in gaseous form and small amounts can kill varroa mites.  The evaporating oxalic acid fumes in the brood nest hinders the build up of Varroa in early summer when the colony is particularly vulnerable with a large amount of open brood.

TO USE: Fresh rhubarb leaves together with their stalks are place on the brood chamber when the first supers are added in May. The stalks are crushed with a hammer.

After three or four days most all of the soft parts of leaves will be shredded and removed from the hive by the bees releasing oxalic acid and allowing the fumes to circulate through the hive.

The recommended treatment is to use rhubarb 10 times between May to Mid- September.

Much more experimentation is needed but there are positive results.  Mite drop has been monitored and results show that using rhubarb leaves in summer reduces the mite population

Warning about feeding sugar syrup.
A study in the US has shown that syrup may contribute to U.S. colony collapse. Bee keepers who use corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to colony collapse by depriving the insects of compounds that strengthen their immune systems, according to a recent study.

U.S. bee keepers lost nearly a third of their colonies last winter continuing the on-going and largely unexplained decline in the bee population that could hurt the U.S. food supply.

A bee’s natural food is its own honey, which contains compounds like p-coumaric acid that appear to help detoxify and strengthen a bee’s immunity to disease, according to a study by scientists at the University of Illinois.

“The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses,” according to the study, which was published on May 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America said in May that more than 30% of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, up sharply from around 22% the previous winter but still close to the six-year average. The losses vary year to year, but a huge and prolonged multiyear decline threatens the species and crop pollination

Murroe Website EditorBee Blogs – August 2018