Synopsis : Midwinter is the time for planning and preparation for the beekeeping season forward. Along with fascinated with the conventional season’s occasions – swarming, mite management, honey and so on. – now could be the time to be extra expansive. What preparations have to be made for the long term sustainability of your apiary and beekeeping?
Now’s the winter of our discontent.
So mentioned the younger Richard in a soliloquy celebrating the upturn in his fortunes.
For a beekeeper, this upturn might sound a bit of untimely because it’s solely 17 days because the winter solstice and there are presently lower than 7 hours daylight.
The drowsy days of summer time crammed with the light buzzing of bees appear a lifetime away …
… and it’s snowing within the apiary.
Nonetheless, the times are slowly getting longer.
Really, till the spring equinox, the daylength will get more and more longer every day – by a couple of minute and a half on January 1st, to over 4 minutes a day by the tip of the month and at last reaching a heady 4 minutes 48 seconds by the twentieth of March .
All of which implies that, though not fairly ‘across the nook’ the beekeeping season might be right here fairly quickly.
So it’s not a lot Now’s the winter of our discontent as Now’s the winter and the perfect time to arrange for the season forward and construct frames.
I’ve beforehand posted about constructing frames, so this put up is about planning, although frames may get a point out in passing.
Planning for the season forward
I used to be going to title this put up Crafty plans however I believe a lot of the crafty plans that Baldrick dreamt up had been fairly catastrophic. It appeared smart to decide on a distinct title.
I’ve a complete discuss on the subject of planning for the season forward and am giving this discuss a few occasions within the subsequent few weeks. To keep away from stealing my very own thunder I’m not going to speak usually phrases about getting ready for the season.
As a substitute I’m going to focus on the issues I’ll be doing as well as to all the normal actions like swarm prevention, the honey harvest and mite management.
Right now of the 12 months now we have the posh to stare idly off into the center distance whereas concurrently dreaming about bees and sharpening off the stays of the Christmas cake. As soon as the season begins we’ll both be too busy, or there gained’t be sufficient time to make a few of the preparations.
So what is going to I be doing this 12 months that differs from final 12 months, or the one earlier than that?
Lengthy distance beekeeping
I lastly moved from the east coast to the western extremities of Scotland final February after a few years of spending growing quantities of time right here. I’ve nonetheless obtained bees on each side of the nation (together with colonies for analysis in Fife) and journey backward and forward as wanted to handle the colonies.
And, frankly, the novelty is beginning to put on off.
It may get a bit carrying spending the day working with the bees after which driving for 4-5 hours to get dwelling . Beekeeping may be arduous work. There are many bins to elevate and it will probably get scorching and tiring doing this for hours on a sweltering day in June.
Happily, that is Scotland, so the sweltering day bit doesn’t occur all that incessantly 😉
Nonetheless, the bodily arduous work does occur. I’ve beforehand calculated – utilizing psychological arithmatic on a type of lengthy automobile journeys – that my spring honey harvest may contain manhandling nicely over a ton of bins over a few days. And that’s on prime of the hive inspections.
Doing this ‘at a distance’ means every little thing tends to get squeezed right into a 2-3 day journey each couple of weeks, or extra incessantly if I’m queen rearing as nicely.
OK, I’m not anticipating a lot sympathy as you’ve in all probability additionally labored out by now how a lot honey all these supers contained 😉
However, one precedence this 12 months is to scale back my hive rely on the east coast, and improve it on the west coast.
Consider it as growing the beekeeping : driving ratio.
Latitude and longitude
Don’t get me flawed, there are benefits of getting apiaries 150 miles aside.
For a begin, the timing of the important thing seasonal occasions – swarming and the nectar flows – are very totally different. Though there’s solely a fraction of a level distinction in latitude (maybe equal to ~30 miles), the climatic variations are hanging.
Heat and moist on the west coast, chilly and dry on the east.
Or, extra precisely as this stuff are all relative, hotter and wetter on the west coast, colder and drier on the east 😉
This, coupled with the geography, implies that my bees in Fife are surrounded by intensively farmed land, whereas these on the west coast are within the howling wilderness.
And intensively farmed means oil seed rape (OSR). I don’t assume there’s a single season I’ve been in Fife when OSR wasn’t obtainable close by. Even when the bees fail to gather a surplus the enhance the colonies get from the bonanza of nectar and pollen is big.
Because of this the colonies are a lot larger and stronger earlier within the season. They subsequently make swarm preparations sooner and I can begin queen rearing earlier.
All of which implies that the 4-5 hours separation by automobile – lower than 3° of longitude – is manifest as 3-4 weeks of distinction within the beekeeping season.
And which means I don’t want the identical gear on each side of the nation on the identical time.
End result 🙂
I believe what these rambling feedback actually emphasise is the intensely native nature of beekeeping. The local weather, geography and forage skilled by, or obtainable to, colonies determines ‘what occurs when’.
Particular recommendation on beekeeping can solely meaningfully be utilized if these elements are taken into consideration.
That is inevitably very complicated for inexperienced persons.
If a venerable sage pronounces on the dialogue boards that ‘now could be the appropriate time’ for oxalic acid therapy, then it have to be right.
The ‘proper time’ displays the mix of the mode of motion of oxalic acid and the state of the colony. Oxalic acid is simply efficient towards phoretic mites, so the colony ought to ideally be broodless. The timing of broodlessness will rely upon a bunch of things, however will probably differ in several places.
We’ve had a comparatively gentle winter (up to now). My Fife colonies had been broodless from late October by means of till someday close to mid/late November. A couple of I checked on the seventh of December had brood, and I count on all of them did by Christmas (I’ve not checked since).
Had I not handled till the Christmas – New 12 months vacation my mite management would have been a lot much less efficient. Many mites would have escaped a drenching in oxalic acid as a consequence of being hunkered down in capped cells.
In the event you didn’t deal with in any respect, or didn’t deal with till the Christmas holidays, or didn’t deal with once you know that the colony was broodless , maintain an in depth eye on the mite ranges because the colonies develop this spring. If the winter stays gentle the mites can have ample alternative to breed to disturbingly excessive ranges.
I appear to have drifted off matter …
My Fife bees had been all reared regionally and the queens are open mated. They do nicely in Fife and probably wouldn’t do fairly as nicely on the west coast. In addition they have Varroa whereas my west coast apiary is in a Varroa-free area.
I subsequently can’t merely cut back my east coast colony numbers by shifting them.
As a substitute I’ll have to make use of a mixture of splitting some to provide nucs on the market and uniting others to make sturdy colonies for the summer time nectar move. Hopefully this could go away me with just a few very sturdy colonies which might be simpler to handle and/or hand on after I lastly go away altogether.
Like final 12 months I’ll subsequently be doing fairly a little bit of lengthy distance queen rearing. I’ll elevate the cells in Fife after which switch them, as soon as sealed, to my not too long ago accomplished moveable queen cell incubator.
This frees up the cell elevating colony for a second spherical of grafted larvae. I’ll then maintain the cells with me till the queens emerge, sustaining them with a tiny little bit of honey and water every single day. On my subsequent go to to Fife I’ll then be capable of switch them to introduction cages and place them in mating nucs.
A trial run doing this labored nicely final 12 months.
There are a number of benefits of doing issues this manner:
- The cell elevating colony may be re-used a couple of week sooner than if I’d left the queens in it – both to emerge, or till they had been prepared for introduction as mature queen cells.
- Any dud cells (i.e. people who don’t emerge) are ditched as a substitute of solely being found when checking the mating nucs every week or two later .
- I can use the queens to slot in with my very own journey timetable – which has different issues dictating it like pesky conferences – slightly than vice versa.
However, in fact, it additionally includes a bit extra work in sustaining and caging the queens. As well as, in my expertise virgin queen introduction is barely extra dangerous than including mature cells to a queenless colony.
Nonetheless, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
I’ve efficiently reared queens for a number of years.
I’m actually not an knowledgeable, however I’m skilled sufficient to count on it to work. I’m disillusioned when graft acceptance is under about 75%, or when lower than three quarters of my virgin queens fail to mate efficiently.
Multiplied collectively (0.752) you get 0.56 … or ~50-60%. I subsequently work out what number of queens I want and graft twice the variety of larvae and it often works out about proper.
So it is rather irritating when it doesn’t.
And it didn’t with my west coast queen rearing final season 🙁
Graft acceptance was low (although not catastrophic), however queen mating was very poor. I believe this was because of numerous elements, some self-inflicted and a few environmental:
- Colonies developed way more slowly which means queen rearing wanted to start out later within the season.
- I had too few colonies, and definitely too few drones, to make sure sufficient ‘Summer season lovin’ 🙂
- The climate. It may be a bit hit or miss getting enough ‘dry, calm, settled’ climate for queen mating this far north and west.
To develop my colony numbers on the west coast, and to generate surplus to assist meet the demand for Varroa-free colonies within the space, I have to ‘up my sport’ considerably.
Improved mating success
There’s nothing I can do to alter the climate although I’ve began to take an unhealthy curiosity in it.
I’ve now obtained a private climate station within the apiary which might generate graphs like that proven above (or for wind pace, daylight, rainfall and so on.). By retrospectively figuring out the native situations that occurred throughout profitable mating flights I ought to be capable of plan the timing of queen cell manufacturing a bit of higher.
For instance, if all that’s wanted is one half-decent day in an in any other case unsettled fortnight, it might make sense to provide a small variety of mature cells over an extended interval. In distinction, if profitable mating wants an extended interval of settled climate – that may solely happen as soon as a season – then it is likely to be higher to have a number of queens (and mating nucs) prepared for the time most probably to be appropriate.
And the identical concerns apply to drones.
Ardnamurchan is a really sparsely populated space … whether or not you’re counting individuals or bees. I strongly suspect that a significant factor contributing to poor mating success was the relative sparsity of drones. To assist compensate for this I’m going to spice up drone manufacturing in colonies by including a minimum of one full body of drone basis.
Common readers will know I take advantage of a number of foundationless frames. The colony preferentially attracts these as employee or drone comb to suit their wants on the time. Consequently, lots of my colonies usually have extra drone brood than a hive simply crammed with frames of bought employee basis.
Nonetheless, this 12 months I’m not even going to provide them the choice … I’ll drop a body of drone basis into the field so they only must get on with it!
Lastly, I can actually enhance my understanding of colony growth on the west coast. Do I want to supply a syrup or pollen (pollen sub) enhance early within the season to compensate for a neighborhood dearth of nectar and pollen? Are there different methods I may handle the colonies to make sure they’re sturdy sufficient on the proper time for cell elevating?
So, a part of my planning is to enhance numerous issues that contribute to profitable queen rearing. A few of these will inevitably influence honey manufacturing, however that’s one thing I’m completely happy to sacrifice (within the quick time period a minimum of).
A brand new apiary
For the primary time I’ve obtained bees within the backyard … or what masquerades as a backyard on this a part of the world. Extra precisely it’s only a patch of tough hillside with some blended woodland and a extremely boggy bit (and an unhealthy quantity of rhododendron).
For comfort I want to search out an extra apiary this 12 months. This avoids overloading an space with too many bees, and supplies an extra website for queen mating or just shifting colonies quickly throughout sure manipulations.
The same old quote is “lower than 3 toes or greater than 3 miles” on the subject of shifting bees.
Nonetheless, these guidelines aren’t absolute.
Mountains and expanses of water each considerably cut back the distances bees will fly (they like to go spherical them slightly than over them).
And now we have a number of each .
I’ve scouted out a few places already and have a pair extra to examine. My foremost apiary will stay within the backyard however I’ll have an out apiary when wanted.
Study one thing new
And precisely the identical motto may very well be utilized to beekeeping.
If you consider swarm management for instance, you possibly can use any certainly one of a minimum of a half dozen broadly used strategies, every of which has professionals and cons.
I’m a agency believer in studying to make use of one methodology very well earlier than attempting one thing new.
Study its foibles, its strengths and weaknesses. Get good at it.
Then, and solely then, attempt a distinct methodology. In the event you’re .
It’s solely by being assured and profitable with one approach you’ll be capable of choose whether or not a distinct one may really be higher.
Final 12 months I used a Morris board for the primary time. It’s like a Cloake board, however half the width. It didn’t work in addition to the queen rearing methodology I often use (a Ben Harden system). I believe I do know why and might be attempting once more this season.
I’m additionally going to attempt cell punching as a substitute for grafting. Cell punching includes chopping out a cell plug containing a larva of an acceptable age after which presenting the complete plug to a queenless cell raiser.
I see this (in the event you’ll excuse the pun, which is able to turn into apparent in a second) as a form of ‘future-proofing’.
You want good eyesight and a gradual hand for grafting. My presbyopia is turning into extra marked and I’d like to have the ability to rear queens reliably after I want glasses so thick they don’t match underneath my veil 😉
There are extra schemes being schemed (together with one thing about frames), however they’ll have to attend till one other time as I’ve already written an excessive amount of …
Coincidentally, on the day I made some notes for the final paragraph, Jeremy Burbidge at Northern Bee Books despatched out a flyer asserting Roger Patterson’s new e-book Queen Rearing Made Simple: The Punched Cell Technique. Roger is a powerful advocate of this methodology and has written about it on Dave Cushman’s web site. I’ve not learn the e-book, however I’ve watched just a few YouTube movies … what may probably go flawed?