Over winter is the time when we leave the bees alone as much as possible. We stay indoors, reading, cleaning and repairing kit, making hive produce and dreaming of the day when we can open the hive and check our precious bees made it through winter.
Traditionally there is a period where the queen stops laying eggs, and the bees cluster together to keep warm, but more and more people, including ourselves at the club apiary, are finding that the queens keep laying all winter.
We know this is happening by certain signs. If you see darker biscuit coloured wax debris under the hive it means it has come from brood (baby bees) hatching out from their cells. White wax capping are from honey.
The other notable thing is tiny flakes which look like cellophane or clear plastic. This is new wax, accidentally dropped by bees (yes they can be very clumsy). When a young bee hatches it develops wax producing glands on it’s belly at about 6 days old, and by the time the bee is about 21 days old, the glands have shrivelled up. So, if we see these flakes we know we have young bees.
Why is this important ?
One of the main pests of honeybees is the varroa mite. It’s like a little red crab, and it latches onto bees, feeding on their fat and internal organs. It acts as a vector for diseases, like K wing, and J wing, plus lots of other nasties. If you’ve got deformed wings as a bee you can’t fly and find food !
The varroa mite lays it’s eggs inside the brood cell of a honeybee just before the larvae are sealed they can pupate into fully formed bees. The mites hatch and latch onto the baby bee.
If there is a “broodless” period, then the mites have nowhere to lay their eggs. Any remaining mites live on the bees themselves.Many beekeepers use a treatment which damages the mouth parts of the mites, but is not harmful to the bees (though some researchers are now contesting this). It makes the mites fall off the bees and die. If we can catch a lot of them in a bloodless period our colonies will be healthier and stronger in Spring.
We vaporise, or sublimate, oxalic acid to treat our club bees in winter for varroa.
We will be demonstrating how to do IPM (Integrated Pest Management) during our apiary sessions. These are non chemical controls, and are tried and tested techniques.
Join us in the apiary to lear more !