© 2014 East Devon Beekeepers
A Branch of the Devon
UK Registered Charity No. 270675
Queen marking colour for 2017 - YELLOW
Just a reminder to those obtaining Api-Bioxal oxalic acid solution from me, the method of application is outlined below. Please note that solution made with Api-Bioxal may have a faint brown tinge compared to previous solutions. This is nothing to worry about.
Many people have been caught out, thinking that they have very little Varroa. Inserting a Varroa tray and doing a mite drop count every couple of days for a week after treatment is instructive, and gives you a good idea of how many mites are waiting to get into the brood cells when the queen restarts laying in January/February.
Oxalic solution damages the Varroa mouthparts, so they cannot suck your bees haemolymph and over the next few days fall off.
Treatment with oxalic solution does not affect the honey made in the Spring. In fact oxalic acid is found naturally in honey in small quantities.
Oxalic acid only affects the Varroa on the bees. Normally 85% of the Varroa are inside the sealed brood and are safe. Treatment around Christmas / beginning of January aims to catch the Varroa when there is no brood to hide in.
The solution should not be too cold, nearer blood heat would be good. The day can be frosty with the bees well clustered.
Ideally draw up 50ml solution in a syringe.
Have a lit smoker handy (but should not be needed if crown board removed very carefully).
Between the brood frames are 'seams' of bees. Use 5ml for each seam of bees. Only treat the bees, do not put the solution down empty seams/gaps. So if there are only 4 seams of bees only use 20 ml.
Practice with water beforehand so that you know how to deliver 5 ml along each seam. I find that 5 ml is a continuous series of little drops.
If you have a super on top of the brood box and you know the cluster is below it, you can remove the super gently to treat the bees.
Best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Productive New Beekeeping Year! Peter
Elaine is the beekeeper and Derek is the mathematician. Between them they have completed research concerning hive temperature and humidity and the impact on the colony and have submitted their paper for publication.
Much of the original work on hive ventilation was done more than 50 years ago when none of the modern hive materials such as polystyrene were available. Thin walled wooden hives were cold, leading to condensation, so ventilation was essential to avoid mould growth. Putting match sticks under the crown board was standard winter preparation in those days.
Studying the thermal properties and ventilation of the bees nest in hollow trees lead Derek to conclude that we, as beekeepers, could do a lot better. They tested 8 hive types, 12 hives in total, against a natural tree cavity. The temperature rise for a standard 20 watt input was recorded for each hive.
Bearing in mind that the tree cavity could be surrounded by 6” of solid wood with only a small hole for ventilation it is not surprising this came top of the list. Interestingly a skep covered with cow dung gave a result similar to modern day polystyrene hives, probably because the cluster fits the shape well with no dead space to waste heat.
At the bottom of the performance list were wooden National hives. The message is that a well insulated cavity allows the colony to heat and ventilate their home the way they want to with minimal use of stores.
Leading on from these ideas there are some important points for beekeepers to recognise.
A well insulated hive mimicking a tree nest will enable the colony to achieve a higher temperature more easily AND maintain the higher temperature. Lower ventilation
Photo courtesy of Derek Mitchell
will result in higher humidity. Overall the winter stores will be consumed more slowly promoting colony survival.
The sweet spot for temperature and humidity in a bees’ nest is 35-36°C / 90%RH. These conditions have been shown to enhance egg survival, reduce varroa mite viability, suppress nosema and chalk brood, avoid damp and mouldy conditions plus reduce mortality due to chilled brood.
Elaine described her beekeeping with well insulated National-style hives. She no longer finds it necessary to treat her colonies for varroa. Checks for mites show low numbers that do not seem to cause any problems.
These low numbers may partly be due to the high temperature/humidity conditions allowing the bees to remain unclustered for much of the winter which in turn enhances grooming and varroa control. It was also mentioned that under these conditions brood rearing may be delayed until later thereby increasing the brood break, leading to further reduction in varroa breeding.
Counter intuitively, high insulation could be more important in summer than in winter as bees need far more energy for foraging and nectar ripening than they do for winter survival. To ripen nectar and turn it into honey stores large quantities of moisture have to be removed before the honey can be capped.
This moisture can be removed more efficiently at higher air temperatures. Thus energy saved by insulation can be more usefully employed in honey making.
Bees in modern polystyrene hives have been shown to produce more honey than bees in equivalent thin-walled wooden hives and many bee farmers in the UK and on the Continent use them.
Improving insulation further, Elaine showed examples of her hives made with modern house insulation sheet material. The only ventilation was the front entrance and there was no varroa mesh floor. The insides of these hives were kept in almost immaculate condition over winter due to the bees being able to move around in the high temperature conditions.
Peter went on a Wildlife tour to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda. We were treated to some of the stunning pictures he took, including close-ups of the gorillas, leopards and impala.
While on tour he became aware of the Hives Save Lives-Africa organisation which is the brainchild of Richard Unwin, an international businessman who was interested in finding ways of combating rural poverty in Africa.
Richard was searching for a form of aid that would be delivered directly to those most in need without engendering further aid dependency.
Apiculture or beekeeping was the solution.
Beekeeping has a long tradition in Africa, but not as a commercial activity because of lack of resources and training.
In many African countries ‘honey hunting’ rather than bee farming is the norm, whereby natural colonies or traditional log hives are often destroyed to collect the honey, with little consideration given to sustainable management or the potential for income generation.
By introducing better equipment and training, beekeeping can provide a viable income for people who, in many areas, are living on less than 60p a day.
Peter joined the Charity and is now the current Chairman.
HSLA’s work in Uganda
Hives Save Lives Africa create opportunities for self-sufficiency and income generation through beekeeping – helping people to help themselves.
The Charity is currently working in Uganda, where they manufacture the hives that have been specifically designed for local conditions. Protective clothing and equipment, such as smokers, are also made in Uganda, providing more employment.
The aim is to provide a package of hives, training and equipment to projects, followed by ongoing support, from colonising the hives to assisting with the marketing of the honey and other hive products.
Providing practical support as above, delivered directly to those who need it most, ensures the involvement of the beneficiaries. Once the project is profitable the local beekeeping network decide how surplus income should be used.
For more information click or tap the logo.
Are they successful?
Judging by the projects that have been completed so far the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.
One group had sufficient surplus income to build their own school house in the village, thereby avoiding the need to walk 15km each day to their previous school.
Additional income from the sale of honey and hive products also enables some of the poorest in the community to send their children to school.
The hives used in Uganda are a mixture of a modified Langstroth design and top bar hives similar to the Kenya top bar design. All use local materials and are manufactured by local enterprises.
Two major sub species - Apis mellifera scutellata and Apis mellifera monticola - are found in Uganda. They have a reputation for being tetchy! Obtaining bees does not appear to be a problem. Just put an empty hive out and sooner or later a swarm will move in!
By introducing movable frame hives and centrifugal extractors the quality of honey products has improved to the point where export to places such as Europe has become a possibility. Improved quality brings with it improved income.
Wax is also a valuable hive product with many end uses. We also heard that bee venom commands a good price and being easy to collect, it gives the Ugandan beekeeper another source of income derived from the bees.
Natalie is Senior Lecturer in Neuroethology at Exeter University working in the Psychology Department.She is also a beekeeper. She studies how bees learn colours, patterns and odours of flower displays, how they use sensory information to locate and choose individual flowers and flower patches, and the bees’ learning methods on initial flights.
The Psychology Department carry out behavioural research using insects, commonly fruit flies, honeybees or cockroaches.
The honeybee brain is approximately 1mm3 in volume and consists of 106 neurons, so is minute when compared to the human brain. Nevertheless, the honeybee was the first non-human animal for which colour vision was convincingly illustrated.
Lubbock, in 1882, reported that foraging honeybees repeatedly visited coloured cards when rewarded with drops of honey. Trained bees, and the bees they recruited, quickly learnt to distinguish a rewarded colour from several alternatives.
The experiments of Karl von Frisch in 1914 were the most significant, proving beyond doubt the existence of colour vision in honeybees. He first of all trained bees to a coloured card by rewarding them with sucrose (sugar) solution.
In subsequent unrewarded tests with the trained bees the coloured card was presented together with grey cards of different intensities. He reasoned that if an animal relied on the intensity of a stimulus one of the grey cards would match subjective intensity of a coloured stimulus and the animal would not be able to discriminate a particular shade of grey from the colour card.
These experiments were repeated and extended by other workers to reveal that the honeybee has three-colour vision like humans except that the visual range is shifted towards the shorter wavelengths. Essentially, this means that bees can see beyond blue into the ultra violet part of the spectrum but have difficulty differentiating colour at the red end of the spectrum.
The three types of photoreceptor in the compound eye of the bee have peak performance in the UV, blue and green parts of the spectrum. What does all this mean in terms of flower recognition?
To make efficient foraging decisions bees use colour vision in conjunction with smell/taste, and the information imparted by scout bees during the recruiting ‘dance’ on the comb, to fly from the hive and locate the source of the nectar or pollen. Vision can only start to influence foraging when the bees arrive near the flowers and the diagram shows how human perception differs from that of bees.
Image courtesy of Natalie d’Ibarra, Exeter University
The flowers shown are (top to bottom), Aquilegia, Medlar, Flax, Vella spinosa, Nonea lutea and Dandelion. The figure shows (left to right), human colours, computer derived ‘bee colour’ images and the flower displays projected onto the bee’s eye lattice.
Bees tend to detect flowers much better if they have concentric patterns which exhibit a high-contrast outer ring. This makes them visible from further away and is one way in which small flowers have evolved to compete for pollinators against larger sized flowers.