About the Apiary - May 1997

May 97

Well, for most, the seasonal work is all done and now its just a matter of getting rid of your surplus honey.

However, in the hives the last of the brood is being reared and the bees are dragging down honey from the top and outside frames and packing it around the brood nest ready to go into a cluster. The poor old drones are being chased out of the hives - no longer needed now that inter is just abut here.

With the imminent arrival of frosty weather, check for condensation building up in your hives. All that’s necessary to clear this is a match stick under the crown board or under the lid. Keep the entrances small as wasp numbers are now peaking and mice are looking for nice dry winter quarters.

If you find evidence of where a rat has been trying to gnaw its way into a hive then take immediate action. They are very destructive and once inside the hive, make a real mess of the frames. (They eat straight through them, wood and all, then bring in their nesting material. The bees don’t seem to attack them and then die of starvation). Best if you put bait pellets in a pipe under the hive (the pipe stops birds and hedgehogs getting at the bait). They’ll take it away and die after a while with a bit of luck.

Now is an ideal time to replace those old black vicious queens with light coloured gentle ones (if you can still get queens). Most queen breeders are on their last cycle and these queens are usually left in the nucs to overwinter. Black bees seem loathe to accept a new queen, but once the brood rearing has finished, they have no option about accepting a new one as they cannot produce one themselves without new brood.

When you put in a new queen after killing the old one, (they can be very hard to find at this time of the year), feed the hive with a litre of sugar syrup. This provides the ideal environment for accepting a new queen - a flow in progress!

If production has varied between your apiaries or hives, now is the time to consider changes. Those in full sun and shelter have probably produced twice as much as others in less favourable conditions. Do a little sorting out before spring in an effort to get better production from your hives.

For those hives that didn’t perform well last season - analyse why!

  • They might have swarmed,
  • The queen failed at the wrong time,
  • Too much sac and/or chalk brood.

All these problems can be fixed with a new queen. Order your requirements now if you want early spring queens!

If the hive didn’t produce and you can’t figure out why, look at the conditions of the hive. Damp situation, shortage of food, draughty conditions can all cause stress in a hive which leads to increase of Nosema Apis (the old spring dwindling problem). This disease is an infection of a tiny animal whose spores can eat out the gut lining of the bee, preventing it from getting any nutrition. It can’t produce royal jelly and shortens its life by half. If you think this was your problem, take a sample of thirty bees off the landing board and have them analysed by the MAF Lab. If this shows high levels of nosema, there are a number of things to do:

  • Replace some of those old dark brood frames in the brood nest,
  • Move the hive to a better situation,
  • Feed the bees if they get short of food,

and if you have plenty of money, purchase a small bottle of Fumagil B (cost approx $45 to treat 10 hives - available from Airborne Honey, PO Box 28 Leeston), and feed this in sugar syrup to your hive. One feed now and another in spring will help control Nosema.

Frank Lindsay