Weed and feed

Weed and feed is a generic term that describes the treatment of lawns to simultaneously eradicate certain weeds and strengthen the turf. It seemed an appropriate title for a post on eradicating mites from colonies and feeding the bees up in preparation for the winter ahead. Arguably these are the two most important activities of […]

Bees in the time of corona

We are living in interesting times. The coronavirus pandemic has, in the space of a week, dramatically changed the structure and interactions of society. What impact will the coronavirus pandemic have on beekeeping? It depends upon your experience and preparation. Social distancing will impact mentoring, sales and – if extended to lockdowns – access to your colonies. If you are just beginning you will probably have to do without a mentor. You may struggle to source colonies for sale if imports are restricted for any reason. However, there are likely to be more swarms and deploying bait hives might stop the bees bothering other people. Although there are lots of certainties in the beekeeping season – mites, swarms, honey – this year looks like being very uncertain and very unusual.

Vaccinating bees

Recent studies show that it is possible to engineer harmless bacteria that live in the gut of honey bees to induce an immune response against deformed wing virus or Varroa. Whilst the initial studies look promising the work is a very long way from providing an effective and safe vaccine for honey bees. In this post I introduce the science behind the study, the results that have been published and I briefly discuss a host of unanswered questions that the study raises.

“Start beekeeping” courses

What do you need to know to start beekeeping? What should be taught on a winter course? What are the essentials? What is superfluous? Should it be taught by those with years of experience (who have forgotten more than many will ever know)? Or perhaps by relatively new beekeepers who have recent experience of the obvious mistakes and how to solve them? Of course, there’s no single answer to these questions, but with many currently taking these courses on dark winter nights it’s worth thinking about.

More local bee goodness?

A recent study (Burnham et al., 2019) shows colonies headed by local queens out-performing – in terms of pathogen levels and colony build up – queens introduced from the other side of the continent. Is this evidence that local bees are inherently better? Are there other interpretations that might apply?

Midwinter, no; mites, yes

The earlier you reduce mite levels in late summer the more mites will be present in the colony during the broodless period in midwinter. This means it is important to treat in the winter. And if you are going to treat, it is important to treat when the colony is broodless. Which is often earlier in the winter than many beekeepers realise.

Income and outgoings

I discussed beekeeping economics a couple of weeks ago. I used some potentially questionable survey data on hive numbers, winter losses, honey yields and pricing, together with ‘off the shelf’ costs for frames, sugar and miticides. Even ignoring the costs of travel and depreciation on equipment the ‘profit’ was not substantial. Actually, it was just […]