It’s a drone’s life

What has a mother but no father, but has both a grandmother and grandfather? If you’ve not seen this question before you’ve not attended a ‘mead and mince pies’ Christmas quiz at a beekeeping association.  The answer of course is a drone. The male honey bee. Drones are produced from unfertilised eggs laid by the […]

A no competition, competition

Unless you’re in an unseasonably warm part of the country, mid-April is usually early enough to put out your bait hives. This year, because of the unusually cold snap in the last week or so, it might still be a bit early. However, colonies are developing well and as soon as the weather properly warms […]

Quick thinking & second thoughts

I gave my last talk of the winter season on Tuesday to a lovely group at Chalfont Beekeepers Society. The talk was all about nest site selection and how we can exploit it when setting out bait hives to capture swarms. It’s an enjoyable talk as it includes a mix of science, DIY and practical […]

Queens and amitraz residues in wax

A question following a recent evening talk to a beekeeping association prompted me to look back at the literature on amitraz and wax residues. The question was about reuse of honey supers that were present on a colony during miticide treatment. With the exception of MAQS, there are no approved miticides that should be used […]

If it quacks like a duck …

… it might be a trapped virgin queen. I discussed the audio monitoring of colonies and swarm prediction last week. Whilst interesting, I remain unconvinced that it is going to be a useful way to predict swarming.  And, more importantly, that replacing the manual aspects of hive inspections is desirable. I’m sure it will appeal […]

The memory of swarms

I’m writing this waiting for the drizzle to clear so I can go to the apiary and make up some nucs for swarm control. Without implementing some form of swarm control it’s inevitable that my large colonies will swarm . Swarming is an inherently risky process for a colony. Over 75% of natural swarms perish, […]

Swarm prevention

Swarm prevention is an important component of early season colony management. There are a number of drivers of swarming – ageing queens, overcrowding, the age-old urge to reproduce – some of which can be effectively ‘managed’ by the beekeeper, so delaying (or even preventing) the need for swarm control. It might even prevent you from having to climb a wobbly ladder to recover a swarm from the top of your neighbour’s apple tree. Time spent on swarm prevention is time well spent.

Darwinian beekeeping

Darwinian beekeeping (beecentric, beefriendly or natural beekeeping) sounds appealing. The very name suggests that those of us that treat for mites or actively manage colonies are ‘unnatural’. However, although the underlying science is sound, the activities involved in Darwinian beekeeping are at times the very opposite of ‘beefriendly’. As beekeepers we have a responsibility to our livestock and to other beekeepers we share the environment with. Many ‘beefriendly’ activities outlined in Thomas Seeley’s proposals for Darwinian beekeeping are likely to be to the detriment of bees, beekeepers and beekeeping.

The Lives of Bees

The Lives of Bees reviews our current understanding of how honey bees live in the wild i.e. when not managed or manipulated by beekeepers. Thomas Seeley provides a comprehensive account of honey bee survival before and after the arrival of the Varroa mite. Can our understanding of the activity and choices made by wild-living honey bees beneficially influence our beekeeping?