The Apiary in January

As we start a new year and decade, the best advice for the Apiary is to leave well alone.

If you have hefted the hive and think they are a little light, just check where the cluster is in the Broodchamber by examining the Varroa slide, the crumbs of wax on the slide will show you, add a lump of Fondant in a plastic bag or cling film on top of the cluster wet side down or a small cut in the plastic which allows them access.

In all this wet and expected frosts by the end of the month the Bee will be ‘confined to quarters’ and the number of live bees in the hive will drop to the season/year’s lowest level until Queens start breeding replacements, depending on the weather and lengthening daylight hours.

Those of you with colonies close to home will see the bees venture out on warm dry days, when and if they occur this month, for a cleansing flight so don’t put any ‘light coloured washing out’ otherwise you will find little brown blobs all over it and will have to start the washing process all over again!

Frost brings out those hungry Green Woodpeckers so ensure protection is around each hive and the mouse guards have not shifted so they still prevent the little varmints gaining entry .

I found a hive this month with an Apiguard floor which the front entrance had not been reduced in size and mice had got in.

The following is the smelly mess left on top of the ‘pull-out drawer’ so what it looks like in the Brood combs is anybody’s guess.

Pull-out Drawer showing Mouse Damage

So what do we bored Beekeepers find to do at this time of year with little activity in the Apiary – Prepare and plan for the season ahead!

The following shows the renovation of on old Brass smoker acquired years ago in an Apiary sale/ clear out which was well past its’ prime. I purchased a ‘scrap’ of leather off the Internet and away I went.

Vintage Smoker asking for Renovation
Dismantled
Leather for new Bellows
New Bellows
As good as new!

Only thing I have to do is sort out a ‘cork shaped bung’ for the nozzle attached with a length of hardy wire and it will be good for a few more seasons.

Didn’t it polish up well?

In this daft winter weather there arelots of plants are in flower but not much good to the Bees or other insects for that matter, as it is too cold or wet for them to be flying to collect that desperately needed early Pollen.

But it is always worth looking at these early spring flowers when planning what additions you intend to make to your garden to assist the bees next spring. Hellebores are a ‘must have’.

Primrose
Chaenomeles
Early Snowdrops

As promised from my previous ramblings I decided, now that the first hard frosts of 2020 had arrived, to try and transfer my ‘Wild Feral’ colony into a decent Brood chamber as the one they had built up their wild comb in, should have been retired a few seasons ago.

The following sequence of pictures tell the sorry tale and is not recommended for future reference as even in -2degrees they came out to defend their home and defaecated all over me!

Rotten Brood Box with aggressive colony
Feral Colony – showing Brood Box cut away
Feral Colony with Brood Box cut away
and again ….
Close-up of Feral Colony Brood Box Contents
All done – Replacement Brood Box in position.

I used a Spear and Jackson hand saw to cut all the comb attached to the inside walls of the Brood chamber and Super, lifted them off, took the pictures and then covered them back up again If they survive my manipulations, which some may call blundering or worse, I intend to put fresh drawn comb above this muddle of wild comb and tempt the 2019 Queen to lay above.

The trick will be to then trap her in the new Broodchamber by putting a Queen excluder underneath. But can I say her Grandmother and Mother both managed to avoid this trap!

Next month is preparations for the inevitable Equipment suppliers ‘Bargain’ sales – bees never mind ‘seconds’ be they hives or frames.

We are fortunate to have Beetradex at Stoneleigh, hopefully it will not snow this year, where orders can be collected and bargains found as the many suppliers try to outbid each other.

A good place to try on that new veil you have been intending to buy, but please not pink or orange – hurts my eyes?