The Apiary in December

As we get through December it has been reasonable weather for the bees, cold and wet but with a few warm days to allow cleansing flights and a clear out of debris in the hive.
This of course includes those bees that have perished from old age or disease, some more than others.

‘Bring out your Dead‘ – Weak Hive
‘Bring out your Dead’ – Strong Hive
Clear warm day – Time for a Cleansing Flight


But still the worker wasps persist and in the fourth week of the month I still have a few looking to gain entry into hives. That is on those days flights are permitted due to higher than normal temperatures, yet again, for this time of year.

This is the month to treat again for Varroa if you can see substantial mite drops on your slides under the floor in amongst all the other ‘flotsam and jetsam’. We do it at this time of year as the Queens will have normally stopped laying as the firsts frosts and cold weather arrive in late November early December.
This means the Varroa have nowhere to hide or breed and wander around feeding off the fat of your winter bees and spreading the DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) and other things the scientists have yet to find.


So you can either dribble your chosen ‘Varroa destroying product’ or ‘Gas’ them (Vaporising) again, using your chosen product.

I choose to build a number of false floors which I could lift the colonies onto and then treat using an authorised treatment which are Oxalic crystals (with a few additives) you heat using a 12 volt car battery to turn them into fumes (Vaporisation) which kills the Varroa mites riding around and feeding off the bees.
The original floor gets a going over with my blow torch getting rid of those wax moth pupae which over winter just under the mesh floor where the bees cannot find and destroy them.

It does help to have a Beekeeping Buddy to help lift hives on and off my false floors!

False Floor showing use of Vapouriser.
Trap Door to keep in Fumes
The full kit ready to use.
‘Room with a view’ to see bees reaction to gas


I’m aware a number of our membership are not treating for Varroa hoping the colonies will develop ‘self cleaning’ methods behaviour to uncap sealed brood cells and remove deformed pupae resulting in killing the developing Varroa.
All our wild feral colonies hopefully will develop this behaviour or the parasite will eventually overwhelm them over a couple of seasons😔

I only treat those colonies that have a substantial mite drop having checked my floor slides – normally my strongest hives that gave me my best honey crops.
The Nucs I bred early this year will have had a break in their brood rearing so preventing the Varroa from breeding, hence low numbers in the hive.

The results after treatment are clearly shown in the following pictures taken of the debris and dead Varroa on floor slides two days after treatment. Please remember some of these colonies were treated with Apiguard in August, once I had taken off my summer crop of honey.

Varroa slide after treatment
– Slight Infestation
– Getting Worse
Bad Infestation – see size of varroa next to very dead bee.
Zoom in and count the number of dead mites

If you zoom in on the pictures you can see how big these ‘breeding mites’ are compared to the dead bees on the floor. Imagine a couple of them feeding off your bees’ winter fat.

Onto other issues, as it is still so mild Queen Bumbles are still flying and flowers still in bloom.

Wild Cranesbill still in flower
Yarrow still in bloom

When checking the Apiary I found about 10% were easy to lift, meaning they had already used up a large chunk of their winter supplies. All I can do at this time of year is put a lump of Bakers Fondant wrapped in a plastic bag, to keep it moist, sticky open side down, onto the Queen excluder right on top of the cluster. If hungry they will soon take it down and store in the cells around where they are clustering.

That therefore brings us to the end of a difficult year all round and we can hopefully look forward to a better 2021 as the days start to lengthen and depending on the weather, the first Pollen on trees and plants appear.

Christmas Spirit at Compton Verney – Trees tied with large red Bows.