Vita Europe Global Honeybee Health Experts

Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

Sick bees explode across the landscape

The importance of controlling varroa populations especially in areas of relatively dense bee colonies was stressed by Dr Dennis vanEngelsdorp at the BBKA Spring Convention earlier this month.

A sick colony explodes into the landscape and infiltrates surrounding apiaries, he said.

He identified the three key risk factors to bee health as varroa mites and associated viruses; pesticides in the field and in the hive; and poor nutrition.

Of these varroa is the biggest threat – and he and a research student soon expect to publish a paper showing that varroa mites feed off the fat rather than the haemolymph of honeybees – a factor that is of considerable importance for bees going into winter.

In a sample survey, he found that 56% of beekeepers had not used varroa-control products in the previous twelve months. For some hobbyists, not treating for varroa and losing, say, nine of ten colonies doesn’t matter too much. However, the impact does not stop at their own apiary.

In another study, he and his team marked bees in an apiary either yellow or blue. Yellow indicated that the colony was collapsing, blue that the colony was healthy. The collapsing colonies duly died out, but their surviving yellow-marked bees exploded like a bomb in the landscape. Those yellow bees were found in almost every apiary in a two-to-three-kilometre radius!

The implications are clear. You are treating for varroa not just to keep your own bees healthy, but also those of your neighbours in the surrounding landscape.

Spot the queenless colony

Spot the queenless colony.

Saturday’s fine weather gave the opportunity to open up my colonies for the first time this season.

All but one of the nine colonies came though winter well (and two are about to be given away).

Can you tell which colony was queenless? It’s the one on the left. On inspection its bees were behaving quite normally. They were strong in numbers, bringing in pollen, calm on the comb, but there wasn’t any sign of eggs, larvae or sealed brood – not even a drone-laying worker. Most odd! I suspect the queen finally ran out of steam just one month ago.

On closing up the hive, they weren’t quite as interested in what had just happened as the bees of the queen-right colonies.

And here below is a lonely boy. The only drone I spotted all day:


Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

It was going to happen one day

It did seem a little like this. Photo by J.D. Griggs edit by User:Mbz1 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I knew it was going to happen one day – and that day came last night after more than twenty years.

I knew I’d have a honey spill carrying buckets between the warming cabinet and bottling in the kitchen. But at least I had the foresight to move the honey-warming cabinet downstairs. And at least I took care to make sure the lids were on each plastic bucket before moving it. I even knew to take care using these new-fangled all-plastic buckets (my older and better ones are sturdier and have metal handles).

But it happened anyway – the plastic handle broke and on hitting the ground the lid broke – more than 7 kg of warm liquid honey surged over the kitchen floor. At fifteen minutes to midnight, the silent assassin had struck. It was all so quietly done. Well, apart from my single-syllable, anglo-saxon outbursts.

The good news is that I had reached the kitchen having successfully carried the honey over the hall carpet. There was more quite unexpected good news: the kitchen floor is very slightly concave. And the honey was quite viscous. But there the good news ended for the next hour.

I discovered new things: honey is not just sticky, it’s slippy, very slippy! Taking off my socks to wade through the warm goo, I almost ended up where I least wanted.

Rushing to get towels to soak up the slowly spreading lava flow, I had to try to clean my feet – and of course the flow was strategically placed between me and the sink.

I have no photos of my joy. Even in the age of the selfie, I had another priority.

Thank goodness for the slightly concave floor. This morning, apart from unexpected stickiness in unusual places and a faintly sinister gleam off the floor, I think all is well and there is no need to let bees loose to clean up the mess.

I knew it would happen.

Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

Turlough’s confession time

The observation hive queen today

I’ve been keeping very quiet about this, but now I can speak (writes Vita’s Guest Blogger).

Last autumn, I ran out of time to unite the observation hive colony with an apiary colony. To make matters worse, the colony had hardly any food – not a single sealed cell of honey. I was due to be away over for three weeks over Christmas, so the heating would be turned off. They were doomed!

Feeling guilty, I gave them some sugar syrup in the autumn. The queen had gone off lay in November. I went away for Christmas and on my return expected a sadly deceased colony. But, to my amazement, they had survived. I could see the queen but no brood. I gave them a little more sugar syrup. Foraging days were virtually non-existent.

By mid-February, the colony was very slowly declining in size but still alive. There was no brood, though.

Then at the beginning of March, I noticed some larvae. The queen had been off-lay for about four months, so I though perhaps she could or would never lay again.

Today and yesterday, they have been foraging eagerly. Pollen has been pouring in at a startling rate for such a small colony It looks like they will survive. What a resilient species!

Vita’s Guest (and contrite) Beekeeper Blogger


Buzzing at Bee Tradex

The first major UK bee expo of the year was humming with more than 1800 visitors and 43 traders.

Top topics at the Vita stand at Bee Tradex 2017 were the Bee Gym and the Asian hornet trap. Although Vita doesn’t sell at the show, its distributors were there and we understand the Gym was selling especially well.

Also very popular were the new Healthy Bees Flip Cards. These information-packed cards detailing bee diseases and how to combat them were given away free to visitors. Some association representatives were keen to take away several for their beginners’ classes.

The next Vita stand will appear on 7-8 April 2017 at the BBKA Spring Convention in Telford. Come along and get one of the flipcards for yourself (or a few for your association).





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