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Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

A swarm in May …

In southern Britain, swarming time is here! Here’s a ten second video of one leaving. It’s as if there is an air blower in the hive flushing out the bees. Even the You Tube rendering can’t quite keep up!

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

Busy bees

Here’s a one-minute glimpse of the industry of a nucleus (half-size) colony of honeybees in a village in early May in southern England.

I started to count the number of returning foragers, but quickly gave up as that was hard work!

If you view this in full screen, watch for the tiny mites (probably pollen mites) scurrying back and forth along the grain on the top of the entrance door.

 

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

 

News of the shrews

shrew

Pygmy shrew – a menace to overwintering colonies in the Martimes, Canada.

Which bee predator has a heartbeat of 800 per minute, consumes more than its own body weight daily and scoops out bees for lunch?

The pigmy shrew, Sorex minutus, is an underestimated, but common threat for over-wintering honeybee colonies in eastern Canada, we are told by Fletcher Colpitts, Chief Apiary Inspector in New Brunswick, Canada.

Weighing just 3 gms and averaging 40mm in length (even with its tail), the shrews feed on insects, arachnids, woodlice, and in cold climates like Canada their diet turns to honey bees during winter.

To feed on bees in winter, they grab a cold sluggish bee from the edge of the cluster and take it to a feeding place either in the back of the hive away from the cluster or in the wrapping material and start munching.

First, they remove the head or enter through the top of the bee by making a large hole in its thorax. They then hollow out the bee leaving what looks like a pile of dirt — actually the wings, legs and a bit of the abdomen.

With such a large appetite for such a small body, the shrews may consume almost 0.5 kg of bees in 120 days of the eastern Canadian winter. As a result lots of colonies are dead by spring through shrew predation.

Fortunately, beekeepers have found that a narrow entrance just 0.25 inches in diameter widening to 0.5 inches in spring, to ensure that any spring pollen is not brushed off, will keep out the menace

 

Hornet media frenzy!

Asian Hornet Head

The Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) is devastating honeybee colonies across Europe

Oh dear, it looks like the UK newspaper headline writers are getting the Asian hornet threat out of proportion! Rest assured it’s really a threat to honeybee colonies rather than humans. But the headlines tell another story:

Giant Asian Hornet heading for Kent after ‘causing deaths’ of six people in France

Is this the first sighting of a killer Asian Hornet in Plymouth? (the answer incidentally was no)

then some semblance of sense prevailed:

DON’T PANIC! Call for calm over Devon “Asian hornet” sighting

Twitter of course has gone way over the top confusing all sorts of hornets as the Asian hornet. As one Twitter user joked: “Okay, confirmed sighting of an Asian Hornet in Plymouth. I’m not going outside anymore. =)”.

Nonetheless, the Asian hornet may arrive soon in the UK and be a threat to honeybee colonies. Max Watkins of Vita explains the threat here and Vita’s hornet trap here.

Meantime, in conversation with a beekeeper in Greece this morning, I was told: “Ordinary hornets are bad enough here and it is common to lose 50% or more of the stocks. One reason for this is that the colonies become less strong in summer as it is hot, little forage and queen laying is low. The weakened colonies become more susceptible to hornet and was attack.”

Get bee-doodling for World Doodle Day

WDDFriday 25 April 2014 is World Doodle Day and the organisers have decided to link it to a good cause — honeybees. Vita will also give a prize for the best doodle relating to bees.

World Doodle Day marks the launch of the Doodle Mile — anyone can create a segment of the ‘Doodle Mile’. Contact the organisers for details.

World Doodle day is centred in the county of Hampshire where Vita’s HQ is located, so we will post some of the fascinating doodles.

Vita will give a prize to the best bee-related doodle, so get bee-doodling

And here is a peek at some very impressive doodles.

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