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Vita Bee Health Global Honeybee Health Experts

Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

School bees rescued

The swarm that turned out to be a settled colony

On a dark wet Friday afternoon after school, the cherry-picker arrived so that we could at last rescue the so-called swarm from the birch tree in the schoolyard. (Apologies — the camera failed atop of the cherry-picker platform!)

The swarm did in fact turn out to be an established colony that probably arrived in early summer but had gone unnoticed until just recently. For the first time, the four vertical combs suspended from the branch could be seen as the bees were contracting to keep warm. They had obviously been foraging well as the colony smelt strongly of the ivy nectar it had been gathering.

A local beekeeper had come prepared with an empty hive, and hoisted by a cherry-picker, we cut the comb from the branch and tied it into frames for their new home. The new owner will feed and treat for varroa immediately (there don’t seem to be resistant varroa in these parts, so Apistan should provide quick immediate knock-down and can then stay in for six weeks).

Only time will tell if the colony is big enough to can survive disturbance so late in the year. Whether it is wise  to rescue bees with genes so optimistic that they are confident enough to set up home in the open air in advance of a British winter is a moot point!

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger




Borage attack

Honeybee foraging borage.

The Vita Photo Competition 2013 closing date is looming — 20 October — and photos are still coming in.

Here’s a very science fiction type shot of a honeybee working borage from Sally Nelson. She took this with her “basic digital camera using the macro setting” and is rightly very proud of it.

A nasty end-of-season surprise from Varroa

Varroa mortuary -- dead varroa mites interspersed with various hive debris. (Click the image once for a closer look.)

After all the talk about this being a bad year for varroa in northern Europe, I received quite a shock last weekend when I inspected the varroa screens after the two-tray (four week) treatment regime of Apiguard.

As is common with Apiguard treatments, the first tray treatment produced only a small varroa drop. However, as the Apiguard took effect and as the emerging brood exposed more mites to the treatment,  it must have been raining varroa!

I would guesstimate that the total mite drop was about 1000 — which is just at the danger threshold guideline set by FERA in the UK (in Europe and parts of the USA, the thresholds used is sometimes 3-4,000). I use one varroa monitoring screen in each of my apiaries and each apiary, 4 kms apart, showed similar results.

From this I take two lessons:

  • Apiguard is working
  • never be complacent about varroa mite levels — just because there is little evidence of their presence in a colony, they can be there in force ready to wreak havoc when circumstances conspire.

Varroa tray -- the full results

If those colonies had not been effectively treated this year, I dread to think what would have happened during the course of next year when the varroa levels would have started at a very high level. As it is, some varroa mites will always escape any treatment and live to breed in the next season. In my colonies I would expect that the starting number next year will be low.

(Incidentally, the knock-down from treatment with Apistan tends to show up much earlier,  and large mite falls can be expected even in the first 24 hours — treatment should however be continued for the six-week period to make sure that the mites breeding in brood cells are killed.)

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger


The view from Apimondia 2013

I’ve put a Facebook photo album up of some of the sights that have caught our eyes at Apimondia this year. The link below should be accessible even if you don’t have a Facebook account.


Below are a few tasters.




Sebastian Owen, Commercial Development Manager
Follow me on Twitter: @SDWOwen 

Fun and Friends, Queues and Chaos at Apimondia 2013

Since Beijing 1993, even before Vita was founded, the biennial beat of Apimondia has provided the rhythm to our business lives. From Melbourne to Montpellier and Durban to Dublin, Vita has long been a huge supporter of Apimondia, and frequent Gold Sponsor.

Jeremy Owen, of Vita, being interviewed for Ukrainian TV

Jeremy Owen, of Vita, being interviewed for Ukrainian TV

Kyiv 2013, is no different and we began building up to this event almost on the flight home from Buenos Aires two years ago. We’re a Gold Sponsor again this year and there are about 15 of us manning the stand, from all over the world.

I should say, there are now 15 of us manning the stand. On day one, only three of us were able to get through the doors to set everything up. I was one of the lucky few – arriving early enough and with a staff pass that allowed me to get in blissfully unaware of the mayhem going on outside.

Sadly, most were not so fortunate. Stories abound and the one thing we can say about Apimondia this year is that it’s given everyone something to talk about. Sadly, delegates aren’t swapping beekeeping tips and stories, they’re comparing notes on time spent queuing and fights witnessed. I think the worst I’ve heard is seven hours in the queue, unprotected from the bitter rainstorms.

It’s rare to hear of anyone who managed to register after less than three and a half hours in a queue that has been described to me as a rugby scrum or the bottom of an American football pileup. Veterans are amazed that the flimsy registration desks held up to the shoving and I’m surprised that I’ve not seen more black eyes wandering around the congress!

Over the past seven or eight months, we’ve been in very close contact with the local Organising Committee and they’ve really done everything possible to help make this a successful, innovative and memorable congress. While a lot of avoidable mistakes were made, the Committee will also point to some technical problems that could not have been foreseen.

Unfortunately, Apimondia 2013 in Kyiv will be a memorable one, but for a lot of the wrong reasons.

To end on a positive note, part of the problems with registration were due to an unprecedented demand for entrance to Apimondia which must be a good sign for the health of the beekeeping sector. The volunteers here have worked themselves to near collapse in extremely difficult circumstances, and the organisers always try to find time to help in any way they can. As always we’ve caught up with old friends and made new ones and we’re already planning for and looking forward to Daejeog, Korea in 2015. Onwards and upwards!

Sebastian Owen, Commercial Development Manager
Follow me on Twitter: @SDWOwen 

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