OCTOBER, FINAL PREPARATION FOR WINTER

Following my apiary meeting last month I’ve been away for ten days so was very keen to get to the meadow on my return. So keen in fact that I broke my journey home just to satisfy myself that all was well. It was a nice sunny day and from half way down the meadow I could see plenty of activity at the entrance of each hive, even hive one which was good news. I couldn’t stay more than a minute or two as I’d been booked to give a talk to the local Horticultural Society that same evening and I wanted a chance to recover from the drive home first. I didn’t want to risk dozing off half way through although some may have thought it a blessing in disguise, I didn’t want to take the chance.

The following morning saw me back at the meadow. First to hive one, they hadn’t taken all the syrup down but were looking very much better. The Varroa drop was high so the nitric acid had obviously done the trick. No evidence of Varroa in the hive so my hopes that they will now over-winter are much improved. Also, glad to say, they seem to have dealt with the wasp problem. All the other hives had taken all their syrup down so just the Nuc’ and hive six to deal with. Plenty of activity at the entrances to both sugested all was well. A brief look below the crown board of six confirmed it was and so they received an Adam’s feeder full of syrup, about twentyfive pounds or so.

Now to the nuc’. I had planned to continue with the surface feeding but quickly changed my mind when I removed the crown board. In the short time since I’d last looked they had completely filled every available comb space with either stores or brood. I was surprised to see just how much brood there was. So, what to do. I wanted give them more syrup but there was no way that they were going to store any more in their present state. I decided that the only way would be to transfer the whole colony into a standard brood box. Fortunately I had to hand the empty hive that six had vacated so it was a fairly simple matter to transfer the five frames from the nuc’ into it. I placed an empty frame of comb either side, a couple of dummy boards either side of them and an Adam’s feeder on top. 

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                      AS USUAL THE BEES ARE QUICK TO DETECT THE SYRUP

That took care of the space and feeding problem but I was now left with one hive on top of another which I could see would lead to more problems eventually. The obvious solution would be to move one of the hives to a more suitable location, but which one. I decided eventually the best way would be to remove six via the transporter to become the new nine, and place the nuc’ hive on a couple of spare supers in six’s original position on the stand. I reasoned that this solution minimised the chance of all the flying bees ending up in one hive. So, six will become the new nine and the nuc’ six. Problem solved.My pictures 009                                            NUC’ HIVE ON TOP OF SIX

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                                        HIVE SIX NOW ON TRANSPORTER

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                                      TWO DAYS LATER, THE JOURNEY BEGINS

The other reason for the decision to move six is that the direction of the entrances will suit the new location of both. At the time of taking these pic’s all the bees were happily orientating to the new positions. I shall move the transporter daily until six is in it’s new position as nine and at the same time remove the supers supporting the nuc’ hive until it is on the stand. It’s a simple matter to move the hive using the transporter made all the more so by the fact that the hive is moving within the flight path of the bees. So, there we are, job almost done. Floors have been removed and feeding almost completed. Just the mouse guards to fit, Oxalic acid to administer next month and we’re ready for Winter. Oh, I nearly forgot, keep fingers firmly crossed !

So, that’s the bees more or less bedded down but there is however, one more job to complete before we can say we have finished. That is to sterilize the hive parts which we’ve finished with this year. After a season like the last we have about thirty supers with frames from which the honey has been extracted, plus a number of escape boards, excluders and the like which need sterization before being stored away for Winter. In short, anything which could be harbouring, mites, their eggs or any other nasties needs the treatment. There is also one of my mating nuc’s which I want treated before it comes back into service next year. So, how best to do this. The most effective and therefore, the most commonly used method is by the use of dilute acetic acid and that is the chosen method here at Mendip. So, how best to go about this ?

I will attempt to tell you the way I go about using acetic acid to sterilize my hive parts, but, as with anything else I’ve mentioned on my Blog, this will be just the method which suits me here at Mendip. I don’t claim it to be definitave and am not necessarily recommending it as the method you adopt. What I will say this, before commencing any treatment involving hazardous substances, read the instructions on the bottle and abide by them. Which ever method you decide suits you best, keep the following in mind, although acid and water may look the same, that is definitely where the similarity ends so treat it with respect ! 

The one thing to stress and to be mindfull of at all times is that acid, in any form. is at worst, extremely dangerous and at best, quite unpleasant to work with. So, with that in mind I wear an old full length bee suit, apron, gloves, boots and eye protection. As I implied, acid doesn’t take prisoners so I always err on the side of caution. I try to have a bucket of water to hand just in case. The fumes are quite unpleasant as you would expect, as it is these that are going to do the job for us, so, good ventilation is most important. As with all tasks which carry an element of danger, one’s most important protection is “a little common sense”.

The acid, when used for the task of hive sterilization, needs to be at 80% strength. If I buy full strengh it is quite a simple matter to dilute it by adding it to the required amount of water. A word of warning here, ALWAYS ADD THE ACID TO THE WATER .

So, to the method I use here. One brood chamber requires a quarter pint of acid solution as do two supers so I build a stack. On a floor I place my first brood chamber or pair of supers. On these go my first container of acid solution. I use a shallow “Tupperware” or similar, container containing a wad of cotton wool and I always add the acid solution when in situ.

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   THIS STACK HAS BEEN TOPPED OFF WITH AN INVERTED ASHFORTH FEEDER

Next, a shallow eke and crown board, holes closed. Then the next supers/ brood box, eke and so on.This is how I proceed until all the supers etc. are incorporated. Excluders and clearer boards etc. can be inserted at any point so that they also receive a cleansing. The main objective is that each pair of supers/brood box is separated from those adjacent, hence the insertion of crown boards. This way each pair of supers etc. gets a sufficient dose of acid fumes.

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                     FINISHED STACKS SHOWING EKES, CROWN BOARDS ETC.

If it weren’t for the crown boards or some other means of isolating them, because the acid fumes are more dense than air, all the fumes would end up at the foot of the stack. After ten days the stacks are dismantled and left for a couple of hours outside to vent. When I’m satisfied the boxes are free of fumes I put each box in a bin bag and re-stack them in the shed. There they stay until they are next required.

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        STACKED THIS WAY TO ALLOWS PLENTY OF THROUGH FLOW OF AIR

On a completely different subject, on the morning of my apiary meeting last month, as usual I was out installing the direction signs at relevant road junctions etc. One of which happened to be opposite our local butcher’s shop. Seeing him watching my antics through his shop window I thought it courtious to walk over and tell him what was going on. What’s all this got to do with bees, well, the long and short of it is that he now sells my honey and pleased to say, it’s going pretty well. With Christmas just around the corner and no, I know you don’t need reminding, we decided it might help move a few more jars if they were dressed for the occasion as it were. This is the result,

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                                             PRETTY LITTLE THINGS AIN’T WE !

This is the first batch, the ribbon and the material added about ten pence to the cost of each jar so it’ll be well worth it if they go. If not, at least they will brighten up his window for a while. These will be on their way shortly, I’ll let you know the outcome.

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