I went to Portland today to check on the bees on the Community Gardens on the Incline as they have been sorely afflicted with the mighty Mite. As I was strolling up the path through the brambles, I met a lady coming down. She was blackberrying. We fell into conversation, beginning, as usual: ‘Are you the Bee Man?’
She asked if I was about to spray poison/insecticide as I had a sprayer flask in my hand. I explained that, instead of using a smoker, I was using ‘liquid smoke’. I pulled the trigger and gave her a whiff. She said it is identical to the stuff she buys for cooking! She gets it on ebay for about £5 for a bottle, the size of a soy sauce bottle. That seems a lot better than a pound for a postage stamp sized sachet, getting on for a life time’s supply.
She was interested in buying some honey so I texted her number to my apprentice, Yvonne, who is one of the plot holders and who has all the honey we have left. The lady, Louise, is interested in becoming a beekeeper and has even read a book or two about it, but fears her life is too busy at the moment. I explained about my apprentices and it is just possible that she might become one.
I left Louise and went on the few yards to the hives. No bees at all were flying from the Top Bar Hive, but wasps a-plenty were raiding it. When I opened up, there were no living bees but a scattering of dead ones on the floor. The wasps have demolished most of the remaining stores. I found an old, emerged, queen cell that I must have overlooked before and so my conjecture is that either they swarmed or attempted supersedure and the new queen either was swallowed or failed to mate. We can cut off the comb for hygiene and for processing, leaving a good ‘footprint’ to guide the next bees to inhabit it.
The National had plenty of bees going to and fro, many of which were sunning themselves (getting a breath of fresh air!) on the front. I gave them a whiff of liquid smoke and then removed the Varroa tray. There were again lots of mites but fewer than before. Also there were quite a few dead bees and a wasp. There were a few thymol crystals but only a couple of dozen to be seen.
I went through the hive. There were a few bees emerging from cells and I assisted one with a C-section to speed her exit. She appeared to be mite-free and healthy. Evidently there has been a break in brood rearing as there was only a small scattering of sealed brood and no older larvae, but there were eggs and day-old larvae, so I decided that the thymol has done its work and didn’t add any more.
They don’t have too much in the way of stores so, Yvonne, could you please replace the wet supers that we took off a couple of weeks ago? As wasps are active, it might be helpful to reduce the entrance a little so as to make it more defendable.