It was a lovely day today: once the early frost was gone and the sun was up it was clear and bright with a few small fluffy clouds so I decided to give the bees a treat(ment).  I have plenty of oxalic solution left over from last year As it has been stored in the fridge it is still clear with no sign of the browning caused by HMF, which is alleged to be toxic to bees.  I wonder why this should be so as they must have been exposed to it in small quantities for millions of years and so should have learned, by now, to cope with it.

I rooted about and found some rubber gloves as, being aware of the advice on Dave Cushman’s website ‘Beekeeping and Bee Breeding’ on the danger and toxicity to beekeepers of oxalic acid I took no chances.  I also wore overalls to put another layer between my skin and any spilled fluid, also for warmth as, despite the sunshine, it was still cold, about 6.5C according to my car’s thermometer.  Double it and add 30 makes 43F.

I had taken the solution from the fridge a couple of days ago so as to allow it to warm up to room temperature (16C or 62F in my house) and tucked the container, a plastic milk bottle, inside my jacket to add a little extra warmth on the car journey to Portland where I was to start.

There are three hives in the apiary in a paddock next to a quarry.  They are all self-hived swarms as their predecessors had all been seen off the previous winter when the hives had been overturned and trampled by horses.  I had set them up again and baited them. The first one had drawn comb on the outside of the roof and the queen was laying in it when I found them! I successfully transferred the comb to frames inside the hive. I notice elsewhere that, although the bait attracts workers, queens won’t lay anywhere near it, but this was an extreme example.

They were in a fist sized cluster close to the entrance, extending into 3 seams of bees so I dribbled 15cc of oxalic solution on them.  There’s a reasonable amount of stores within reach.

The next hive, by contrast, had 8 seams and so received 40cc.  They have masses of stores and I look forward to harvesting a full super at dandelion time when I am sure it is truly surplus to their needs.  I guess it’s mostly ivy honey.  Once Gavin Ramsay tested my honey from that site with a TLA (PCR?) device that examined the DNA and discovered that the ivy the bees had been feeding on was not Hedera helix as expected, but Hedera hibernica, Irish ivy!

The third hive had a cluster of a similar size to the first and so got 15cc.

I returned to the mainland and headed for my apiary in a boggy wild flower meadow where the owners, a holiday camp, get extra Brownie points for being green (which seems like a contradiction!).  The one occupied hive there is doing well and got 25cc.

Then I headed for the woods behind Clyffe House at Tincleton where I have a hive on a berm next to a track about a quarter of a mile into the wood.  That’s one of my favourite sites where I like to sit and chill and watch the bees. Unfortunately the owner has just asked me to move them away when convenient as contractors are coming in to clear rhododendron from the wood and they’re scared of bees!  It won’t be easy as the hive is rather full of bees and honey.  I noticed that a lot of comb in the top box isn’t capped.

As I ambled through the wood there was  a sprinkling of hail, but then the sun came out again, but as I headed for home I saw heavy cloud ahead and soon I was driving through rain and the temperature dropped to about 2.5C so I decided that it wouldn’t be wise to go on to the other apiaries on my list today.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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3 Responses to OXALICKING

  1. Emily Scott says:

    “as contractors are coming in to clear rhododendron from the wood and they’re scared of bees!”

    Amazing how many people say they’re scared of bees. Often big burly men, too.

  2. The Apiarist says:

    I prefer to treat with oxalic acid when the temperature is in the 2-3oC range … but certainly not in rain or hail. I want the cluster to be as tightly packed as possible and to be discouraged from flying by the low temperatures (for the same reason, I choose a really calm day). It then takes about 45 seconds per hive. I’m finished before they know what’s hit them. I did all mine yesterday and the mite drop today is reassuringly low.

    Happy New Year

  3. I think you’re correct in preferring low temperatures. I did 5 hives in 3 apiaries yesterday when the temperature was 6 or 7 C and the bees were occupying most of their brood boxes in great numbers so I wasn’t able to identify a cluster as such. I just applied 5cc to each seam, which may be more than I would have if it had been colder. I hope to do the last few tomorrow morning and the weather forecast is for an overnight frost followed by sunshine so I shall try to get to them early.

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