Posts Tagged ‘bees’

Beekeeping Video – Life Inside A Top Bar Hive

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

 

I found this amazing video showing bees working in a top bar hive. It starts with the colonisation of the empty Beehive, then shows 3 months (condensed into 2 minutes!) of activity. You’ll notice the number of bees suddenly drops – this is because they swarmed.

Fascinating!

 

 

Honey Bee Swarms

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If you keep bees, sooner or later they will swarm. This means that the queen and about half the bees in the colony will leave the Hive and try to find another home. Swarming is the natural way for the bees to propagate their race – after a swarm, instead of 1 colony of bees there will be 2, and if both survive, the overall bee population will increase.

So, in the interest of nature, should you not let the bees swarm? Well, no – for several reasons.

Firstly, mainly because of varroa mites, honey bees will not survive for long in the wild. Without treatment, varroa will eventually kill of the new colony – and this is obviously not in the best interests of bees as a species.

Also, if you are an urban beekeeper, it is obviously doubly important that you prevent swarms – a swarm of bees is not very welcome in a populated area, and if they set up home in the roofspace of someone’s house, they can cause real damage.

And of course, if your bees swarm it will seriously affect honey production – you lose about half of the bees, and the rest of the season is generally spent building up the numbers again, so you will be unlikely to get any surplus honey.

Bee swarmIf your bees do swarm, they need to be collected (by you or by someone else) and put into a beehive of their own. Normally they will gather on a branch or gate post close to the hive, while scout bees go looking for a suitable new home. They will stay here for between 12 and 48 hours – this is your window of opportunity to collect them and put them into a new hive.

This is of course the positive side to swarming – that is provided you don’t lose them – you now have 2 colonies instead of one. Or if you are just starting beekeeping, getting someone elses swarm is a great way to get your first bees. And provided it is still early in the season, the new colony should be productive.

Remember the proverb – A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly!

Swarm Image courtesy bushfarms.com

10 Amazing Bee Facts To Buzz About!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Beekeeping is rewarding for lots of reasons. For some the main reward is honey, but often what really draws you in as a beekeeper is that bees as a species are just so fascinating. So here are 10 interesting honey bee facts – but believe me, there are many more!

1. Honey bees are the only insect that produce food eaten by man.

2. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

3. A hive of bees will have to fly a total of 55,000 miles to get enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey – equivalent to flying twice around the planet earth.

4. Bees will fly up to 6 miles from their hive to collect pollen and nectar.

5. Bees have 2 pairs of wings, which move incredibly fast – about 200 beats per second. This is what makes honey bees buzz!

6. At its peak in the summertime, there will be about 60,000 worker bees in a colony, 2,000 drones and just one queen. The worker bees are all female, and do all the work.

7. Drones are the male honey bees. They are noticeably larger than worker bees, have no stinger and do no work at all. Their only job is to mate with a queen bee. Only one drawback – after they mate, they die.

8. The queen bee only leaves the hive once to mate, with up to 20 drones. When she returns to the hive, her only job is to lay eggs – up to 2,500 eggs per day when the colony is at its busiest in the summer months.

9. The queen controls the colony by releasing pheromones which get passed from one bee to another through contact. If these pheromones become too weak, it is taken as a signal that the queen needs to be replaced (or ‘superceded’).

10. The new queen comes from exactly the same eggs as worker bees – but because she is fed a different diet (of ‘royal jelly’) she develops into a queen rather than a worker. Definitely a case of “you are what you eat!”

Why not experience these fascinating creatures for yourself, and (more…)

Beekeeping And The Varroa Mite

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

As a beekeeper, you have many pests and diseases to watch out for. One which is potentially very serious is the varroa mite. It is now so widespread that if you keep bees, you are almost certain to get varroa mite sooner or later. Although this has still to be proved, it is thought that varroa could be one of the stress factors causing colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Untreated colonies will eventually die out, so once you have varroa, you must take action. Although you can never totally eliminate the varroa mites from your colony, with good Beekeeping practice you can keep them at manageable levels.

 What exactly is varroa?

Varroa mite

Varroa mite

The varroa mite, or Varroa destructor to give it its proper name, is an external parasite of honey bees. They are very small, measuring between 1.1 and 1.7 mm (about 4/100 to 7/100 of an inch), and were originally found on Asian honey bees. Because of the shorter life cycle of this species of bee, the varroa were never able to get above a certain level of infestation, so the mite did not cause serious damage to these bees.

Varroa mite on a bee

 

 

However, when the inevitable happened and the varroa migrated to the Western honey bee, it was not able to cope with the infestation. The Western honey bee does not have the same natural defences as the Asian bee, so once mites get established in a colony, they soon get to levels which can do real damage.

 

 

 

What harm do varroa do?


At low infestation levels, the mites do not really do any harm and the bees can function as normal. But as varroa numbers rise, the colony can be severely damaged and will eventually die out.

Honey bees with deformed wings caused by varroa

Honey bees with deformed wings caused by varroa

Varroa feed on the blood of both developing bees (brood) and adult bees. This weakens the bees, and can lead to deformities in growing brood. The mites also spread harmful pathogens and viruses as they transfer from one bee to another.

 

What methods are available to treat for varroa?


There are 2 main methods of control – chemical controls, and management methods. Chemical control is basically the use of varroacides, various chemical sprays or treatments designed to kill the mites.

Many beekeepers (particularly hobby beekeepers) are uneasy about using chemicals in their hives. In any case, largely because the chemical methods were overused, varroa are now becoming resistant to the main ingredient (pyrethroids), particularly in the United States, so management methods are really the only option left.

Various management techniques exist to help keep the number of mites to an acceptable level, without the use of chemicals. Natural varroa management methods are more labour intensive, but when used properly can give good results.

Varroa mites on a varroa floor tray

 

One method is the use of open mesh floors, so as the mites fall out of the hive they are unable to return. As they can only survive for a few days without feeding of a bee, the ones that fall out will die.

Another natural mite control method is to dust the bees with icing sugar. This encourages the bees to clean each other, and this extra cleaning will remove a lot of the mites. Combined with the open mesh floors, many beekeepers have had good results with this technique.

For more experienced beekeepers, there are other methods involving the removal of drone brood (which is infested with varroa), or creating an artificial swarm and so leaving the varroa infested brood behind.

Varroa mites are a problem, but do not let this put you off! With good management this parasite can be kept under control, and your bees will thrive.

 

[All images courtesy www.cornwallhoney.com]

Vanishing Of The Bees

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Here’s a great Video from YouTube. It’s a trailer from the movie “Vanishing of The bees” and spells out the consequences of losing all our bees through Colony Collapse Disorder. Personally, I think it is a very moving piece of film, and a real wake up call.

Watch it and see what you think – and don’t forget to leave a comment below!