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What a year that was! (Long post...).

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Moggs 

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Hi folks – great forum. I thought that I should introduce myself, and describe 'a year in the life of a newbeek' but first and foremost, thanks to one and all for easing me into my first beekeeping year.

Talk about a steep learning curve! March and April brought a great deal of no-nuc impatience as I was told that the bees were all behind, because of the bad winter. In May, borne out of frustration, we (Mrs BK and I) opted to buy a full working colony that a dear old gent could no longer manage. What an experience that was, putting into practice the many hours of reading and winter tuition. We transferred the bees from a WBC to our very own National (at the owner’s apiary) and started our beekeeping career with a good strong spring colony, thankfully bee tight (‘though stirring from their nocturnal slumber) in the back of the car.

It had begun. To cut a long and often amusing story short, our experience built rapidly (maybe too rapidly!) as we built up hives and frames with our own fair hands, hived our second colony (the long-awaited nuc) and then variously created an artificial swarm, hatched queens, lost queens, collected swarms, split and combined, built nucs, waged war on varroa (and those damned wasps) and gradually built our stock up to five colonies.

I wondered why the beekeeping year was so desperately quiet through the winter months. Now I know; you lot must be beedraggled by the end of the season (but what a fascinating and absorbing hobby). I sometimes find myself just sitting at a hive entrance in near-disbelief at the wonder of these creatures. A gift from Mother Nature indeed.

A question, if you will, as I now find myself a little confused! To feed or not to feed? I imagine that this time of year requires a finely-tuned feel, to balance nectar flow (or lack of it), varroa treatment, existing stores, weather and temperature, rate of laying and so on. To complicate the issue, I’m also preparing to combine two colonies; (one from a swarm and a nuc that may not build up to full strength in the next week or three). A dilemma! I’m confident of course that you will be able to provide me with an easy answer that I just hadn’t thought of (hmmmm).... At the very least, is there a good guideline to aim for? After the trials and tribulations of this year (mostly thoroughly enjoyable) I would hate to lose colonies through my ineptitude and uncertainty. I note that the question has appeared elsewhere, but I'm still fumbling and don't really want to chance it too much, if you'll bear with me on this.

So here we are. Reasonably pleased with progress to date, a good basic understanding of the principles, with hard-won experience to back it up (but certainly no complacency, as I realise that I am only yet ‘scratching the surface’). It would be good to take four strong colonies through the winter months, when we can consolidate our learning with yet more reading and advice (my spare time from August last year, right through to March and beyond, was in the quest of bee-books and training courses, yet I take some pleasure in calling myself a novice; there is no doubt that the bees have a lot of teaching to do)!

Oh, and a surprising number of pounds of honey to boot (that’s serendipity, that is)...

Thanks and regards, in anticipation (eagerly awaiting my 3/2 answers)!
 

Ouarda 

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:coolgleamA::coolgleamA::coolgleamA:

wow what a busy bunny you've been :D but it sounds like you've had a ball.

Keep up the good work:hurray::hurray:
 

oliver90owner 

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Hi Moggs,

Guessing here from the progress that you are retired? Either that or a very helpful and worthy assistant/partner in this affray!

An answer. No need to feed yet - unless conditions dictate.

Better to organise varroa treatment as necessary (been doing the mite-drop checks?) as soon as or shortly after the honey harvest and consider feeding in September. We can never be sure of the coming season;autumn may be a 'long drawn out slow down' or a quick transition to 'shutters up and settle down for winter' I always hope for the former as the bees can collect lots of their own winter stores

Good idea only to take strong colonies into winter, but no need to rush into any uniting yet - 'two queens-a-laying' might be far better than just the one. Uniting can be left quite late.

So no really urgent decisions needed yet, just get prepared and do the varroa treatment - it is very important there is a low varroa count at this time of the year because the new bees, produced from shortly after the varoa traetment completion, could be the ones going through the winter and we need minimal varroa damage to pupating larvae for good healthy winter bees.

Then there is feeding and again preparation is the important bit. Sugar syrup available at short notice and feeders ready. It may only take a week to fill all the space needed or it may take several if the flow continues unabated and little sugar is needed. Lastly decisions as to uniting and tucking them all up for winter; warm, dry and well provisioned with bees and stores.

Oh and one other - are you consideing re-queening any colonies this autumn. Probably not a first-year job, but you seem prety keen!

Regards, RAB
 

Moggs 

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Hi RAB. What a concise and useful reply! Thank you.

Nope, not retrired, just eager as you suggest (and yes, a willing assistant), though that 'work' thing does put the damper on my beekeeping needs.

Sticky labels are on floorboards under all my colonies for a mite count soon but I'm hopeful that liberal icing sugar dustings and treatment where possible (period of no brood/ no honey) have knocked them down.

I think(!) that most of my colonies (swarm excepted) are newly-queened this year so I don't plan on routine reQ's. I may have to cull the Q in the swarm if I combine (I realise that this could be a secondary swarm with new Q but it certainly looked like a good one on collection from a compost bin (including a revisit to pick up the stragglers)).

Anyway, you have reassured me - onwards and upwards!

Regards.
 

Moggs 

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Maybe not 'good form' to reply to my own post but it seemed appropriate to append an update following the good advice received here. The last check through the hives revealed much slower activity in any supers that have remained on. Consequently, the last of the honey is trickling into a settlement tank as I type and the hives now consist of brood boxes with no supers.

As the level of stores appeared to be thinning of late, I applied some syrup to all hives to see what the bees would take down. I was astounded to find that one hive's occupants have slurped down a whole gallon from a jumbo feeder in just over twelve hours. At first I looked for large spillages and leaks but, sure enough, the greedy b's have taken the lot. I was quite amazed that they could have been so industrious in such a short time. Other hive bees have shown only a passing interest in the syrupy treat, not taking anywhere near as much (some barely measurable).

The dilemma continues, with worries over lack of stores, lack of new brood space, potential for further nectar flow (ivy?), etc.

I have resisted the temptation to apply Apiguard 'as a matter of course' as the most recent seven-day drop onto sticky paper revealed a maximum of two mites per day. The new beek in me doubts my own technique here as this seems to good to be true, although it does bear out the results of earlier opportunistic treatments (AS, icing sugar, etc).

Such fun...
 

Black Comb 

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Hello Moggs

I'm only a second year beek but both years I have learned the lesson that mite drop counts at this time of year of one or two per hive suddenly become 20 or 30 when Apiguard is applied.

I would Apiguard now if I were you.

The efficacy of icing sugar had been much discussed on here and I for one don't use it now. There are a few threads if you do a search.
 

Moggs 

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Thanks PeterS and Wilderness. I appreciate your comments and advice. I thought that a daily mite drop count was an aid to assessing whether treatment should be required (an indication of the total number of mites in the colony, prior to any treatment and my figure of 2 MPD is 'worst case'). If I'm getting a low drop (backed up by 1 mite in 35 drone brood analysis) doesn't this suggest that treatment is unnecessary? (at least, I thought that the FERA 'Managing Varroa' publication advises such a course of action). Some local beekeepers have also observed a relatively low varroa load this year.

I understand that it is probably better to be safe than sorry and of course want to do what's best for the bees. I wonder though if the routine application of Apiguard (or similar) is 'de rigueur' borne out of the (perhaps misplaced) concerns of carrying an inordinate load of varroa into the winter.

The paranoid beekeeper in me hasn't ruled out Apiguard (I know, it needs warmth!) but my trust in the low mite count steers me towards leaving the bees alone. As previously mentioned, certain 'elements' of my stock of bees have already been treated in periods of no brood/ no honey.

Comments and detail of other experiences appreciated (I've been wrong before)!
 
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SimonB 

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Hi Moggs, I got a nuc late this year, 4 weeks ago, little drone brood to speak of to do a drone brood count. Left olive oiled tray in for 48 hours with no forced mite drop (ie no icing sugar etc) and no mite drop. Having read on here several times that that's not indicative of anything, that it was highly unlikely that anyone was varroa free, I decided to treat. At least 35 mites dropped in 48 hours with Apiguard, from an 8 frame colony. It's now been 9 days, I haven't counted again, but the fact that I had any means I am happy that I decided to treat. Given that I got them so late I am keen to give them as much assistance to over winter successfully as possible.
 

Black Comb 

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It takes years of experience before you come to your own definite conclusions.

As this is your first year then I don't think your bees will develop apiguard resistance in year 1.

I've adopted the attitude to follow experienced beeks advice until I've built up enough experience of my own to make the bigger decisions.
 

Moggs 

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Thanks both. I know that Apiguard will certainly do no harm (well, probably not, though we know that it can upset the bees). But is there any point of having authoritative advice (FERA publication, after all) and applying chemicals 'just to be sure'? Simon, I suspect that the application of Apiguard was bound to release some mites (it's accepted that there will be mites, even with a low or 'zero' mite count) but would the bees have managed without treatment?

Perhaps I'm playing the 'devil's advocate' here and don't want to be seen to be questioning years of accumulated wisdom and experience. It's just a bit of a curiosity at the moment. Sorry if I'm labouring a point.
 

SimonB 

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Simon, I suspect that the application of Apiguard was bound to release some mites (it's accepted that there will be mites, even with a low or 'zero' mite count) but would the bees have managed without treatment?
I can understand your point of view and I debated myself whether to treat or not. Your question by its very nature is somewhat rhetorical but in my opinion it would not be straightforward to answer anyway without considering what you or anyone considers 'managed' to represent, or how it could be measured.

Frankly, I don't believe that I am knowledgeable enough to make my own informed decision, and much like PeterS, given that acceptance I will follow the consensus until such time that I am. From reading on here and what my local association has done, I came to the conclusion that treatment was the least of any evil.
 

margob99 

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I've gone through pretty much the same reasoning process myself; while my bees have seemed incredibly resilient in summer one and two, and the varroa drop has always been low to non-existent in the varroa checks, and while I'm tempted to leave them without Apiguard to build up resistance, I've decided that I would not ignore advice from more experienced beeks than myself, and I would do as they advise - which is "don't be tempted to just leave them; this can result in weakened bees, increasing trend in disease and worst of all - transmission from your bees to others."

I say follow the advice until we're a little more experienced ourselves ...
 

johna 

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Better to assume the worst and treat than wait until next spring and find yourself saying "if only I had treated them when I had the chance" and finding a dead or diseased colony and crawling bees.
 

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