Thursday, 23 September 2010

Autumn in the Apiary

A common frog making his or her living around the base of the bee hives, no doubt eating fallen workers and drones dropping around the hive base. As son as he saw me he moved between the hives out of reach. These trees are at the entrance of one of my Shropshire sites Crab Apple and Viburnum, Wayfarers Tree. The whole feel of the season now has turned autumnal and the bees have responded.
The Drones are all gone I have seen three hive with drones, which usually spells trouble in the form of a queenless colony or with a virgin. Both mean the colony will not survive the winter so have to be united to make use of the bees and stores.

Wasps can be a problem but this year we have had very little trouble only seeing an attack where a colony is queenless or otherwise weak. Below you can see a wasp being ejected by a worker. A strong colony should be able to defend he entrance even though none have been reduced as is the custom in UK bee keeping.

There is some flying going on, it is noticeable that all my colonies in Shropshire and Herefordshire are bringing in nectar from the Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera (I think). This is a garden escape that is rapidlt taking over river banks and damp areas across the region and country. Its an ill wind as it provides much needed nectar and pollen for pollinators at a time of scarcity. I will try and remember my camera next time I visit a site where it grows.

These are my final visits to the bees before the winter treatment for Varroa and Nosema, I gave them a final feed that's four in total since taking the honey each feed is about half a gallon. I will feed again in February when I will include Fumidil B for Nosema and will treat for Varroa in December with an Oxalic Acid drizzle. Final count this year is 45 colonies going into winter. Lets hope we get better survival this year.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Millies first go with the whistle

Millie's first introduction to the whistle, not that interested in the house. will have a go outside.

I am using a standard shepherds whistle which goes inside the mouth when blowing, takes some getting used to. You need to develop your whistles for stop,come here, left, right and walk on. there must be consistency with each whistle command to avoid confusion for the dog.

So far after one lesson she understands stop and come here and responds much quicker to the whistle than voice command. I suspect that she is finding it more interesting to learn new skills.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Compost problems

We have been having problems germinating seed this year, especially lettuce so decided to do some pH tests. We used a standard pH and nutrient testing kit which uses liquid a pH test reagent.
The picture (sorry its a bit fuzzy) shows the various materials we have used. The second from the right is the ready made organic Coir based compost which is a very acid pH 4.5. This may explain the poor germination.

We have in the past experimented with mixing our own compost using Coir and our own sterilised topsoil. We tested our batch of top soil which came out at about 6 to 6.5 pH which is OK for our uses. The soil will to some extent act as a buffer holding onto moisture and nutrients while the seedlings are still in the modules as well as neutralising the acidic effect of the Coir
A small batch of our intended mix was made up and when tested it came out at pH6.0 which is perhaps a bit acid so we will by adding lime at about 50gm per 40 litres.
The other additives are perlite which both come out at about pH6to pH6.5.
The results of our pH tests, the mixed compost is extreme right showing pH about 6.5.