Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bees and spring

I've done my second inspection of the year and similar to previous years we have suffered losses of around 30%.
The story goes: check in February all colonies fine , check three weeks later 30% dead or non viable.
The serious losses seem to take place in one site at a time, different one each year and manifest as a complete loss of bees but stores and often brood still in place.

In my view probably Nosema even though I have treated with Fumidil in the Autumn as per recommendations.
I will be using my own survivor bees as breeders and hope to bring disease resistance into my hives.
What I don't fully understand is that the losses concentrate on specific sites while others get through with 5% or less losses. Could it be that larger numbers of hives kept together for a couple of years or more in some way exacerbate the disease effect? This does run counter to the advice that moving bees around increases the chances of loss through disease.
More work needed...

The hives in Shropshire unusually seemed to have fared better this year. Above is a nucleus hive which has a viable queen and stores so I swapped position with a stronger hive to give it more workers, below is one of my Langstroth hives which has come through quite strong so far.
I am also baby sitting a friends hives one WBC perhaps the prettiest hive to be invented,with the added advantage for the amateur of creating four times the work during inspections, not so good for more commercial operations.
This is the modified national a simple single walled hive based on the Langstroth model but redesigned by British beekeepers to make it smaller and slightly less practical that the original. Thankfully both seem to have made it through the winter.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Season so far

We are in an unusually warm spell at the moment a trend which has developed over the past few years of warm period late winter early spring. We may gamble on that next year and bring lambing forward by a month to February.

Lambing is on schedule for first week of March, the ewes are slow at putting on condition so I've upped their rations Perhaps it is a feature of the breed but they will need more condition during lambing, something we will need to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.

The bees have been fed twice during the winter and have been treated for Nosema, I have omitted the Varroa treatment this year a fact I am increasingly uneasy about. I may resort to a late treatment with Oxalic acid over the next week, will have to see how the time goes. I think that to allow some pressure from Varroa every now and again is useful in preventing Varroa resistance to Oxalic or Thymol. But that doesn't stop me worrying about the upsurge in Varroa especially in this warm winter.

The vegetables have not got going yet, Broad Beans, Garlic and Spinach are all in and growing and we have just planted the Leek seeds in a cold frame.

As for the year ahead we are hoping to expand the bees, transfer the sheep flock over to Hill Radnors exclusively. Perhaps move at last to Care farming and last but not least have a litter of Pups from Millie. She has been going great guns recently but more of that in a later post.