Seasonal Updates 2013
Well, after last years very wet summer and this years bitterly cold spring it comes as no surprise that our bees (along with the rest of nature) is having such a hard time.
A Year of Contrast
What a turnaround! Following one of the coldest springs on record, we (and the bees) enjoyed one the warmest and driest Julys for a very long time. The bees which made it through the spring made a strong recovery and have delivered a very respectable crop of honey - thank you!
We are now entering, in my view, the most important period in the beekeeping calender - preparing our bees for winter!
Our work now is to ensure that our bees are disease and pest free, well provisioned with winter stores and in secure weather proof accommodation.
Varroa is still the main reason that colonies fail, so we must remain vigilant. Determine the level of varroa in your hives and treat accordingly. The National Bee Unit have produced an excellent booklet on Varroa which can be downloaded here. If you do need to treat for varroa then remember to allow enough time to complete the treatment and have enough time to finish winter feeding by early October. There are several products on the market to treat varroa - some with varying results - but I still find Apiguard (not to be confused with Apistan) does a pretty good job if used in accordance with the instructions. The manufacturers have produced a Frequently Asked Question leaflet which can be downloaded here.
When feeding for winter, use a heavy syrup (2lb sugar to a pint of water), which leaves the bees less work to do to get it to the right moisture content for capping. Also remember a typical colony needs 30lb - 40lb of stores to get through winter, so you need to assess how much stores they already have in their broodbox and top up the balance.
Make sure your hives are weatherproof; bees can cope with cold but not damp. Any weak colonies should be united or re-homed in a well insulated nuc box. Finally, pat yourself on the back, put your feet up and enjoy some good bee books over the winter!
Training Officer, Lampeter & District Beekeepers' Association