Prepared for winter

Prep smal

It’s been a very busy time for some time now. From about August 5 to August 25 all supers above queen excluder are harvested and honey extracted, the third removal for the season.

Prep tymol

Those colonies showing wingless bees on the hardboard in front of the  entrance have got one piece (about 4 grams) with thymol. On the next round those colonies in need of reducing the space for winter have gotten rid of the lowest shallow box, or/and outer combs taken out and insulation dummy frames instead.

Prep reduce

The smaller cluster the more insulation. Normal strong colonies no insulation. During the same round the weights of the colonies are estimated, and then follows estimation of how much feeding with sucrose solution is needed to take the colonies to the first good flow next year (not just through winter).

Prep feeder1

Topfeeders are put on and feeding done through a couple of weeks. Feeders are opened to let the bees clean them for me.

Prep feeder2

Then they are taken home for storage. Another round to check the strenght and eventual more thymol and more reducing of the space. In both cases just a few colonies.

Yesterday I was done. Relaxing for a few days. Now is the time to go through the notes and summarize the season.

Neonics and success

Bees visit corn for pollen, period. Bees visit canola for pollen. Bees visit potatoes for pollen (Danish tests). Bees visit a lot of flowers for pollen. Bees get what the pollen is enriched with. Neonics are not good for bees.

But honeybees have a very sofisticated way of living and can handle a lot of difficulties – if they’re not too many. One reason for that is the many individuals, in both adult and brood stages. They can sacrifice some brood for example when fighting varroa. If field bees die during duty due to plant protection spray, if it’s not too much, there are usually enough many new field bees replacing them. Solitary bees though may have a more difficult situation…

Why did this feral colony survive on neonic corn?

  • No or very little reinvasion of varroa mites – it was the only colony in the apiary and far to other bees.
  • No one robbed its honey and gave low value kind of sugar.
  • There was a variety of food sources which the bees could reach easily, at the end of fields giving pollen without neonics.
  • The bees built there own cellsizes and a good portion for brood was enough small in their situation, some of it smaller than 5.1 mm.
  • No one moved the bees around to different places.
  • No one put miticides or antibiotics in the bee colony weakening the bees’ own defense system.
  • The bees probably swarmed every or every second year, once or more, giving a break in rearing brood in the brood season, when they cleaned their nest from pests and parasites.

In this situation bees adapted epigentically and genitically and learned how to fight the varroa mite. They survived during this process because there was no reinvasion of mites. The mite population established on a durable level where viruses levels were not high. Thus there was no big help for nosema to thrive. And as the virus levels were low neonics didn’t increase the effects of the viruses that very much.

This colony then under these circumstances were Varroa resistant and could pollinate plants around it that needed pollination. The solitary bees in the area that didn’t live entirely on neonic treated plants survivied too and could pollinate plants, for the benefit of farmers and biological diversity.

So, the message to everyone involved, also chemical companies:

Focus on:

  1. Develope Varroa resistant bees and a plan to spread them among beekeepers.
  2. Make sure there will be enough neonic free pollen sources and nest places for solitary bees close to farm fields, ”wild plant areas”. This will ensure and increase success, crop and money for everyone.