Listen to your bees

Brother Adam often said that you should listen to our bees to be able to understand them and learn better how to manage them. Peter Donovan, who worked for him, expressed that when you went through a hive you read the bees like you read a book when going through the combs (pages). After all the bees don’t read our manuals so we have to read them instead.

The other day my I talked to my niece who has been a beekeeper for more than 20 years. She has 3 colonies and live on the countryside in the middle of the forest. This year her bees have had an unusual good flow on heather (Calluna vulgaris).

She told me she and some others stood and talked on the barnyard when a bee came and landed on her arm. It sat still and looked at her without a sign of flying away. Regina said that maybe it wanted to tell them something. So she went to the hives to take a look.

When she arrived there a football of bees hanged outside. So she gave that hive another box. The bees went inside and started flying more active. They needed more room. You need to listen to your bees!

Changes again

I ended the last blog-post saying that the season wasn’t completely over yet. That was very true. August has been our summer here in Sweden. And it’s not over yet, August and warm summer. Though the nights are chilly. But my wife and I are taking our daily morning swim in a near by lake, followed by breakfast at the shore, coffee and a sandwich.

Bigård23ljung Heather

Heather (Caluna vulgaris) yields honey this year in big parts of Sweden. In my area very good, even in areas quite far from places with lots of the plant. But in spite of this the total honey crop is the worst since I became a beekeeper 40 years ago.

But the colonies have changed appearance. Now they look very healthy and the winter room will be quite full of honey, not only from heather (a quite tough honey for wintering a long winter confined to the hive), but also from thistles, fireweed and golderod. And probably I will not use more Thymol than last year after all.

Why the VSH 80-daugter I mentioned in the former post had so much bald brood, I saw the other day, may well be due to a failing queen. She is not laying that much eggs any more. So there are fewer open brood for the mites to invade and thus not so many new healthy pupae that turns into new bees. And the strength of the colony declines. It’s a little late for the bees to shift the queen. They should have done that earlier. We’ll see if the colony will make it through winter.

Bigård23A Apiary where all supers above the queen excluder has been harvested. Most colonies are wintered on three square (12-frame) shallow langstroth boxes. Two colonies are wintered on two boxes Even with isolation dummy frames at the sides in both boxes). They are weaker than the others.

Bigård23B The strongest colony in this apiary

Bigård23C One colony in this colony needed Thymol against varroa now. The sign for me was wingless crawling bees on the hardboard outside the entrance. It got two pieces of dishcloth with 4-5 gram Thymol each (hopefully it will be enough, will check for this sign again in 10-14 days).

At the moment I’m harvesting all supers above the queen excluder. From some apiaries there is a quite good late harvest. From others not so good. But the winter room will contain a good amount of honey. Those colonies needing Thymol strips get it, not so many now. Most of the needy have got it earlier in the season.