Monday, January 17, 2011

Another weapon in the fight against Varroa Mites?

I think it’s true to say that beekeepers enjoy “tinkering”, and I dare say we all know one or two who have their own particular system of doing things when it comes to managing their hives.  I think the same is true when it comes to beekeepers playing about with beehive design.  There’s an excellent blog ( that contains literally hundreds of beehive designs, old and new, some of which are still in use and some of which probably shouldn’t be!  It seemed to me that everything must have been tried at least once.  So, just when you thought there really wasn’t anything new to try out…
Enter the “Rotating Broodframe Beehive” from Hungary!  This was first exhibited in 2002 and comprises disk shaped brood frames mounted on a horizontal axle in a conventional looking brood box, located under “normal” supers.  Brood is raised on the disks which slowly rotate (once every 36 hours). So why do this?  Well it’s all done in the name of Varroa mite control. 
In a traditional hive the mites live and lay eggs etc. above the bee pupa. However, in the rotating hive the location of mite eggs may be under the pupa, so they are effectively trapped and the mites are unable to hatch. The food source for the hatched mite larvae (i.e. the hole the female mite chewed in the bee pupa) is also periodically closed off by the bee pupa’s shifting/rotating position.  All this serves to interrupt mite development and causes the female mite in the cell to try and reorganize her eggs, further delaying mite development. The result is that Varroa mites do not have the chance to mature properly in the cell and are not able to survive once the cell cap is opened! 
But how do the bees cope?  Well according to the inventor the rotating brood chamber does not trouble the bees. It just encourages them to reorganize the brood daily. As well as the reported Varroa reduction another interesting aspect of the hive design is that it allows frontal entry to the brood chamber so inspections can be done without having to lift off any supers!  Now that sounds a very good idea!
It all sounds brilliantly simple.  I wonder how effective it has proved to be since it first was developed? Some further research is needed...

Friday, January 14, 2011

The "Need for Feed"

I came home early today to look at the bees and assess if they need any feeding. It was just above freezing (3C) and wasn't windy so it seemed a good time to quickly open the hive and take a look to see if I should add any feed.  To help, last night Fred and I prepared some 2" rims for the hive.  These, placed on the top of the brood box provide sufficient space above the frames, but under the inner cover to place a zip-loc bag full of sugar mush.

So, before opening the hives I lifted them to see how heavy they were.  I was actually surprised as I expected them to be really light.  "Heavy-ish" was my impression - but I still didn't know if that was good or bad; I just haven't been doing this long enough!

After I had assessed the "need for feed", (around 3pm) I opened the small hive (the one with only one deep) and found a large (well I thought it was large) cluster at the top of the frames!  I was very surprised at how large it was - a big ball of bees!!!  Brilliant news, the hive seems to be thriving!!  Still, after a bit of fluster on my part, I smoked the bees down so I could place the mush on the frames over the cluster, put on the rim and covered it up!  I didn't check for brood - I'll wait for a warmer day.

The larger hive (this has two deeps with a super sandwiched inbetween) was next.  I lifted the top cover to find a few dead bees.  Then, looking in the top deep I saw there were some more bees milling around and on lifting a frame I saw yet more and some honey still present in the comb. The bees are clearly clustering in the super.  I don't think there is enough honey for them to move up to the top deep, but I reckon if the first hive is anything to go by there is probably enough honey in the hive for now.  Again, I'll wait for a warm day before I look more deeply in the hive. I expect there may be brood in the super which would be annoying, but not the end of the world!  I nevertheless placed the sugar mush on the top of the top deep, but I don't think they will take it. But you never know.

Overall I'm very happy with what I found.  It looks pretty good so far and I think it is a real possibility the bees in both hives will overwinter successfully!

Ted's Sugar Mush :  8 parts granulated sugar, 1 part water. Mixed together to form a mush and placed in zip-loc bags over the top of the frames.  Just cut a couple of slits in the top of the bag.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here's something to consider on those dark winter evenings...

If anyone out there fancies deviating from the standard Langstroth hive, there's more than enough alternatives contained in this beehive journal blog to keep you amused/bemused for hours!  It seems there is nothing new in beekeeping. it's all been tried, and done, by someone, somewhere before!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When will there be another warm day?

The last warm day was New Years Eve, it's been too cold to open the hive since and it's just been predicted to be the coldest week of the winter season next week; -14C on Wednesday.  I hope that on Wednesday at the first beekeeper meeting of the year there will be some good advice on what and how to feed the bees, if they need it, when it does get a bit warmer.  I hope we do get a break as I think this is being hard on the girls.  Time will tell I suppose, and there is little I can do about that!