If you are overwintering an Apidea you will need to keep a close eye on the stores – especially in a mild winter when the queen may start to lay early. This one in the picture above has a double brood box and was well stocked with ivy honey in autumn but it felt a bit light so I fed it today. If you are wondering why the air vent is left open – that’s because they have it completely propolised and I don’t want to leave the front door wide open.
At the end of the summer, it is not always possible to find a colony in need of a new queen, especially after a summer as good as this one (2014) when it seems all the queens mated well. Nor is it always possible to find colonies with sufficient sealed brood to make up a nuc without weakening them unduly before winter. So what to do with those last, late queens in your Apideas?
Here is the quandary I found myself in this year: I had several sad little queenless Apideas and two other strong ones, each with five frames (feeder removed) and with good laying queens in them. I can never quite face shaking the poor queenless bees out, nucs weren’t possible and there’s nothing so sad as watching an Apidea dwindle its way into winter with laying workers and a bellyful of slugs.
There are many reasons during the course of the season why you might need to replace a queen bee. She could have become a drone layer, you may have killed her by accident or it could be that the bees need to be improved by the addition of a new queen with better genes. Whatever the reason, you can’t just put her in because they will almost certainly kill her – although I have known cases where clipped queens have fallen to the ground in failed swarming attempts and have then made their way back up the stand legs and into the front door of a queenless neighbour! Continue reading Quick queen-bee introduction – Matchbox Method→
If, like me, you have placed your Apidea/s in a spot that overheats in very hot weather you can easily cool them down and stop them from absconding by draping a white flannel or a strip of pale towelling over them like an Arab headdress. The pale colour will reflect a lot of the heat and if you periodically drench the cloth with cold water the problem is solved.
Alternatively you could just put a big sponge on the roof and wet it at intervals. Make sure there is a slope is away from the entrance or water will run in.
Also, make sure that you have the ventilation grille partially open so the bees can circulate the air. If you fully open the door you will fully close the grille so avoid that – see the photo above.
The Carniolan bee also known as Apis mellifera carnica or A.m.carnica for short has its origins in Eastern Europe and is therefore adapted to a continental climate with cold hard winters and long hot summers. It is now the main bee in Germany.
Photo from https://beeinformed.org/2012/04/queen-bee-identification/
It is also known as the Grey bee because 3 segments of its abdomen are broadly covered in a thick pelt of short grey hairs which partially conceals the underlying dark abdomen giving it a frosted look. Photo from queen bee identification article on www.beeinformed.org
It is similar to the Italian bee in that it is a medium sized bee with a long narrow body and limbs and it also has the same long proboscis which enables it to make full use of the red clover – an important forage crop in Europe. Here in Ireland, your bees will have to be quick off the mark if you want to get to the clover before that army of sacred cows known as the ‘Dairy Industry’
Coming, as it does, from a region where summers are predictably long and warm, it has a strong swarming tendency. In its native range, winters are long and cold so it does fares better over winter than the Italian bee, being very thrifty with a smaller brood nest. In spring, the build-up can be very rapid indeed an adaptation to take advantage of an early flow. If there is one…
Like all honey bee subspecies in their pure form, Carniolan bees can have a gentle nature which is good. When matings are mixed, aggression can be expected.
Here in the far west of Europe we have our own native bee, the Irish native honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, which has evolved over thousands of years and ‘knows’ how to cope with whatever this clammy, wet and unpredictable Irish climate can throw at it.
If you are thinking of importing Carniolan bees – or buying from somebody else who imports Carniolan or any other bees for that matter – remember that you will be helping to erode the genetics of the Irish bee. Ask yourself – why would you want to do that? Wouldn’t you prefer to be a proper beekeeper? Learn to work with your locals and rear your own queens?
And don’t forget – small Hive Beetle is out there waiting for somebody just like you. You don’t want to find yourself in front of god explaining why you destroyed your neighbour’s native bee breeding programme and at the same time introduced the most devastating bee parasite to Ireland now do you?
The Buckfast Bee is named after Buckfast Abbey in Devon, in England, where it was first bred by famous bee breeder Brother Adam.
Brother Adam (Karl Kehrle 1898-1996) came to Buckfast Abbey from Germany at the age of 12 and began to assist the beekeeper there. In 1916, 30 of the 46 beehives at the Abbey were wiped out by Isle of Wight disease, now recognised as Acarine – a parasitic mite which moves in and occupies the windpipes of bees. Continue reading Buckfast Bee→
This is a book for the winter; it is a slim volume – a mere 150 pages – but like a nutritious meal with plenty of fibre it requires time, concentration and a lot of chewing. When you read a book like this you realise just how little you know about bees – it really is packed with information.
He begins with queen rearing. Every aspect of queen rearing, from the selection of a queen rearing method, selection of starter and rearer colonies, queenright versus queenless, selection of eggs and larvae or queens and drones, even selection of the right bees for mini-nucs all is gone over with meticulous attention to detail, logical consideration and backed up with scientific study.
Detailed information on the mechanics of the various queen rearing manipulations is also supplied.
After pointing out the difference between queen rearing and bee breeding he moves on to consider which bee to breed from and points out that only breeding within a pure species will result in traits which are heritable. Good qualities often found in hybrids are not passed on reliably to the next generation so: “The starting point in breeding must therefore be the race, that is to say, a combination of genetic qualities sieved and tested by Nature herself.”
There is variability within each race, the performance of colonies can be evaluated and stocks either included or excluded from the breeding program depending on their characteristics. He gives six factors to be evaluated –
Spring build up;
Urge to draw foundation;
Absence of signs of inbreeding – gappy brood;
Steadiness on the comb.
The identification of the chosen species is vital of course and much information is given on the methods such as observable characteristics such as colour, size and hairiness and less obvious features which can only be detected by more scientific methods such as wing morphometry.
I’m not going to go into wing morphometry here except to say that it is the study and and measurement of the veins and panels in the wings of the honeybee. From a distance this can look like a bottle of smoke until when you realise that these measurements are calibrated against those of preserved museum samples of bees from as far back as the Vikings – long before the importation of bees was thought of.
A chapter on bee genetics is never going to read like a bodice ripper but there should be a better way of getting this message across. Simply put – inbreeding is to be avoided or you’re going to get sluggish bees with gappy brood that don’t build up, can’t be bothered to go out to work and don’t overwinter with thrift or efficiency. Ring any bells?
This book is no walk in the park, nothing containing this level and amount of detailed information could be, but it is a vital reference-section occupant for the beekeeper’s bookshelf and for anyone serious about conserving their native bee it is essential reading – however difficult.