Friday 30 October 2009

The Co-op's film

Stop Press

This film, sponsored by the Co-operative sociey as part of their Plan Bee campaign will screen in The Watershed, Bristol on Sunday, 29th November at midday. Book tickets online here.

To see the Co-op's campaign and sign their petition click here.

How to Modify a standard Warré floor

Update - May 2011: Since drafting this page in 2009, I have come to believe that using this method for monitoring varroa is not beneficial. Sliding a piece of card into the entrance works just as well if you want to monitor hive debris. I would certainly never leave a varroa screen and tray in a beehive as they provide an area of the hive that the colony cannot access to clean/sterilise. As such the area below the screen/tray becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and pests. In my view the success of the Warré hive is down to the low disturbance management method. Opening the hive, even at the floor level, disrupts this and disturbs the bees thermodynamic control. Unless you intend to treat you hive with a synthetic miticide then why bother to monitor them? Surely it's better to give them what they need to live hygienically and manage their own mite levels and that means not disturbing them. 

This simple modification will adapt your standard Warré floor into one which will allow you to a) monitor your Varroa mite drop and b) feed your bees from below the colony with syrup/fondant without the need to remove the roof, quilt or take off the bee boxes.

Materials required:

  • 1.5 mts length of wood 100mm x 20mm (why not use an old pallet)
  • varroa screen 300mm x 300mm (YABeeP holds a supply of this for members use)
  • thin material for tray 300mm x 300mm
NB: Click on any image to see it enlarged

1. Block off old entrance
Cut and stick into place a piece of wood to fill the old entrance - shown as yellow in illustration.

2. Add front and sides
Glue and screw 2 sides and a front - shown in blue in illustration

  • Sides 100mm high x length of your floor minus 20mm (to accommodate rear door
  • Front 100mm high x width of floor minus 2 sides
  • Cut new entrance 120mm wide x 20mm deep in centre top of front piece:

3. Add a landing board
NB: This stage is optional as bees don't need a landing board but they do assist observation and photography.
Glue and screw a new landing board to base of new entrance hole shown in green in illustration. Dimensions around 160mm wide x 40mm deep:

4. Add runners for varroa screen
Stick 2 strips to the inside of sides shown in pink in illustration 4.These slope from just below top of side at rear to just below level of entrance hole at front and will support your varroa screen:

5. Add removable door
Add door to rear, shown on red in illustration

  • 100mm high x width of your Warré floor
  • close with catches, clips or ties

6. Add varroa screen & mite tray
Cut a varroa monitoring screen to the size of your box and place onto (pink) side strips. Also cut a second tray made from a sheet of thin material (hardboard, plastic, etc.) and lay this on the floor – see illustration
. NB: mesh size needs to be 8 holes per inch.

How to Use

Varroa monitoring and counting - To use for varroa monitoring open door, slide in varroa screen and varroa tray then close door. You can then access varroa tray to count your mite drop as and when required. You can also paint a sticky medium onto your tray with Vaseline or vegetable oil to trap the mites.

Feeding sugar syrup/fondant – To use as a bottom feeder slide out the varroa screen then place container of sugar syrup or fondant on the bottom - you can use the varroa board to help slide it in. Please note: If you use syrup ensure that a mesh float is used to prevent the bees from drowning in the syrup.

This 'How to Modify a standard Warré floor' guide can be downloaded as a 2 page pdf file here.
You can download the 3D Google Sketchup model here. (Sketchup is a free programme that allows you to view, create and share 3D models. If you upload this file into Sketchup you can view it from all angles, pan and zoom, take detailed measurements and do many other things)

Tuesday 20 October 2009

End of Season meeting - 17th October 2009

For those of you who couldn’t make it here is a quick summary of the last meeting of the season held on Saturday 17th October. Thanks to all those who attended, yet again it was a full and very vibrant meeting despite a few members being away!

Two new members, John and Becky, were welcomed to the ever growing fold. We now have over 20 families involved – not bad when you think we only started this March.

2009 Season review
Being the end of the 2009 season we recapped on our successes/failures over the year. It was agreed that 2009 had, yet again, not been a good year for honeybees. Weather-wise we did have a great spring which allowed the bees to build up really strongly but this was followed by a disastrous July and August (don’t we all know it!) which gave food supply difficulties for the large colonies which had built up. Consensus amongst other UK sustainable beekeepers on the Biobee forum seemed to agree with this. With hindsight (aint it a wonderful thing) it was agreed that perhaps we should have actively fed colonies this summer.

However, amongst the group 11 new honeybee colonies had been started, all but 1 from swarms, the other from a package of bees. Of these four swarms had died out – 1 was poisoned - source later identified; 1 the queen was found dead in the initial swarm; 1 was a failed split; 1 reason as yet unknown – see below.

The major problem we faced was a shortage of swarms as 3 others in the group had hives built and ready to go later in the season had they been available. Also a few others would have liked to populate second hives. The wet summer was one factor contributing to this problem but it was also felt that the Local Authority was favouring certain Swarm Liaison Officers. With luck we should fair better next year provided our 7 colonies make it through the winter as these will be a source of future swarms for us. We will also consider starting our own apiary (see below).

Dave kindly brought along his hive which had recently died out when he was away. This hive was started in mid June, just before the weather turned. From the comb build-up it obvious that they had started well and there was evidence of queen cells being built so queen problems may have been the issue. Poisoning or starvation are the other suspects but Dave has wisely kept some of the dead bees and at John’s suggestion will send them to FERA for analysis.

End of season housekeeping
We discussed ensuring that hive entrances were reduced against bee robbing and mouse attack – Plug all but 1 entrance hole on horizontal hive and fit mouse guard on Warrés – an example Warré mouse guard was shown. [NB: for those unable to make these we can knock up a few at the December workshop – see below]

Feeding was also discussed (see footnote) and a couple of examples of adapted Warré floors to facilitate winter feeding without opening the hives were shown. [NB: Again, for those unable to make these we can make them at the December workshop]

Bumble & Solitary bees
2009 had focussed heavily on honeybees but it was agreed that we would all like to do more for other bees. 3 of the group had hosted bumbles collected from call-outs. More were prepared to do so next year and/or place nests in their gardens in preparation for Jan/Feb when the queens are looking for new homes. See the Bumblebee Conservation Trust site for details. It was agreed that we would hold a Bumble & Solitary bee’s house workshop to build boxes which John kindly volunteered to take forward. This needs to be done before Christmas as a) some bumbles decide on their nest sites in Jan and b) solitary boxes make great Christmas pressies! [Workshop now arranged for 5th December, check your emails.]

YABeeP Apiary
The idea was mooted that we should be aiming to have our own apiary in the longer term. Amongst other benefits this would provide an option for those unable to keep bees on their own land and could provide a potential stock from which to breed bees to supply future members. Juley reported that YACWAG , the local nature conservation group, have expressed an interest in having bees on one of their land holdings which could tie in quite well. Juley will explore this with them although there could be a delay as it cannot go ahead until we get the hives built and populated with bees. We also agreed that members already awaiting bees should be given bees as a priority.

Next season
We agreed to start next season with a Honeybee hive building workshop around late February/March (Robin to arrange) for new members who have joined over the winter period and want to prepare for the season. This workshop to also include building horizontal hives as well as the Warrés.

Monthly meetings would again start in 2010 around April though we may go to every other month as the season progresses.

We discussed the possibility of more publicity for YABeeP and possible bee house building for children though it was felt that the group was naturally growing organically without it and a membership push may result in a demand for bees that we cannot meet.

Bits and bobs
There was some interest expressed in the possibility of arranging a Christmas social get-together, possibly a pub meet. Beanie kindly agreed to take this forward.

Juley’s reported that the conventional beekeeper who was using her land had given up following his bees absconding twice. She has since discovered honeycomb built in one of her bumblebee nesting boxes and wonders if they absconded his National hive in favour of her natural box!

To feed bees use a sugar syrup solution by mixing sugar into hot water. Use granulated white sugar - do NOT use unrefined or brown sugar as this can cause dysentery in the bees. Cane sugar is best (Tate & Lyle’s regular granulated is marked as cane) as pesticides are used on beet sugar crops in the UK.
In autumn the feed should be 2:1 i.e. 1 kilo of sugar to ½ litre of water (2lbs to1 Pint). It is better to feed a large amount over a short period rather than little and often or you risk stimulating the queen to start new brood - not desirable just before winter.
If you need to feed in spring or summer use a more dilute mix of 1 kilo of sugar to 1 litre of water (1lb sugar to 1 Pint water).
In winter (Jan & Feb) do not use syrup as the bees may not have the ability to dehydrate it enough to prevent fermentation. Over winter use sugar fondant which the bees can eat. Download a simple bee fondant recipe from the Edinburgh Beekeepers (16KB) or use this recepie and how to article from Bee Craft.