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Things have been hectic again, and I cannot believe that it’s been so long since my last post. The aspect of my smallholding life that has been keeping me so busy has been beekeeping. This is a hectic time of the year as far as the bees are concerned, but the changeable weather, and a breakdown in communications, has made it even busier.

Firstly the good news. I extracted my first batch of honey for this year. 37lbs from one hive, which came from two supers. That is all of the honey that we will use in the next twelve months, put into jars in mid May. There is still a full super on, plus a spare brood body, which is being filled as well. The brood body is to give me frames of food to give to new hives, when I make increase. That should have been last week. I ordered four new queens, from an importer who has always been good in the past, with instructions to let me know if there was going to be a delay. No message came, so I created three new hives, and removed an old failing queen from another, ready to introduce the new queens the following day. They didn’t turn up, and will not get here before the end of this week, nine days late, at least. I have had to buy a product called Bee Boost, which is an artificial pheremone, designed to replace one given out by the queen. I’m hoping that this will keep the queenless hives working, and believing that there is a queen present, until the new queens cam be introduced. I’ve not tried it before, and it’s not what I would have chosen to do, but I don’t want to lose them. The bees for the three hives all came from one huge colony. Each hive has six frames of bees, including stores, but not much sealed brood. The colony was preparing to swarm, and I think that they had stopped the queen from laying, and were trimming her down to fly. The parent colony is still very strong, and I will need to monitor them, to see if the removal of so many bees has deterred them from swarming, and that the queen is laying again.

I have also been helping a local business with their bees. We have carried out a shook swarm on one colony, and moved it to a new location, and I have to do the second hive tomorrow. Weather permitting. The work is helping out my finances, and it’s nice to work with bees in a situation where cost is not a concern. I’m hoping that this will develop into something really special. The bees are being moved temporarily, so that a better apiary can be constructed. The bees will go back onto a 500 acre Biodynamic farm, and we may be able to adjust their planting regime, in order to provide additional forage. They already grow acres of good stuff, and the farm is just over the road from my own bees:-)  I’ll keep you posted.

I have used essential oils in my feed, hoping that it would help with my varroa regime. I came across this article recently, which you might find interesting.                                                                               varroa article

It’s dated 1996, so I’m not sure how up to date it is, but if you look at some of the treatments offerred these days, they are just essential oils, either natural, or synthetic. the same goes for some of the feed supplements.

Here are some more useful links. Varroa Control

Essential Oil again

I hope that you find them useful. I got the most from them by reading them, and then following all of the links, and reading those too. It helps with doses, methods, etc.

As I’m not looking to sell honey, but would prefer to raise more bees, I’m toying with the idea of only having two colonies at a time producing honey, and keeping the remainder for bee breeding. This would allow me to keep feeding with essential oils, without worrying about them getting into the honey. Having said that, I would rather have them in my honey, than some of the other chemicals. This regime would allow me to create strong colonies for splitting, with plenty of stores. The stores would contain the oils, which would then be used to raise young bees. The benefits of that are apparent from the first link. Less varroa, more bees, clean bees.

I’ve been making new hives, nucleus hives, a swarm box, and a couple of bait hives. I have liaised with a local pest control company, and arranged to collect their swarms, and put leaflets through doors in my village, to let people know that they can contact me for swarm collection. I suspect that when this windy, wet weather breaks, swarming will start in earnest, and I might run out of hives. I should be so lucky.

There are some things to update you with, that are not bee related, but I’ll save that for later this week.

Take Care