Wednesday 6 May 2015

Gatsbees B-Log: April 2015

Our local bee inspector called to check that there are no signs in our colonies already of these two tropical insects...

Small Hive Beetle (stolen from the internet obviously:

...Small Hive Beetle, originally from Africa (Aethina tumida) and Tropilaelaps (a mite) from Asia, which are on their way to Britain and would cause havoc in the beekeeping industry.

The Beehive Gatwick

The Gatsbees apiary is part of a national scheme by The National Bee Unit, in which the beekeepers of apiaries close to borders, ports and airports where the insects may arrive, send samples to the NBU of debris taken at least twice a year from their colonies to check for evidence of these invaders.

Fencepost Jumping Spider (Marpissa muscosa)

One of our unofficial residents in the hives in Ashley's Field, and definitely my favourite, is the Fencepost Jumping Spider Marpissa muscosa, a great character which has 4 big eyes on the front of its head, 4 behind and it hunts by springing 50 times its own length onto its prey. I’m about to put some into training to eliminate the Varroa mites in my hives….

Varroa mite (1.5mm wide)

The appropriately named Varroa destructor arrived in Britain in the early 1990's and travelled across the country, spreading disease and changing the uncomplicated old ways of beekeeping forever. Imagine walking round with a cushion crawling around your body and you have an idea of the size of the mite and how inconvenient it must be.

Varroa on larvae pulled out of a cell

The Varroa reproduce in a cell on the frame in the hive. The mated female mite runs into a cell where there is a developing bee larva, shortly before the cell is capped over with wax. Then the mite lays eggs and the young mites feed on the blood of the pupa, mate in the cell and emerge into the colony with the fully developed bee to repeat the cycle.

Bee with Deformed Wing Virus

It’s not so much the mites which debilitate the bees, but the viruses that they inject into the bee’s blood as they feed. This bee has deformed wing virus, (one of 6 types of virus) which also bloats the stomach and renders them paralysed.

Give us more space!

All our colonies had DWV last year in varying degrees, but they all seemed to fly it off in the sunshine; or were there so many bees that we didn’t see the sick ones crawl away amongst them?

Heads in cells

So far this season, the deformed wing virus seems to be less prevalent but I had one colony out of 9 die out over the winter from sickness. When a colony is ill, the bees die off rapidly and there aren’t enough to keep each other warm or live within the bounds of the honey stores, so several bees had their heads in the cells, indicating that they were starving, when in fact, there was plenty of food.

The best way to get rid of diseased equipment.

Book Scorpion, Chelifer cancroides (Wikimedia Commons). Up to 4mm

Incidentally, the Beenature-Project in Germany which is studying the Book Scorpion has discovered, or rediscovered that associated with feral Honey Bee colonies (which often live in trees), are these tiny arachnids living in the cracks of the wood and feeding on the blood of the Varroa mite. Hope springs eternal! A great story, check it out - Beenature-Project. All those musty old books from your grandma’s attic can now be used to save the honeybee. Now, where’s that jumping spider………….

Camellia; blousy but simple enough for a bee to collect pollen.

Gill x

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