Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Gatsbees B-Log: August 2015

Black-eyed Susan 
(Rudbeckia fulgida var. 'sullivantii Goldsturm')

By the time August arrives, the bees know for certain that winter is only around the corner

Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus)

and the pantry must be full of honey and pollen.



I sometimes go to the apiary intent on doing ‘a job’ but occasionally I get there and the orderly haste I find persuades me to leave them alone and watch.


Much less stressful for all of us!


We found the queen in this colony (the one with the longer abdomen in the centre of the picture


and the peanut shaped cell from which she emerged (centred above the wooden bar)


We also found a text book queen cell torn open by the workers, where there is a dead queen larva, which would have been stung in its cell by the first queen to emerge. Queens have no barbs on their sting and so can kill more than one rival.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)


It was at about this time when the weather changed for the worst; the bees were unable to leave the hive and forage


and nectar became a premium, one visiting the sedum, which had hardly begun to flower in the cold.


The rain began in earnest


And those bees still out foraging, chilled and died.


As I made the choice to not treat for varroa, one colony (although not at Gatwick) swarmed themselves out, couldn’t tolerate the viruses and were very sick. They become disorientated and unable to function and died out quickly but it’s difficult to watch and the temptation to throw medicine at them is huge.

 (Foreground: Bee with Deformed Wing Virus. Far right: bee with varroa mite on its thorax)

I found that treatments may kill the varroa mites, but the bees still become sick, albeit in different circumstances. Putting down a colony of bees is extremely dispiriting.


I’m sure that all beekeepers would love their bees to be hygienic; that is bees with the ability to recognise the presence of varroa mites in the cells, pull them out and eject them from the nest. This house bee is probably looking for mites on her sister, a good start and something we should try to look at in more detail next year. See Google: Swindon beekeeper Ron Hoskins

Peony (Paeonia) seeds

Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense)


One sunny afternoon, after Duchess’s colony became queen right again (had a laying queen) the workers began to evict the drones. They become a nuisance when they are no longer needed for breeding as they just hang around the hive eating the stores of honey.


It's a brutal event, with the workers trying to bite off the drones’ wings as they are forced out. It’s a one way ticket for a drone; die in glory if you mate with a virgin queen, die in the fury of the workers if you don’t.


You’ll be pleased to hear that wasps are useful in this world after all, picking up dead and dying insects to take back to the nest for their larvae to eat in spring and early summer, and receiving a sugary liquid in exchange, but now the nest will  have disbanded and it’s every wasp for herself.


At the same time, the ever neat and tidy bees are trying to pick the bodies up and fly away with them to drop them far away from the nest to eliminate the smell of death.

Other visitors to the hives:

(Balaustium spp.) A tiny mite regularly seen at the hives, it feeds 
on pollen and predates other tiny invertebrates

This nest of a Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile spp.) is not part of the Honeybee colony

A brave choice of site for the nest of this Leaf-cutter bee, tucked in a gap between the roof and the crown board, crafted from rose leaves cut out with its mandibles and flown back to the nest.

Persicaria, agapanthus and verbena bonariensis.

Dahlia. 

Autumn is on the way. 

Gillybee X