August notes from the Abbey Beekeeper

What a joy to write this month – the weather has cheered both bees and beekeeper. The nectar has flowed and fortunately the bees were ready for the bumper harvest!  It has also been a great time for my solar wax extractor and it has now dealt with my accumulated old comb!

I hope you got the chance to stroll in your apiary in the evening time. It is wonderful to watch and listen as bees work late into the evening, cooling themselves on the exterior of the hive and fanning their wings at the entrance helping to drive off excess moisture from the fresh nectar.

I stopped inspecting my hives once the flow was on. They are not meant to swarm once the flow starts but as usual no one told the bees about this theory! I did have a swarm, caught it in a box only to find it had disappeared a half hour later….

My inspections, when they occur are to ensure the colony is healthy, queen right, and to see if additional supers are required. This year this has been a welcome job….adding supers!

Once we are into the month of August and the main flow is over the  colony will diminish. Drones are still around but hopefully there should be no further swarms.

July 29th

I took off the surplus honey yesterday and have three full supers from each hive. There is still some more nectar flowing. I hope each colony can gather enough of this so I won’t have to feed them later. The second reason for removing the crop early is that I am expecting my two new Galtee Queens this week. This will allow me to split two colonies into four and increase my colonies for next year. I have not tried this before and it is fascinating to look at the different methods on You Tube. I will let you know how it goes next month!

Here is my plan – first find the queen  (put her back in original hive) and then remove

1.    two capped brood – capped brood so the bees don’t need to care for them.

2.    frame of stores

3.    one drawn comb frame.

4.    shake in some extra non flying nurse bees

5.    dummy board


When making up a nuc you want to lose all flying bees – they are the ones that might find it difficult to accept new queen and will return to the original colony. If you don’t have flying bees you can place the nuc anywhere in apiary.


A week later remove dummy board and add fifth frame with capped brood (queen laying now)  – place in middle of nuc so that there are enough bees to keep them warm.   As these hatch you have a supply of bees to clean, feed older larvae. They start by cleaning cells and then feed older larvae. They then develop the glands needed to make bee food for younger larvae. As the capped brood no need for foragers!

An interesting note about feeding bees!
A study in the US has shown that honeybee food may contribute to U.S. colony collapse. Bee keepers who use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to colony collapse by depriving the insects of compounds that strengthen their immune systems, according to a study released on Monday.

U.S. bee keepers lost nearly a third of their colonies last winter continuing the on-going and largely unexplained decline in the population of the crop-pollinating insects that could hurt the U.S. food supply.

A bee’s natural food is its own honey, which contains compounds like p-coumaric acid that appear to help detoxify and strengthen a bee’s immunity to disease, according to a study by scientists at the University of Illinois.

Bee keepers, typically harvest the honey produced by the bees and feed them substitutes like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

“The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses,” according to the study, which was published on May 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America said in May that more than 30% of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, up sharply from around 22% the previous winter but still close to the six-year average. The losses vary year to year, but a huge and prolonged multiyear decline threatens the species and crop pollination.

Honeybees pollinate fruits and vegetables that make up roughly one-quarter of the American diet, and scientists are split over whether pesticides, parasites or habitat loss are mainly to blame for the deaths.

Similar losses have been recorded in Europe where lawmakers have moved to ban three of the world’s most widely used pesticides for two years amid growing criticism from environmental activists.

Agrichemical and pesticide makers like Monsanto, Bayer AG and Syngentaare also launching projects to study and counter colony collapse.

Few deny that pesticides – particularly a class of commonly used insecticides called neonicotinoids – can be harmful to bees in the laboratory. It is unclear what threat the insecticides pose under current agricultural usage. Some scientists say habitat decline and disease-carrying parasites, such as the Varroa mite, are the chief cause of bee deaths.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Kenneth Barry)