October Bee Notes from the Abbey Beekeeper

The Bee by Emily Dickinson

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush

I hear the level bee:

A jar across the flowers goes,

Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault

Their chivalry consumes,

While he, victorious, tilts away

To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,

His helmet is of gold;

His breast, a single onyx

With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labour is a chant,

His idleness a tune;

Oh, for a bee’s experience

Of clovers and of noon.


My beekeeping year is winding down. Yesterday I spent a pleasant afternoon cleaning supers with a blow torch. I worked away while keeping one eye on the bees as they flew back and forth from the ivy flowers which are close by. I still have a queenless colony and plan to unite it with a colony I have moved beside it.

Last month I moved the hive in which I caught the August swarm to a neighbour’s garden. I left it there for two or three weeks and then brought it back and placed it with the rest of my hives. I was surprised and dismayed to find many of the older bees returning to the location where I had hived it as a swarm. Clearly, my neighbour’s garden is less than three miles away! The three feet or three miles rule still applies!

I had a case of robbing this year. This is when bees from another, usually stronger colony, rob a weaker one of its supplies.  It is almost impossible to stop once it starts. You will notice it by the intensity of the goings and comings of the bees…their flight is frenetic and the activity at the entrance is intense with bees trying to get in and others desperately trying to keep them out.

It normally starts if you spill honey or syrup near a weak colony. A neighbouring hive gets the taste of it and ploughs on into the weak hive plundering its goods.

The danger is that once they get the taste for this readily available food source they may move on to another colony and plunder it too! The only way to interrupt it is to take the colony that is being robbed away or let it be robbed out and hope the robbers don’t move on to another colony.

It normally only happens to weak colonies which you may be better off without anyway.

To prevent robbing it is very important

  • not to spill any of the syrup when feeding
  • feed all colonies at the same time and
  • do at dusk when they are all in.
  • Some colonies will clear the feeder by the morning.
  • Putting feeders on generates excitement among the bees and this can alert others to the source of food…especially if it is only on one colony.

It is not too late to feed a good thick syrup…thicker the better as this means there is less water to drive off…and treat for varroa too!

An interesting note on the treatment of varroa appeared in this months Irish Beekeeper.

We know that some varroa mites have developed resistance to Bayvarol. This means that Apiguard is the preferred treatment against the varroa mite.

Originally it was recommended to use a shallow eke with a bee space or two above the tray of Apiguard. Recent research suggests that for effective control  a space of 2.62 inches gives the best results and raise the effectiveness of the product from 78.2% to 92.4%

This study is reported in the Journal of Apicultural Research Vol. 47 (2) pp. 113 – 117.

Summary of article

Varroa destructor can be controlled quite effectively with thmol based products, although environmental factors such as external temperatures can influence their evaporation and thereby their effectiveness. In this experiment we evaluated how the air space in a hive influences the efficacy of the thymol basewd product Apiguard. Three test groups with different volumes  of air above the combs (where Apiguard is placed) were obtained by using normal crown board (bee space 0.65cm) a bee escape frame board (2.85cm) and an inverted high crown board (6.65 cm).

The overall efficiencies of the treatments were  78.3%, 87.6% and 92.4% respectively. The efficacy of the product in the group of hives with the greatest air space  was significantly higher compared to the group with the smallest air space……Our results suggest that a large air space around Apiguard ensures a more constant and more complete thymol sublimation that may increase its efficacy and reduce variability among hives.

Happy Beekeeping.