‘A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a Swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July is not worth a fly’ goes the old adage. While the currency referred to is somewhat outdated, the principle that an early swarm will give you a good return, and a late one will mean that you need to put resources into preserving that swarm, is still relevant.
Once we come to the end of July forage will begin to dry up, colonies will start to reduce in size and as beekeepers we need to be vigilant about ensuring that our bees have sufficient stores, particularly if we have taken off a honey crop, or colonies are weak.
Bees continue to confound our best efforts to understand and describe their behaviour and natural processes. Two of us this year have shared the experience of a swarm persistently avoiding drawing out the presented frames with foundation, and then drawing out wild comb in the roof of the nuc box . Tom Seeley, the renowned American beekeeper and researcher, assures us that swarms prefer a cavity of around 40 litres, so why are these bees preferring an attic space to the nicely prepared living room of the nuc box?
I have noticed that the lime trees bordering Rugby School playing fields and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Sports Centre are in full flower and being visited by bees, so those of you lucky enough to have bees near lime trees will be hopefully seeing a good supply of lovely light nectar being brought in by your bees. Hebes are now flowering and they have nectar with a high sugar content so this should be good for forage this month. Also the blackberries seem to have been flowering for ages but are still in full bloom in my garden. All good news for filling supers this month.
If you are able to come along to events like Wolston Walkabout or the Thurlaston fair where we have a stand fulfilling our objective to promote beekeeping and information about bees to the public, it is always welcome to see a friendly face and of course if you can spare an hour or two to relieve the stalwarts ‘manning’ the pitch so they can wander about and see what is on offer, you would be very popular.
It has been good to see many of our newer beekeepers at our Apiary meetings and of course anyone else is welcome to come along. I have sometimes had to change times and venue depending on weather or the state of hives, so it may be best to drop me an email to ensure you get included on my list of newer beekeepers.
We had a scare at the Branch Apiary this year with one colony showing signs of a serious infection of sacbrood. We were concerned that it may be EFB as this was found in Rugby last year, but a visit from the bee inspector Colleen Reichling confirmed to our relief that it was ‘just’ a case of severe sacbrood. As a virus there is no ‘treatment’ for sacbrood. The virus is spread by nurse bees who have become infected and transmit the virus to the larvae they feed. These nurse bees also become foragers at an earlier age, presumably as an attempt by the hive to control the spread of the disease. It is also thought that replacing the queen from another strain of bees that are more hygienic and who may remove infected larvae can help. It is also important to ensure the colony is well fed and otherwise strong and healthy. Apparently, according to the Bee Inspector, there has been a lot of sacbrood evident this year. The poor weather in June may have contributed to this, confining bees to a crowded hive for long periods helping to spread the virus. So be alert for signs of sacbrood.
Over the summer we do not have regular meetings at the Friends Meeting House so do consider coming along to the social events, with or without partners or family. Everyone is welcome.