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Thread: todays news

  1. #4071

    Default 2019 season

    Hi - its been a really good year from my perspective (good yields and learning lots) despite the fact that in Tayside we had a horrendous June gap. Early season weather and hence crop was good, and I worked on getting freshly drawn comb to replace old stuff and help with chalkbrood. That gave me a good start and so also ran with a few colonies on double brood for awhile. Almost lost a couple of strong colonies in June after taking off the OSR honey but emergency feeding saved the day. My swarm control this year was exclusively the nucleus method of removing the old Q. Pretty sure that only 1 swarm emanated from my colonies in May - and I caught it in the apiary. Got 16/20 mated Qs from end May to end June that look OK despite poor weather when Qs were first due to fly. Qs did take along time to get going this year, with most starting laying 4-5 weeks after emergence. Nothing appeared in bait hives, called to two swarms, 1 Q-less and I missed the Q in other.

    I thought the colonies looked a bit on the weak side for the heather but again, they did well in the Angus glens where the bell heather went on for at least 5-6 weeks. Colonies going into winter look strong so fingers crossed. All but 1 colony seems very well behaved. The one that is a concern is full of runners, did not do much re honey and the Q is unmarked and not clipped cause she out sprinted me every time. The running makes it really difficult to inspect - so that Q will not be bred from next year. A pity because they are the darker bee that I prefer,

    Difficult to be accurate with honey yield because I am not that efficient at extraction, try to get alot of sections and cut comb. Some of the honey this year was too high in water content, and has been fed back to the bees. Overall I am somewhere close to 40 lbs per hive actually extracted and kept. Sold most of it but still a few buckets tucked away. Forage and conditions seemed to work out pretty well for OSR, sycamore, lime and bramble. Little willowherb as judged by only small amounts of that distinctive pollen.

    Big lessons - stick with nucleus method of swarm control, make sure there is lots of fully drawn fresh comb available (no Q-cells tucked into eaten away corners makes life a bit easier), pay more attention to level of stores in large colonies.

  2. #4072

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    Hello Lindsey
    I would agree it has been an unusual year. It started with a very hot dry spring here in Ullapool and the bees got off to a flying start built up very quickly and then started swarm preparation really at the end of April and in early May. This was followed by a good blossom harvest which was rapidly consumed in the awful June weather when it was cold wet and windy for several weeks. All the spring stores were consumed and I had to resort to feeding some colonies which is something I have never ever done in the middle of the year.
    Then late July and August are hot and sunny.I got a good harvest from the lime trees with beautiful clear slightly citrus flavoured honey. Despite keeping these for over 20 years I donít actually like honey all that much, I just love keeping these. However the lime honey is really quite delicious.I then went on to get a modest harvest from the Heather.
    I started of the year with three good colonies, Sold a colony, reared enough Queens to supply a local beekeeper with three Queens and have ended up with seven strong colonies headed up by either a 2018 or 2019 Queen. I also bought a queen from Andrew Abrahams in Colonsay both for interest and also to see if I could improve the genetic diversity of my bees.
    I live in Ullapool in the Northwest Highlands and when the weather is good the beekeeping is good and when the weather is poor itís very challenging.
    Richard


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  3. #4073
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2010
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    Orkney (it’s usually cool and windy but somehow the bees survive!)
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RDMW View Post

    I live in Ullapool in the Northwest Highlands and when the weather is good the beekeeping is good and when the weather is poor itís very challenging.
    Richard
    Hello Richard, I once spent nearly a week in Ullapool on a school trip over 40 years ago. I think the sun came out for a few hours on one day. The highlight of our trip was not the weather, it was watching a chip shop or cafe burn down near to where we were staying!
    I think beekeeping on the west coast or the Islands of Scotland will always be challenging and up here it is even more so. Our beekeeping calendar is about a month behind in Spring / early Summer and everything comes to an end in early August. Sometimes the window for the bees to produce a surplus can be as little as 3-4 weeks. It is possible to get a decent harvest here if the weatherís good but you have to work at it. Iíve also put in a lot of time and effort for very little reward. Some beginners find it difficult in their first few years because our bees arenít doing what it says in the books. Iíve kept bees for nearly 40 years and Iím still having to adapt.
    Also carriage charges for equipment can be expensive and even more so for jars and fondant. One glass company wanted to charge me £20 extra per box of jars on top of their normal charges to send them up here.
    At the moment we are still varroa free and are managing to discourage any imports of bees, so we just have to work with what we have got. I think if there was a poll on the most challenging place to keep bees in Scotland we would be pretty near the top. Just about every year my partner hears me threatening to pack in my hobby (with lots of foul language) because things are going wrong. Iíve not finished yet because thereís nothing better than working with bees on nice warm days when everything is going right (although they are as rare as hens teeth). Liking honey helps too.

  4. #4074
    Senior Member fatshark's Avatar
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    Default 2019 in retrospect

    It's not been a great year here south of the Tay (though that's not really anything to do with the bees). Yields overall were a fraction over 50% of last season, though last season was pretty exceptional. I don't have yields per hive as one of my apiaries has very variable colony numbers as they're used for the day job and I tend to move supers around. Overall I ended up with over 130 kg this year (cf. 260 kg last).

    One of my apiaries is always in range of OSR for the spring honey. I have four production colonies there and last year got over 50 lb each from them (by early June, with more summer honey later). The big difference this year was that both the main apiaries had OSR in range and both did significantly worse

    Only a couple of things to say about the summer honey. The first is that a few buckets are exceptionally tasty and I definitely got some lime this year. Secondly, my central Fife apiary (with the four production colonies) did very much worse than the apiary on the coast. Partly this was due to the really marked June gap (same as FD) which shut the queens down and probably meant the colonies were understrength for the summer flows.

    Of course, the other interpretation of the last statement could be ... poor beekeeping and the failure to provide stimulative feeding during a very obvious June gap meant the colonies were weaker than they should have been and the beekeeper deserves a slap.

    Swarm control was really nailed on. Well, almost. I was feeling rather proud of myself until I found (late in the season):
    • a large swarm underneath a hive - the clipped Q had crawled back up the leg of the hive stand
    • a colony that attempted but failed to swarm because the beekeeper (ahem, me) had split the double brood with a QE in the hope of finding the Q and left her in the upper box
    • a very obviously swarmed nuc which had outgrown its box

    So, only the last one was lost (result!) but I wasn't exactly in total control.

    I got three swarms to bait hives, one in late April, then two in successive days in July (moved and replaced with a fresh box). I'd like to thank the donors ... all prime swarms, nice bees, low mite levels, well behaved and in one case a real box full I think I also collected a swarm or two in April, but it feels like a lifetime ago and could have been last year.

    The other notable thing is that Varroa levels are markedly up on last season. Some of my colonies have been very strong and I'm pretty sure got mites from robbing weak colonies nearby. However, we've also seen high mite levels in lots of other colonies I've looked at in other parts of Scotland, so wonder if it's a more general thing. Mite levels are up, but not worryingly high and I think I'm mostly in control.

    As always, I've learnt a lot. As always, I've done far less than I'd intended - no active queen rearing (again), still haven't got rid of pesky chalk brood in some of the bees, kept too many colonies etc.

    It's been manic at work this year and beekeeping has provided a real and very welcome escape. I've given quite a few talks - including one yesterday to enthusiastic 6-11 year olds which ended with a spectacularly sticky honey tasting session.

    In the next 2-3 years I hope to start with some bees on the west coast in a Varroa-free area. I won't be taking any bees from Fife. Not only is the area mite-free but it's also apparently honey bee-free ... I've not seen one all season. However, there are loads of bumbles so I'm ever-hopeful.

    It's an area that lacks the fleshpots and flaming chippies of Ullapool, but has many other things to commend it ... not least of which is the price the local beekeepers sell their honey at

    Finally, I've lost yet more hive tools and met some very friendly and helpful beekeepers from all sorts of places
    Last edited by fatshark; 09-10-2019 at 03:22 AM. Reason: qualifying something badly written and spleling

  5. #4075
    Senior Member Bridget's Avatar
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    It was a funny old year. I learnt a massive amount mainly from our association apiary where everything that could go wrong did yet we still have three strong hives but lost two and got some honey.
    I rely 75% I would say on heather and our heather was as poor as last years. Brown again in no time.
    Only just caught the June starvation in time but some hives did not recover enough in time for our blossom which is mainly early July. Was optimistic about the heather - all that rain, but they didnít fill the second super put on for the heather and I was left with a mass of half filled and half capped frames.
    So from 8 hives only 80lbs of honey
    I know we are marginal (height) as we don't get any good flows in may and June to help them build up but was hoping for more.
    Swarms - a couple both mine as no other beekeepers near enough.
    Varroa - never had much before but this year, especially in the beehouse, I have a lot and still treating.
    Wasps - bloody hell is all I can say and Thornes fancy wasp defying entrances are not confusing the Wasps.
    So roll on next year!


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  6. #4076
    Senior Member fatshark's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi Bridget
    We're always hoping for more ... !
    Was it the Thorne's Wasp Out that's not been working? We've had a huge number of wasps here this autumn was well but they've not really troubled the bees. The colonies are strong and I reduced the entrances to a 2cm gap. Those in the bee shed only have a 2cm hole to defend anyway. However, keeping the stripey blighters away from cleared supers was a real pain.
    My Varroa levels in the bee house were possibly higher than colonies outside ... however, this could be because the Varroa trays on the floors there are particularly well designed (NOT by me - they are from Pete Little) and nothing blows away or is stolen by critters.

  7. #4077
    Senior Member Adam's Avatar
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    Norfolk East Anglia, South Scotland
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    AS usual I didn't have enough time to attend the number of colonies I keep (a lesson I have yet to learn) so a couple of swarms that shouldn't have been. A couple of colonies got CBPV which eventually righted itself but only after a lot of dead bees. Honey was 'fair' this year compared to last which was exceptional. Varroa not too much of a problem. Wasps neither. I was expecting a lot of wasps after a very mild winter with only one frost, but they didn't really appear. Mating was quite reasonable too. I have had the odd year where queens would be superceded soon after mating or the weather was too poor and the queens went to waste, this summer things went quite well. No chalk brood to speak of this year. It definitely follows the queens. A colony riddled with it will sort itself out with a new queen. Transfer a chalk-brood queen to another colony and the chalk-brood follows her. And I am going into winter with more colonies than I should have.

  8. #4078
    Senior Member
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    Its been a decent year up here. Blossom was not as crazy as last years mega haul but at least I managed a good heather harvest. I reduced my hive numbers a bit this year which has helped and got a few nice shiny pieces of equipment that has speeded up extraction and soft setting. Still need to build a bigger warming cabinet but that can wait till winter...although I said that last year...and the year before.

    Hives all fed, treated and tucked up now.

  9. #4079
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    A tale of two halves:
    early half loads of honey .. extracted bottled and sold.

    Seconds half : LOTS of frequent and heavy rain, colonies inspected too late, loads of swarms as a result..
    Yields bottled 25% down on last but as I left approx 20% of my 2018 harvest over winter to feed, down 45% overall.

    Had to feed bees heavily for winter.(125kg so far).
    Average yield 55lbs per hive: all local, no heather. Very good taste - some lime?

    Raised 18 queens - used incubator as first batch in nucs failed due to cold June nights (5C or less).. Found it gave more consistent results.. Incuabtor blew up end Q raising (it was DIY for quail eggs) and being rebuilt with modern electronics control system STC1000.. Vast total outlay £18...

    Stopped feeding hives, still feeding nucs..

    Sold all honey - Facebook Marketplace .. could have sold double the amount..

    SHould do better 2020 if weather OK...!

    No expansion, minimise new spend are main aims. Sell bees to anyone who wants..
    Last edited by madasafish; 17-10-2019 at 03:38 PM.

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