Bee Watch – End of June – Dearth and Parasites


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June is sometimes a month of some dearth for bees between the main forage times of fruit trees and summer flowers. This month so far bees have been foraging on early blackberry, more cotoneaster, and clover is just starting and various garden flowers, including my tomatoes. 

In St Mary’s Towyn Church blackberry started just after the unseasonal week long cold and rain so all sorts of bees and pollinating insects were keen to charge up. My photos, below, show various bees, hover flies and butterflies and my bee display for school children visiting the Church Garden experience last week.

In the photo’s a bumble bee is tucking into honey tasters and one shot shows worker and drone comb frames with a tray of “Brace comb” formed by bees scraping homey traces from wax I return to the bees after a honey harvest. 

I have been trying to “make” some queens but not doing too well, I started almost 3 weeks ago by transferring lava from worker cells into queen size plastic cups, a technique called grafting; then when these were capped off some 8 days after grafting I shook about a cupful of bees into each of some small “mating nucs”, these can be seen outside my greenhouse, the idea being that the bees will nurse the queen cell through to hatching then she will mate and start to lay in the mating nucleus to verify her laying well before being placed in a colony. My problem was the cold wet spell which could have killed the queens in their cells; we will see!

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Last Saturday I had a “bee health” day at Bangor University site at Abergwyngregyn, organised by Conwy Beekeepers and delivered by experts from the National Bee Unit. Unfortunately honey bees are under constant threat from the parasitic mite Varroa which in addition to predating on bees carries deformed wing virus (DWV) and acts like a dirty needle by passing other viruses round the colony, NBU brought real samples of frames with sack brood, chalk brood, drone laying queens, European Foul Brood (EFB) American Foul Brood (AFB); traps for Asian Hornets were demonstrated and we worked hives under NBU supervision on methods for health inspection.

 

I have a colony which is suffering from chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) this is an awful condition of a virus not carried by Varroa but distributed by the mite which rides round the colony on bees while feeding on their fluids and in the process passing viruses round. I did a mite count which was low and oxalic vapour treated but the condition has a hold. I then applied a “shook swarm” treatment where we carry the hive frames away from the hive and shake the bees off, in theory the healthy bees fly back while those suffering from paralysis virus, a sort of shaky condition which prevents the bees flying, the condition weakens colonies until they collapse and there is only a chance I can save it. I think most colonies have a little CBPV and the queen can play a role in the colonies chances. In this colonies case, while I saw the queen a few days ago I think she is in the process of supersedure, there were several capped cells so in the best of all circumstances we have shaken off the virus and produced a new and more resistant queen; as if!

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Will keep our listener posted!

Barry Griffiths

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