Beekeeping in the Scottish Borders
Posted by borderglider on May 11, 2008
May 11th 2008
I have kept bees for eight years now – so I am no longer ‘a beginner’ – but many local beekeepers have forty years or more experience, so I am still a long way from being an ‘expert’. I keep the local ‘native’ bee – i,e, British Black bees – Apis Mellifera Mellifera – rather than using imported Italian, Carniolan (Slovenian) bees.
Nurse Bees & Sealed Worker Cells during Oilseed Rape Season
My bees went into the winter of 2007 with five hives – all in good heart and all with first-year-queens (British blacks – or ‘local stock’. The bees were treated for varroa with Apistan strips in September and after Christmas I dosed them with Oxalic Acid – to guard against varroa gaining chemical resistance. I also tacked heavy duty plastic ‘skirts’ around the hives to shed the rain and wind – using builders damp-proof-membrane – so I thought everything had been taken care of.
When I last peeked into the hives – after Christmas – there were healthy populations of bees in all five hives and plenty of winter stores to see them through the cold months. When I revisited the hives in April I was shocked to discover that one of the hives was dead and another two were queenless – with only a small population of bees surviving.
The main possible causes noted by the experts seem to be:
1. Varroa parasites and viruses
2. Nosema – dysentery
3. Prolonged cold
4. Accumulation of pesticides in stored food supplies
The general picture that is emerging throughout the UK is that there have been very heavy losses in some areas – lighter losses in others. East Lothian BKA conducted a survey which revealed 10% losses on average. Morayshire BKA reported losses in the 40-50% zone and in one case 12 out of 12 hives were lost.
My own hives are all Open Mesh Floors; all were treated for Varroa (Apistan) in September and seemed in vigorous good health. They were treated with oxalic acid using 3% solution and no more than 5 mls of solution per seam of bees – in early January. The three dead or severely depleted hives were discovered in mid April and I have been nursing my two remaining queenright colonies in the hope of breeding new queens at the end of May.
British Black Queen/em>
I took this photo of my best remaining queen on May 10th. Did not see the varroa mites through the veil while inspecting the hive, but did notice them on the enlarged photo today. Very depressing.