We will be getting more bees. My husband and youngest want to. They have promised to do everything. It is all fine as long as I do not get stung. I did have a long talk with the physio about it.
I went to the Hexham Beekeepers meeting yesterday where the guest speaker was Northern England's chief bee inspector. It was a thoroughly interesting evening. Last year's colony was too small, and got too cold. Also the entrance way got blocked with dead bees and they could not get out. His message was -- if you think is amiss, check. You can clear varroa floors etc in the dead of winter with you put on Oxalic acid. But basically if your colony is less that 8 frames and it is a hard winter, they are going to have a hard time surviving. Spring management is all about winter preparation.
1. Complete Colony Collaspe seems to have been caused by Deformed Wing Virus. It is a virus that comes after severe varroa mite infestation. Basically the products beekeepers (namely Apistan) have been are not working and other things need to be used. Foremost is Apiguard or thymol. There is a new product called Api-lite-var which if used properly also works. But must not be placed over the brood as it kills. It goes in the corner of the hive. But it is temperature dependant.
2. Scotland which does not have regular inspectors is in the grip of Europeon Foulbrood. It has worrying implications for Northern England beekeepers and bees. The English inspectorate is training. There is also a worrying increase in nosema.
3. American Foulbrood and other diseases can be caused by people feeding honey to bees. For example put honey purchased in a supermarket out in a wasp trap. Or leaving a jar out. Some farmers feed out of date honey to livestock. It can carry spores.
4. I also learnt how to tell if a colony is about to swarm -- an egg in a Queen cup along with an increase in drone brood. Without drones, the colony will not swarm as they cannot count on drones from other colonies. Because cutting out drone brood is a remedy for varroa, there is a question if too much has been cut... Anyway all remedies start with first catch your Queen. Finding the Queen can be a problem as I well know!
5. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. Have a bucket with washing soda and water for washing tools. Fumigate unused brood boxes etc with acetic acid. Do the checks for varroa.
So eventually bees will be in the garden again. But I reccomend people becoming involved with their local beekeeping association.