Our bees in the urban landscape of London have it pretty good. They have good forage due to the variety of flora in the gardens of the human residents, plenty of wild areas along the railway tracks and canals and no blanket spraying of pesticides as effects our rural counterparts. But our urban bees, along side all the western honey bees, is still plagued by the varroa mite, a slow and silent killer. A parasite that has taken a stranglehold of our colonies in Europe.
This year, 2014, saw a great spring and a pretty decent summer. It was a very swarmy year, possibly the species making up for the losses seen in the past couple of years when the season’s weather was more inclement, and it was a good year for honey.
Unfortunately lots of strong colonies producing lots of brood (eggs and larvae) is a haven for the varroa mite. So it is no surprise to find that after I treated my bees with thymol, (a varroa killer) there was a huge number of dead mites on my varroa tray. The thymol did its job and killed varroa in the hundreds, if not thousands. I must admit I was surprised the colonies had that many varroa since they didn’t show many signs of being infested. Glad I did the treatment otherwise I would certainly have lost the colonies over the winter or spring next year.
New beekeepers often wait until the summer has ended before turning their attention to varroa, but I try and treat against the mite as early in August as possible – as soon as the honey is extracted at the beginning of the month. For the thymol to be effective the temperature needs to be above 15 degrees during the 4 weeks of the treatment. This year I got the thymol on in the 2nd week of August, so it has nearly finished the course.
If you have started yet, don’t delay. We have been promised an Indian summer, in which case the thymol should be effective if you get the first batch on the hives this week.
So get your treatment on and count the dead varroa.
It will save your bees.
For more information about varroa go the National Bee Unit’s varroa calculator
It was a challenging year for UK beekeeper’s even if you were not working your bees for honey but if you were the yields were low.
The BBKA’s report gives some details.
Message from National Bee Unit
April 2012 – Starvation Risk
With the on-going poor weather, there is a real risk of bee colonies starving. Please check for stores in the colony and if in any doubt feed your bees. You should feed with either a fondant or a thin syrup.
Further information on feeding bees can be found in Best Practice Guideline No. 7, on the Advisory Leaflets page of BeeBase (click here).
Another great source of early spring pollen is the willow. The bees were able to take advantage of the sunny, warm day and were all over this tree. I managed to get some photos.
London 23rd Feb 2012
I knew that the bees were going to be out today since the temperature reached 18 degrees today in London (Feb 23rd) and indeed all the hives were busy with bees flying and bring back pollen.
I had a look around to see what they might be working and no surprise to see the bees on the hazel catkins. They were loving it. It is such an important plant for early pollen.
So I took some snaps which can be seen on the gallery pages of our website. www.urbanbees.co.uk/gallery
The crocus are just coming out, the winter honeysuckle has bees on it and the hazel catkins are nearly ready with their pollen so it time to clear some space and make up some brood frames in preparation of the brood comb change and the spring clean.
And that is what I have been doing for the past hour.
I’m getting itchy now to get on with my beekeeping.
No more cold weather now, please.
Saw my first flying bumblebees of 2012 today.
These two were visiting these flowers near Victoria Station in the centre of the urban jungle in London. (map)
Saw her first.
and a moment later she came along too.
Trying to get the name of the plant.
Lovely book for all lovers of bees, bugs and flowers.
The Bee Garden: How to Create or Adapt a Garden To Attract and Nurture Bees at http://tinyurl.com/6u6sblm
Check this programme out. It a series of 3 programmes on BBC2 Feb 2011.
Broadcaster and gardener Sarah Raven is on a mission to halt the rapid decline in the UK’s essential bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.
We had a fruitful meeting with Kathryn Lwin of River of Flowers.
They are doing some great work for the pollinators.
She’s busy sucking up some spilt honey.
This picture was taken earlier in the year when the Capital Bee trainees were getting ready to have a look at their bees.
Not the sharpest photo but it does show how hairy the honey bee is. Great for catching the pollen it needs for the brood.
Bees in the City
Our new book is being published on 4th August but Amazon are already selling our book.
Compelling tales from the front line of urban beekeeping
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We were rained of on Tuesday so we didn’t have a look at the bees ( I had a look yesterday and they are all expanding in the brood box nicely).
We heard the stories of the group’s bees – they have been there over a week now. All seemed to be ging well.
We had a look at The Natioanl Bee Units website https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/index.cfm which is full of usueful information and advisory leaflets – https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/index.cfm?pageid=167
Also home to the varroa calculator which lets you know the level of infestation and wether treatment is needed. https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/public/BeeDiseases/varroaCalculator.cfm
This Wednesday there were 5 of us on the roof of Wolff Olins for our weekly sessin with the honey bees. The colonies had expanded really well in their brood box so a super was added to encourage the bees to store the much needed winter food.
Hive 2 is the stronger of the 2 colonies but it is very aggressive. Not a lot of fun. I think the queen will need to be replaced for a more gentle variety.
It was a great night at our training session with the Capital Bee 2011 trainees. We had a good look at the hives and then we stole 2 frames of honey from hive 2.
Back at the classroom the frames was rapidly scraped clean of its golden honey and everyone had the chance to taste the first fruits of the bees’ labour.
It was glorious.
At our Capital Bee training session last Wednesday.
Some lovely photos from Silvio. Great to see monotone photos. Nice
© Silvio Caputo