Monthly Archives: August 2015

Wasp-wasted

We noticed quite a few wasps inside the hive when we inspected last Sunday. They were walking boldly among the bees and stealing the honey stores in the brood box. Wasps are a real menace; not only do they have the potential to kill the Queen but en masse they can completely rob out a hive which means our colony could starve to death. Apparently it takes 5 bees to kill off a single wasp and they will fight to the death, so to give them some help, we set a couple of wasp traps. The first one was a wine bottle containing wine dregs placed behind the hive and so far it has worked well. However, the second one contains a couple of spoons of raspberry and whisky jam, a smidgen of rose wine and a little water. They seem to really go for this one !

Wasp traps

Wasp traps

Today we inspected again and the feeder was empty so we put another in. The bees climb up the inside of the central cone which has ridges so they don’t slide off. Then they climb down to the syrup sitting at the base of the cone. The inverted plastic cup ensures there’s just enough to get to and they don’t drown.

Feeder containing 2:1 sugar and water

Feeder containing 2:1 sugar and water

The wasp traps have been very effective and there were no wasps in the hive. The colony is growing nicely and today we saw eggs, capped brood, honey and pollen.

Eggs can be seen sitting vertically in the bottom of the cells

Eggs can be seen sitting vertically resembling rice grains in the bottom of the cells

Capped brood which contains pupae

Capped brood which contains pupae

Pollen and glistening honey

Pollen and glistening honey

The Queen was going about her business and the bees were calm.

There she is looking resplendent in blue !while a worker deposits a load of pollen from pollen bags on her legs

There she is looking resplendent in blue while a worker deposits a load of pollen from pollen bags on her legs

Before closing up, the last job was to reduce the size of the entrance hole, which reduces the chance of wasps entering. The downside is the bees have to queue to get back in.

Reducing the hive entrance

Reducing the hive entrance

Smaller hole means fewer wasps

Smaller hole means fewer wasps

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Bank robbery

The season is drawing to an end and we need to prepare our bees for over-wintering. Our colony is too small to make it through currently; there are not enough bees to prepare cells for the Queen to lay into and not enough nurse bees to look after the eggs and larvae. The answer is to increase the number of bees quickly. We were given a Queenless nucleus of bees by Fiona to combine with our hive in the hope that the Queen will have sufficient resources to boost wax workers and give her a chance to increase the amount of brood. We employed the paper and icing sugar method again (see earlier post the Queen is dead) and put a feeder in with sugar solution made from 2:1 sugar to water. We did this at dusk when all the flying bees were back home. At the same time we removed 3 frames of capped honey. We haven’t taken all their reserves away but I’m keen to have a few jars in return for all our effort.

Upon inspection this weekend, we noted calm bees, we spotted the Queen and there was brood at all stages of development. Some bees were coming home covered in white pollen, so we know they have been on the Himalayan Balsam down by the river Eden. Phil and I took the dogs there this morning and took some photos.

Himalayan Balsam growing by the river Eden

Himalayan Balsam growing by the river Eden

This is an excellent food source for our bees right through ’til October. However, it’s a controversial plant as it out-competes other native marginal species and having very shallow roots, contributes to erosion as it dies back in winter leaving the river bank exposed to flooding.

Bee deep inside Himalayan Balsam flower

According to RHS, Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the Busy Lizzie and in the UK the plant was first introduced in 1839. It grows rapidly and spreads quickly, smothering other vegetation as it goes. It is the tallest annual growing in the UK. It typically grows to 1 to 3 m (3.3 to 10 ft) high, with a soft green or red-tinged stem, and lanceolate leaves 5 to 23 cm (2.0 to 9.1 in) long. The crushed foliage has a strong musty smell. Below the leaf stems the plant has ‘glands’ that produce a sticky, sweet-smelling, and edible nectar. The flowers are varying shades of pink, with a hooded shape.

image

After flowering between June and October, the plant forms seed pods 2 to 3 cm (¾ to 1¼ in) long and 8 mm broad (¼ in), which explode when disturbed, scattering the seeds up to 7 metres (23 feet). So entertaining can it be to see the pods “pop” that apparently it has even been marketed as a novelty for children – “Mr Noisy’s Exploding Plant” – once sold by, among other outlets, Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Apparently, the green seed pods, seeds, young leaves and shoots are all edible and the flowers can be turned into a jam or parfait.

Sunday we went to our Bee Buddy Stuart’s home and met fellow local Beekeepers for afternoon tea. We discussed the pros and cons of sugar solution feed v Ambrosia, swapped swarm stories, debated the value of Himalayan Balsam as an abundant bee food source against erosion of the river bank and discussed the value of expanded foam loft insulation in the hive roof or old towels for winter warmth. Fiona was there and summed it up rather nicely ….. ‘It’s like the blind leading the partially sighted’. Our conclusion is ask 6 bee keepers for an opinion on the solution to a problem and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers !

Collared

A regular visitor to our Eglu feeding station is a Collared Dove. Whilst the Jackdaws are very cagey and are in and out as quickly as possible, this Dove  goes boldly right inside the chicken run and helps herself to grain several times a day, quite unafraid of human or chicken. I was looking out of the upstairs kitchen window yesterday and there near the top of a neighbours tree, spied our Collared Dove on her nest with two chicks.

Mrs Collared Dove leaving the nest

Mrs Collared Dove leaving the nest

She's back with food

She’s back with food

Fed up !

Fed up !

Collared doves Streptopelia Decaocto, are a pale, pinky-brown grey colour, with a distinctive black neck collar. They belong to the Pigeons and Doves family (Columbidae). They’re common visitors to gardens, but Collared  Doves only came to the UK in the 1950s, after a rapid spread across Europe from the Middle East. Their number is now in the order of 990,000 breeding pairs according to RSPB and they produce 2-5 clutches of eggs a year which explains their prolific number.

We hadn’t noticed before and it’s not obvious from our photograph but they have deep red eyes. Their monotonous cooing will be a familiar sound to many of you. Although you’ll often see them on their own or in pairs, flocks may form where there is a lot of food available. They feed mainly on grain but the young are fed on crop milk which is a high protein food made in the parents crop.

The song is a coo-COO-coo, repeated many times. It is phonetically similar to the Greek decaocto (“eighteen”), to which the bird owes its zoological name. It also makes a harsh loud screeching call lasting about two seconds, particularly in flight just before landing. A rough way to describe the screeching sound is a hah-hah.

Beeten….. Well almost !

Well after all we’ve been through it feels like the bees have beaten us. The last straw was when Shackleton stood on a bee that was wandering through the grass and got stung on the paw. He’d been stung the previous week and vomited about five times within 10 minutes. This time he vomited once but then his little face started to swell, his eyes were itchy and began to close and his lips and muzzle swelled. We rang the emergency vet who suggested that it was not quite an anaphylactic reaction but the next one might be and to give him piriton, watch and wait. It did the trick but we are concerned that if it happens again, the reaction could be even worse. Phil also got stung when one went down his welly and his ankle and foot became huge and painful. Later big blisters developed on the top of his foot and back of the ankle and a cluster of blisters near the ankle bone. He couldn’t wear a shoe for three days and walking was near impossible. Drastic defence action was required as you will see in the picture below and they have to go from our garden. We tried our best.

Phil's pat-pending defence against upwardly mobile bees !

Phil’s pat-pending defence against upwardly mobile bees 

It’s been three weeks since we united the two hives using the newspaper and icing sugar method. Fiona  has suggested that we could keep our hive in her orchard which would be a good option for the dogs. Last inspection,  we opened the hive and noted a neat hole where they’d chewed through the Cumberland News; note the article featuring Phil and Alex and the refurbishment of the Lonsdale cinema stained glass panels featuring Carlisle castle, top right.

Chewed by bees

Chewed by bees

There were three frames of bees with grubs and capped brood and we spotted the Queen resplendent with her blue thorax (upper right).

Frame of bees with capped brood and Queen marked with blue pen.

Frame of bees with capped brood and Queen marked with blue pen.

They were calm having had some smoke and we saw multicoloured pollen stores. From these It is possible to tell what they have been foraging on.

Multicouloured pollen stores.

Multicouloured pollen stores to feed the grubs and glistening honey to feed the staff.

Pollen chart from Kentbee.com

Pollen chart from Kentbee.com

They had eaten the contents of a full frame of honey that we’d put in when combining the hives, as they were on the brink of starvation. The bad weather and lack of sunshine this summer has reduced their number of trips out to forage and so the plan is to put a rapid feeder in to give  the wax workers a boost. Then the Queen will have cells to lay in and hopefully the colony will grow sufficiently to over-winter. We noted that there were many dead bees on the Queen exluder and on closer inspection these were all drones. This is a natural process as once the drones have done their job and mated they die and are expelled by the girls.

So, we now have a smaller but calmer colony and as the risk to the dogs is reducing as we head towards the Autumn, we are considering over-wintering the hive here and moving it to Fiona’s orchard in the spring.

Rosie’s rose

This coming Thurs 6th August is the anniversary of when we lost Rosie. Rosie had been my best friend for 16 years and she loved me unconditionally. She was funny, sometimes wilful but incredibly loyal and she had a serious carrot habit. She would go through pounds of them and even had her own word for them, ‘woo-wow’, she would sit by the fridge, pawing the door saying ‘woo wow’. To try and make them go a bit further if we were running low, I’d cut one onto slices and we’d play ‘hide the carrot’. I’d find some really cunning hiding places all round the house, one balanced on the living room door knob was the best and she became quite skilled at standing on 2 legs and using the tongue at full stretch to dislodge it. If she missed any I’d let her know and she wouldn’t give up til she found it. She’d even initiate the game sometimes, usually but sniffing at the usual high hiding places and saying ‘woo-wow’.

She started getting noticeably old around the age of 14. Her vision was poor due to cataracts and yet she managed to not bump into things. She still enjoyed going for walks.

Jane and Rosie on Sandbanks beach, Dorset

Jane and Rosie on Sandbanks beach, Dorset

She was very dismissive of Phil despite his best efforts, which included cooking up ‘dog chef’ just for her. In May 2011 we got Rigsby as I’d hoped a puppy might rejuvenate her. Initially they got along okay. She taught him the art of hole digging on Sandbanks beach and passed on her carrot habit.

Rosie at Sandbanks beach

Rosie at Sandbanks beach

 

However, as she was getting more infirm, she became wary of him because he was just too lively. On one occasion he knocked her over and she went from top to bottom of the stairs. Luckily she was uninjured but she avoided him thereafter. We moved to Armathwaite in November and she got progressively worse. She was having syncope attacks (faints) and would become very breathless, fall over and then howl the most blood curdling howl. Sometimes she would also lose bladder control and this wasn’t dignified. She actually looked embarrassed. Then one weekend she had repeated episodes and even just the effort of walking outside would set her off. Phil and I made the awful decision to take her to the vet first thing Monday morning and after another attack in the middle of the night I carried her to my office where she spent most of her time in recent months and settled her in her basket. I stroked her and kissed her on the top of her head and told her it would be ok in the morning. Morning arrived. Phil went to check on her and there she was, curled up and asleep. She’d died very peacefully.

Rose 'Compassion'

Rose ‘Compassion’

We bought this rose called ‘Compassion’ as I wanted something nice to remember her, something that would flower about this time. It’s a climber and gets to about 10ft. I wish you could smell it from the photo ! It has the most fantastic sherbety perfume and keeps going until about October. I call it Rosie’s rose.