29 March 2018

Cathedral Top-Bar-Hive / Learning how to help Bees

My first two seasons keeping bees in these CTBH hives has seen colonies both flourish and others perish. Failures have been due to mismanagement while learning the most elementary handling procedures, and failure to recognise what was happening in the hive.

Queenless for about ten days the workers have laid multiple eggs now seen here as drone grubs.

Symptomatic of queenlessness: a scattered pattern of behaviour - many workers wandering away from the comb.

Numbers at this point were good, but the colony was to fail from this point onwards. Feeding proved to be fruitless. 

Listing the first four or five causes of loss here :
1. Opening hive too frequently during winter and overfeeding.
2. Failing to recognise queen loss and the need to act immediately to remedy with a new queen or combine the queenless colony with another.
3. Shaking out a second colony into a new hive without first isolating the queen. She perished or had flow before the transfer and the colony slowly dwindled away. If I had taken the trouble to transfer a few of the brood combs from the donor hive my efforts may have stood a better chance of success.
4. Failure to protect a third colony against robbing by wasps. The colony had ample stores but perished nonetheless. A number of other reasons may have contributed and so the empty hive is undergoing sterilisation.
On the plus side I have three surviving colonies that are all bringing in pollen and so will begin to build up. I have fed fondant in the last fourtnight. Despite a very wet spring and spells of freezing rain and snow, the surviving colonies seem quite strong during the brief interludes of milder weather.

A good comb with brood in all stages of development (July 2017)

By way of treating for Veroa Mite I took the recommendations of the Devon Beekeepers Association to heart and chose to treat with a vapour from heated oxalic acid crystals. The kit is obtainable by mail order and consists of a small 12volt crucible to vaporise about 5g of crystals within the hive. A suitable breathing mask must be worn at this time to avoid inhalation of caustic fumes but these quickly disperse and the bees do not seem to become at all agitated. Done in December while little or no brood is present any mites present are exposed and fall to the bottom of the hive.  Last inspected in mid April 2018 and doing well - bringing in plenty of pollen.

At top right are seen new laid eggs and bottom left are seen curled grubs a few days old

More grubs and some sealed cells busy with young nurse bees

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