December 2021 Apiary Notes from Wally Thrale

We are approaching the shortest day so it is the time of year I apply my varroa treatment in the form of oxalic acid using the trickle method. For safety reasons I prefer this method rather than vaporisation as oxalic gases are harmful to humans and require a suitable mask to prevent inhaling the gas. Brood boxes also need sealing to retain the vapours which is time consuming with my floors. An example of a commercially available treatment is Apibioxal which is ready to apply. The reason I use this type of treatment is that there should be very little brood present now as oxalic acid only kills varroa mites on adults – it doesn’t impact those in sealed cells. The weather has not been mild recently so hopefully queens have stopped laying. However, when we get into January I consider that egg laying starts up again, albeit at a low level. So this week I shall start treating my colonies and intend to finish before Christmas.

All my colonies now have woodpecker netting wrapped around them and 50mm of insulation above the crown board to reduce heat loss. As all my colonies have mesh floors the insulation does not cause ventilation problems.

There is little active beekeeping to do this time of year other than hefting hives for weight but there is always maintenance to do. When I treat my colonies this week I shall replace the crown board with a clean one. The edges of the board become propolised over time and sometimes squashed bees are present. No matter how hard I try bees are crushed occasionally and a heat gun applied around the edge of the board (both sides) should kill any bugs lurking there.

The top and bottom bars of super frames are scraped, removing the hard brace comb as they easily squash bees during the season when supers are returned to a hive.  All these scrapings are saved and rendered down in time. It is important to replace old brood comb on a regular basis with foundation. And for us to buy foundation requires beekeepers to supply wax which can then be processed for us. So do keep all your scraps of wax – they do mount up. The Association pays £4 per pound of reasonably clean wax and we need around half a ton in order to buy the foundation we stock each year.

We had an excellent talk on bait hives recently which I think will be available for members to watch. An aspect of bait hives is to leave some blank brood frames in a brood box with wooden kebab sticks. Their purpose is to strengthen the comb that bees will naturally draw when they decide to move in. That’s another job I shall tackle in the coming weeks. This may have whetted your appetite for bait hives so you will need to catch up with the talk to see how all this fits in.

That’s all for 2021 so season’s greetings to all.