Garden blogs

Keeping a close watch on our sentinel apiary

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The main apiary at the Garden is registered as a sentinel apiary with the National Bee Unit who are looking for tropical pests and diseases in honeybee colonies.

Twice a year at least, we send floor samples to the NBU to assess for bee diseases. At the last inspection, I put the floor inserts into each hive to collect the debris. This also acts as a means to check for varroa mite build-up on the colonies.

Varroa mites act as vectors for all sorts of viruses and diseases in honeybees, so it is wise to keep the levels as low as possible, to enable the bees to thrive.

So, this week the inspections were focused on looking for disease or anything unusual going on in the hives. Each floorboard was inspected for varroa mites and the floor debris checked to see if anything was not as expected.

I am happy to report that the mite count was zero for most of the hives and just one colony had a daily mite count of 2. This mite count can be checked against a table on the BeeBase website to assess if any treatment or action needs to be taken. As the count was so low there is nothing to do at this point, although I will be keeping an eye on the one hive, even though that had just a few.

The brood of each colony was closely checked to make sure there was no sign of brood disease.
The cappings were good colour and brood cells were neatly covered. There were, however, signs of chalk brood in a few hives but the bees were cleaning this out.

We do not usually have a problem at the Garden with chalk brood but it had been a very wet winter and this may have promoted the build-up of the fungus that causes chalk brood, possibly? I am not worried about this, though, as the bees seem to be very hygienic and are cleaning it out.

The only incursion that I found was a few cheeky earwigs in the grooves of the floor inserts.

Again, as last time, mostly all queens or eggs were seen and each hive was checked for stores.

As I predicted with all the dry weather we are having, the stores of nectar were lower than expected. The bees were flying well and very busy on the wild raspberries near the main apiary.

There are many wild and cultivated plants out in flower, lots of pollen going into the hives but not a great deal of nectar.

As we go into June, I will keep a close eye on the level of stores as we could have a ‘June gap’.
I am hoping that the brambles, which are in bud, will flower shortly and we can relax again, as usually this is where we get our main honey flow.

Lynda Christie
May 28, 2020