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Bee Blog December

December 2019

I am Gerald Bushby (pronounced bush bee!) a beekeeper in Weston on the Green, a small village in Oxfordshire. I am going to be writing a monthly blog about the bees in my apiary. I hope you will find it interesting. I should start by saying that I am not an expert, having only kept bees for three years. Anything I say is my own personal opinion; I accept that there may often be other views and opinions.

Similar to last year, it's turning out to be a fairly mild autumn here in Weston on the Green. We have had some frosts but generally it has been wet with little sun on some days rather than cold, with temperatures most of the time in the low single figures. It is often said that the minimum temperature for bees foraging is 13deg C. Whilst a few bees may venture out for a cleansing flight, it is unusual to see my bees flying unless the temperature increases to double figures. Yesterday with an air temperature of 2degs C, I did notice some bees out of one of the hives. It was however the only hive on which the sun was shining giving it a gentle boost of warming. 

Generally there is little to see at my hives. No flying bees on most days and no apparent noise. I sometimes wonder if I just have empty boxes now and I am tempted to take the lid off to see if any bees are there. The best thing is to leave well alone. Its such a difference to mid summer when the coming and going of bees was like pouring rain. 

Its only been a month since the bees were bringing in nectar and pollen so given that the queen will have greatly reduced or stopped laying eggs and that the cluster will be relatively small compared to summer numbers, they should have sufficient stores to last them for some time yet. 

There really is little to do at the moment to manage the bees. I have cut the grass around the hives and they look very smart now. Strimming tends to make a lot of noise and vibrations that sometimes the bees do not like. I have been stung more times when cutting the grass near the hives than I have when I have opened up the hives to perform some management operation. This time I chose a cold day to strim the grass but I still suited up just in case. 

This year was a bumper year for my honey production. I am already concerned however that next year will not be so good. Half of my production, the spring harvest, tends to come from nectar in oil seed rape. For the bees to have access to this nectar, the oil seed rape needs to be within 3 miles. Unfortunately the farmers near by my house seem to have chosen to plant other crops nearby this year for next spring, mostly wheat and beans for cattle feed. I have not looked in every direction yet, as the bee fly, but things are not looking good. 

I have remembered to look into all of my stored supers to inspect of Wax Moth’s presence in the wax foundation. Luckily no evidence this time, perhaps they also slow down their lifecycle in the cooler temperatures of winter. 

The end of season reports on the Asian Hornet have now been published and on the whole its been a good year with few reports of activity in this country. There have only been four confirmed sightings in England this year New Milton, Tamworth, Ashford and Christcurch. Not such good new for the Chanel Islands I am afraid. Over seventy nests have been found in Jersey, they are just too close to mainland France. Just when you think that things cannot get worse there are reports of not Asian Hornets but Giant Asian Hornets, Vespa mandarinia, being discovered for the first time in Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Up until now this hornet had only been found in Eastern Asia.

You can’t stop bugs.

Happy Christmas.

I am a proud supporter of the ‘Bees for development’ charity, my love of the bee drew me to this wonderful UK based charity and the great work they do around the world with Bees and the impact they can have on people’s lives. Please help me support this wonderful organisation, as 2BScientific will be doing with donations to this hard-working charity.