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We had one freak week in February when the temperature was high enough to start spring cleaning. If you can do gardening in your shirtsleeves then it’s warm enough to open a hive.

Two hives were completed, being given a cleaned and sanitized brood box, floor and crown board. The amount of brood unfortunately was not as much as I would have expected given the mildness of the winter. Both hives only had four patches of brood; one on either side of the two central frames. The weather turned chilly again so the other colonies will have to wait. Although there was still plenty of stores, most of it had crystallized so for the first time ever I’ve had to offer them fondant. Not all have taken it down as there is plenty of water around for them to use the crystallized. In addition there has also been plenty of fresh forage. The large ornamental plum has been positively alive with workers when it’s had the sun on it and the white bullace was also worked vigorously when that was in flower

Plum tree in flower

Again, oxalic acid treatment was not as effective as I wished so I’ve had to follow it up with Apivar. Weekly counts of varroa drop show the numbers now down into single figures but hopefully I’ll get six of the hives down to continuous zero before the Apivar has to come out.

Only six of the hives have the chemical treatment as hives 1 and 2 are running another experiment with Beegyms. Stuart Roweth found better results by placing the gyms above the brood frames so I’ve placed two gyms in an eke above the brood in these hives. I’ll let you know the figures as they progress

Oxalic acid in a sugar solution is dribbled between the frames over the bees as a varroa miticide when the brood is at its least, i.e. after a long cold spell. Whilst it can kill the mites on the bees or in open brood cells it can’t touch those behind a brood cell capping. A writer in BBKA News claimed that brood frames could be removed even in mid-winter, any cappings perforated and then the frames replaced prior to the oxalic acid treatment.

We hadn’t had a long cold spell but it’s a matter of compromise so I chose a day to suit me best. It was a lovely day; 9°C and the sun was shining. Thank goodness I was in full armour. Whilst it was too cold for the bees to be flying naturally, they really went for it, and me; when I took the decision to break the cluster out of their hands and made the decision for them. Having started however, I decided to press on and found three small patches of brood on two frames which I duly perforated with my uncapping fork before re-assembling the hive.

Lesson learned, the other seven hives were just given a quick 5ml of oxalic acid between the frames and the crown-boards replaced.

Unbeknown to me however, my back and hat had collected a huge number of hangers-on; the disadvantage of being a solo beekeeper. Having completed the work, as I disrobed and pulled my jacket over my head the bees on the back decided that my now bare face was a good target for revenge. Oh well, I suppose it helps to build up sting resistance early in the season.

One job leads to another they say.

I’ve discovered that my smoker needs some serious reconditioning as the hinge is worn and badly distorted and the interior is really caked up; a workshop job for a wet day.

No netting has been needed so far this year as there’s been no permafrost..

Stuart Roweth, inventor of note (and the Beegym) has sent me the mite-drop statistics for some of his hives through 1918. Some hives had two and even three Beegyms both above and below the frames and the results were really impressive. Rather than having just one gym on the floor of several hives I’ll try putting several in a few hives, above and below the brood and see what the figures are like.

The winter honeysuckle has flowered extremely well this year and the bees have been making good use of it on the many flying days.