I had hoped that as the summer was almost over, the Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) would ease their pressure on our poor bees. Sadly that has not yet been the case. A couple of weeks before the end of October I noticed an enormous nest right in the middle of our nearest town, only 4 kilometres away.
It must have been a good half a metre in diameter. I could easy see large number of our number one enemies circling around the entrance.
We have placed several hornet traps at the bottom of the garden and each day they trap numerous hornets, but I am afraid that the battle at the hive entrance continues unrelentingly. But we soldier on and several times a day Amelia and I stand guard with the shrimping nets and at each occasion catch a couple of dozen of hornets. But we cannot stay there all day. You can see the attack, just before Amelia catches the hornet in a short video clip.
Despite the temperatures during the day reaching as high as 20 C, the nights are cool and the preparation for winter must be made. We decided to treat all our four hives with Apilife Var against the varroa mites. The recommendation has been to treat whilst the temperature is above 20 C. It was also suggested to close the metal plate under the hives so that the treatment becomes more effective. For about a week in early September, however, the temperature here exceeded 35 C and the bees were definitely upset and we had to open the plate under the hive to let them cool down. We also found that two of the hives were covering the pieces of treatment material with propolis. The other interesting discovery was that Violette is definitely a hygienic colony and the varroa drop before and after treatment was almost nil.
Being my first year, I find it amazing how the behaviour of each hive is totally different. For example, when we approach Sunflower we can hear that inside the hive they are much more noisy than the others. They also appear to be very hard worker bringing in pollen all day long.
Although we are told that the threat by the hornets will soon disappear and apart from the queens, the rest will die naturally, we need to prepare ourselves for the following year. We have looked at several anti-hornet devices and eventually I decided to test a new anti-hornet muzzle (see short video).
The muzzle fits neatly at the entrance of the hive.
The bees were a bit confused and as I had not yet tightened the screw at the top, they decided to choose the easy way by entering their home just behind the top board of the muzzle. I felt sorry for them as they were coming home loaded with pollen so I removed the muzzle.
I bought two muzzles and I have asked our beekeeper friend Michel to try one as well. So, we will have to wait a little longer before giving a verdict on this device. If successful, I will install one on each hive.
Opening the hives for inspection we also noticed that two of the hives still have a frame at one side that was not touched at all, although there appears to be an overall adequate quantity of honey reserve .
The next frame was well build up with honey.
We took all the unbuilt frames and replaced them with solid wooden partitions with additional insulation. Another action was based on something that we read Brother Adam used to do and that is placing a super under the brood box during the winter. The idea is that it provides a volume of still air, keeping the brood box warmer and also reducing the humidity from the ground.
One other problem that we discovered in Violette was that there were bald brood on one frame. The little pale heads look quite spooky.
I am told that there are different factors that can give rise to bald brood. It can be due to wax moth infestation but we have seen no sign of this. Violette has always had a very low varroa count so this maybe part of her hygienic behaviour to open larval cells containing varroa and destroy them. We treated her with the others but the drop was very low. The bees sense something strange and uncap the cell, but in most cases the larvae do emerge as an adult bee. We will need to keep a close eye on her, but I would appreciate any comment or suggestion.
You can see that whilst I repositioned all the four hives, Amelia was faithfully keeping guard with the shrimping net.
The good news is that there are still flowers in the garden and the bees have been busy bringing the pollen from the cosmos, the odd dahlia and the aster.
The story will continue, but meanwhile the bees keep us smiling when we watch their antics, like the bee below who did not want just to walk through the door.