Your Questions Answered: November 2009

From Bee Craft: November 2009

Our expert answers questions you have sent us

Q Does a refractometer work for set honey?

Yes – you need to melt the honey to get it into a liquid state and then allow it to cool to within the temperature range for which the refractometer is calibrated. Do not heat the honey too, strongly (gently warm it in a water bath at around 35-40 °C) otherwise it will reduce the moisture content and affect the sugar concentration.

Q i have noticed a black mould growing on the inside of the feeder when giving a swarm 1:1 syrup. Is this harmful?

It is not desirable and can be reduced/eliminated by:

  • feeding the syrup in relatively small quantities so the bees can take it down quickly without the mould developing
  • adding a drop of liquid thymol to the sugar syrup
  • scrupulously washing out the containers and air-drying them
  • not leaving the feeders on for more than a few days before replacing them and adding newly made syrup.

Q Why is it frowned upon to feed syrup to bees in winter?

In extremis, syrup should be fed in small quantities in order to resuscitate a colony. If the syrup is not taken down it is likely to ferment or grow black mould. Feeding syrup can cause too much stimulation or excitement in the colony leading to bees flying out of the hive and being lost in the cold air.

Q Do we need to raise the crownboard up on matches now that most of us. use open mesh floors?

The ventilation inside a hive is important and ideally there should be free movement of air through the hive. The holes in the crownboard should be left open and there is little benefit to be gained from raising the board on the matchsticks. It is important to ensure that the vent holes in the roof are free of spiders, their webs and other occupants such as earwigs. Hives which are overwintered on open mesh floors benefit from having a super or brood box body placed under the mesh floor as this will produce a larger space where the air boundary layer between the inside of the hive and the external atmosphere will result in fewer draughts.

Q In view of the known fact that workers sometimes move eggs into queen cups as opposed to the queen laying the egg directly in it, would it be possible that they move a three-day-old egg or even 3’newly fetched larva into a queen cup? The consequence of that is that

The colony would swarm two or three days earlier than the beekeeper anticipated. Are weekly inspections (if the queen is not clipped queens) frequent enough?

The more knowledge and experience gained through observing queen rearing/development and maturation the more we realise how many factors are involved and how these can affect timings of colony inspection, etc, for the state of queen development. Nothing is certain time-wise and beekeepers need to adapt to this. We also need more pro-active management in anticipation of queen raising and development.

Q Can laying workers fly?

The general technique for dealing with a colony with laying workers is to shake the colony some distance away from the original hive site, replacing the hive and frames on the original site. The laying workers do not return to the colony either because of their inability to fly or their inability to navigate back to the original site.

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