Low food stores, high mite levels

Bee looking for some nectar at a willow

Many beekeepers will have received an alert from the National Bee Unit about low food stores suggesting beekeepers should monitor food levels of their colonies closely over the next month as in many northern parts of the UK, the weather is still cold and foraging opportunities for large colonies are few and far between.

It is important to check and monitor all your colonies feed levels, if you do not wish to open them up, lift below the floor, in turn, on both sides of the hive to see how much it weighs. Where the hive is light, liquid feed should be applied directly above the bees. Remove any supers from above the brood box which are empty or have few bees in them. This will help the bees get to the food quickly; Feed can be sugar and water mixed at 1:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers. More information about mixing up sugar can be found in the Best Practice Guidelines. Fondant can also be used. Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (approximately 5 litres) of syrup very quickly while smaller colonies will take half a gallon (approximately 2.5 litres). After feeding, heft the hives again and check the weight and if in doubt feed some more in a few days’ time.

Some colonies in northern areas of the UK have low levels of pollen, which is essential for brood production. If this is the case, then some form of pollen patty will need to be given to colonies which should be placed directly above the brood nest, after you have fed any syrup.

Mite levels

Some beekeepers may not have gotten round to treating your colonies with oxalic acid as the weather was so mild in winter. Treatments that were applied in winter may have had lower than normal efficacy due to the presence of brood and therefore beekeepers may want to consider treating colonies again, especially where bees are showing signs of deformed wings. Thymol based products and formic acid pads may be ineffective at the present time as daytime temperatures respectively of 12-15 °C or above are recommended. Neither should MAQS strips be used on smaller colonies.

Therefore contact strips such as Apistan or Bayvarol may be beneficial, these offer a rapid knock down in severely infested colonies. However, resistance to these products has been reported in some areas and therefore colonies will need to be monitored after the treatment and an alternative treatment applied if necessary later in the season.

Alternatively, Apivar & Biowar (Amitraz) are available under the EU Cascade system by using a special import certificate. For more information about this, contact your local vet.

Source: National Bee Unit