Saturday, 29 April 2017

Preparing for swarm collection

Last year I was on the BBKA list of swarm collectors for the first time.  It turned out that 90% or more of calls from members of the public were about bumblebees, mostly tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum).  Others were for a chat or general advice and very few related to real swarms of honey bees.  I had more swarms of my own!

I have started making a list of things I'll need to keep at hand to be ready this year.  It includes the obvious (bee suit, general beekeeping equipment, etc), a box and a sheet, and secateurs and pruning saw.  While looking it up I came across a few photos which show I may have got it all wrong.  Perhaps I just need a straw boater, a bow tie and a feather!

Or a pair of braces.

Maybe I should grow mutton-chop whiskers.

This lady is at least wearing some protection

whereas this one only needed slippers and a pinafore.

Just to be on the safe side I think I will take my bee suit.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bee of the week - Melecta albifrons


This week's Bee of the Week on TrogTrogBlog is Melecta albifrons which you can see here.  My plan at the moment is to keep this blog for honey bees and to put the others on my main blog.  I hope its not too repetitious to put this link in.  My guess is that only (or mainly) beekeepers might read this one but that beekeepers might like to see the other bees.

Friday, 21 April 2017

What's the diagnosis?

A strange thing happened yesterday when I was weeding in the garden.  Something fell on my head and bounced down in front of me.  I could see at once that it was a bee and was small, pale and obviously unwell but it was only when I picked it up for a closer look that I realised it was a honey bee.  Apart from being lethargic and unsteady, and making no attempt to fly, the most striking thing was its stunted abdomen.  Normally a honey bee's wings don't reach the end of the abdomen so this one obviously had a problem.

I put it on my glove to keep track of it while I went to fetch a camera.  It was falling around and was unable to right itself if it fell over.


I didn't notice at the time but the other striking abnormality on the photos is that the metatarsus on each hind leg is transparent, so that you can see the pollen brush on the inner side from the outside.



Then I noticed another honey bee crawling on the lawn.  This one looked physically normal but was also making no attempt to fly.

Here are the two of them to show the stunted abdomen in the first bee.

Another thing I noticed was that on both sides it had a K wing deformity - where the fore and hind wings are disconnected and held in an abnormal position.

The first bee was unaware of what was going on but the second one seemed to sense that the first had a problem.




So we have a small sick bee with a stunted abdomen, bilateral K wing deformity and transparent metatarsus and tarsus on its hind legs.  I had earlier been watching the hives and all seemed normal.  Today I have inspected all four hives and everything seems fine.  I did 7 day varroa counts last week and they were the lowest I have ever had, after Bayvarol treatment last autumn.

So what is the explanation?  I have read that K wing is a sign of acarine (tracheal mite) infestation but none of the other bees seems sick.  Deformed wing virus can produce a stunted abdomen but this bee doesn't have deformed wings.  And what about the transparent metatarsi?  One other puzzle is that this bee was clearly incapable of flying and yet it had fallen out of the sky and landed on my head.  The hives are on the other side of the house about 40m away.  And what are the odds of it falling on my head?

I don't know what the answer is.  If the bee went to see her GP (family doctor) she'd be told "it's probably a virus".  If you have any ideas or suggestions please do leave a comment.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bee watching


It is almost five years since I got my first bees and the fascination doesn't diminish.  I can still happily sit and watch them come and go.  Today there were lots of different pollen colours coming in - mostly in the white/cream/yellow/orange spectrum.  I saw one bee with pale green pollen but didn't get a photo.  In the next week or two I should see red pollen from horse chestnut.  Later I'll be looking out for blue from borage and phacelia and green from meadowsweet.  The bees were often pausing on the outside of the hives for a rest or a quick groom before going in.







Lots of them were happy to use me as a landing site as well.





Sunday, 16 April 2017

This week's Bee of the Week

Bee of the week on TrogTrogBlog is the hairy-footed flower bee, Anthophora plumipes.  Read the whole story here.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Bee of the week


I have started what I hope will be a weekly post (during the summer) on solitary bees and bumblebees on my main blog TrogTrogBlog.  My plan at the moment is to use this blog for occasional posts on honey bees and to put the other bees with all my other wildlife photos.  I'll probably put a link such as this one here on this blog. Today's bee is the tawny mining bee.  To read the whole story click here.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

False alarm

It was a pleasure to be able to look at my bees at the weekend.  I don't think I have ever done a first inspection in March before but the weather was too good to miss the opportunity.  The bees were fine but I was puzzled when I found the body of this beast on the floor of one of the hives.


It is large and black and is obviously a bee or a wasp of some kind but I couldn't think what it was.  These photos show it in proportion to a queen honey bee.


Whatever it is, it must have got into the hive last autumn and have been there ever since.  It has no legs or wings and the antennae and mandibles have been chewed off by the bees as well.

I was struck by its black colour and its broad beam.  The colour of the fourth abdominal segment and the face aren't right for an Asian hornet but with all the alarm about them recently I checked it against the information on the BeeBase website.  The structure of the face isn't right for a hornet either.

At a loss to know what it was I sent the photos to the Great Britain Non-Native Species Secretariat, who forwarded them to the National Bee Unit.

And the answer?  It is a queen bumblebee.  I have to send in the specimen for analysis to confirm it but I'm sure they're right.  The bees have chewed off all its fur as well as the legs etc.  Of course I've never seen a bald bumblebee but it's obvious once you know.  The poor thing must have entered the hive last autumn, either attracted by the smell of honey or looking for somewhere to hibernate, and never got out again.

A lot of overwintering bumblebees don't survive but I'm pleased to have seen three species (buff-tailed, early and tree bumblebees) in the garden this week.  Let's hope I never see an Asian hornet.