HomeBeekeepingMellow fruitfulness - The Apiarist

Mellow fruitfulness – The Apiarist

Synopsis : Remaining colony inspections and a few ideas on Apivar-contaminated supers, clearing dried supers, feeding fondant and John Keats’ beekeeping.


The title of immediately’s submit comes from the primary line of the poem ’To Autumn’ by John Keats:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The poem was written simply over 200 years in the past and was the final main work by Keats (1795-1821) earlier than he died of tuberculosis. Though it wasn’t acquired enthusiastically on the time, To Autumn is now some of the extremely regarded English poems.

The poem praises autumn, utilizing the sometimes sensuous imagery of the Romantic poets, and describes the abundance of the season and the harvest because it transitions to winter.

That’s as perhaps … the previous couple of strains of the primary verse raises some doubts about Keats’ beekeeping abilities:

And nonetheless extra, later flowers for the bees,
Till they assume heat days won’t ever stop,
 For summer season has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

It’s definitely true that there are late summer season flowers that the bees can forage on . Nevertheless, he’s most likely mistaken in suggesting that the bees assume in any sense that includes an appreciation of the longer term.

And what’s all this about clammy cells?

If there’s damp within the hive in late summer season then it definitely doesn’t bode properly for the winter forward.

Clammy is now used imply damp; like vapour, perspiration or mist. The phrase was first used on this context within the mid-17th Century.

‘Clammy’ honey

However Keats is utilizing an earlier which means of ’clammy’ … on this case ’gentle, moist and sticky; viscous, tenacious, adhesive’, which dates again to the late 14th-Century.

And anybody who has just lately accomplished the honey harvest can be properly conscious of how apt that definition is 😉 … so perhaps Keats was a beekeeper (with a broad vocabulary).

And gathering swallows twitter within the skies

That’s the final line of ’To Autumn’ (don’t fear … you’ve not inadvertently accessed the Poetry Please web site). The swallows are gathering and, like most summer season migrants, already shifting south. Skeins of pink-footed geese have began arriving from Iceland and Greenland.

Skein of geese over Fife

My beekeeping during the last fortnight has been accompanied by the incessant, plaintive mewing of buzzards. These nest close to my apiaries and the calling birds are nearly definitely the younger from this season.

A number of nights in the past, whereas hosing the extractor out within the bee-free-but-midge-filled late night, I used to be serenaded by tawny owls because the adults evicted their younger from the breeding territory in preparation for subsequent season.

These are all indicators, along with the early morning mists, that summer season is slipping away and the autumn is gently arriving.

Morning mist clearing over the loch

The beekeeping season is successfully over and all that is still is getting ready the colonies for winter.


All of the supers have been off by the 22nd of August. There was nonetheless a bit of little bit of nectar being taken in however the majority was ripe and prepared. Because it turns on the market was recent nectar in all of the colonies once I checked on the tenth of September, however in such small quantities – not more than half a body – that it wouldn’t have been price ready for.

In some unspecified time in the future you must say … sufficient!

Or, this 12 months, greater than sufficient 🙂 .

Many of the honey was extracted by the top of August. It was a bonanza season with an excellent spring, and an excellent summer season, crop. By far the most effective 12 months I’ve had since returning to Scotland in 2015.

In fact, that additionally meant that there have been extra supers to extract and return and retailer for the winter forward.

Numerous lifting, numerous extracting and plenty of buckets … and sooner or later, numerous jarring.

Storing supers moist or dry?

In response to some current questions on storing supers moist or dry I examined ‘drying’ some.

I’ve saved supers moist for a number of seasons. I feel the bees ‘like’ the heady scent of honey when they’re added again to the hives for the spring nectar movement. The supers retailer properly and I’ve not had any issues with wax moth.

Nevertheless, this 12 months I’ve over two full carloads of supers, so – not having a trailer or a Toyota Hilux – I’ve to make a number of journeys again to place them in storage . These journeys have been just a few days aside.

I added a stack of moist supers to some hives on the 1st of September and cleared them on the 9th. All these supers have been added over an empty tremendous (getting used as an eke to accommodate a half block of fondant – see beneath) topped with a crownboard with a small gap in it (not more than 2.5 cm in diameter, normally much less).

Changing moist supers to dry supers – observe the crownboard with a small central gap

After I eliminated the supers on the tenth they’d been fairly properly cleaned out by the bees. In a single case the underside tremendous had a really small quantity of recent nectar in it.

So, 7-8 days needs to be enough for a robust colony to wash out 3-4 supers and it seems as if you are able to do it concurrently feeding fondant … outcome 🙂 .

Feeding fondant

I solely feed my colonies Baker’s fondant. I add this on the identical day I take away the honey-laden supers. I’ve mentioned fondant extensively right here earlier than and don’t intend to rehash the case for its use once more.

Oh properly, in case you insist 😉 .

I can feed a colony in lower than two minutes; unpacking the block, slicing it in half and inserting it face down over a queen excluder (with an empty tremendous as an eke) takes nearly as a lot time to write because it does to do.

Take care with sharp knives … a lot simpler with a barely heat block of fondant

However velocity isn’t the one benefit; I don’t must buy or retailer any particular feeders (an Ashforth feeder prices £66 and can sit unused for 49 weeks of the 12 months). I’ve additionally not risked slopping syrup about and so have prevented encouraging robbing bees or wasps.

I purchase the fondant via my affiliation. We paid £13 a block this 12 months (up from about £11 final 12 months). That’s costlier than making or shopping for syrup (although not by a lot) and I don’t must have buckets or no matter folks use to retailer, transport and distribute syrup. Fondant has a protracted shelf life so I purchase 1 / 4 of a ton at a time and retailer what I don’t use.

All gone! 12.5 kg of fondant added on 22/8/22 and photographed on 9/9/22

And, opposite to what the naysayers declare, the bees take it down and retailer it very properly.

What’s the most important drawback I’ve had utilizing fondant?

The grief I get once I neglect to return the breadknife I stole from the kitchen … 😉 .

Apivar-contaminated honey and supers

Final season I needed to deal with a colony with Apivar earlier than the supers got here off. This was considered one of our analysis colonies and we needed to minimise mite ranges earlier than harvesting brood.

I’ve had a few questions just lately on what to do with supers uncovered to Apivar … that is what I’ve performed/will do.


The Apivar directions state one thing like ’don’t use when supers are current’ … I don’t have a set of directions to verify the exact wording (and might’t be bothered to go looking the labyrinthine VMD database).

In fact, you’re free to make use of Apivar every time you need.

What these directions imply is that honey collected if Apivar is within the hive can be ’tainted’ and should not be used for human consumption.

However, it’s OK for the bees 🙂 .

So, I didn’t extract my Apivar-exposed supers however as an alternative I saved them – clearly labelled – shielded from wasps, bees and mice.

This August, after eradicating the honey supers I added fondant to the colonies. As well as, I added an Apivar-exposed tremendous beneath the very strongest colonies – between the ground and the decrease brood field.

I’ll go away this tremendous all through the winter. The bees will both use the honey in situ or will transfer it up adjoining to the cluster.

In spring – if I get there early sufficient – the tremendous can be empty.

If I’m late they could already be rearing brood in it 🙁 … not in itself an issue, aside from it means I’m flirting with a ridiculous ’double brood and a half’.

Which, in fact, is why I added it to the strongest double brood colonies. It’s most unlikely the queen could have laid up two full containers (above the nadired tremendous) earlier than I conduct the primary inspection.

However what to do with the now-empty-but-Apivar-exposed supers?

It’s not clear from my interpretation of the Apivar directions (that I at present can’t discover) whether or not empty supers beforehand uncovered to Apivar may be reused.

WARNING … my studying may be improper. It states Apivar isn’t for use when honey supers are on however, by inference, you need to use and reuse brood frames which were uncovered to Apivar.

May you extract honey from brood frames which have beforehand (i.e. distant, not speedy, previous) been Apivar-exposed?

Some beekeepers may do that .

It’s at this level that some widespread sense it wanted.

Simply because re-using the miticide-exposed supers isn’t particularly outlawed is it a good suggestion?

I don’t assume it’s.

As soon as the bees have emptied these supers I’ll soften the wax out and add recent basis earlier than reusing them.

My justification goes one thing like this:

  • Though amitraz isn’t wax-soluble a formamidine breakdown product of the miticide is. I’ve assumed that this contaminates the wax within the tremendous.
  • I need to produce the best high quality honey. In fact this implies nice tasting. It additionally means issues like wings, legs, canine hairs and miticides are excluded. I filter the honey to take away the bee bits, I don’t enable the puppies within the extracting room and I don’t reuse supers uncovered to miticides.
  • Throughout a robust nectar movement bees draw recent comb ‘for enjoyable’. They’re determined to have someplace to retailer the stuff, in order that they’ll draw out comb in a brand new tremendous in a short time. Sure, drawn comb is treasured, but it surely’s additionally simple to exchange.

Remaining inspections

I carried out remaining inspections of all my colonies in Fife final weekend .

For a lot of of those colonies this was the primary time they’d been opened since late July. By then most had had swarm management, many had been requeened and all have been busy piling in the summertime nectar.

Why disturb them?

The queen had house to put, they weren’t doubtless to consider swarming once more they usually have been robust and wholesome.

Midsummer inspections are laborious work … numerous supers to raise.

If there’s no want then why do it?

In fact, some colonies have been nonetheless busy requeening, or have been being united or had another motive that did necessitate a correct inspection … I don’t simply abandon them 😉 .

I don’t simply abandon them … introducing a queen to a nucleus colony

However now the supers have been off it was necessary to verify that the colonies have been in an appropriate state to enter the winter.

I take a variety of care over these remaining inspections as I need to make sure that the colony has the easiest probability of surviving the winter. 

I verify for overt illness, the quantity of brood in all phases (BIAS; so figuring out if they’re queenright) and the extent of shops.

And, whereas I’m at it, I additionally try to keep away from crushing the queen 🙁 .


I don’t should see the queen. The truth is, in most hives it’s nearly inconceivable to see the queen as a result of the field is filled with bees. If there are eggs current then the queen is current .

However, there won’t be a complete lot of eggs to search out.

Firstly, the queen is quickly slowing down her egg laying fee. She’s not producing something like 1500-2000 eggs per day by early autumn.

A Nationwide brood body has ~3000 cells per facet. In case you discover eggs equal in space to 1 facet of a brood body she’s laying at ~1000/day. By now it’s more likely to be a lot much less. At 500 eggs/day you possibly can anticipate finding not more than half a body of eggs within the hive.

Bear in mind the steady-state 3:5:13 (or simpler 1:2:4) ratio of eggs to larvae to pupae?

A number of of my colonies had about half a body of eggs however considerably greater than 4 occasions that quantity of sealed brood … clear proof that the laying fee is slowing dramatically.

The shrinking brood nest – observe the capped shops and a bit of house to put within the centre of the body

Secondly, the colony is quickly filling the field with shops, so decreasing the house she has to put. They’re busy backfilling brood cells with nectar.

Look and ye shall discover …

So I focus fastidiously on discovering eggs. I gently blow onto the centre of the frames to maneuver the bees apart and seek for eggs.

In a few hives I used to be so targeted on discovering eggs that – as I ready to return the body to the colony – I solely then noticed the queen ambling round on the body. D’oh!

Some colonies had solely 3-4 frames of BIAS, others had heaps extra although guesstimating the exact space of brood is hard due to the quantity of backfilling going down.

I nonetheless must verify my notes to find out whether or not it’s the youthful queens which are nonetheless laying most eggs … I’d not be stunned.


Containers at the moment are heavy however not full. All acquired (a minimum of) half a block of fondant in late August and extra final weekend. There’s additionally a little bit of late nectar. The preliminary half block was nearly completed in every week.

As soon as the bag is empty I merely peel it away from the queen excluder. In case you’re doing this, go away the encompassing tremendous in place. It acts as a ‘funnel’ to maintain the 1000’s of displaced bees within the hive slightly than down your boots and everywhere in the ground.

Though the bees have been flying properly, the bees in and across the tremendous have been fairly torpid. I’ve seen this earlier than and am not involved. I don’t know whether or not these are bees gorged with shops, having a kip or maybe younger bees that don’t know their manner about but. Nevertheless, it does imply that any bees dropped whereas eradicating the bag are likely to wander aimlessly round on the bottom.

I’d choose they have been in the hive, out of the way in which of my dimension 10’s.

In case you take a look at most of the frames within the hive they are going to be partially or fully stuffed with shops. The outer frames are more likely to be capped already. 

An outer body of capped shops

These frames of shops are heavy. There’s no must look via the whole field. I merely choose the load of every body and examine any which are lighter than a full body of shops.

Nearer to the brood nest you’ll most likely discover a body or two stuffed, wall-to-wall, with pollen. Once more, a superb signal of a wholesome hive with the provisions it must rear the winter bees and make it to spring.


The one signal of illness I noticed was a small quantity of chalkbrood in a single or two colonies. This can be a perennial state of affairs (it’s probably not an issue) with a few of my bees. Fairly just a few of my shares have some (or a variety of) native Apis mellifera mellifera genes and these usually have a little bit of chalkbrood.

I additionally search for indicators of overt deformed wing virus (DWV) injury to just lately emerged staff. That is the almost certainly time of the 12 months to see it as mite ranges have been constructing all season and brood ranges are reducing quick. Subsequently, creating brood is extra more likely to turn into infested and consequently develop signs.

Thankfully I didn’t see any indicators of DWV injury and the preliminary impression following the primary week or so of miticide therapy is that mite ranges are very low this season. I’ll return to this subject as soon as I’ve had an opportunity to do some correct counts after treating for a minimum of 8-10 weeks (I exploit Apivar and, since my colonies all have medium to good ranges of brood, the strips must be current for greater than the minimal advisable 6 weeks).

Closing up

Though these have been the final hive inspections, they weren’t the final time I’ll be rummaging about within the brood field.

In some unspecified time in the future in the course of the interval of miticide therapy I’ll reposition the strips (adjoining to the ever-shrinking brood nest) having scraped them to maximise their effectiveness.

Apivar scratch and sniff repositioning research

Nevertheless, all that can occur in a month or so once I may be fairly positive the climate can be loads much less benign. Much better to get the inspections out of the way in which now, simply in case.

So, having added the extra fondant (sometimes half a block) I closed the hives, strapped them up securely and allow them to get on with making their preparations for the approaching winter.

Goodbye and thanks for the reminiscences

There’s a poignancy concerning the final hive inspections of the season.

The climate was beautiful, the colonies have been robust and flying properly, and the bees have been splendidly placid. It’s been a terrific season for honey, illness ranges are low to negligible and queen rearing has gone properly .

But it surely’s throughout so quickly 🙁 .

Hive #5 (pictured someplace above … with the empty bag of fondant) was from a swarm management nuc made up on the final day of Might (i.e. a 2021 queen). It was promoted to a full hive in mid-June. On the identical time, whereas the hive they got here from (#28) was requeening I’d taken greater than 20 kg of spring honey from it. The requeening of #28 took longer than anticipated as the primary was nearly instantly outmoded. However, the 2 hives additionally produced nearly 4 full supers (conservatively a minimum of 40 kg) of summer season honey.

Good occasions 🙂 .

My notes – for as soon as – are complete. Over the lengthy, darkish months forward I’ll have the ability to sift via them to try to perceive higher what went improper.

That’s as a result of – regardless of what I stated within the opening paragraph of this part – there have been inevitably any variety of minor calamities and a few main snafu’s.

Or ’studying alternatives’ as I choose to name them.

Final mild over Rum and Eigg … not a nasty view when visiting an out apiary

However that’s all for the longer term.

For the second I’ve a sore again and aching fingers from extracting for days and the reminiscence of a near-perfect remaining day of correct beekeeping.

It’s most likely time I began constructing some frames 🙁




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