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Beekeeping, so much more than honey
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  • 10/17/14--12:48: Deformed Wing Virus
  • Deformed wing virus (DWV) is probably the most important viral pathogen of honeybees. In the presence of Varroa the virus is amplified to very high levels in the colony, resulting in newly emerged workers – those that survive long enough to emerge – exhibiting the classic symptoms familiar to most beekeepers. These include deformed or atrophied […]

    The post Deformed Wing Virus appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 02/16/15--03:25: Somerset BKA lecture day
  • I’m delighted to be sharing the programme with Michael Palmer and Celia Davies at the Somerset BKA lecture day in Cheddar this Saturday (21st February ’15). I’ll be adding a small bit of science to the day and no doubt benefiting significantly from their wealth of beekeeping expertise. It should be a very enjoyable event. Update – […]

    The post Somerset BKA lecture day appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 09/23/15--13:52: MSWCC 2015
  • I spent last Friday and Saturday attending the Midland and South West Counties Convention at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. It was a good venue for a meeting, complemented by an interesting and entertaining programme of talks. I presented our research on the influence of Varroa on the transmission of pathogenic strains of deformed wing virus, together with brief coverage of both […]

    The post MSWCC 2015 appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 09/26/15--16:31: Sublime sublimation
  • Sublimation is the conversion of a substance in the solid phase into the gas phase without going via the intermediate liquid phase. With suitable heating oxalic acid (OA) powder can be converted into a vapour which, when spread through the hive, provides a quick and effective way to reduce the mite levels … hence it’s often […]

    The post Sublime sublimation appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 12/06/15--10:39: Drifting in honeybees
  • During previous research on deformed wing virus (DWV) biology and its transmission by Varroa I’ve moved known Varroa-free colonies (sourced from a region of the UK which the mite has yet to reach and maintained totally mite-free) into apiaries in the countryside. Within 2-3 weeks Varroa was detectable in sealed brood, showing that mite infestation occurs very readily. I know other researchers […]

    The post Drifting in honeybees appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 02/05/16--09:59: When to treat?
  • When and how do you treat colonies to have the greatest effect in minimising Varroa levels? At the end of this longer than usual post I hope you’ll appreciate that this is a different – and much less important –  question than “When is the best time to treat?”. You probably use one of the treatments licensed and […]

    The post When to treat? appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 04/02/16--10:59: Divide and conquer
  • Tom Seeley (of Honeybee Democracy fame) published an interesting paper in the journal PLoS One recently on “How honey bee colonies survive in the wild: testing the importance of small nests and swarming” – the paper is available as a PDF following this link (Loftus et al., 2016 PLoS One 11:e0150362). Size matters Using his normal elegant methodology Seeley formally tested the […]

    The post Divide and conquer appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 06/10/16--09:59: Keep your distance
  • A recent paper by Nolan and Delaplane (Apidologie 10.1007/s13592-016-0443-9) provides further evidence that drifting/robbing between colonies is an important contributor to Varroa transmission. In the study they established multiple pairs of essentially Varroa-free colonies 0, 10 or 100 metres apart and then spiked one of the pair with a known number of Varroa. They then monitored mite […]

    The post Keep your distance appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 07/15/16--10:37: Bee lining for Christmas
  • Following the Wild Bees† by Tom Seeley is an entertaining little book that would make an ideal Christmas present for a beekeeper. It describes the methods used to locate feral colonies (or any colonies actually) by bee hunting or bee lining, so called because you follow the line or direction they return to the colony from […]

    The post Bee lining for Christmas appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 10/18/16--05:04: Those pesky mites
  • If you haven’t yet treated your colonies to reduce Varroa levels before the winter arrives it may well be too late†. High Varroa levels are known to result in the transmission of virulent strains of deformed wing virus (DWV). These replicate to very high levels and reduce the lifespan of bees. If this happens to the ‘winter bees’ raised […]

    The post Those pesky mites appeared first on The Apiarist.


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    I’m very pleased to be speaking on the 24th of November (this Thursday) to members of the Helensburgh and District BKA. The talk will be at the rather splendid looking Rhu Parish Church at 7.15pm. The title of the talk is “Bees, viruses and Varroa: the biology and control of deformed wing virus (DWV)”. I’ll discuss aspects […]

    The post Helensburgh & District BKA talk appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 12/09/16--08:59: Get dribbling
  • There has been a prolonged spell of cold weather in Eastern Scotland. Temperatures have rarely risen above 5°C, with hard frosts overnight. However, a warm front moved in on Tuesday night and the last few days have been significantly warmer†. The lack of activity at the hive entrances and a quick peek under the insulation through the perspex crownboards (where […]

    The post Get dribbling appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 12/30/16--08:59: 2016 in retrospect
  • The end of another year and another season’s beekeeping. Now is a good time to review what went well and what went badly. In terms of my beekeeping year in Scotland, the end of December isn’t even half way through the winter. Although I didn’t open many hives after mid-September (three and a half months ago), unless […]

    The post 2016 in retrospect appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 02/03/17--08:58: CSI: Forensics in Fife
  • This is a long post. If you can’t be bothered to read it in its entirety the conclusion is … It’s the viruses wot done it … probably. But the take home message is that you can learn from colonies lost in midwinter. Introduction I always have mixed feelings about midwinter hive losses, or deadouts as […]

    The post CSI: Forensics in Fife appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 03/10/17--09:01: Apistan resistance
  • In an earlier article I discussed what Apistan is – a pyrethroid miticide – and the consequences of using it. These include decimation of the mite population if it is susceptible, coupled with the accumulation of long lasting residues in wax. These residues may adversely effect queen and drone development. I also discussed ways to avoid build-up of […]

    The post Apistan resistance appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 08/11/17--09:59: Peaceful easy feeling
  • The 6-8 week period between late June and harvesting the summer honey is a quiet period in the beekeeping calendar. At least, it is in mine. My colonies aren’t going to the heather, so there’s nothing to prepare for that. Swarm control is complete and many colonies are now headed by new queens, so the […]

    The post Peaceful easy feeling appeared first on The Apiarist.


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    Why bother treating colonies in midwinter to reduce Varroa infestation? After all, you probably treated them with Apiguard or Apivar (or possibly even Apistan) in late summer or early autumn. Is there any need to treat again in midwinter? Yes. To cut a long story short, there are basically two reasons why a midwinter mite […]

    The post Kick ’em when they’re down appeared first on The Apiarist.


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  • 10/27/17--09:20: The day job
  • It’s no secret that I have both amateur and professional interests in bees, bee health and beekeeping. During the weekend I sweat profusely in my beesuit, rushing between my apiaries in Central and Eastern Fife, checking my colonies – about 15 at the autumn census this year – averting swarms, setting up bait hives, queen […]

    The post The day job appeared first on The Apiarist.