Thursday, 13 January 2011

Oxalic Acid Treatment

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to my neighbour on the allotment that I have trouble managing the tops of the hedges. I got there today to find that he's done the whole length of it down his side. That's the first time in eleven years that a neighbour has taken the initiative and cut the hedge! I've still got the other side to do, but it's on the lower side, so the worst half is done for me.

I've just given an oxalic acid treatment (for mites) to my hives. It involves mixing up 7.5g of oxalic, and 100g each of water and sugar - that's enough for my hives, obviously the quantities can be altered appropriately if necessary - and squirting 5ml over each seam (between combs) containing bees.

Both are alive, and looking healthy so far. They're a bit light so I'll give them both some candy in a few days. One has a gigantic cluster filling the entire box, and was flying. A colony like this will build up quickly, and probably give a good honey crop in a good summer. They eat themselves out of house and home though, need a lot of beekeeper support over winter, and may eat as much as they bring in in a bad summer. They may well be swarmy as well. The other has a much smaller cluster on five frames, occupying about 1/4 of the area of the first, and wasn't flying at all. That's much more what I want, especially given that it arrived with two queens, mother and daughter. This is a native bee characteristic, associated with strains which swarm less often. It'll also eat less over winter, and need less support from me. After this winter, it probably won't need any.

So I'll requeen the first colony as soon as I've got a reasonable number of drones, and keep the queen in the second for another year at least. That's assuming they both survive that long!


  1. I remember keeping bees when I was growing up. We fed them sugar water in some drip contraption over the Winter. When you refer to 'candy' what is that?

  2. Sugar plus a little water, boiled up until a drop falling into cold water congeals into a solid mass. It's very like human candy, except that it's not caramelised (bees can't handle caramel, so it needs to be white not brown) and as I make it in old bread tins it cools more slowly and comes out with a much coarser texture.

    A contact feeder will work in cold weather, but it's a pretty slow and unsatisfactory way of feeding bees. A rapid feeder's no good, as they can't move away from the cluster to get up into it.

    I should have given both swarms more feed last autumn, obviously; they've still got stores, but they're on the light side, and I always find that swarms and splits are better fed well. Unfortunately illness got in the way last autumn.

  3. It is one of our long term goals to have our own bees, I can only imagine how nice it must be to have your own fresh honey. Tell me, does illegal honey taste just a little bit sweeter?:) Seriously though, it is a real shame when having a couple hives of bees or a few chickens...or even a garden in some suburban neighborhoods is against the law, a real shame.

  4. It's really sad, and so uncalled-for. Fortunately the rule has now changed on this one, and bees are now allowed on Birmingham allotments.