Friday, 9 March 2012


I started the winter with four colonies of bees, and ended it with one. The three which didn't make it all died off after New Year, with clusters shrinking steadily. The survivor is extremely strong. This is due to a gut disease called Nosema apis. At least, it's probably N apis. There is a second species, ceranae, which originated with the Asian honeybee, but we don't know a lot about it yet. The disease shortens the bee's life, so the colony wither doesn't make it through our long winters, or comes through weakened.

I know why this happened; it's because I put colonies onto old comb, which must have been infected. So I need to sterilise all my unused broodcomb with concentrated acetic acid. The fumes are lethal to humans as well as disease organisms, so it takes careful handling. I've avoided concentrated acids for many years, but I can get the stuff on eBay, and I'm going to have a go. Then if I get as much new comb pulled as I can, melt the worst of the old, and medicate the bees in the autumn, that should deal with the problem.

On a pleasanter note, it's time to start planting. I went to an event organised by the HSL last Saturday at Martineau Gardens, a couple of miles away. Unfortunately I forgot the camera, but I came back with some interesting seed; shark's fin squash, fenugreek, a Bangladeshi variety of callalloo, which is darker green than the Caribbean varieties - I don't know whether there's any other difference - and halon, which is apparently a sort of spicy cress.

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