Following on from my last post, it was time to visit the association apiary and treat my hive with Oxalic Acid. I had also arranged to meet two other beekeepers, one was a new beekeeper, Jonesy who has two hives at the apiary and I have been giving the odd bit of advice over the past few months and the other my good beekeeping buddy Ken who also has a hive in the apiary.
I helped Jonesy with his two hives first, we removed the roof and crown board and each seam of bees dribbled 5ml of the prepared 3% oxalic acid solution. A few weeks back the hives were a bit on the light side so an empty frame removed from each hive and replaced with a frame feeder full of fondant. Both hives looking good and I would say in reasonable shape for the time of year. The final bit was to fit the inspection trays to see what the drop of varroa will be in a week’s time.
We then moved on to Kens hive and Ken and myself were a bit disappointed as the cluster was smaller than expected. This had been a strong hive with a good queen and went into the autumn in good shape, but something looks not right and all we can do for now is hope they don’t get any smaller.
Finally it was my hive and the day was just going from bad to worse. This hive had a big block of fondant encased in insulation and when I lifted the roof the fondant had a big area where the bees had clearly been eating it and I could see down into the hive through the feed hole but no bees in sight. The fondant had also started to sag and run and something that you see on dead hives. So I lifted the crown board expecting the worst and glad to report the bees were alive, but a very small cluster and most disappointing. The only thing to do was to apply the oxalic although I would expect this will do more harm than good on such a small cluster. I also removed two frames and fitted a couple of insulated dummy boards to try and conserve some heat. This hive is headed by an Italian New Zealand queen and came through last winter very small and perhaps just not suited to our cold damp apiary. With careful handling last season and a bit of extra TLC I got it up to a strong hive and at ten frames going into the winter. It was so strong it took down 2 gallons of syrup in a week and then another gallon. I think something has gone wrong with this hive and won’t know until later in the year and I just hope it makes it.
I have to be honest and say the Italian bee is not high on my list of favorite things. I accept they are wonderful, gentle bees, but my working with this queen has shown me that perhaps they are not best suited to our climate and require too much looking after. If she is alive and viable and comes through the winter I will work with her, but also look to start a colony in the apiary from better suited local bees or if I go down the breeder road it will be a Buckfast type bee.
Although I chose not to apply oxalic acid routinely as part of winter treatments, but prefer to keep it as a treatment if required. However I am very keen on making my own solution as it can save a few pounds and remarkably easy although not without possible dangers.
For the past couple of years I have made along with Ken enough to treat his 8-10 hives and another beekeeper Liam his several hives. Last year for the first time in eight years I also treated a few of my hives. Obviously this year I will only treat the hive at my association as that is compulsory and I am happy that my other hives don’t need the disturbance, but all the same we still made up plenty of the solution to treat Kens and Liams hives and the recipe as follows.
First, it cannot be stressed enough that playing with oxalic crystals can be very dangerous and precautions should be taken. Face mask’s, goggles and acid resistant gloves should be worn. The crystals should be stored in airtight container, clearly marked and locked away well out of the reach of children. Once mixed the sweet substance should also be clearly marked and locked away.
The weighing and measuring of the materials is also very important. Get it too weak and it will be ineffective get it too strong and you may damage the bees. So as a result, you will need an electronic jeweler’s scale and capable to measure down to .01 g.
1 L water
1 kg Sugar
75g Oxalic crystals
Mix the water and sugar together to make a sugar solution and then add the oxalic and mix until fully dissolved. This will make approx 1.5 L of 3% oxalic.
If you only need to treat a few hives then it’s –
100 ml of water
100 g of sugar
7.5 g Oxalic crystals.
Once mixed all you require is a syringe to apply 5ml per seem of bees.