EU Honeybee Surveillance Programme (Visit 1 of 3)

I do, I do, I Scoobie do

No sooner had I signed-up to the National Bee Unit’s, BeeBase, than I was rewarded for my enthusiasm by receiving a letter asking if I would like to participate in the “European Union Pilot Surveillance Programme for Honey Bee Health”.   Crikey!

My apiary (of two colonies) was one of 200 apiaries (out of 32,000) from across England & Wales randomly selected from BeeBase and they were going to inspect my hives three times over a year, starting in August.  In this programme, they are collecting baseline data on colony losses and honeybee health from across the EU.   Not only did it sound very worthwhile it gave me some relief that whatever I did during June-August, at least a bee inspector would have a look and perhaps give me some pointers.  It felt like some kind of insurance policy, so I immediately replied with an “I do, I do, I Scoobie do”.

The Bee Inspector

I wasn’t too worried about what the bee inspector would find.  I was just really excited about what I could learn about my bees.

She came last week.  Within minutes she was stroking the bumble bees in the lavendar at the bottom of the garden.  Hmmmm.  I would try and impress my wife and friends with similar displays of affection and try and convince them that I had a deep connection with bees.  Whilst I would be sham, I was convinced the bee inspector knew her stuff.

When it came to inspecting the hive she asked where my smoker was.  I haven’t used smoke for the last couple of months and as a result they have even been more friendly.  She seemed OK with this but she wanted the smoker to hand just in case.  We didn’t need it.

Bee Inspector studying my hives for the EU Pilot Programme

 Bee Inspector from National Bee Unit

Diseases The Study Is Looking Out For

An EU Paper (link at bottom of page) explains ” The focus [of the pilot study] will be on the following main honeybee diseases and/or pathogens: varroosis (V. destructor), American (P. larvae) and European foulbrood (M. plutonius), nosemosis (N. apis, N. ceranae), chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) and the two viruses strongly linked with V. destructor (Deformed wing virus (DWV) and Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV)). These are known to be present with relatively high prevalence and/or impact in Europe. Additionally, the two following notifiable pathogens will be also searched for: A. tumida and Tropilaelaps spp. (currently considered absent from Europe).”

Basically, this means the inspectors are looking for the baddies.

The Inspection

She started out by collecting some dying bees around the outside of the hive and put them in a sample jar with ethanol (I think it was ethanol).  When she got into the hive, she took a couple of bees with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and put them in another sample jar.  She put a couple of dodgy looking larvae into a jar.  She also took a frame of bees, shook them into a washing bowl and put a couple of hundred of my workers into a fourth sample jar.  She did this for both hives.  See video below.

She looked for my Queen but could not find her but she could see eggs and larave in my first hive.

After the inspection we had a tea/coffee and she asked me a few questions.  I told her about the history of swarming and high varroa counts.

Sample of honeybees

European Union Pilot Surveillance Programme for Honey Bee Health

Good News & Bad News

Despite the dying bees and couple of bees with DWV, she declared the hives looked healthy based on a quick visual analysis.  However, the bad news is that my hive that swarmed six weeks ago is Queenless and no sign of brood or eggs.  She reassured me that this was common this year.  She also let me know that her honey production was 60% down on last year and my three jars was not untypical.  So as a result of having a Queenless hive she advised me to combine the two hives using the newspaper method.

So I will shortly be down to one colony … lets hope this one makes it through the challenges of autum and winter.

I will get the results of the tests in a few weeks time and will post the results.

Juggling priorities

So I need to reduce the varroa count, feed the bees AND combine the hives.  Somehow I have to juggle the following:

  • Four weeks of  Apiguard treatment whilst it is still above 15C (I’ve done nearly 2 weeks now)
  • Feed the bees before the end of September, but do not feed whilst treating with Apiguard
  • Combine the two hives – I think I can do this when I want (any advice on optimal times to combine hives welcome)

Basically, I am keeping my fingers crossed that it remains warm until the end of September in order to achieve all the above.

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