Malcolm’s Topical Tips – 2016 Apr – 2

> Many of the association members attended the session held at the Rose and Crown last week about swarming. All of us, even those who are more experienced, can always improve how we manage our colonies. I hope the session proved thought provoking and those who were present will now correctly carry out the artificial swarm technique. Beginners so often misunderstand what it is they have to do!
> If you think that you have mastered what is required of you to do an artificial swarm, I will show you at bee banter on 26 April how you can use the artificial swarm technique to clean up your bees. To clean up the box with the old queen, the foragers and the fresh frames of foundation a simple Biotechnical method can be used (gosh that sounds complicated but it is so simple you will be amazed).
> The technique to clean up the old brood box and all the emerging bees is a little bit more complicated however. You may only want to use this method if you consider you have a high varroa count. So, of course, you need to be monitoring your inspection boards now in order to make the decision about whether your colony has a high infestation or not (and you are all using the varroa calculator on bee base, I hope). I have been searching for the last year or two for something that I can do at this stage of the season which does not involve putting oxalic acid onto the bees. The reason for not putting the chemical on them is that the emerging virgin queen may somehow get damaged or be affected later in her life and that I do not want to risk.
> The solution has come from an eminent beekeeper in Sussex called Jonathan Coote. If you think I have an attention for detail, you haven't yet met Jonathan. He is a bit of a maverick and taught himself beekeeping and has, in consequence, come up with really interesting ideas. He uses a solution of dilute lactic acid which he sprays on to the bees. This is quite a benign procedure. It certainly won't damage the virgin queen. The reason for this is that the dilute solution is so weak that you can even put it on your own tongue without it causing any problems. I am quite prepared to put it on my tongue for you! Jonathan says that it's acidity is like lemon juice.
> The reason why it works is that the varroa mite has very delicate mouthparts. Once the solution has been sprayed onto the bees they evaporate off the moisture and this concentrates the acidity of the solution and damages the varroa. I will show you how to use this and Helen is going to bring up to bee banter several bottles of the dilute solution which will be sold at a very cheap price. Jonathan's Association all use lactic acid. However it is not a recognised product. Perhaps it should be,though, because it is such a weak, dilute solution that is actually sprayed onto the bees by the beekeeper.
> So if you do have a varroa problem you might like to come to Bee banter on Tuesday 26th April 730pm Rose and Crown Mayfield
> Malcolm Wilkie April 2016

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