Portugal experience

So I have been keeping bees now for 3 years, with varying degrees of success. I have a full, thriving hive, and an empty one. The first two years resulted in the loss of two nucs/colonies and the current colony ‘discovered’ the hive by themselves. In the beginning of the year I discovered that they had a varroa infestation. I treated them with oxalic acid (a spray, where one simply sprays each frame of bees, and it lasts a year). Over 2500 mites were killed and a lot of others were shed after powdering the bees with icing sugar. They also had a little chalk brood, which has remained evident, albeit in small quantities, throughout the year. The other major negative has been the inundation of Vespa Asiatica (Asian hornet) which is now rife everywhere. I have located 1 nest this year, and two nests last year (all in forests near by), which I had destroyed. I have also killed 1300 wasps this year, mostly with my home made swatter, but also with a BB air pistol, which I used to kill wasps when the ivy was in bloom (they go after insects and bees on the ivy. As we near winter the hornets are thinning out and the bees seem to appreciate my intervention. I have chickens which clean up dead bees and there are also lizards living in the rocks below the hive, which help clean up, along with yellow jacket wasps.

Now for the contentious part: I have have decided not to harvest this year, and I have also decided to largely leave the bees to themselves (apart from the hornet interventions). My last inspection was in June. I have since added a medium box for brood and a flow super with QE, and I have added 5cm foam insulation. In the absence of any other local knowledge, this is my plan of action, and I will report back the results next Spring. The months of September and October, so far, have been the busiest months of the year, with average daily temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s (mid to high 20s/low 30s C). Lots of pollen and nectar coming in.

  1. I will leave everything as it is and I will not remove the QE (I know you will warn me about propolised QE, frozen queen, damaged flow frames) but that is what I am prepared to put up with).

  2. I will next do an inspection in Spring next year and decide what resources I am prepared to harvest then.

  3. The bees are multiplying and even crowding the entrance during the day time. If they decide to swarm then hopefully they will go to the empty hive, which I have ‘armed’ with home grown lemon grass.

  4. I will perform another oxalic acid treatment then.

I will report back on all these points after that inspection. I have attached photos of the hive, as well as the swatter I use to kill the hornets. I even killed a hornet yesterday as it was flying away from the hive, having snatched a bee as the bee arrived. The wasp was stunned and killed; the bee itself, although stunned, recovered, and I put her back on the landing board, where she briskly went back inside.

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Hi John, after my & Wilma’s experience a couple of weeks ago, I would strongly recommend removing the Flow super before winter. We harvested honey for a client from 20 frames after our sub-tropical, mild winter. It was difficult to get the honey to flow. The owner couldn’t get honey to flow, so I brought the frames home & attempted to do it on our dining room table/ work bench. A lot of honey had crystallized, & I’m guessing that a lot of propolis was in the frames, which combined, made it difficult to open the cells.

I ended up using 2 keys & locking them in the open position permanently. That constant pressure must have been enough to slowly open the frames. Some remained open after removing the keys after 5-6 minutes, while some re-closed. It’s not an experience I would wish upon anybody, especially you my friend.

On top of that, you can’t help but wonder if that constant pressure on the plastic is a good thing. Probably not, & could lead to failures sooner, rather than later.

Thanks Jeff - all understood. I have always understood that it is better to learn from others experience than one’s own. I just have difficulty reconciling what I see from Cedar on his channel. Do you know if he removes the supers at his site? I know his climate is mild, but only slightly more than here, and we are getting warmer year on year.

It looks significantly cooler in Sintra than Byron bay.

Thanks for that, friend. Interesting data. Right now (and for the past week) it is 81F, which doesn’t appear anywhere near the graph, but I do appreciate that it is a forecast average for the month! I will stick with my plan, unless I see a catastrophic change in the hive. (next day) @Chao06, I see now why the weather graphs look more severe than my experience. Sintra town has a local weather phenomenon caused by the mountain, and so it is mostly humid and there is cloud a lot of the time. I live about 500m from the edge of that cloud and what I experience is much more like Cascais. In fact, the cooling effect of the Atlantic often means Cascais is 2 or 3 degrees cooler than where I live. That all said, there is a better comparison to Byron Bay when using the Cascais model.

Hi Kayla
I have to tell you that I have just been bloody minded about them completely. I have installed wasp traps made out of 1.5L bottles with a tube sticking out the side and beer/meat in the bottle, but this doesn’t deal with the problem I have. The Asian ‘Vespa Velutina’ hovers around the hive entrance and snatches bees out of mid air, Occasionally they land on the landing board and snatch a bee as it arrives. I have simply spent a huge amount of time sitting near the hive entrance and swatting the wasps out of the sky. They never attack me and are always surprised, I have killed around 1400 wasps this year and I do find that they seem to understand when many don’t return to the wasp nest. They communicate like bees do - maybe not in the same way, but they definitely communicate the location of the hive to other wasps. the more that I kill, the fewer that return to spread the word. if I am away for a few days, for instance, I will often find up to 20 wasps competing with each other to snatch bees. The guard bees are always inside the entrance when it gets this bad but, after swatting the wasps (and I will kill all 20 in less than 5 minutes) the wasp thin out and the guard bees come out on the landing board. The number of visits then reduces dramatically and may even stop entirely for a day. This system is, of course, dependent on me being near the hive with my large makeshift swatter (a bamboo cane with a plastic bucket lid attached to the end…with holes drilled in it). I am always much more concerned that the wasps are coming from a nest near by so my primary focus is on trying to identify where they are flying to when they are carrying bees (not so easy). If one can locate the nest then one can have it destroyed. The wasp nests are generally quite large - some 50 cm in diameter and they are generally anchored high up in tees. If one lives in a forested area then it can be very tricky to locate the things, I have had 3 wasp nests destroyed but it really does depend on people reporting the pests. I found a huge nest in a tree just up the road and I was quite surprised that the people living there were completely un-phased by its existence in their yard. Naturally I explained how bad the wasps were for out pollinators and I got their permission to have it exterminated. Bottom line - find the nest and have it ‘killed’. They have laying queens too, so destroying her is a good start. Protecting your own bees will probably require more hands-on effort. I must say that I have never been attacked by any of the wasps that I have killed near the hive entrance, be it European wasps, yellow jackets or the dreaded vespa velutina; they all seem totally preoccupied with the bee hive.

Hi again Kayla
If you have problems in the attic then try this:
Get a large plastic coca cola bottle or the like. Cut a circular hole in it below the neck of the bottle. Screw a small section of tube (I used a 4 inch piece of tubing from my pool cleaner) and twist it into the opening. This tube allows wasps to land inside and walk into the bottle but they wont get out once inside. Pour some beer/lager into the bottle and put a few other juicy things in like bacon and sugar. Place the bottle in the attic and it will fill up quicklly for sure - with wasps.

Hi Allen, I thought of you while watching this video earlier today. This bloke has lots of interesting videos


So we are now going into Feb 24 and I said I would report back on my findings with the winter setup. So here we go…
I left the flow super on over winter and found that the bees had not really propalysed it to any extent. I also thought, initially, that they hadn’t really used the super at all. In fact, They left the two outer frames (1 & 7) completely alone and filled frames 3-5 with about 80% capped honey. Frames 2 & 6 had about 60% capped honey and all the frames with honey had no honey in the last few cm towards the back of the hive (where the honey is drained).

I performed my previous inspection in July 23, so I have largely left the bees alone (for 6b months)…until last week (first major deviation). During the July inspection I decided to add a medium box in order to allow them more space for brood. When I inspected last week I found that they hadn’t even built comb on any of the frames in the medium (which had foundation). I decided that I had given too much space for them over winter and that I should remove the medium as soon as possible. This may be an error on my part but I figured that, as the hive was down to about 65% in numbers, I wasn’t going to make life any easier with them having to heat up this space and even have to traverse the space in order to reach the honey! And we still have two cool months ahead.

I also did a varroa treatment last week, and again today. As well as removing the medium, I decided to add another moisture quit just so that the insulation walls that I had placed around the hive would still fit without the medium brood box. After the varroa treatment (oxalic acid) last week, I estimate that there were around 600 dead varroa in the bottom tray. This is obviously a heavily infested area but the bees have been coping very well with the mites. (the treatment last year yielded over 3000 varroa!).

So there we have it - I will be leaving the super on the entire year from now on and I will perform a harvest in a few weeks from now. The medium is ready to go back on if the bee numbers get too heavy and I will let you see thr harvest when it is done. Meanwhile, photos of the flow frames

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So, harvested the centre frame today while the weather was warm. It took 2:45 hrs and and I collected 2.7 Kgs of honey. I used the key in 4 increments, just so as to keep the tube at a maximum 2/3 full. The bees were amazing throughout and the only creature that took any interest in the jars was a yellow jacket. The honey is very fruity and I am so happy to be able to finally gift some jars to friends!!

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