BUCKFAST ABBEY BEE DEPARTMENT 15th JULY 2014
THE NEW BUILDING EXTERIOR
THE NEW BUILDING INTERIOR
STILL IN DEVELOPMENT
CLARE DENSLEY EXAMINING K-W MINI NUC WITH SUPER IN POSITION
MEMBERS READING A LANGSTROTH BROOD FRAME
PREDATORY MITE CULTURE MEDIUM IN POSITION
THE HOME APIARY
PHOTOS Richard Ball
DARG visit to Buckfast Abbey
Six members visited Buckfast Abbey on Sunday 15th June on the invitation of the Bee Unit Manager and DARG member, Clare Densley. It was a fine, warm afternoon with the main flow from clover and Bramble just started.
We first met in the partially completed new accommodation that will eventually provide bee management and extracting facilities as well as teaching space for groups at various levels of experience. For most of an hour we reviewed the experience that Clare and Richard Ball have obtained running controlled varroa bio-treatments with the predatory mite Stratiolaelaps sp. Their regular counts of daily mite drop provide convincing evidence that a considerable measure of varroa control can be achieved. However, several applications of the predatory mite cultures during the season are necessary. It appears unlikely that Stratiolaelaps sp. can reproduce within the hive environment despite feeding voraciously on varroa although being around just 10% of its size. Clare suggested that once a predatory mite had attacked and punctured its prey then many others focused onto the injury probably by some pheromonal stimulus.
The cultures of Stratiolaelaps sp. are now received in small cylinders of around 5000 mites including the culture medium of uncertain composition. The manufacturers are strictly tight-lipped regarding the methods used to culture the predatory mites which are also used to control red mites in the poultry industry. To introduce the mites into the hive the culture can be sprinkled onto the top bars, a method used by Richard. Clare uses honey jar lids on the top bars and shares the entire culture between them, allowing the mites to access the varroa directly or even indirectly by first moving onto the bees. The system of delivering the predatory mites in tea-bags has been abandoned as the cylinders already in use for poultry mite control have proved satisfactory for hive use using the mites and their culture medium directly. Neither the mites nor the medium have been shown to contaminate hive products or proved harmful to adult or larval honeybees.
After an hour of interesting discussion and exchange of information, the group moved to the historic Abbey home apiary. No classical Brother Adam Dadant hives now exist but Clare opened some excellent Langstroth hives and K-W mating nucs showing how her trial colonies were treated and how well her mating nucs functioned with the addition of a matching super which permits greater expansion of the mini colony and even successful over- wintering. (See Gallery page for mini-nuc details)
Scones, clotted Devon cream and Buckfast honey consumed back at the new building ended an excellent and informative visit.
This photograph of the Abbey Home Apiary was taken in July 2010.
Since then the Abbey Bee Department has moved from its traditional production role to being a centre for education, training and research trials in the management of bee health under the direction of Clare Densley.
The modified Dadant hives in the
characteristic colours shown here and chosen by Brother Adam have been replaced by the more modern and easier to manage Langstroth design.
For more information on the Buckfast Abbey courses and history click here.