What’s the photo in the banner? It shows the results of Varroa treatment, now been completed ahead of the winter months. The image is of a monitoring insert, onto which have fallen bits of pollen and wax – and dead mites, the target of the annual treatment. Here’s another monitoring card:

The Varroa mite is so pervasive in the UK it cannot be wiped out, but constant control measures by beekeepers can prevent them from destroying bee colonies. Our beekeeper explained further:

Varroa mites get to hives primarily in two ways. Firstly, by hitching a ride with a drone; drones are allowed in any hive, so are a easy entry point for the Varroa mite – in fact, they prefer breeding in drone brood due to the slightly longer time it takes for drone brood to emerge. The second way is by attaching themselves to a worker bee when it comes to a plant. They are quite ingenious in getting to a hive and causing the most amount of damage.

When hives are close together, sometimes bees can drift into another hive by accident (the wind pushing them usually); this is another means by which the Varroa mite spreads.  It’s one of the reasons hives in the same location should be treated at the same time.

We have now completed Varroa treatment on all hives. At this time of the year, the queen will be laying the winter bees; they need to stay in the hive throughout the entire winter season, and have the added stress of having to collect early pollen in spring and feed the first of next year’s brood. It is imperative that these bees are as healthy as can be. The Varroa treatment appears to have been successful.

All the nucleus colonies have been taken away, and placed in an allotment site in east London where there is plenty of forage. The observation hives (pictured above) have had their windows covered, which will help keep them warm in the coming months.

Good news about the small swarm we rescued: in our last post, we said there was no longer a queen in this colony. Well, it turns out she’s still there, so our beekeeper will keep it as a separate colony; with care and attention, it might make it through the winter – we’ll report on their progress next season, insha’Allah (God willing).

There are still six beehives on the roof. Looking after all these beehives takes a lot of time and commitment from our beekeepers. They’ve been a delight to observe for many of our visitors. They also still attract other attention: whenever it rains, slugs appear on the observation hives, though the bees don’t seem to care. Wasps are still preying on the bees even in October, hovering around the entrances more often now that there are very few dead and dying bees on the ground beneath the observation hives. And the reason the ground is so clear of dead bees is that there are now several mice in residence, gorging themselves on a diet of dead bees.