from Jacqui and me to this record of our experiences as new beekeepers in The Marches.

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Monday, 24 May 2010


The blogger welcomes followers but the beekeeper does not. If the bees are in a bad mood the beekeeper upon leaving the apiary may be followed by angry bees, "followers", for some distance before they return to the hive. One of our hives has no queen at present whilst the workers rear a new one. Consequently the workers are irritable with anything that interferes with their work and we have followers. Sadly as a blogger I still have no followers!!
Jacqui took this pic that for me sums up what it is like to keep bees in the Marches.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


I think I must have missed a sealed queen cell when examining Hive 1 last Sunday. Out in the garden yesterday afternoon I heard the ominous roar of multi bees and soon spotted a swarm on the other side of our sycamore hedge. Once again out with all the kit and eventually as above pic shows I managed to get the bees to march into a super full of frames. I have bedded them down overnight in the apiary with their entrance plugged with grass. I now need to sort out a fresh brood box to provide them with a long term home. This swarm must have a virgin queen so I believe it should correctly be called a caste. It is a tall order to get the queen mated and laying but we and the workers must be optimistic.
Swarming score now bees 2, beekeeper 0.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The battle for survival

So, this season's fight for survival has begun. Following the swarm last weekend two separate battles are underway. The original colony [Hive 1] is now left without a queen but they do have brood that will be hatching out over the next couple of weeks. They must rear a new queen in order to survive.
The swarm colony [Hive 2] have a queen but no brood so they must build comb rapidly to enable her to lay eggs. Once she starts the first new bees will not emerge for a further 25 days. In the meantime the old tired bees will be dying off so reducing colony numbers. Its a race against time.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A swarm and a sting

Swarms and stings are to beekeepers what death and taxes are to all of us - inevitable. One of the main skills of beekeeping is swarm prevention, or at least control. Having boned up on the procedure I was fully prepared to carry out our first artificial swarm [a method of preventing loss of a swarm] on Sunday, but the bees decided to leave on Saturday!! Jacqui was outside with Ruffle when she heard the unmistakable roar from the end of the garden. Fortunately the bees were gathering in the sycamore hedge only a short distance from the hive. With the butterflies in my stomach similarly swarming I put on the kit, lit our smoker and gathered some boxes.
Earlier in the week I had set out a spare hive on a stand so the plan was to persuade the swarm to set up home there. I managed to shake the bees into my boxes, it took several goes, and then upended the boxes on to a white sheet. Pausing only to extract my first sting from my left thumb, I placed a wooden board up against the landing board on the new hive and covered it with a white sheet. Then I carried over the boxes wrapped in their sheet and shook them on to the board. After a nervous few moments for me the bees turned uphill and started to march into the hive. It is a truly amazing sight. I used a pheasant feather to redirect some that missed the entrance and were marching straight on up the front of the hive. At no time did I spot the old queen but I think she must have been there otherwise the bees would have marched straight out again. The air was full of flying bees all this time but gradually they settled down.
A swarm usually takes about one third to one half of the bees leaving the non-flyers, some flyers and all the brood in the original hive. In the evening I set about moving the old hive to one side and placed the swarm hive in the original position. This should mean that next day flying bees return to the swarm hive strenghtening it.
Next day, Sunday, I went through the old hive removing all the capped queen cells [a couple are shown pictured above you can just see the larva though the broken end], leaving uncapped ones. In a weeks time I shall go in to that hive again and remove all but one of the queen cells. Hopefully we shall finish up with a new colony with a laying queen in about three weeks from then. As to the swarm that will lose numbers until the bees have created new cells and the old queen has started laying again. What we need now is warm weather and a strong nectar flow.
As to that sting, I was wearing "Marigold" rubber gloves. They cannot prevent the sting but they do stop it penetrating too deep and they make it easy quickly to remove the venom sack. All in all not as bad as I had expected!!
As to my beekeeping skills and swarming the present score is bees 1 beekeeper 0.