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

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

New friends

Telephone call asking if I would like a "nuc" [nucleus colony]from Tom results in a delightful drive in Hamish's van [thanks Hamish] up the beautiful Corvedale lanes last evening. Tom has been a beekeeper for over 50 years, he is "cutting back" and only has about 40 hives now! He understands every tic of nature's clock. Whilst we wait for the flying bees to return to the nuc we chat in the evening sunshine. A priceless opportunity to tap into the wisdom of so many years of experience. He used to think nothing of taking 20 hives in his Morris Minor Traveller up to some remote field to harvest honey from a particular crop. Its one of those occasions when I wish I had a digital recorder.

In no time half an hour passes, sun below the hilltops and most of the flying bees back so reluctantly we load up and head home.

First thing this morning I let the bees out to fly. Then mid, very warm, afternoon I take brood box number 3 down to the hive stand. The nuc is moved to one side, opened, and the frames carefully lifted in the same order into the brood box that is placed where the nuc had been. This should ensure that flying bees return to the right home. The remaining bees are shaken into the box and the nuc removed. Then a feeder is placed ontop and filled with syrup by way of a "welcome" feed.

Its a bit late in the season to take on a new colony. They will not produce honey for us this year but if the weather is kind there is a good chance that they can be built up sufficiently to survive the coming winter and set up a good start to next seasons crop. The pics show before during and after the transfer from nuc to brood box.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Civil War avoided

We live in an area where history is dominated by the English Civil War and bees follow in that tradition. If you simply add one colony on top of another they will set about killing each other. If, on the other hand, you spread one sheet of good newsprint over the host colony before adding the new one above things are different. The bees will within 48 hours, chew their way through and, like Channel Tunnellers, greet each other on the other side with open wings and no conflict. Incidentally I wonder if the newspaper pubishers appreciate the consequences to our honey bees when they trim their page sizes.

Inspection 8 days ago revealed that hive 2 was still queenless after more than 4 weeks. Not having a spare queen or young brood to introduce I decided to unite it with hive 3 where there is a laying queen. the newspaper method worked a treat and yesterday's inspection revealed lots of contented bees and chewed newspaper. So now we are back down to 2 colonies, lets hope this beautiful weather gives them a boost.

Incidentally the "extension" underneath hive 1 was successfully dealt with by placing a tray underneath and gently brushing the bees off with a feather. They were then poured into the top of the hive. The unwanted comb was then scraped off and collected for melting down.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Bees build extension

I wish our bees would read the same text books as me. I came home this evening from an excellent open day organised by Ludlow & District Beekeepers at Mocktree and decided to have an evening look at the hives. Hearing some extra buzzing from Hive 1 I bent down and there they were, a cluster of bees who haven't learned that they are supposed to build comb IN the hive rather than under it! No need to count sheep tonight, I shall be wondering what on earth I'm going to do about these hooligans.

In the garage we have some cardboard boxes stored on a shelf. Hearing buzzing I looked in the handhold and there was a wasps nest. Another issue I shall have to deal with. Who said insects are boring!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

latest inspection

Sunny day last Saturday so after attending a coffee morning at Kinton Farm I checked the hives. Number 1 has made good progress filling the second super, the first is well filled with honey much of which is capped so we shall at least have some honey this season. Did not look into this brood because new queen will only just have started laying new brood and I don't want to disturb. I have read that disruption too early can cause the workers to "ball" and thereby kill the queen. Lots of pollen being taken in and lots of bees so I am hopeful for this colony.
Hive 2 has no brood or eggs at all so it is queenless. This will be fatal for the colony unless I take action because the old workers will simply die out without being replaced. I have to decide whether a] to let them continue to add honey until they die out, or b]to merge them with another stronger colony where they can add to the honey harvest, or c] introduce a frame of new brood in the hope that they will raise a new queen.
Hive 3 has been adding to the honey in the supers. A quick look at one of the brood frames in the bottom box revealed uncapped larvae. This means I have a new laying queen in this hive. I now wait to see if she is productive enough to build up a strong colony for the winter.
Hope the young woodpecker pictured on Sunday watching mum on our feeder doesn't learn how to get at honey in the hive this winter. They can do terrible damage so I shall have to surround the hives with wire netting as a precaution.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


I may be one. Monday was bright following the rain of Sunday so I went to check the stores in hives 2 [the original swarm] and 3 [the second swarm]. Top box on 2 has fresh foundation that has still not been drawn out into comb. Next Box down has good stores but nasty surprise in third box just above the queen excluder. As pic shows there was a sealed queen cell on one side and there were three more on the other side. How did eggs [brood] get laid above the queen excluder? Either queen trapped above the excluder or I have workers laying - a bad sign. Having to make a decision there and then I decided to destroy all the Q cells because they looked small. Then checked the box below the queen excluder. No Queen cells, lots of bees, no brood. Given that the old queen who took the swarm should have been laying in the available comb this not good. Brought the box that had contained the Q cells down below the Queen Xcluder. Didn't see her there but lots of bees and didn't want to disturb them any more.
With hindsight I think I should have left one Queen cell and given them the chance to raise her. May finish up with a queenless colony through my own stupidity but never mind. I can either merge them with a successful colony later or give them a frame of brood so they may raise their own queen.