Apiary News

May 2024

A busy time in the apiary with different swarm management techniques to try to keep on top of colonies.  Apiary volunteers have been helping with using the Demaree method on three hives, double brood box on another and a queen split on two others – all to either give laying space or manipulate the colony to staying put.  But we still had two hives that swarmed and both on days we were in the apiary to witness it!! All hives have also been treated for varroa mite. 

We are now halfway through beginner practicals and I am starting to organise bee taster sessions for June and July.  

We will be extracting our Spring flower harvest in a couple of weeks time and I will be able to fill up the café shop shelves with honey.  It sells as soon as I put it out and it is very popular.  Now the the rape flower is over I will be placing the FLOW super on a strong colony and can’t wait to tap off the honey directly from the hive.  

March 2024

When we see so much activity in the hive and on the landing boards it is tempting to go a bit overboard with inspections.  This time of year I am making sure they have enough stores and adding fondant if they feel light.  If I have overwintered with a super of honey I now make sure I move the queen down into the brood box, pop the queen excluder in between the brood box and super and in 7-10 days release any drones that might have hatched ‘upstairs’ and can’t get out.

I will carry out a spring varroa treatment by the end of April and also inspect specifically for her laying pattern and how well she is laying and make a note on whether or not I keep the queen or dispatch her and replace after checking my hive records.  

I am planning for beginners practical sessions through April and May and bee taster sessions are filling up fast for June and July.  I have my swarm collection kit in my car so I feel well prepared but bees always invariably surprise you!! 

January / February 2024

Since our apiary clean and spruce up day in January (thank you again to our lovely volunteers) I have been to the apiary to check on hives and carry out repairs.

I have cleaned out the three hives that died and removed the frames for either throwing away/firewood or freezing and re-use. All these hives had plenty of stores but it was noticeable that there were very few dead bees and no signs of disease. My conclusion was either the Queen did not produce enough winter bees and / or varroa mite was very high. I will go through the hive records to see how old the queens were but it is always sad to see a dead colony.

On the positive side there were lots of bees flying from the healthy colonies. I added fondant to some. Most hives are pretty defensive this time of year so it is a quick 20 seconds of roof off, fondant block on above crown board hole and roof back on again.

On a fine warm day in March I will start inspecting hives again. Although it is very wet underfoot in the Park the apiary is well sheltered and dry.

We are looking at updating our display area with information on Asian hornet and I will be requesting the park rangers daily monitor an Asian hornet trap set up in the park. Now is the time the Queens start seeking out sugary food and new nest sites.

October 2023

I have visited the apiary to add fondant to each hive and check entrances are in place and that all is ok.

At the end of October, I attended the National Honey Show in Esher, London after a mammoth journey through roadworks (I wish they would consider moving it to Leeds or Manchester!)

I had some wax from the apiary to exchange for wax sheets and ordered glass jars (48p for an 8oz hex jar). After 13 trays (544 jars) were loaded into the car successfully I also picked up some api-boxal liquid to treat the hives in December for varroa mite and some frames for Malcolm (our wonderful HBKA volunteer) to turn them all into brood frames ready for next year.

At the show Asian hornet appeared to be the main concern this year and I spied lots of hornet traps and lures to buy – I didn’t buy anything because I’m concerned about how many other beneficial insects might be killed and I know we will have BBKA updates shortly to help plan for the year ahead.

I could not stay to wait for the end of the judging for the honey show exhibits but I could see into the exhibits hall and it was truly tantalising!

I will visit the apiary again soon to check on the hives and ensure we have honey to sell in the café. We sell about £200 of honey per month and have a loyal following.

September 2023

Many thanks to those volunteers who helped with honey extraction. We extracted, and have now jarred, about 120 lb and the remaining is in buckets waiting for me to get more jars!

Jobs for September in the apiary include clearing super frames by nadiring under brood boxes and then freezing these empty super frames to prevent wax moth larvae causing havoc.

However, these jobs have not gone according to plan with foragers bringing in loads of ivy honey and filling up space. There is a careful balance between leaving enough brood laying area for the Queen to ensure there are enough winter bees to get the colony through winter and also having sufficient stores for the winter.

Although we nadired the supers two weeks ago they were returned on top with the queen excluder removed. Varroa treatment is finished and with mouseguards in place it means winterizing the hives has finished. I will add fondant to any lighter feeling hives (but there are not many) and will monitor relative weight from now until March. I call in the apiary every 2 – 3 weeks to check there is not a build up of dead bees behind the mouseguards, heft and add fondant. In December I will treat again for varroa.

I am planning on an apiary clean up day in late January. Saturday 20th January from 10am is my preferred day. Warm pumpkin soup and mulled wine will be tempting treats!

I will be attending the National Honey Show at the end of October and listening to advice on the Asian Hornet as well as buying cheaper jars and frame parts and also to look at a new extractor. After many years of the old extractor being repaired it is now finally time to replace it.

That’s all for now!

August 2023

Honey extraction is on Sunday 3 September and for me this marks the end of the summer. We close down the apiary to the public and get the viewing gallery ready for winter.

I will place the wet empty super frames back on top of the crown board of each hive, the bees clean them up and take the dribs and drabs back down into the brood area for adding to their winter stores.

In a couple of weeks I will remove the clean dry frames and take them home to put through the freezer. This kills wax moth larvae and then they are stored in sealed crates, ready for next year.

All weaker colonies have now been combined with stronger colonies and I have my varroa treatments ready to start immediately. MAQs for the stronger colonies, many of which are double brood boxes reduced to one, and then Varroamed and Apiguard for the medium sized colonies. All chemical applications are recorded in our hive records.

July 2023

July was a month of consolidation and checking for disease.

I decided to keep some new queens that had been created after splitting out the old queen into a nuc. The majority of new queens were doing well and the colonies were strong. However, there were two hives that I decided the old queen needed replacing. Hive 5, which had been a cut out from a bird box in Broughton the previous summer, and which had failed to thrive. Another hive where the queen was 2 years old and, although placid bees, again had failed to build numbers. This may seem harsh but advice from the Regional Bee Inspector is that we should be raising stronger colonies and by spending 80% of your time on 20% of your weaker colonies that are merely ticking over is wasted effort and does not improve overall bee genetics.

I use newspaper to combine the queenless colony with the queenright colony. I do not make holes in the paper but I do sprinkle icing sugar everywhere and always remember to put the queen excluder under any supers.

At the next inspection the top brood box is carefully lifted off and placed on a queen excluder and then I gently move frames to reduce to one brood box. I keep the brood frames in the same orientation but shift them all to the centre with drawn or stores frames on the outside. Watching the bees carefully to make sure I have transferred the queen.

August will be a month of monitoring colonies and further combining any weaker ones. Honey extraction day is scheduled for Sunday 3 September which will include a talk on preparing hives for winter. On that note, I will also need any fondant block orders and money. Fondant will be £21 per 12.5kg block.

June 2023

A full on month with many colonies expanding rapidly. I decided to split into nucs and keep those hives which had queens brought last year. This means we retain and improve apiary genetics with their daughters now staying and mating (as long as they don’t mate with too many hooligans!).

I don’t, however, feel the need to pop a queen between my lips for safe keeping……I found this picture in an old BBKA magazine and it always makes me smile!

On other hives I have re-combined some nuc splits back into the original hive if I, or they, were not happy with the newly mated queen. I am also watching closely two other hives that are not growing as strongly as I would like.

We had a successful honey extraction day on 18 June – thank you to those who volunteered to help out. About 130Ibs was jarred up by Jackie and Helen. By the end of the week it was quickly selling again in the café. Next extraction will be in early September.

I have now added the FLOW super to a strong double brood colony. Last year, I directly jarred off about 30Ibs from this one super and it was very popular as sold as ‘unfiltered honey’ in the café.

Although our bee inspector gave us the all clear from EFB, July is my ‘disease checking’ month especially for bald brood and sac brood. We really struggle with wax moth and I have tried both freezing frames and sulphur treatments. Never eradicated but always trying to keep on top of it. I already have my varroa treatments ready for September.

May 2023

It has been a busy month in the apiary. With a cold and wet April many colonies were slow to expand but the warm weather in May has meant a busy time with swarm management. Some have not been wholly successful and it does put in stark contrast the ease of splitting and demaree with nationals and wbc’s as opposed to being almost impossible with long hives, top bars and the Dartington, which do not lend themselves well.

Suffice to say I have run out of brood frames as we catch swarm after swarm, some from feral colonies in chimneys but also, I suspect, from managed colonies that are not being managed well. The importance of not feeding these swarms for 3-4 days and putting them on foundation cannot be emphasised enough. We did get a clean bill of health from our Bee Inspector visit but the ever presence of European Foul Brood is an ever present concern.

March 2023

My first inspection of the year and I managed to do most hives – the ones I missed will wait another week.

My goal in the first inspection is to remove mouseguards, clear out empty fondant containers and find the queen! Normally she is in the super and laying nicely. I remove a brood frame in the middle of the brood box and then carefully move the super frame with her on it down into the brood box. Yes – I leave her eggs and larva behind in the super but they will be cared for and the workers will hatch and move down. Meanwhile I have given her plenty of room to lay and I put the queen excluder between the brood and super box. I will remove the super frame in the brood box in three weeks.

The bees are really packing in pollen and nectar and most hives are doing really well. Sadly, I lost a a colony in the top bar hive. I think they were either overrun with varroa and / or isolation starvation and there is a very weak colony in one of the wbc’s. When there are drones about I will re-queen this hive. Another hive has me thinking I’m not really sure what is going on. They have raised a queen cell and are obviously wanting to replace their queen but there are no drones at the moment! So I may have to combine this hive with another.

I have ordered my Spring varroa treatment and will apply in April once the colonies have built up more. I’m going to apply varroamed, which I have used before, and found it straightforward and effective.

I’m now off to sort out beginners’ practical dates and the volunteer apiary inspection rota.

February 2023

I’m pleased to report that all hives were flying in the warmer weather last week and there is a lot of tree blossom available in the park. I still topped up a few hives that felt light and which had run out of the fondant I put on in January.

I have made a mental note to replace a roof which is leaking and one of the cinder blocks holding up the top bar hive had disintegrated so I replaced that.  I think the concrete blocks are better but did not have any at the time last summer.  

The beginners’ course is full and starts at the end of March and we will run practical sessions in April.  Hopefully we will encourage some to join HBKA.  I will also be asking for volunteers to help in the apiary on Wednesdays from May onwards.

January 2023

Bbbbbrrrrrrr!! It is very chilly and I have become quite deft at whipping the roof off the hive and adding a block of fondant and getting the roof back on very quickly before any heat loss occurs. I also have encountered a few grumpy guard bees when I rake out dead bees from the entrances. I always wear a jacket and veil just in case. Instead of fondant, I have been giving my own bees back their honey, it will be interesting to see if there are any differences in colony size and health.

Apiary clean up day was pretty damp so we did not manage to get any exterior painting done but all the brood and super boxes were scraped, cleaned and scorched, the apiary tunnel was spruced up and boards cleaned and the apiary raked and salt granules put down to control weeds. It certainly is now ready for opening at Easter. Thank you to all those smiley, happy volunteers who helped out! Our beginners’ course is now full (with a waiting list) and in April and May I will be focused on practical sessions for them. I will also be organising a Wednesday morning inspection rota and hope to see new and old members from May onwards.

November 2022

I have been adding fondant to lighter feeling hives and hefting others. This is because the weather has been so warm and colonies will be going through their stores quite quickly.  I also check the hive entrance areas and remove any dead bees.
I have now frozen all the super frames and any spare brood frames in an effort to kill wax moth larva and pupa. Wax moth larva eat pollen so will wreak havoc on any badly stored frames.
I have added to the ‘Need help’ buttons a British standard nuc cutting plan and will do a Langstroth one in due course.  These are the months when you want to repair and make up any new boxes including nucs.  After Christmas I start to think about frame building! 
I have now designed and ordered some new posters for the apiary viewing gallery and we were awarded £500 from Huntington Town Council to develop a solitary bee and bug trail from the exit of the gallery.  Posters are nearly completed and three different bug hotels are being developed.  

Happy Christmas and New Year! 

October 2022

I have been to the apiary twice this month to add fondant to hives and on both occasions bees have been busy bringing in ivy pollen and nectar.

I will continue to heft throughout the next few months. The warm weather means that bees are more active and they will go through their stores much faster so keeping a careful eye is good beekeeping. I don’t add any extra insulation or straps as the apiary is well sheltered. Fondant is put over the crown board hole with an empty super acting as an eke and then the roof. I will now stop feeding except those very light hives.

I went to the National Honey Show this week and exchanged some of the apiary wax for wired frames at the Thornes stand and then marvelled at the exhibits of honey, mead and candle entries. A wonderful variety of honey colours and smells!

I am looking forward to our workshop on 12 November and I will give a small demonstration on three straightforward swarm prevention and management techniques.

September 2022

With a very strong ivy flow I decided to go into Winter with a super on most hives and having removed the queen excluder. You can put the super below the brood box for the bees to move their stores ‘upstairs’ but I prefer to give them less to do and in the early Spring I will make sure the queen is in the brood box and re-insert the queen excluder. The eggs she has laid will hatch and they will clean the cells and put down stores.

2:1 sugar syrup has been fed and mouseguards are now on each hive. I will feed fondant in late October because I do not have time to make more sugar syrup so fondant is a quick solution. I will then feed over December to February, depending on the weather.

A nuc, with a very young badly mated queen and not many bees, have been shaken out in front of strong queen right hives. It is not worth the time and effort to soldier on so most of the remaining bees would have gained access to other hives. I decided not to combine as I could not find the queen (to destroy her) – after 20 frustrating minutes of being unable to find her in a five frame nuc – go figure!!

I lost the queen in the WBC and I bought a new one and popped her in about 2-3 weeks ago. With the warm weather and good flow they stand a good chance of surviving and bee numbers were good.

A truly sticky moment happened when I decided to crack open the FLOW super and tap off the honey. All was going well when I noticed honey pouring slowly and silently over my kitchen counter. Unfortunately, I found some of the frames leak out the bottom. I still jarred off 17 Ibs of unfiltered beautiful clear honey (now for sale in the Park café) but lost about 2 lbs down the drain!! We will try to tighten the wire frame around the plastic frames to try and solve the problem for next year and clear the propolis off – I think our bees produce more of this than their Aussie cousins!

Enjoy your bees!

17th September 2022

Good news! There is honey for sale in the park café. Our summer honey harvest went well and we should have enough to sell until late Spring 2023 when we hope the girls will have woken up from their winter slumber and the flowers and trees will be in spring bloom.

The apiary is now closed until Easter 2023 and we will be starting some winter projects: revive the displays, build a solitary bee trail and clean and spruce up the apiary.

31st August 2022

With the last day of August, Helen and I worked most of the day in the apiary to remove capped super frames in readiness for extraction on Saturday. We placed uncapped and partly capped super frames back on top of the queen excluder and crown board and scored through frames so that the bees will start moving the honey down into the brood box. On Saturday we will return the wet, spun out supers, back into the spaces created today in the supers and the bees will clean up everything and take this honey down too.

In a week or two I will take these dry empty supers home to freeze, to kill any wax moth eggs or larvae. After a week in the freezer they are stored in airtight plastic crates in my garage.

Next week, I will start varroa treatment. MAQS strips on colonies which are large and strong and apiguard on any nucs or smaller hives, including the top bar hive. The hives that are light on stores will also be fed a sugar solution 2:1 through feeder trays placed on top of the crown board and under the roof.

Apiary news updates will now be on a monthly basis as inspections stop and bee activity slows down. Winter projects include updating the viewing gallery displays and adding a new solitary bee trail.

24th August 2022

After inspecting hives today there is still one hive – the WBC – on a brood break so I will pop in a frame of eggs next time to see if the Queen has been lost but their behaviour was slightly agitated as there was a hornet preying on bees on the landing board.

I managed to catch and dispatch it but there will be more and they will need to feed their young…… The test frame of eggs I popped in a nuc last week came back negative and I then spied a lovely looking dark Queen. I will wait a while longer for her hopefully to start laying but if she is still unmated then I will dispatch her and combine these bees into another colony. If she starts laying (fingers crossed as it is getting late) then I will transfer them all to a polystyrene nuc, which is better suited for winter. I reduced a double brood box hive to one BB and made sure there were stores in others. I have made the decision that each hive will go into winter with a full super of stores plus whatever is in the BB. My thinking is that with continued warm weather they will be active for longer but with less and less forage so they will need more stores. This means less to extract but I prefer to have strong colonies than worry about honey jars to sell. I will have fondant for any colonies that heft light in late December/January. To control varroa this autumn, I will be using a combination of MAQS strips on the larger, more vigorous colonies and apiguard on the smaller ones. The last Bee Taster session was completed today- if you are thinking of keeping bees but not sure how or if you would like to bee that close to bees then a bee taster session might be right for you. A two hour session with an experienced bee keeper might save you a lot in the long run!

17th August 2022

We continued with taking fully capped frames of honey from strong hives but did note that another three hives were having a brood break period – we hope so, otherwise we have lost three Queens!
A test frame of eggs was placed in a nuc to see if they would produce a Queen cell – once checked next week I will take down those Queen cells and combine this nuc with another hive, as there are not enough bees to make them viable for winter. If there is a Queen in there, and they have not made any Queen cells, then I will see if they can build up enough before October, but at this inspection there were no eggs, larva or capped brood so she needs to get laying fast!
Overall, the bees are struggling to find forage and my plan is to reduce each hive to one full super going into winter as well as whatever they have in the brood box. Double brood colonies will be reduced to one brood box.
I have ordered 25kg of sugar and will be making up gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup to feed in September, at the same time as treating for varroa mite. I am either treating with MAQS strips or using up some apiguard – I try to use a different type of treatment each year to try to avoid resistance developing.

10th August 2022

Good news!
The two hives where we thought we might have lost the Queen are now ok. Her Majesties were having a ‘brood break’ and are now laying again. Other news – I have struggled with wax moth in the apiary and we now have another hive being overrun with it. The wax moth gains entry to the hive, lays eggs in the wax and frame edges and the larva emerges and eats wax. The bees react by uncapping pupae and they then die. With this hive, over the next few weeks, I am going to do a shook swarm into clean fountain frames, find the Queen and dispatch her because she is not laying well, and then combine it with a stronger hive. This is to save the house bees that we have and prepare this hive to go into winter. I will then look at splitting the Queen out next year and hope they raise a better Queen and then I will put this back on the original hive stand. I have also noticed that the hives that suffer the worst wax moth have their entrances directly under the canopy where rain drips on. Maybe it is not related, but I am going to move these hives back 2 feet after we extract in September. Other hives are generally doing well and we will start varroa treatment directly after extracting in early September. We will then feed with 2:1 sugar syrup and ensure hives have good stores going into October.

3rd August 2022

Emma and Jacqui joined us in the apiary today. 9 colonies inspected and all had a good level of stores and we even took some fully capped super frames off. These I will store for when we do the main extraction in early September. The bees have decided to move the honey in the FLOW super back down into the brood chamber and we could not find eggs or larva so we are hoping the queen is having a brood break otherwise we are in a bad position as there are no drones left for any hope of getting a mated queen into the hive before winter. The hive next to this one appeared to be in a similar situation so we will look again next week and hope they are just having a rest! If there are no queens my only option is to buy mated queens in. Another hive had an infestation of wax moth and what appeared to be no queen. So all bees were shaken out last week in front of other hives. This way they have a good chance if begging their way in and will survive. However, we noticed a large clump of bees under another hive- possibly a virgin queen had been in the wax moth hive? Anyway Emma was soon down on her hands and knees scooping up bees into a nuc and we hope we may have got her as there was lots of nasanoving at the front entrance when we left the apiary. I will look inside on Sunday to see what we have.

20th July 2022

Phew! The bees survived the heat ok. To keep cool, bees fan at the entrance as well as evacuate and ‘beard’ onto the hive sides, they also collect water and put this on the inside walls then fan to evaporate and thus cool the hive. Many of the brood boxes are getting stuffed full of honey leaving little space for the Queen to lay. On one hive we added another brood box and with other hives we swapped clean drawn and undrawn frames around the brood to give more space. We removed any fully capped super frames ready for extraction on 3rd September and put empty drawn frames in to replace. As long as they are fully capped they will happily sit in an airtight container until we do the main harvest. The Dartington has managed to raise a new Queen – just in time to build up numbers before autumn- and we are already seeing drones being hauled out of hives and stopped from returning. This is my sign that Autumn is coming and I am getting my varroa treatments organised ready to apply in September so they are at a low mite count going into Winter. We continue to watch for EFB as we have had another report within 3km of the apiary. Such a worry.

13th July 2022

As I write this blog I am jarring off our first honey harvest from our FLOW super! We siphoned off one frame – mainly to check it was all working. We found we had a technical issue with the hose into the bucket and a slight leak but think we know why this happened and will rectify this for next week when we will extract more. Definitely a lot less disruptive to the bees and oh my what beautiful honey! No spinning, no filtering, just very fresh honey! Total = 4.5Ibs honey.

Other apiary news.  We will be extracting the other hives on Saturday 3rd September (in the conventional way) and our honey show will be on 10th September in the Park.  Hopefully lots of show exhibits and honey for sale. 

Some hive inspections were curtailed today by the heat but all those inspected are doing well.  Two hives have newly mated queens in them and they have just started laying.  We still have two hives that we made need to combine going into winter but let’s see how they do over the next two months.  

Last, we are helping to host judges from Anglia in Bloom next week so hopefully we can help win an award! Will keep you posted.

6th July 2022

In a couple of weeks, with good weather, we aim to ‘tap off’, rather than extract, the honey from our FLOW super. They have filled the little plastic cells and once they cap it we will crank the handle and collect in a large sterile bucket.  This will be very exciting indeed. 

Other news, the flow from forage is back on and colonies are laying down stores and building up their numbers.  I will keep an eye on possible swarming but hopefully the worst is over this year.
The cut out nuc that was placed underneath a brood box partially worked and the queen did visit upstairs as there was larva present but she went down again! So we made the decision to hive up the whole nuc and carefully transferred frames across trying not to spill too much honey. We will inspect next week to make sure she made it and will then keep this hive to over-winter or as a back up to combine with a weaker hive in September if we need to. 

There are two hives I am waiting to inspect next week and I hope to find a newly mated queen- if not then we have back up Q+ nucs to combine.  

I have ordered my varroa treatment for application in September and we will do a varroa count this month to see which hives are higher compared to others.

22nd June 2022

A hot but good day in the apiary! Helen and James helped with inspections today and checked on our new queens - both doing well and laying like troopers.  

The leaning tower of Pisa (hive 6) is putting lots of honey down in the top super but less so in the FLOW super, uuummm.  Also I'm keeping an eye on queen cell development as it is packed even with a double brood!  

We also found and culled a poorly laying queen in another hive and therefore making it hopelessly queenless. I will check for queen cells on sunday and cull and then combine with one of our new queens and her colony. 

We also found a queenless colony in the Dartington as a test frame of eggs we put in last week has now 2 x charged queen cells. We will now leave this for three weeks for her to hatch and hopefully return from her mating flights.  If not I have a back up queen right nuc in reserve. 

Our Spring honey has now been jarred up and selling well again in the park cafe.

15th June 2022

A really exciting week with two mated queens arriving in the post.  They were quickly nuc’d up into their new colonies and will arrive on their stands next week.  A hot inspection day in the apiary meant keeping things to the minimum.  6 hives inspected including the Top bar hive which is a lovely quiet colony doing very nicely. I took three frames of eggs from the ‘leaning tower of Pisa’ hive as test frames into two other hives that I think have failed to rear a fully mated queen.  A check in a few days will reveal if the workers think the same thing. One hive that I had seen the new queen in last week are busily building supercedure cells. Sometimes they do this as insurance in case she doesn't do well and they will tear it down if she performs well.  Again a careful check next week will tell them what they have decided.  

This time of year is difficult for newly returning mated queens.  They go out on a few forays to the DCA (drone congregation area) and each is fraught with danger for her. From my own experience going out to check my own hives this morning I found a little bundle of bees at the hive entrance. Gently pushing them to one side revealed a dead queen which had fallen short of the hive entrance by a few inches.  They had been trying to keep her warm all night but to no avail. So sad. 

8th June 2022

A good inspection today with Heather joining us to brush up her newbie skills!

Hive 6, also known as the leaning tower of Piza (photo next week) has a newly mated queen and is filling two brood boxes well. We took off about 10 fully capped honey supers and replaced with our FLOW super and a normal super on top. Hopefully we can demonstrate tapping off honey in a few weeks!!  We wait until now to put the FLOW super on as we need to make sure the OSR, oil seed rape, is over and they are not bringing it in as it sets like concrete!  

I bit the bullet and combined two weak nucs into two okish hives. We used a technique where we sprayed each frame and bee with peppermint extract diluted in water.  This causes confusion and masks pheromones, making it easier to combine.  This was successful where we combined into a new nuc from two other donator nucs but where we tried to put three frames of bees into an established hive this did not go well. About 20 minutes after lots of dead bees on the landing board- so if you are going to use this method get a new neutral nuc or hive ready and then move the frames in a checkerboard pattern into it from your two donator nucs or hives.  And spray! 

We used a few drops of essence in about 100ml. Don't use lemon grass essence!!! But lavender is good too.   

Next week my two new queens arrive so I will be ‘dealing’ with two hives at the weekend in order to introduce their ‘royal highnesses’ on Tuesday.  

25th May 2022

A windy but warmish day meant that there was no dilly dallying on hive inspections today. Tracey and Leesa helped out today in the apiary. 

Whilst some hives are ‘ok’ and I am awaiting for new queens to be mated and start laying, there are others which need a lot of help. I have decided to buy three queens from a UK source (from ‘up north’) and re-queen three weak hives. I am also still hoping for a swarm for the sunhive.

What honey there is we will extract on 11th June but this will only be from the stronger hives. This year’s beginners will have an opportunity to see and learn some new techniques and share their early swarm stories!

Roll on June!

18th May 2022

Another very hot day in the apiary carrying out inspections. 

The long hive is now doing really well (omlet) and we removed the central divider so she can expand the colony into the other end. If it expands rapidly I may add some supers back on just to try and give her more room to lay. The two 14x12 nucs are ready for their new home and a check of the ‘mother’ dartington hive shows a newly mated and laying queen.

Other plans for re-queening hives have not gone well. A hive I was hoping to use eggs from swarmed and another hive has failed to rear a new queen. So, I am still left with 4 weak hives, so I need to make a decision about buying in some mated UK queens. A better check of these weaker hives on Sunday will tip me to buy or not.

Other good news is that the top bar hive are nicely building new wax and she is laying and there are stores being laid down, bad news is that a swarm I placed in the sun hive on Monday night absconded - so back to square one!!

I am now keeping my eye on the oil seed rape in nearby fields as we will extract soon after the first petals fall. Yields will be much lower this year due to problems with weak hives.

That's it until next week

14th May 2022

Another postponed inspection day! I donned my bee suit on the hottest day of the year so far and carried out some critical tasks today before the weather turned tomorrow- I went into two hives where we had split out the queen. Lots and lots of closed queen cells to be dealt with. How do I choose? 

I look for a large open one which is charged and the bees are interested in and then for insurance purposes i leave the nicest looking closed one which again the girls are all over- everything else is culled with a hive tool through it.  I now leave for 21 days (16 days to hatch out and a week to get mated). My thinking is if they take down the open one I have a closed one ‘cooking’ and if they don't then she should hatch first, seek out and kill the queen still in her cell. And vice versa - if the closed one is not right or does not make it back from her orientation flights then I have insured against that. 

If I go back in after 21 days and there are no eggs, I leave another 5 days and check again. If still no eggs then i have a choice: give them a frame of eggs from another colony: buy a mated queen, combine with another colony with a queen.  My decision is based a lot on the time of year and if I think there are enough bee numbers present to keep the hive going for another 3-4 weeks. 

Remember to Keep hydrated whilst inspecting as it helps you think straight!!

If the weather holds for this Wednesday I will be re-queening 4 hives in the apiary.  

8th May 2022

Normally we inspect on a Wednesday but it was cold and miserable last week so not conducive to removing a roof and rummaging through their ‘bedrooms’ so Helen and I did one or two this morning and the rest can wait for next week.  

We looked at three hives where the Queen was running out of space as she was on 7 + brood frames. Helen managed to spot the Queen in two hives and we split these out into two nucs. We will go back in on Wednesday to take down the Queen cells they will make and leave the hive with just two. Some beekeepers leave just one but I usually look for two in slightly different stages of development.

The third hive we looked through 4 times and just could not find her and it was wall to wall brood. There are different techniques one can use here from shook swarm to demare to pagden and beyond but I opted for double brood and giving more space for now. If I can't find her next week then I like to put a Queen excluder between the brood boxes and then after 7 days if I can't find eggs in one box then I know she is in the other and that way I can split her out. For the double brood frames were moved above other brood frames to make a chimney effect in the centre - hopefully encouraging her upwards. We shall see.

We still have 4 hives needing to be re-queened so I will be turning my attention to these next week. With plenty of drones about and good weather we can build stronger hives going into winter Never a nice thing squising a queen but we do use some in our viewing gallery display so one or two become immortalised!

Last, we tested out a new microphone and amplifier system for Sunday afternoon demonstrations and this works well. We can also use it for talks etc.

That's all for now.

27th April 2022

A little chilly today so quick checks on some hives today.  We knocked back queen cells on two hives we have split out the queen and I think there are enough sexually mature drones about now. 

We had three more great beginners today in our final session! They are signing up for some more apiary volunteering and if you would like to volunteer please get in contact with me so I can slot you in on our wednesday sessions. 

A couple of hives treated for varroa as well - the ones we did not do in January - and through hive inspections we noticed some bald brood so we will treat those as well next week.  

Hope your apiaries are coming on well. Please note increasing cases of EFB in Cambridgeshire so please wash your tools and gloves/ hands between hive inspections and treat any new swarms/ bees with as much quarantine as possible.  If you do receive a swarm DO NOT feed them for atleast 4-5 days after receiving them as this will empty their honey stomach. Always treat for varroa and monitor very closely for the first 4 weeks after you receive the swarm or indeed any new bees to your apiary.  

Thats it for this week.  Be happy with your bees!

20th April 2022

We have already started our swarm management practices by starting to split over crowded brood boxes but we still lost a swarm! Lots of drones and drone brood about so there is every good chance virgin queens will be well mated. 

We have nearly finished beginner practical sessions and I will now be turning my attention to bee taster sessions and adopt a hive ‘owners’. 

Supers are filling fast with blossom honey so again we will be adding more supers over the next few weeks and looking to extract in May at some point.  

Sunday opening has commenced. Please ensure you heed the disease control measures and do not bring your own tools and your bee suit is freshly washed as well as your clean boots.   There are more reports of EFB about so please also be careful in your own apiaries. 

6th April 2022

Today was not a day to inspect bees! I quickly topped up some feeders with 1:1 sugar syrup I had put on some of the lighter hives 10 days ago. We swept and cleaned and got the viewing gallery ready for opening at Easter. It was lovely to welcome and see new volunteers- Tracey and her son and Mike. 

I am itching to get another inspection in as I think another failing hive needs combining and I need to switch around three hives where the super is under the brood but this will all have to wait until our first beginners class next Wednesday.