Sunday, March 12, 2017

First Inspection of the year!

I completed my first inspection of the year yesterday.  It seems late I know but there just really hasn't been a good enough weather window when I was around.  Anyway the fog lifted, the sun came out and I leapt at the opportunity.

I wasn't sure what I'd find; the bees have been quite active so far this year so I was hopeful to find things were all settled and in good shape.  And generally that's exactly what I found! Although I have to say they seemed further advanced than I was expecting for mid March.

We have 3 hives, all had mite treatment in December, all have been active, some more than others...



Hive 1:
This is the hive that is nearest the big house (on the left in the above photo) and I think this has been the most active over the winter; at least every time I have been to the apiary this hive has had the most bees flying.  When I arrived yesterday I found a great crush of bees trying to enter the hive, many laden with great piles of pollen.  

This hive comprises 1 deep and 2 supers.  We left the supers on over the winter with heather honey we couldn't extract. I found there was quite a bit of honey stored in the supers, together with significant quantities of brood (see the following photo)!  There was plenty of pollen in the supers near the brood as well, so apart from the fact the brood is in the wrong place the bees looked OK.  

The deep was empty of brood but did contain some honey so I decided to move the supers (and therefore the brood) under the deep.  I hope the supers will gradually empty and the deep will fill with brood. I'll pop on a Queen Excluder on soon.



Hive 2:
This hive has a single deep and 2 supers and is usually quieter than the first and sure enough there were fewer bees around the entrance. Inside the hive I found lots of stores in the both supers, but no brood.  In the deep (at the bottom of the hive) there was a tonne of brood - 5 or 6 frames worth in a lovely pattern, a nice oval with some space for laying in the middle, together with pollen and honey surrounding the capped cells.  This is looking really,  really, strong!

The thought occurred to me that perhaps the reason they were quieter was down to the fact they had more stores in the hive and so didn't need to venture out as much!

I popped a Queen Excluder under the supers and will keep a watch on the brood - certainly on a week by week basis.  I think this could be my main hive for splitting this season - We have the necessary equipment available but I have nevertheless made some enquiries about additional stands, OMF etc.

Hive 3:
Dave's Hive. This hive comprises 2 deeps and a single super.  One deep contained brood and stores, the other deep had no brood and was mostly empty of stores.  The super contained some stores. I left the deep with brood at the bottom of the hive, slipped a Queen Excluder over this then added the super and finally the deep (which is a 'new' one) on top.  I may well use this deep for the future split. Again this hive looks to be in good shape.

I removed all the entrance reducers, the mouse guards and the OMF screen boards; the latter to help improve ventilation within the hive.  I found in all hives a lot of condensation, in the frame rebates and particularly at the top in the roofs where there was some mold growth too.

So it was an excellent first inspection.  The hives look strong and more advanced than I expected for the time of year.  I will have to keep a close eye on them, most particularly the middle one as the brood chamber is filling quickly.  Opportunities therefore exist for making splits.  I need to get organized, get some existing equipment cleaned up and buy some new deep frames and foundation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Early Spring Activity

It's been about a week and a half since I went to the hives and found a lot of activity. Bees were out foraging and drinking water - or perhaps they were bringing it back to the hive in order to dissolve some crystallized honey? It was lovely to seem them in apparent good health and mite free.

I say mite free.  Since the treatment in late December I have checked the board under the OMF for debris and have found little or no mite drop in the weeks since.  Not a perfectly scientific approach I admit, more empirical if you will, but it gives me confidence that the treatment was good.

I also  plan to open the hives up this weekend to do a proper early spring inspection and also to remove any old frames. I left several supers on the hives over the winter as they contained some heather honey I couldn't extract.   I will be checking the brood (quality and location) and will look to remove any empty supers, especially if there are any signs of wax moth.  I hope to reduce the empty space in the hive.

The inspection will also give me a chance to see if I need to embark on any spring feeding.

In the meantime here are some photos and videos I took of the hives.  I love listening to that buzz!


video

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mite Treatment

I got to my hives on the 27/12.  It was nice and cold too, so all the bees were at home.  

It seemed a perfect day to use my new vapouriser. I borrowed a car battery and got to work.  I blanked off the omf and stuffed some newspaper in the reduced entrance and simply connected the terminals- that's it! Job done!  Just a couple of minutes to vapourise the oxalic acid crystals and move on to the next hive...

I went back today to see the drop and I'm pleased to say my hives had some minor drop but Dave's hive (which had no treatment in the autumn) had a considerable drop! I'm pleased I did all three as I could gauge the difference between them.  It seems a very effective treatment.  I'm not decided but I may go back again to see if I can get more mites on Monday!



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winter Management (?)

I've been unable to find a dry, or warm enough, day to do some winter management on my bees; anytime I've been free it seems it's been either too cold and windy or just too wet.

At long last the weather was warm enough for me to take a trip out to the apiary today.  I've been fretting over the fact I have a queen excluder on top of a deep and under a couple of (heather honey) filled supers.  I was concerned I'd been separating the queen from a food source.  I wasn't so worried for right now, it is more a concern for the new year.  If the queen can't reach the honey she and/or the bees might starve.

Anyway, it was warm enough, and even though I say so myself, I was a bit of a ninja beekeeper today; in and out before they noticed!  However, I wasn't so quick that I didn't notice there were a lot of bees in the hive and some reasonably hefty boxes.  So I'm quite happy at this stage that there's sufficient stores in the hive for the winter.

All the hives in the apiary looked busy so there's reason to be cheerful.


B3 Bars are back

It's really been quite a while but I've just managed to make a few B3 bars with the wax cappings I collected this year.

Like much of the bee-stuff I used to do in the US, I've really missed messing about with cocoa butter and coconut oil!  Anyway, the few I've made have gone down well (they always did) and I'm looking to get a couple of batches prepared in time for Christmas.

So for those of you out there who wonder why B3; well a couple of reasons...

B3 - Beeswax, Body Bars
B3 - Just three ingredients: Beeswax, Cocoa Butter & Coconut Oil
B3 - have at least 3 uses... Moisturizing hand cream, a hydrophobic barrier cream, and a luxurious massage bar

Message me if you would like to try one...

B3 Bars ready to go!

3 Ingredients, B3...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Am I losing it?

First I was organised, then surprised, now I'm into a bit of self doubt!

I went through the old "combined" tall hive with the tower of boxes in the hope I'd be able to sort things out a bit.

Last time out I found the bee escapes hadn't worked and I also found I had a Queen above a bee escape in a super of brood. So I made up a hive from that super of brood, the "harvested" heather honey and the deep I was trying to clear.

This time out decided to just go through the tall hive and remove bee escapes and have a look to see what's been going on.

Nothing above the queen excluder - just capped and uncapped honey. There is one full super and three partially full ones on this hive. There is also a deep under a queen excluder - and in this deep/brood box?  I found brood!  So there I was trying to combine two hives each with a queen! D'oh!

I went through this hive a couple of weeks ago and had convinced myself there was no brood. I thought it needed help! Now I'm confused. Perhaps a couple of weeks ago there was a dearth of forage and she simply shut down for a rest? 

Anyway I just hope I did no lasting damage. I wasn't able to complete going through the tall hive - I'd really love to find the queen in order to satisfy myself there really is one and not some kind of skinny queen that could get across bee escapes and queen excluders! 

Maybe I need a break! I think I need a better, more effective, bee escape!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

So much for being prepared

I was all set last week... Then reality hit!

We extracted about 7.5 kgs of honey from one of the supers we took off, last week; so far so good.  The other super was however stuffed full of heather honey so we couldn't extract any of it! Agghhhh!

We had planned to put the empty supers back on the hives for the bees to clean up. Now we're going to put the honey back as winter feed!

To compound the issues, the bee escapes didn't do their job.  So where we were originally planning to remove a cleared deep and super we now were fighting off a load of bees happily residing in the hive!

So after the surprise yesterday (and a hasty retreat given the gloomy weather) I went back this morning.  I put the heather honey immediately above the brood chamber, and the cleared frame above this. Then went on a bee escape (fingers crossed this time) and the supers I added from the combined hive last week (yes, that seemed to have worked ok) and finally the deep and super I had from the other hive that didn't clear. 

Outer cover
Inner cover
Deep
Super
Super
Super
Bee escape
Super - for cleaning
Super - full of heather honey
Queen excluder
Deep
Base board

This is now quite a tall hive that one way or another next week will be significantly smaller. If the supers clear we will extract them or leave on as feed!

It all seems a bit pointless planning ahead! We will see where we are next week.