Friday, May 25, 2012


Leaving for our vacation this afternoon so I said goodbye to my bees! It's very important they know we're going away and why!

Anyway the hives in my neighbours have not really taken any syrup in the last few days, so I didn't add any more. But I did rearrange the frames to help to encourage them to draw out more foundation.

The hives in my yard are great! Three supers are pretty much full. The two other supers are there to be drawn out and also for some space should we get a nectar flow!

The other hive yard has space in its two supers but I have one in reserve should it be needed!

Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Setting Up For Our Vacation

Our vacation is looming fast and it's time to set the hives up so they don't need attention for a few weeks!

Susan has kindly offered to feed the hives that are in my neighbours yard. I put a gallon of syrup in each yesterday and we'll feed these as long as it takes to get the bees to draw out the frames of foundation.

I managed to look in my Botanical Garden hives today. The hive I started from a nuc was doing rather too well! It had out-grown the single deep and I found brood in the super I had moved from the adjacent hive. So I moved this super to the bottom of the hive and I also added new deep to the top of the hive; having moved some frames up into it. The other hive at the gardens is blooming too! I reversed the deeps, moved the super that was full of brood up above the deeps and then added a fifth (yes fifth!) super!!!! Three supers are being filled and new foundation is being drawn out; the other two supers are empty, but have a lot of drawn comb, so I'm optimistic these will see some action!

That just leaves the two hives in the yard. I think I will try to look through these on Friday morning and I may add some more supers (my last ones) just in case there happens to be a major nectar flow while we're gone!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Feeding Time!

The two hives that I made from the city hive have been slow to grow and little new comb has been drawn out. So I decided to start a regime of feeding. I added a feeder and about half a gallon of 1:1 syrup last Thursday and today (4 days later) added a further gallon of 1:1 syrup to each hive. Clearly the girls are enjoying their feast! Hopefully this will stimulate brood rearing and some comb construction.

While the hives may not have any honey this year I'm determined to build them up for the winter and homey production next year!

Bee S.O.S!

I had my first emergency call on Saturday!  My friends Mike and Monica have/had 2 hives that are in trouble. They lost one and called me for help with their remaining hive.  They think the hive they lost was due to Small Hive Beetles. The hive just declined over a period of time and the health and vitality plummeted!  When I saw it there were lots of larvae present in the honey - an unpleasant, nasty mess !It's very sad and I know what they went through.  A couple of years ago I nearly lost a hive the same way, but managed to catch it early enough to do something about it!

So their other hive is currently queenless. I'm not sure why, but they had tried to introduce a new queen but this was not successful, so I was asked if I had any frames of eggs and larvae I could donate in order to stimulate the bees to rearing new queen.  I think we hit on a good solution. Mike and I checked on my observation beehive (the 5-frame nuc) - we found the perfect frame! Eggs (I think - it's so hard to tell) and lots of larvae - all uncapped.  We found the queen on this frame so I am fairly confident there should be eggs present.  Also, removing this frame of eggs also helps me manage my observation hive as it helps to keep the number of bees in the nuc under control. If this tactic fails I may just let them start a new colony using the queen and frames in the observation hive.  At least I won't have to worry about how to overwinter this hive!

Anyway, they will leave their hive alone for about a week, and then check for emergency queen cells.  If cells are present then it should be another week or so before a queen emerges and then another couple more weeks before she gets mated and starts to lay. I think if they inspect the hive this coming weekend and find cells they should leave the hive alone for at least a month.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chilled Brood?

It's all bees this week!  I took the opportunity tonight to have a look though the hives that reside in the garden down the street.  It's been a while since I last had a look at these (April 21st) so I was interested to see what had happened.

Nearly four weeks ago I expanded one hive and moved two frames up into a new deep - along with just frames of foundation.  I did not feed this hive.  When I went in to inspect the hive this time around I found that there was a lot of uncapped pupae in these two frames.  At the time I thought it was probably a mistake to move the frames! Just after I moved the frames I thought it was way too early, but I still did it!

I think the bees that occupied these frames could not keep the brood warm and they have therefore been unable to rear new brood successfully. Interestingly I did see the Queen walking across the frames containing the "chilled" brood.

I didn't expand the hive that is adjacent to this "chilled" hive until May 5th when I thought the hive was ready to be expanded. At this time I added a second deep to the hive but again just moved a couple of frames up into it.  Like the other hive I didn't feed this hive.  When I did the inspection this afternoon I found the brood to have none of the issues the neighbouring hive has.  The brood is compact and there were few if any signs of any open cells containing pupae.

I do have supers on both hives.  The "chilled" hive predictably has no activity in it, but the other hive has some brood being developed in it. This super had partially drawn wax foundation in it. Clearly the queen prefers this to the frames of wax foundation that are next to the brood frames.

To conclude, I believe that by moving too few frames of brood up into the second deep, before the brood had sufficiently developed in the bottom deep, i.e. too early! I have compromised the development of the hive. The bees were not present in sufficient numbers to keep the brood warm. Also, I think that by not feeding the bees I have restricted their growth.

Therefore I intend to start feeding both hives in earnest! Even if these do not produce honey this year I can at least get them stronger for next winter!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Drone Congregation Areas - I'm going on a bee hunt!

Some time ago I wrote about Drone Congregation Areas and Gilbert White. Well we are going home to the UK for a vacation and I have decided to see if I can find the DCA Gilbert White first documented on 1st July 1792!

I sent an email to the Gilbert White museum in Selborne (in Hampshire) asking them if they know of the DCA and possibly where it might be located. I got a very prompt reply from their office saying they would pass on my enquiry to their Head Gardener, David Standing. This morning I got a delightful email from Mr Standing. Clearly he is something of a detective.

He had looked at Gilbert White's reference on 1st July 1792. This refers to the...

'loud audible humming of bees.... on the highest part of our down'.

Gilbert White goes on to say that...

'The sound is to be heard distinctly the whole common thro', from the Money-dell's, to Mr White's avenue-gate.'

Well, David believes 'The Down' is in this case the top of Selborne Hanger, the highest part of which is nearest the NW edge of the area and thinks that it is close to an old path (still in existence) that runs from the the top of the "zig-zag" path to Newton Valence, the neighbouring village. This old path would have been used by villagers traveling between Selborne and Newton Valence. The present path is a more direct route following the route that was cleared through the trees, of a water pipe that was laid in the 20th Century.

Although David is not sure where 'the Money-dell's' are, he suspects they are on the eastern side of the common, as 'Mr White's avenue-gate' was on the west. 'Mr White' being the Rev. Edmund White, Gilbert White's nephew and the Vicar of Newton Valence.

So I'm getting excited and I'm really looking forward to trying to locate this DCA. I have a map reference which will be where I will start looking. I plan to recruit the help of my sons, as I will need some sharp eyesight and keen hearing!... Watch this space!

Not much action!

I went through my hives in my back garden this evening - I have two hives a strong hive and a weak hive.  I went though the weak one first.  There was no honey in the supers so I think they may have been consuming some. But there is a lot of nice tight brood, but nothing that requires my attention.  What's especially nice is that I looked through the deeps and found the Queen. This was the queen that was reared by the hive back in March. I think the bees have sufficient space and I will leave things alone for a while.  I may do a reversal at the weekend or this time next week.

The stronger hive has quite a lot of honey in it.  I would guess 2 of the 3 supers are about 70% full.  Although not much is capped yet, things are looking good.  The third super is filling, but is not nearly so full. Although there doesn't appear to be much of a honey flow on at the moment I nevertheless added another (4th) shallow super.  This is a mixed super of foundation and drawn comb.  Hopefully the bess will be encouraged to fill this as well once things start flowing again.  I also did a reversal on this hive.  I reckon this is set up for the next month or so and it shouldn't need any attention for a while.  I didn't see the queen this time, which is a shame, but I managed to see small larvae.

I'm learning that "when it ain't broke, don't fix it"!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Inspections and a New Hive!

It's been a couple of weeks since the last time I was able to go and poke around the hives.  The weather has not been favourable at the right time.  Anyway, Sunday (5th May) came and with it some hot dry (albeit very humid) weather.

The two hives that I have located in a garden just down the street have grown a little.  The hive that I put a second deep on two weeks ago is now beginning to grow into its new box. The other hive (in a single deep) was full of brood and needed room to expand into.  So I added a second deep to this hive! Not much nectar is coming into these hives, at least it's not being stored in the supers that are on them.  However I do keep having to remind myself it is still only just May. The bees were a bit agitated but all in all they were reasonably easy to work.  I think only one or two tried to sting me.

The two hives in my yard seem to be marching on too!  I would guess that more comb has been capped off and there seems to be quite a bit of nectar in the brood chamber.  So is it time for some more supers? Not quite, but soon...  There is still some room in the supers that are already on the hives and I would rather these get filled before I put anything more on.  When I do bottom-super I will interleave comb with new foundation. I hope by doing this the bees will rapidly draw out the foundation and also store nectar.  Maybe at the end of the week...  Once again these bees were so quiet to work!  It was as though they were inviting me in for a look round.  Hardly any were flying during my inspection! They truly are a pleasure to work!

Finally, I managed to take a look at the bees at the botanical gardens. I have had a nuc sat there since April 9th and it was about time I took a look inside as they were probably due to be expanded into a hive.  They didn't disappoint!  There was a lot of lovely brood in the nuc so I installed the 5 frames in a new hive body. I also made my way through the adjacent, parent, hive.  This was brim full of bees (yet I saw no sign of queen cells!).  The super (at the bottom of the hive) that was full of brood, is still full of brood so I left this in place.  At some point I will remove it but I don't think this will be any time soon!  I have two supers over the hive and these are filling nicely.  Now, this is where I may have made a mistake... I decided to add a super to the large hive - easy enough - but I also decided to move a full super across to the nuc in order to encourage the bees to draw out comb etc. 

Will this work?  I don't know!  The addition of the bees in the super to the nuc may upset the queen (either that or the new bees might just kill her on their way back to their own hive) . Also I realized shortly after doing this that adding the super of foundation didn't actually create any new space for the bees to occupy as I had intended!  The super contained foundation and no drawn comb!  I may have screwed things up, again! We will have to wait and see...