Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas peek!

The weather was warm and dry enough today to allow me to get over to the bees and have a quick look to see what's happening - no inspection you understand - I just watched for any activity, hefted the hives and looked quickly under the outer cover.

It appears to be good news.

The hives are reasonably heavy, there was a little activity and some grey pollen (willow?) was being brought in.  Under the outer cover I could see a nice tight cluster in the middle of the hive.

So it looks good!  If I manage to get to see them during a nice warm snap I'll consider feeding them, but right now I'll
leave them alone.  They know what they're doing!

Monday, September 7, 2015

And yet more!

Topped up the hives again!  AGAIN!

I last filled up on Friday lunchtime and here I am on Monday evening adding another 3 liters or so.  About 3 days!

They're putting it somewhere, I know they are.  

Actually, this is good stuff as all the bees that were out foraging seemed to be brining in pollen - yellow; so ivy? - the frames are filling and both hives look quite strong now.

I'll continue doing the feed as I'd like them to draw out some more comb before I call it quits for the season.

Friday, September 4, 2015

More Feed!

I refilled the feeders on Wednesday and had to do it again this afternoon (Friday)!  I'll check yet again on Sunday. 

I'm pleased they're taking so much feed but also a little concerned they are as I hoped they would have found more forage, but the weather has been mixed recently so I'm only a little worried.  I guess I'll keep feeding for as long as they want it, or as long as the weather (temperature) permits!

On other fronts; I spotted a (the?) Queen in the stronger of the two hives - this is the hive that had a single queen cell. So that answered that question I think! She's not huge but there was plenty of brood in the hive so I'm content!.

The weaker hive also looks strong now so I'm even more happy about that!

Finally there were a number of wasps buzzing around the entrance to the strong hive; more than I've seen before, but it is that time of year, so I rigged up an entrance reducer to make defense of the hive a bit easier.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Autumn Feed

Completed the first Autumn feed yesterday; I bought a couple of "division board" feeders.  I prefer these as I find they are good at preventing bee deaths (through drowning) and are easy to refill without disturbing the bees.

Both hives look good.  I did some equalizing a couple of weeks ago and the weaker of the 2 seems to have strengthened which is good news.  

So I have decided I'll feed for a short while - perhaps a couple of weeks - to see how they get on and how they fill out the combs with winter stores.  

I didn't see either of the queens during the inspection but I did see some small larvae.  So that was reasonably reassuring.  However, in one hive there was the beginnings of a single queen cell being formed.  Just one, which is curious.  It was on the bottom of a frame - swarming location - but there was only one although there was some royal jelly in it. 

So now I feel I really need to make sure there is a queen in that hive. If I don't see a queen and I see eggs I'll be happy.  The young larvae I saw were a good sign, but not as good as seeing eggs or the queen.

Anyway, I'm hoping for good weather now mid week, or Friday, in order to refill the feeders and reinspect for queens!

UPDATE: Greedy girls! Both hives have consumed the entire quantity of syrup by Wednesday evening - since Saturday - that's 4 days!  Going back with more syrup on Friday!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pre-Holiday Inspection

I'm off on holiday tomorrow so I thought it worth a peek in the hives.  I've not been in for a couple of weeks so I was keen to see what was going on.

The weaker of the two hives hasn't moved on too much and will need feeding before very long.  

The stronger hive remains in good condition. The bees haven't started on any supers yet so I think I'll pull these in a week.  Nothing is being drawn out so it seems a waste of space at this time of year.

Anyway I again took a frame of bees from the strong to the week.  I hope this is making a difference but in all honestly I don't know if I'm wasting my time.  It's the last time I'll do it this season though.

Feeding will start in earnest after my holidays!

The best news today was that I saw both queens!  They're not too big but seem to have a nice enough temperament; both hives were super placid today.

Dave unfortunately has hurt his back - slipped disc I think - so I asked if he wanted anything doing.  He asked me to put a bee escape over the brood box of one of his hives.  He warned me they were a bit feisty.  Well they certainly were!  I wasn't stung but that's only because I was in for about a minute or so; long enough to lift two supers and insert the bee escape.  Plenty long enough if you ask me!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Strengthening & Balancing

I went back to the new swarm hives yesterday.  When I last was there it was obvious the first swarm hive had been going great guns but I was a little concerned with the new swarm hive.  

It wasn't as strong as the other to start with and was I think in need of some help.  So I decided to take the pressure off the larger one and help the other.

The small hive was occupying maybe two frames whereas the bigger one was on almost all the frames in the brood box.  I took a full frame of stores and a frame of brood across to the small hive.  

I think this will boost bee numbers and also allow the new bees to grow in a period where forage may be hard to come by.  Today it has been raining constantly so I think my decision was vindicated!

We shall see!  I'll check in a week or so.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Hive - Ready

I got round to assembling my new hive - at last!  And not before time too.  Dave called me yesterday to say he caught another swarm.  

They're in a nuc at the moment but will need more permanent home before very long!

So one National hive, branded with my signature logo, ready to be used!

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Grand Day Out!

What a lovely day!

Still high after the inspection carried out yesterday I spent some time researching hives and asked a few people on Facebook which vendor they thought would best serve my needs. 

I got lots of good advice but I eventually settled for Thorne in Windsor. I went to their website to check their location but found they had an outlet near Stockbridge just outside Winchester (kind of).

Now it's about the same distance as their Windsor store from me, but Stockbridge is so much nicer to drive to!  A road trip on the A272 beckoned!  

I love this road between Petersfield and Winchester!  Great views across wonderful fields of wheat and some seriously good driving bends!  Oops! This is supposed to be a bee blog!

So hives... 

I have been very pleasantly surprised by Thorne's hives.  I'm used to Dadant solid pine hives which are good, utilitarian, but good. 

Thorne's hives are cedar - even their budget range - and they aren't what you call cheap, but the standard range (not budget range) is nice quality.  I'm looking forward to a weekend of assembly.  Once put together I'll post some pics of the finished product!

Anyway, after a very enjoyable time at the bee shop my wife and I (I had to drag her along) ended up at the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery in Laverstoke!  

This is only a fewinutes away and it would have been rude not to go!

The distillery is in a lovely spot at an old pape mill at the head of the River Test; as clear a river as you can imagine. And a very informative tour we had too, followed of course by a rather splendid cocktail!  

All in all its been a great couple of days, bees and gin, beautiful weather and scenery! And I'm currently cooking paella drinking some Spanish rose wine!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Beekeeper!

I just completed my first inspection of my new UK bees.  To say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement!

It's been raining on and off today and I was a little concerned the bees would be a bit moody.  But by 2pm it had dried up and they proved to be on their best behavior; calm and easy to work.

Dave and I installed the swarm a little under a month ago. We fed them about 7 or 8 liters of syrup in the first week but since then we left them alone to get on with things.

Dave has been watching them over the month and has seen plenty of activity so we had no cause for any concern.  And so it proved today!

They're in a national hive which is smaller than I'm used to but I like the size, and especially the reduced weights, of the frames! For those interested they are in the "warm" configuration!

So, in the last month 5 frames have been fully drawn out. Two are full with capped honey and three have lots of nice capped dense brood. A classic pattern of brood, pollen and honey stores was evident on the frame - the photo above picks it out well.

I didn't see the queen, but there was no need to as everything was in order; young larvae, calm bees, no queen cells. All good reasons to be a happy beekeeper today!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A PVC Queen - you just can't make this up!

I'm up and running again! Albeit with a lot of help from a new beekeeper friend.

I was lucky enough to be at a friends garden party yesterday afternoon in Pine View Close (PVC to the initiated) when a swarm decided to settle in a hedge just over the road!

Much excitement; a huge cloud of bees was reported to be flying all around. It was abundantly clear this was a swarm looking for somewhere to settle, and sure enough within 30 minutes they formed this beautiful cluster:

It was super calm and about 2.5 m up in a beech hedge.

I put a post on the "Haslemere Swap and Sell" Facebook page hoping it would be found a home, and within an hour I had a post from someone who said their dad was interested.  

We chatted and he asked me if I wanted to keep them for myself.  I told him yes I'd love to, but that I had no equipment or anywhere to keep them.  Dave very kindly said that he would happily loan me some equipment and he also offered to host them at his apiary. I jumped at the opportunity! Top man!

We decided to meet up the next day equipped with our swarm catching equipment; so long as the bees hadn't gone!

Now I haven't seen my stuff for about a year, so I surprised myself that it was all together. 

Bee suit? (Including holes) Check!
Gloves? (Covered in Missouri propylis) Check!
Boots! Check!
Step ladder, pruning shears, branch loppers? All check!

...Good to go!

We met at 6pm and found the bees just as (and where) they were the previous night!  Interestingly we were almost identically kitted out, even down to the make, age and model of our cars? What is it about beekeepers and 1999 Peugeot 406s?

However, crucially, Dave also had a large sheet and a skep which was put to excellent use:

Once the swarm was safely wrapped up and popped in the boot of his car all that we needed to do was install them.

I've never installed a proper swarm before (I once found a swarm on the ground which didn't survive; queenless I think) and it's a truly remarkable thing to watch. 

Dave had already set up a hive with frames of foundation and he had prepared the entrance by laying an old cupboard door up to it like a ramp. 

The bundle of sheet and skep were then placed at the bottom of the slope and then unwrapped.  The sheet was quickly laid over the ramp and tucked in under the entrance opening.  

All we needed to do was lift the skep, give it a tap to dislodge the bees, and in double quick time they all marched up the slope and into the hive. 

All done in about 10 minutes.  Brilliant!

There's a feeder on top of the hive now, so all we need to do is feed them tomorrow to give them a kick start.  I'll make up some syrup as well and I'll go along on Thursday or Friday to feed them again. 

I'll keep feeding them but leave them a good week on their own before I inspect them properly.  I remember the first package of bees I got in St. Louis drew out bare plastic foundation and started to lay within 5 days. 

This looks to be a very strong swarm (I reckon 20,000 bees?) so I think they will be really buzzing!  I'm really really excited to get back in the bee game again! 

A Brilliant Day, and to cap
It all have PVC Queen to brag about!

It now looks like I need to buy National sized equipment; Langstroth stuff is available but is just not common.  Anyone got any suggestions?