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
Bee escape
Super - for cleaning
Super - full of heather honey
Queen excluder
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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Autumn Preparations...

Somehow I'm feeling organised!  I'm not sure why, but I think it's because I have started preparing for the Autum now!

Ok, so I will confess I probably was forced into it, but still, it's a start!

I nominally have 2 hives at the apiary, and Dave has 2.  We help each other out, but we kind of think we each have our own!  Anyway, one of my hives has been quite prodigious; I extracted 51 lbs of honey in July.  However, this hive became Queenless (I don't really know why) but continued to produce honey and as of last weekend I had 4 supers stacked on it. Two are pretty much capped and the other two are perhaps 50% full.

The other hive I have was 'sick' earlier in April but it pulled through and has left me with a crammed full super of capped honey. There is a queen in this one!

So back to Autumn management. What to do with the Queenless hive? Well, I decided it was better to not generate problems next spring by not having equipment available for new splits and swarm control, so I united the hives.

I removed two full supers and I will extract honey from these. The resulting combined hive now looks like this...

Outer cover
Inner cover
Bee escape
Queen excluder
Base board

The idea is to keep the Queen way down in the hive, to clear and then remove the deep and a super from the top (for later use?) and to leave two supers of stores to the bees for the Autumn.  If all goes well (that's got to happen at some point, right?) I'll further reduce the hive for winter - but I'll move full stores from the 'removed' deep into the deep at the bottom!

I will then have lots of equipment and drawn frames for the coming spring!

The mite count I did last week showed some moderate number of mites.  I'll treat once things have settled down after the combination!  Depending on the count level then I will treat with MAQS or try oxalic acid for the first time!!!

It's a plan of sorts!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Preparing for Mite Counts

I returned from holiday to take a look through the bees.  Just to get a feel for what might have been happening over the past two weeks or so. This is what I found...  the Plan...

Hive 2 looks like there is no Queen present - there is little brood.  So, should I take a frame from the swarm hive (Hive 3), which is temperamental, and put it in one of the supers?  I have no idea why this production hive would have lost a queen but I'll give it a week just to see if she's been taking a break!

The swarm hive (Hive 4) that had difficulties earlier this season seems in good shape now.  The single super is pretty full and is mostly capped.  I'm thinking to move a couple of empty or part full supers from Hive 2 over to this one. There seems to be sufficient space in the single deep, so that's okay.

I took the opportunity to put an open mesh floor in this hive and added some sticky boards to both Hive 2 and 4. I will do a mite count next Friday.  I hope that the recent broodless periods in these hives will mean there's currently a low count.

I have no plans to inspect the swarm hive (Hive 3), other than maybe take some eggs from that and put it into Hive 2.

No inspection was carried out on Hive 1 but Dave said that his hive appears to have a Queen present; at least he said he saw uncapped larvae.  As I put a frame of eggs and a queen cell in here more than 10 days ago I think we may have a new queen. So again no need to look at that; perhaps the end of next week.

So, I think next Friday, I will reduce the number of supers on Hive 2 and move them to Hive 4 and transfer a frame of eggs from a super in Hive 3 (the Swarm hive) to Hive 2.

We will also check Dave's hive for the presence of a queen.

Jars and Labels

I had some fun playing with labels; clear labels this time - I've not used these before.

As ever my trademark bee design (actually it's my wife's artwork) is on the label, but this time I've tried to comply with EU labeling regulations.  This proved more of a challenge than I expected. Squeezing all the required data on a small label is tricky.  Still, I think it looks good!

I think clear labels work really well with the set honey but I'm not so convinced about them on the clear honey.  There's too much backlight coming through the honey. I need some contrast so next time I think jars of clear honey will be on white labels.

Oh!  I also put the honey to good use...  A Bees Knees...

2 oz gin,
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey to water)
1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and pour into your favourite bee glass!

Majorcan Honey

No, I didn't have a holiday romance but I did find some lovely honey in Pollença in Mallorca.

The vendor was not the bee keeper but she did have lots of different types of honey on offer; almond,  orange, lavender, mountain and wildflower, I think - all from the same beekeeper.

The Almond honey was very interesting and had a very strong taste of almond.  But I have to say I didn't like it much. Instead I walked out with some very dark strong flavoured mountain honey.

It's going to be interesting to compare that with my own honey and some that I still have from America.
Mallorcan Mountain Honey

Second Flow

So, just before I went away on holiday (29th July) I managed to take off and extract the remaining honey from the single hive; Hive 2.

In total I got 23 kgs (51 lbs) of honey from this hive which I think is very good considering it was its first year in production.

I've "jarred" the first batch and the second batch of honey separately; it is quite different in colour. I even made some set honey, although to my regret I used cheap supermarket honey as the "starter" seed honey; not next time.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Nice Surprise

I had planned, yesterday, to simply remove the "full" super I knew I had.  I had also some sketchy plans with Dave to do some inspections on the other hives and so we arranged to meet late morning.

To my surprise Dave had managed to find space and the equipment to extract the honey from the super, so while I removed frames he removed the cappings and extracted what I think is in the order of 8kgs (18lbs) of honey.

To my surprise the other two supers on the hive have also filled in the course of the last week.  I reckon there has been a nectar flow from local Lime trees so hopefully there's another fifteen kilos or more to come in; all very nice.  It will be interesting to see the difference between the two extracted honeys.  I think lime honey is quite light; yesterdays harvest was quite amber and strong in taste, but still very pleasant.

Apart form the extraction I took a look through 3 of the 4 hives.

Hive 1:  I found a frame of eggs in Hive 2 and donated this to Dave's hive.  Hopefully there will be some suitable eggs for the bees to make a new queen from.  If not, Dave said he might buy in a new queen. There is some honey in the supers, not as much as I would have hoped for, but with the Lime trees blooming there is hope these will fill as well.

Hive 2: We will remove the remaining two supers from this hive next week.  Otherwise, it appears to be in good shape.  I didn't go through it in great depth.

Hive 4: I didn't look at this hive.  It was recovering well from the poor state it was in about 6 weeks ago.  I'll take a closer look next weekend.

Hive 3: Dave told me this hive swarmed in the week.  But there were so may bees in it I'm not too sure this really can be the case. I nevertheless attempted to go through the supers to reorganize them; I had planned to put frames of honey in one super and brood in another and separate the two with a Queen Excluder.  But there was so much brood in the supers and so many agitated bees I left them alone.

I'm fairly sure they will swarm in the week (or by next weekend) as there were several capped Queen Cells present.  Either way, a reduction in bees might not be such a bad thing.  If they have swarmed by the weekend I may go through and try to remove some remaining Queen Cells to try and stop
further cast swarms.  One idea we had was to put the remaining QCs in Hive 1.  We shall see what happens and decide on a course of action next weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Queens still missing but Supers are coming...

So Dave's hive didn't have a queen in it and it therefore remains broodless, which is a bit annoying. Dave will hopefully find a frame of eggs to donate to the hive later this week and we'll start all over again!

And we're not quite there with removing the supers but we did at least put a bee escape under the full super yesterday!  Dave will take this off in the week - getting quite excited now! I reckon we'll have about 30lbs.

And we also had a little extra help this Friday from Rob.  I think he's a little bored at home. Too much time on his hands after completing his exams!  Still I'm Not complaining.  It was nice to have him come along.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Alternative Universes!

This may be the first time I've blogged about wasps!  But I was asked by my Dad to look in his attic as he thought there might be a wasps nest up there!

Yep!  Found it!  What a beauty!

Lots of brood coming along too!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Things have moved on!

It's been a month since my last post, which in June is an age in beekeeping terms...  Things, quite predictably, have moved on...

Hive 1: Well, this hive is still Queenless, I'm not sure why but I had to drop a donor frame of eggs in it from Hive 2.  The good news is that there are now 4 or 5 capped queen cells in the hive and I hope in a couple of weeks there'll be a new laying queen.

Hive 2:  This is still quite strong.  Supers remain full or filling - I must pull one soon.  I've donated eggs to other hives from this colony and they seem to be doing ok. Need to consolidate the deeps.

Hive 4, Artificial Swarm:  This nearly collapsed.  I had a case of sacbrood and I lost the queen. However, I have successfully donated a frame of eggs from Hive 2 and the colony now looks good with a nice strong brood pattern.  I have removed a deep and some old frames of comb. 

Hopefully the broodless periods in Hives 1 and 4 mean it's hit any varroa mites hard and their numbers are down!  Every cloud has a silver lining I guess!

Hive 3:  This is the swarm hive.  The queen excluder was pulled a couple of weeks ago and there is brood throughout the supers and deep.  It's a healthy mess, and a feisty one!  I did not spend long in it as they were a bit too pissy today!


So I'll wait a couple of weeks before going back into Hive 1.

Hive 2 needs to be consolidated into 1 deep and to have a super pulled.  I need a nice warm day for this; the bees were a bit tetchy today.

Hive 4 is ok and I'll leave it alone.

Hive 3 needs sorting out. I think I'll need to isolate the queen in a single deep and let the supers clear.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Manipulation Update...

Two weeks ago I did some swarm control and today it was time to see what had resulted.  I'm not sure exactly what happened but it doesn't look all that great!

Hive 1: Dave's hive has several closed Queen cells on 2 or more frames; they look like swarm cells judging from their position.  I didn't see the Queen so it's possible that this hive may already have swarmed!  Nevertheless there are about 2 supers full of honey, so that's a result!

Hive 2:  This is the hive I combined and the one we performed an artificial swarm on a couple of weeks ago.  It's looking quite good; two full supers, so I bottom supered and added third.  No queen to see, but I think this is OK.  No sign of any queen cells either.

Hive 4, Artificial Swarm:  This was looking weak; I am not sure the swarm took.  I saw no young brood and only capped spotty brood. So I  took a frame with a couple of queen cells from Hive 1 and dropped it into this hive.  In a couple of weeks, with luck, this will be stronger.  I also saw some dead larvae - I will have to do some research to see if I can tell what is effecting the bees.

Hive 3:  This is the swarm hive.  There was no young brood above the queen excluder, only capped brood.  What was left was mostly drone brood too, so that is to be expected as this takes longest to mature.  The bees here are also pulling in some nectar and are filling a super, albeit slowly.  The deep has brood across only on 3 or 4 frames and I didn't see the queen,.  However, I did see young larvae so I think she's OK.  This hive might need some TLC to get it strong enough for the winter - might have to consider combining it with another weaker one!

I think the next inspection will concentrate on looking for the Queens in Hives 2 and 3. I will hold off looking through Hive 4 and Dave's hive as young queens will or should be present and I don't want to disturb them! But I do want to make sure they are all accounted for!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chaos! and some Shakespeare(ish)

I was expecting something to be "up" after last week's inspection but what Dave and I found was more than a little bit interesting.... Last week Dave's old hive looked as though it was getting swarmy, so I was expecting to see some action here.  I was also half expecting my own hive to be doing stuff as well, but I was not sure what...

Hive 1: Dave's old hive.  As I said, I was expecting this to be swarmy and I arrived prepared to do an Artificial Swarm on it - expecting to find open queen cells. However, Dave and I found just a single closed Queen Cell in the hive (and we looked hard for others).  We also looked everywhere but didn't see a queen.  There appeared to be a lot of bees around so had they swarmed?.

Action?  I consulted my old mentor Eugene in Missour.  He thought it odd that there was just one cell, but that could be a supersedure where the bees only found one larvae the right age. It could also signal problems with the queen or he thought that maybe it's an old cell and the pupa is dead. We decided to leave this alone, especially as there was larvae in the hive.  Do Nothing!!!

Hive 2:  The hive I combined a few weeks back.  As I said, I was half expecting to do something here but inevitably we found more than we expected; a couple of open Queen Cells.  Fortunately I came to the apiary prepared to do an Artificial Swarm (only on Hive 1) so when Dave and I found the uncapped queen cells we changed our plans and did it on this hive instead.  All very easy and straightforward - once we found the queen - twice!

So we put the old queen in a new box of foundation with some food, and added the old supers above a Queen Excluder.  So this is still Hive 2.  The old hive that has the brood and open queen cells in it, we will move this during the week in order to keep the swarming urge suppressed.  This is now Hive 4.

Hive 3:  The caught swarm - about 2 weeks old.  We found the queen and a capped queen cell in this hive (2 weeks after catching it!), as well as brood and larvae (at about the same stage of development) both in the supers above and in the deep below a Queen Excluder!  I was, and remain, mystified by this!  Dave and I both thought the Queen looked too big to have crossed the QE.  Action?  Contact Eugene!

Eugene had heard of people catching swarms containing more than one queen - this was a very large swarm if you remember - but in this case they were both virgins. Oops!  I quoted him on that when he didn't want to be!

Our original thought (and Eugene's) was just to leave this for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  It's all very curious and I think time will sort things out.  There's the potential bonus of having a 2-Queen hive and the additional honey that can produce!


I'm reminded of a quote from Tom Stoppard's "Shakespeare in Love"...  Seems appropriate... my apologies for the hack...

Mentor Beekeeper...allow me to explain about the beekeeping business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Me... So what do we do?

Mentor Beekeeper... Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Me... How?

Mentor Beekeeper...  I don't know. It's a mystery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Something or Nothing.

It's been just over a week since the Students came to view the hives. All was well then - well kind of.

I went through the hives today and had another detailed look.  Things have changed; just a little:

Hive 1: During the week Dave put a second super on this hive (above a queen excluder).  I went through the hive this morning and found there had been some further nectar/honey collection in the hive but nothing too much.

The hive looks busy and I found the queen in the top deep.  I reversed the deeps, if nothing else than to make the queen move up again and not feel boxed in up in the top deep.  This probably makes no difference if you listen to what some people say i.e. the queen goes where she likes, when she likes.  I feel that's probably true but the likely trend is that she moves up, and besides it makes me feel proactive!

While going through the hive I did notice both the queen, lots of brood and larvae and a single uncapped Queen Cell which I removed.  I saw just the one but I will make contingency to do an artificial swarm next week when I can next get back in to inspect.

Hive 2: This has been busy and has remained very active over the past week.  The brood I found in the top super has largely all emerged and nectar is now filling the vacated cells.  The new supers I put on over the past couple of weeks are being drawn out, so that is encouraging, and there is a lot of brood in the deeps.  I decided after a while to stop the inspection as things were getting a little agitated and the bees were getting a tad stressed!

At least I have the equipment to do an artificial swarm; all I have to now do is swat up on what to do!

Hive 3:  The swarm hive has been getting more established.  The super has been filling and I replaced 3 old frames with new foundation.  The bees in the deep are still only on about 3 or 4 frames but nevertheless these have some brood and larvae on them.  I removed the feeder and let them get on with gathering nectar.  I did not see the Queen despite looking fir some time!  I hope, and trust, she is there!  Again, an inspection next week should determine that.

So now what I need to do - apart from considering undertaking an artificial swarm - is to consider making a split (or even two).  I feel there is sufficient brood etc. in the 2 large hives to manage making a split at some point in the next couple of weeks.

If I go to the hives next weekend with the required equipment prepared then at least I can have the option of doing something, or nothing!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Swarms and Students

I had a really great day on Friday! I gave three very enthusiastic students from the Jamia Ahmadiyya in Haslemere a tour around the apiary. They were extremely keen to learn about beekeeping and I only hope I was able to answer all their questions fully!

I met up with them mid afternoon and gave them a quick briefing - about the bees, the equipment, the protection and most importantly to stay calm, don't worry and have fun!

Fortunately the bees for once were similarly briefed and cooperated beautifully!

We had quite a lot to cover as I now have 3 hives that are all at quite different stages of development. However, the first thing for us to notice was what was going on outside the hives.  There was a lot of activity!  It was a very warm spring day and from what I could tell there was a good nectar flow on; lots of bees flying in and out, not so much pollen being carried. So what did we find?

Hive 1:  This is the long established hive.  It needed no mite treatment a week or so ago but I went through the hive with the students, showed them brood, pollen, capped honey, eggs and larvae - it has everything you could want for a teaching hive!  We left it after adding a super of drawn comb - there's a flow on!

Hive 2:  This is the combined hive which had just had a course of MAQS mite treatment. I wasn't sure how this hive would have coped as my experience in the USA (where admittedly it was much hotter) was not good. But my fears were unfounded.

When I opened the hive I found the queen had been busy laying in the super!  Not too much brood, but enough!   But by way of compensation there was also a lot of honey and nectar in the super as well!  Anyway, I was sort of prepared for this as I had a super of undrawn foundation with me.  I checked that the queen wasn't in the in-situ super and then put the new super under it; the theory being that the queen won't cross the undrawn super, the brood will hatch and the bees will then fill the brood cells with honey - well, that's the theory!

Again we looked through the rest of this hive saw there were no queen cells but saw there was a lot of nectar in the cells.  So I felt quite good about putting a second super on.

I'll also do another mite count in a couple of weeks.

Hive 3:  The new Swarm Hive.  Last Wednesday evening Dave got a call from someone local who said she had swarm in her front garden.  And what a swarm!  It filled the skep.  Sadly there are no photos, but Dave reckons it's as big a swarm as he has ever caught.  He put the swarm into a new deep, added a queen excluder and a super.  Unfortunately he didn't have any new foundation available so the bees went into a box of old comb.

The good news however was that I have plenty of frames and so I planned, with the students, to relocate the swarm onto these new frames.  It was all ridiculously easy! 

Most of the frames were in a bad state so we just checked if the queen was there before we gently shook the bees into the hive.  We left just 3 original frames of decent half drawn comb; the rest was new foundation.  We also fed the bees some 1:1 syrup in order to stimulate some frame drawing.  But given the size of the hive and the activity in and out of it this may not really have been needed!

So the 3 students and I left the apiary happy and excited for pretty much the same reasons!  They had been through three hives, handled bees, seen the stages of growth and even tasted a bit of honey/nectar direct from the comb!  Very cool! I had seen the hives looking strong and calm!

I went back into the apiary today (Sunday) just to see the swarm hive again, but ended up looking at all 3, and I'm glad I did!  There wasn't much change to Hive 1, but the second super in Hive 2 was being drawn out, fast.  I didn't want the queen rushing back up too soon so I dashed home to get another super of undrawn foundation and popped that under the other 2.  

Three supers on - nectar flow - feeling happy!

I went this morning mainly to feed up the swarm and found they had taken about 1/3 of the feed from Friday.  So I topped it up.  I also found the queen and saw she had been laying - all very encouraging!  It would be nice to put some new super foundation on the hive soon.

All in all its been a brilliant weekend!  You just have to love spring!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mite Count

I put a couple of home made sticky boards (Correx board and Vaseline) under the OMF (Open Mesh Floors, or Screened Bottom Boards for my US friends) on Friday afternoon and pulled them on Monday afternoon i.e. 3 day counts.

Now here's the interesting bit...

The swarm hive I caught last year and combined with another swarm a few weeks ago had a 3-day count of 133.  I noticed several bees with DWV in this hive so was expecting some mites and a daily count of about 45 is a bit high. The following link is quite useful.

National Bee Unit - Varroa Calculator

The older established hive (that Dave has never treated or done anything with - EVER) had a 3-day count of just 13.  Wow!  There's something in this hive!   Bees with good strong genetic traits perhaps?  I know Dave thought of them as aggressive and I have heard anecdotal reports that aggressive bees (particularly Africanised bees) have greater resistance to Varroa.  Well these bees aren't Africanised, but I can hope their behavior promotes some good mite control!  I can but hope.

So what to do?  Well I have some MAQS I can use to treat, but the weather looks a bit on the chill side for treating over the next couple of days.  So I may just wait until Thursday and then treat just the swarm hive.  The other I will leave alone.

If I am unlucky with the MAQS (I have lost queens in the past, but then the treatment was done in some very hot weather) I can think of worse things to do than take a frame of eggs and larvae from the established hive and pop this in the swarm hive!  With luck I'll get their good genes passed on.

STOP PRESS:  I added MAQS to the swarm hive on Wednesday evening.  It wasn't too cold and the next few days seem to be good in respect of day time temperatures.  I wanted to treat sooner rather than later.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I dropped in to the apiary on my way to an appointment yesterday - something was going on!

One hive was really active - lots of training flights and foraging going on and the noise they were making was just wonderful!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A visitor

I was at the apiary on Sunday morning enjoying the sun and the peaceful surroundings.  Seems I wasn't the only one!

I think he's a Roe Deer, but I'm not certain.

The bees are ok.  I went through both hives in detail.  Some queen cups but no signs of real queen cells.  Some good solid brood also, but there is still plenty of space.

I started to feed the old hive that is in one deep.  This hive is starting to draw out comb in the second upper deep so I thought some 2:1 would encourage more  building.

The other "swarm" hive is in a stronger state, brood in both deeps but I must do a mite count/treatment. I spotted a few bees with DWV.  A bit worrying!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Things are taking off

After a cold early morning it had warmed up sufficiently by 11.00am to take a look inside the hives.

When I arrived at the apiary it was cold and there was little activity. I procrastinated but decided not to open them.  Instead, I sat in the car for an hour listening to the Archers, but that's another story altogether...

By the time that had finished there was a lot of flying activity outside; it had warmed up and the cold wind had abated, bees were bringing in pollen.  So I suited up for a look.

The "United" hive was in great shape.  Lots of brood, eggs and larvae in both deeps. So I think Spring has finally arrived! I kept the super in place as this has some capped honey/sugar syrup in place.

The other older established hive was still only in one deep but there was nevertheless significant brood in it.  This hive is in old equipment and was "listing" badly.  I moved it onto a new stand and baseboard, swapped the old second deep (that contained old drawn comb) with a new deep of undrawn foundation and swapped the old cover for a new one.  The bees seemed pleased!!

Now I need to think about splitting both hives, at least in a month or so; in the meantime I'll need to locate a couple of queens!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

United we stand!

A couple of weeks ago I did my first inspection of the year (a very brief one). It was apparent that the second of the two swarms I caught last year is now not queen right.  There wasn't much brood in it when compared to my other hives, and what there was was spotty and mostly drone. I kept an eye on it just in case it was just a bit slow, but it hasn't improved.

There are a couple of reasons for spotty brood, but in this case it wasn't laying workers as I found the queen.  I can only assume I have a poorly mated queen that doesn't have sufficient (or any?) sperm and is therefore laying unfertilised eggs.

I wonder what happened last July?  Was the weather mixed? If so, perhaps this interfered with her mating flights and she just didn't mate enough.  Either way I couldn't allow the hive to deteriorate.

It is too early in the year to requeen, so that wasn't an option, I also didn't want to take brood and eggs from another hive in case this weakened that hive as well.  So, after consulting with my old mentor Eugene, I decided the best course of action was to combine the hives.

It's been quite mixed weather of late (especially at those times I had free to look at the bees) so I leapt at the chance to do some work when I woke up yesterday to find a brilliant Good Friday morning.

I got to the hive around 8am which is much earlier than I would normally open a hive, but circumstances dictated I could only get there at that time and the rest of the Easter weekend looks wet.  The bees weren't agitated when I opened the hive and I found the queen pretty quickly - and swiftly dispatched her!

The strong hive was also mild mannered and I quickly removed the second deep that had just started to get drawn out.

I use the newspaper method of unification and so placed a sheet with a couple of slits in it over the receiving deep.  I then moved the deep from the weak hive on top before shaking out the bees from the partly drawn out deep.  This empty deep I will put to one side for now.

The shaken out bees quickly clustered around the hive entrance and started to fan Nazarov pheromone. I just love that smell!

So, I now hopefully have a strong single hive that should grow quickly and with luck, in a month or so, I can split and form a second hive.

It was interesting to find quite a lot of honey in the old hive.  I imagine as there was little brood to raise there was little brood to feed, hence the stores being laid down.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My New Hives Are Ready!

It's been a frantic recent period, but I've finally managed to obtain some more hive equipment and I feel reasonably confident that I'm ready for the spring and what the bees can throw at me.  

I am now in a position to be able to cope with making increases and even housing the odd swarm.  I now have enough two hives comprising 2 deeps and supers, and one with a single deep and 2 supers.  I therefore have a spare hive!

I bought the boxes (all nationals) is off eBay, all fully assembled.  I've not done this before and my experience was nothing short of exvellent. The boxes are of good quality cedar, solidly put together, very reasonable and they were dispatched rapidly.  I would recommend the supplier to anyone.

I have also managed to do a brief inspection of the hives.  The brood I found isn't quite as far advanced as I was expecting, given all I've been reading online, which is a relief, so perhaps Spring isn't quite as advanced as it appears.  Anyway, I had a chat with a beekeeper I bumped into on a walk on Friday (near Balls Cross - see below) and she pretty much is experiencing what I am.  It's nice to have some independent confirmation of the situation!

So I reorganised the hives.  There were a lot of stores still in the deeps and also in the supers that I left in place, so I added second deeps and moved the supers to the top of the hives.  They now have more space to move into as and when they need to.

The bees were quite placid, even the "strong" hive that has been a bit aggressive.  These bees were not quite agitated but we're in my face without stinging me.  But they remained calm and I was in and out quickly on a cool day - pleased with that too!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

New hive on the way!

Finally, after much prevarication and comparison of prices online I jumped in and bought a new hive.

For the first time ever (yes really) I purchased an assembled hive.  Not only that, I found it on eBay which is definitely not my usual source of equipment.   I normally go for flat pack equipment direct from a known manufacturer.  However, this looks a good deal and I'm prepared to give it a try.

Once it arrives I'll update you all on what I found.  If this proves a successful approach I'll probably buy another.  Anyway, the first hive is to rehouse the bees that are currently squatting in one of Dave's hives, as that will free up some space for us to do some swarm control later in the spring (although right now how soon that is, is anyone's guess - it's so mild).

The possible second hive will be either for my start at home or a start at another location that is close home. I've not firmed up on either option.

Slowly slowly, I'm building...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A wet winter day...

What to do today?...

I fed the bees yesterday.  I feel that's a good thing given its so nasty today and the forecast isn't much better for the week ahead. More as a preventative measure than an emergency "treatment".

I used "Teds Sugar Mush" which is 8 parts granulated sugar to 1 part water - about 12.5% moisture content.  The bees will eat the sugar when it hardens by adding a little water to it. They will not store it in cells.  [My thanks to the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association for the recipe - it has stood me in good stead in the past!]

So for those of you who prefer to use measurements (please excuse the use of imperial measures) this might help you;

Mix 4lbs sugar to 1 cup (8oz) water in a small pail, or in a 1gal ziplock bag.  

I also made a couple of shims to go under the inner covers to make sure the feed in the bags could fit in the hive.  

I didn't do an inspection as such but when I popped the covers I found lots of bees in quite a large cluster, maybe over 4 or 5 frames.  My take away from this: they look in really good shape!  It always worries me that there isn't enough food for them either in the hive or to forage at this time of year.  However, I'm usually proved wrong!

So I now think I will need to order a couple of Queens for the spring as I will likely have to split the hives!  Great news as I want to expand and also replace/restock the hive that died out last autumn. 

So now it's a wet day ahead and I'm reading bee magazines!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

At last a warm, dry, day in January!

I managed to find time to visit the hives on Monday.  It was a very mild sunny morning (13C) so I wanted to see what, if any, action was apparent.  I had last been to see them last week when it was much colder and although they were clearly alive there was no activity outside the hives. 

I did not carry out an inspection as really there really wasn't anything I could have done to help them out.  I had no feed or "mush" prepared or with me.  However, it was great to see plenty of flying and cleaning and foraging going on!

It's a curious time of year. I never really know what to expect from the hives but they always surprise me.  I don't know why.  Bees have been over wintering for millions of years and so know a thing or two more than I do.  Still, they appear to be bursting with life, but I still think I may put some 4:1 "mush" on when i get a chance...