Well, this is it, my very first blog post.
I decided a while back that I wanted to keep my own bees and I now have the opportunity to do just that. I haven’t got them yet – it’s winter and they’re busy keeping warm in a small nucleus hive owned by the local beekeeper’s club. Over the next couple of months I’ll learn more about how to keep them healthy and happy so I don’t mess up as soon as I get them. Then it’s years of learning and producing lots of bees, honey , wax candles and polish .
Over the next few blogs I’ll describe how I got to this point and what I’ve learnt already and who I’ve been learning from. I’ll also start posting on Twitter and Instagram to keep as full a record as I can.
A couple of days ago, together with 6 other members of our beekeeping group, I took my basic beekeeping exam. Although I’m in my second year I’ve only had my own bees for just over 12 months.
There is a practical element to the exam where we have to inspect a hive (not our own) and comment on what we see. And also an oral test with the examiner asking g lots of questions about the lifecycle of bees, how to manage swarms and what diseases and pests there are.
I think I did ok on the exam, but I’ll know for sure in about a week. One of the main benefits of passing is that I can then manage my bees on my own without having to have someone with me. Plus the fact it means my knowledge is at an ok point right now.
There is still a lot to learn, see and do but the advantage of joining a group is that there are experienced people around to learn from and help us along the way.
I think the next exam is on Bee health but I’ll have a little break before diving in to that one. Think I’ll save it for the winter when there’s not much to do at the apiary. The bees don’t hibernate but they get less active and don’t leave the hive very often.
Where has the time gone since my last post. A lot has happened and I must get better at keeping this game updated or I’ll forget what I did.
Since uniting my hives (one with a queen, one without) things have got much better. The queen seems to be a good one and is laying well and the number of bees has increased substantially. Despite the hot, dry weather they seem to be bringing in a good amount of nectar and pollen. Won’t get any honey again this year but I’d rather the bees have what there is. Maybe next year will be better.
In terms of numbers of bees it’s hard to put a figure of it but at the last inspection there were 7 frames that were almost completely full of eggs, larvae and bees yet to hatch. That’s a lot!
No change from last week. Except the main hive now has very few bees, so even if the queen shows up there aren’t enough workers to feed her and look after any eggs she lays. The plan is to merge the two hives together but I can’t do it until next week as I need to get them in the same location.
Lets hope nothing happens to the second hive in the meantime otherwise I might end up with no bees. It also looks like I won’t get any honey again this year, but you never know.
Still no sign of the queen in my main hive. The number of bees is rapidly diminishing as there are no new eggs, larvae etc to replace the old ones that are dying off. I think we need to take action, possibly by adding a frame of brood from another hive.
My second hive is still doing quite well. The number of bees is increasing week by week but it may be that I have to unite it with the main hive to give it a chance of surviving rather than just adding a frame of brood.
In the meantime I’m still working towards learning and, more importantly, remembering everything I need to know to pass my Basic Exam.
Following on from yesterday, I checked the smaller hive today; although it’s now in a proper National brood box.
The queen in there seems to be doing really well. There was everything from eggs to larvae to capped brood. The workers are also ‘drawing out’ new honey comb to give the queen more room to lay. I had given them some sugar syrup last week to encourage them to produce the wax needed, but there must be a good nectar flow as they’ve hardly used any of the syrup.
Two weeks ago I had two hives with queen cells where the queen had emerged and I was waiting for them to mate and start laying. The smaller of the two hives (the nucleus hive) has a laying queen and is doing ok. The main hive there was no sign of the queen or any eggs or larvae.
Last week we added a new open queen cell to the hive. If the original queen was there the bees would destroy the cell. They didn’t, so she must have failed for some reason or never came back from her mating flights. She might have been picked off by a bird who thought she was a tasty snack; we’ll never know.
Now I have to wait for the next queen to emerge and see what happens. Hopefully she’ll mate properly and make it back to the hive and start producing lots more bees.
After the last couple of weeks’ activity I can’t wait to see what my ‘girls’ have been up to since I last checked on them.
Went to check whether or not they were behaving themselves but because of the weather we didn’t dare open the hive up.
Haven’t seen so much rain in one session for a while. Fortunately the hive is on a hill so there was no risk of flooding. There was also some pretty big claps of thunder which bees don’t like.
Have to wait until the weather improves for the next update. In the meantime I’ve started studying in earnest for my ‘basic’ exam later in the year. They call it basic but actually it’s pretty full on and there’s a lot to learn. It’s a combination of practical and theory. I’m certainly more comfortable on the practical, handling bees and gives bit. Need to knuckle down and get to grips with the theory.