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.
Remember last week with all the queen cells? Well the little tinkers have gone and made another one. Looks like a supercedure cell too. Guess they’re not happy with the existing queen. So that’s six in total; four are sealed ready to go; one is charged; one is a bit runty. Do I need to change my plan?
Not according to my mentor. Well, not drastically anyway. What I haven’t said is this week there are no signs of any eggs. I have small larvae ranging up to capped brood but no eggs.
The new queen cell we’ll keep to make a new queen for my existing hive. There are two queen cells on one frame and I’ll donate those to the group hives as they need some new queens due to losses over the winter. I’ll keep one decent queen cell to put in the poly nuc to make a new hive for me.
One other thing to add into the mix is that the workers are quite happily chaining to make wax. I’m told that is a sign that the original queen is possibly still around. Can’t wait until next week to find out what other tricks my girls have in store for me. One thing I know for sure is that they are good at keeping stores. Just wish they were in the supers so I could steal a bit from them.
Aaagh, it’s all happening very quickly at the moment. First proper inspection of the year and what do I find; queen cells, that’s what. Not one, or even two, but five; and three of them are charged. So my little girls are up to mischief.
Fortunately I have a very good mentor to help me this year and he knows exactly what to do. The plan is to split the hive and I’ll end up with two, which is good because there’s exactly what I want. But what’s the best way?
Don’t know if this is the ‘best way’ but we’ve shaken all the bees into the bottom brood box and put the queen excluder on top, then put the two supers on followed by the second brood box that contains all the queen cells. Then next week, armed with a poly nuc, we’ll leave the old queen where she is and put the queen cells in the nuc. Wait for the new queen to hatch, mate and start laying. At that point I’ll put them into a proper National hive and away we go.
What could possibly go wrong?!
Well, here I was, hoping to be able to say that the weather had improved and that I had done a proper inspection of my hive and that everything was going along write nicely thank you very much. No such thing. It’s cold. And grey. And damp. This is the UK, what was I expecting!?
Anyway. Pretty much the same story as last month. No proper check to see what’s going on. But, the bees are still slowly munching through the slab of fondant I put on at Christmas. There is very little of it gone which means they must have good supplies of their own.
I’ve left a super with frames at the site together with a queen excluder. The hope is that next week it will be warm enough to do a proper inspection and get them set up to take advantage of the oil seed rape that is now flowering. They’ll need to draw out the foundation on the frames but hopefully I’ll get a bit of honey from them. Fingers crossed.
Not much going on at the moment! Inspected the bees today – well, I say ‘inspected’, but all we really did was make sure they had enough food and the varroa count wasn’t excessive. Here in the UK it’s still very cold and wet. Not good weather for bees (or beekeepers for that matter).
What was good to see was the wax flakes on the varroa floor. This means the little darlings have been out and about on good days and are starting to build some more comb. They’re still in a tight cluster of about 5 frames width. However they are on a double brood box, so without opening up the hive properly it’s hard to say if it’s just in one box or both.
Hopefully next month will be warmer and I’ll get a better look at what’s going on.
Last year I decided that, despite being a newbee, I would try using a Top Bar Hive in addition to my standard National. I signed up for a session with a chap called Jim Binning who uses them and provides the materials and instruction to make your own. The result can be seen in the pictures above and I have to say I’m thrilled with it.
I like the idea having natural comb and also being able to manage the space by moving the boards out and adding new bars. There is also a glass panel so you don’t have to take the lid off to have a look-see. This type of hive is apparently more ‘natural’ for the bees and will allow them to make cells the size they want rather than being dictated to by the foundation used in a National. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I have to say, I can’t wait to get some bees in there and see how they get on. Also see how I get on with managing it. There seems to be a certain amount of negativity towards this type of hive from some quarters. I guess I can understand why – they are designed for use in Africa/hot countries, but I can’t see why it won’t be successful. Maybe I’m naive? I’m certainly not an experienced beekeeper and that was another reason why I met with some negativity when I said I was going to get one. Apparently you need 20 years experience. Only another 19 to go then.
Whatever happens I’ll note it here.
Having checked last month how much fondant the girls had eaten and discovered it wasn’t very much we hefted the hive this month and found that they still have a decent amount of stores to call on. It was a nice day and quite a few of them were out and about.
As I write this a week or so later I doubt they’ll have been too busy flying as they won’t have risked the cold and snow. Still it’s supposed to be getting warmer this coming week and there are buds starting to break open on the trees nearby so hopefully they’ll get a little boost.
Last month I discovered that I should have changed the entrance block on my hive to give a bigger opening. This allows the bees to more easily get rid of their dead out the front door. This month’s visit gave me the opportunity to make the change. Armed with my smoker and under the watchful eye and guiding hands of Liz I took the entrance block out completely and just replaced the mouse guard. Much easier now for the girls to remove the dead.
This visit I checked how much of the fondant they’d eaten; not very much. They’re obviously quite happy using up their own stores. Also checked for varroa, and had a low count, but more than some others at our apiary.
Next check – early March.