31 July 2018

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.

26 July 2018

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!

05 July 2018

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.

28 June 2018

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.

22 June 2018

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.

31 May 2018

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.

Update later.

Later!!

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.

17 May 2018

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.

10 May 2018

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?!

29 April 2018

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.

08 April 2018

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.