20 June 2019

The polystyrene hives are made and housing a couple of colonies of local bees. They are from a friend and local beekeeper who took 2 nucleii of bees off one of his hives. One is doing better than the other but this seems to be because one was much larger than the other. I’m trying to balance them up by moving brood frames between them and it seems to be slowly working.

I also now have a swarm of bees resident in my top bar hive. They are producing some lovely new white comb, but the queen hasn’t started laying yet. Might be the weather?

On the down side, my original hive isn’t doing so well. I’ve split it into two but neither new hive have got going very well yet. I know the bees know what they’re doing but they often don’t do what you’ve anticipated. I guess as a beekeeper you always have to expect the unexpected.

Inspecting a hive

Swarm in the top bar

Look at that lovely new honeycomb

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.

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.

17 March 2018

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.