Category Archives: Beekeeping

First hive inspection of the year

Pear blossom benefitting from the attention of the bees

Pear blossom benefitting from the attention of the bees

Although the bees have been flying now for quite some weeks, the weather has not really been warm enough to open the hives until now. Opening the hives when it is cold is not just bad for the bees, the beekeeper is quite likely to meet with some angry ladies. This week, though, was warm enough to make our first inspection of the two colonies that went through the winter. We already knew that both had survived, as we observed quite a number of bees flying during the good weather, but we had no idea what condition the colonies might be in or if the queen had survived and was laying. At this time of year, when they are only just starting to raise new brood, they are typically very weak and low on stores. Continue reading

Spring has sprung

After what seems an age of thoroughly miserable winter weather, spring appears to have arrived, not just according to the calendar, but with the appearance of a little good weather. With the warmth and a brief respite from the seemingly endless rains, the bees have been flying. Indeed, one of our shrubs was positively humming with the sound of busy bees and there are plenty of spring flowers around to provide nectar and pollen when conditions permit. We had two main colonies going into the winter, and both so far appear to have come through strongly, although we have not, of course, opened the hives as it is not wise to do so until the temperature has risen further. Continue reading

Another colony of bees lost

Bees still bringing in lots of pollen

Today we were continuing to prepare the bees for winter. We had one colony, started earlier in the year, that was still building up; another that was looking good for the winter, having put quite a bit of stores away, although not producing any surplus for us; and the long deep hive, which had packed away over 100lbs of honey in the brood area. The odd thing about our location is how long the season extends. Many beekeepers will have prepared their hives for winter weeks ago, and honey removed by the end of August. In our sheltered southerly location, our bees persist in carrying on as though winter is yet months away. In the most recently started colony, they are still working at full speed, bringing in large amounts of pollen from various sources. As they have only had half of the season to build up for winter, we have been feeding them with sugar syrup for the last few weeks; we considered that there was still time for them to process one more liquid feed before we change to slabs of fondant. Continue reading

A big surprise in the hive

Dad’s homemade long deep hive

Today we checked on the bees in the long deep hive. Whilst they had built up a huge colony, we were nonetheless a little concerned about how much stores they had put away, as last year they ate through them very quickly before winter had properly set in and needed additional feed to survive. We usually inspect colonies once per week, but as this is a somewhat disruptive process, we only do so where necessary. Aside from checking the general health of the colony, the main reason for such inspections during the summer is so that measures can be taken if necessary to discourage swarming. For some rather inexplicable reason, this colony showed no inclination to swarm, even though there was a very large number of bees and most frames were filled with brood. So, we left them somewhat to their own devices, making only cursory checks and keeping an eye on the honey production in the supers. When we last looked at the supers, though, we were a little suspicious that they may have been moving honey down into the brood area. Continue reading

Getting the bees ready for winter

The season is long here in a sheltered pocket near the south coast, much longer than in other parts of the country. Our bees are still putting honey away, the heather is still in flower, although it emerged rather early this year, and the ivy and other late season plants are yet to open. It will be quite a few weeks before our bees are ready for winter, but this week Dad and I began some preparations. Continue reading

First honey harvest of the year

Busy bees bringing nectar into the long deep hive

Following a quick inspection of the conventional hives, which are doing fine, although not yet producing any surplus honey, we moved on to take our first honey from the long deep hive. This is a rather odd looking hive of my dad’s design, but similar to others of its kind. It takes deep frames, and offers a very large brood area all on one level, making inspection a little easier. It also has entrances at both ends, allowing colonies to be split and merged more readily than with a conventional hive. Continue reading

Pressing heather honey

Today I visited Mum and Dad to tackle a job we had been putting off since the end of Autumn last year, when we removed the final supers from the hives. We had harvested some honey earlier in the season that was extracted in the normal way. However, the last supers, which were only partially filled, contained a large proportion of heather honey. Our location near the western boundary of the New Forest is sufficiently close that the bees, which can travel several miles to forage, can access the heather that grows there in profusion. Continue reading

A new colony of bees

Hive occupied once again with a new colony of bees

After losing a queen a couple of weeks ago, last week we requeened one of the hives with a new Italian queen, having first removed all of the queen cells. This week, we carefully inspected this hive for the first time since introducing her. Thankfully, she appears to have been accepted and has already started laying.

We had also given up on one colony, which demonstrated suicidal tendencies – disposing of new queens after losing theirs early in the year, then failing to raise a replacement of their own when they had the opportunity – and had all but died out. We got to the point where we really did not want to try to requeen again and risk losing yet another valuable queen, so therefore abandoned them to their fate, choosing instead to start a new colony. This colony, formed from some spare brood frames from the long deep hive, and a new queen, has been doing well for the last couple of weeks, so we moved it today into its final home. All went well, and we now have four happy colonies once again.

 

The flighty queen has flown

Today’s hive inspection was generally encouraging, with three large colonies in excellent health. All hives sported frames with large areas of clean white brood, and good amounts of stores are being laid down. The gold bees in the long deep hive show no signs of swarming, despite becoming a very large colony with an astonishing amount of young brood. They currently have roughly the same space as two national brood boxes but could benefit from a few more frames. The newly merged colony has also become rather large, with a lot of young brood, but still with some space on new frames. We will be adding a second super soon, perhaps next week. Continue reading

Hive inspection finds an unusually flighty queen

Busy bee hive

Today was time to go through all of the bee hives, a job that needs doing ideally once per week at this time of year. We currently have four colonies: one long deep hive which we started with a virgin Italian gold queen, who was likely mated with the Buckfast bees that we kept at the time; one national hive with an Italian queen, one with our last Carniolan queen, and one that lost its queen earlier in the year. The latter was requeened a few weeks ago. However, although the queen was initially accepted, she did not appear to lay well and, on a recent inspection, was nowhere to be found. They had made supercedure cells and we decided to leave them to make a replacement for now, and worry about requeening the hive later. Today we found the queen cell vacated but the hive queenless once again, with no sign of eggs. Now there are few bees left, and those are getting old. We decided to leave that hive alone and start a new colony.

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