It is not so long ago that I mentioned adding some feed to one of our bee colonies. We had three go into the winter and all survived the worst of the weather. One, though, was rather weak and had not put away enough stores to last the winter so we have been keeping an eye on it and making sure the bees do not run out of food. Continue reading
…tuppence a bag. Well, we wish it were tuppence a bag, this stuff is rather expensive. One of our hives is a bit short on bees and a bit short of food, so we have been keeping a careful eye on it to make sure the small colony does not starve. Continue reading
The beekeeping routine of weekly hive inspections has been going on for some time now. We lost one colony early in the year, but still have three others working away. One of these we are a little concerned with, as the new queen does not appear to be laying in any quantity, and we may need to intervene with this colony. The other two, though, are doing very well. In total, we must have some 50lbs of honey in the supers, a fair bit of which has already been sealed up. This is excellent for what is still early in the season – especially here in our sheltered southerly locale, where the bees can be productive until late into the Autumn.
Our bees have been busy working on the spring blossom, first the pears, which flower early in the warmest part of the garden, and then the cherries, and soon the apple blossom. Temperatures last week were high enough to allow a brief inspection of the hives. Of the four that went through the winter, three have survived in excellent condition. They still have plenty of stores left and look to be in good health and particularly large numbers, so we added the supers and everything looks good for a decent harvest this year. The one colony that died out was rather weak going into the winter, so not a loss we are overly worried about. Continue reading
Many beekeepers will have prepared their hives for winter many weeks ago. Here, in our sheltered southerly location, our bees work late into the year. Even now, they are still very busy and bringing in lots of pollen. However, with a change in the weather forecast, last week we took advantage of what turned out to be the last nice day to undertake a final inspection and make the necessary preparations. Continue reading
The bees in the long deep hive have been busy and we expected to take the first honey last week, but found that it was not quite ready. The bees process the honey until the water content is just right, when it will store indefinitely, and then seal it with a wax capping, at which point the beekeeper can raid the hive and steal all of their hard work. With our bees, we leave them a hive full of honey and only take a modest surplus from the supers that they would not use during the winter. It is quite normal practice to take so much honey that the bees then need to be fed with large amounts of sugar syrup or fondant. We do not like to do that, thinking that they do better when they have honey to feed on rather than a substitute. That means, though, that we get a smaller crop than we could get, but we are only hobby beekeepers and there is no need for us to take everything. Continue reading
Our best colony of bees is housed in a long deep hive. We were thinking that the queen would probably need to be replaced this year; she has produced very large colonies for three years in a row. The long deep hive currently has 23 deep frames – about the equivalent of three national brood boxes – all but three of which are full of honey, pollen, and brood, along with a huge number of bees. Despite achieving a large size and being highly productive, in the two previous years this colony has showed no signs of swarming. In fact, there was not a single queen cup – those cells sometimes referred to as play cups, which are often made near the bottom of the comb ready to be developed into queen cells when needed. This is a little strange as, of all our colonies, this is the one that has been in the best position to swarm. Continue reading
Some weeks ago we dealt with a colony with some aggressive tendencies by removing the queen. One week later we went through the hive carefully and removed all of the queen cells. We checked again a few days later to be certain that no queen cells remained. By doing this, we prevented the bees from making a replacement queen. We then introduced a frame with eggs and young larvae from a donor colony, from which, it was hoped, they would make a replacement. This week we inspected the colony for the first time. Continue reading
Once again there is another beekeeping disappointment to report. In my last post, I mentioned that we had a colony with slightly aggressive tendencies and had forced them to replace the queen with some larvae from a frame provided by another colony of very nice bees. Hopefully, offspring from the first crossing will still retain their gentle characteristics. We did a similar thing with another small colony to give us a further queen should it be needed. When we recently checked the donor hive, though, we could not find the queen, nor any sign of eggs. It is not clear what might have happened. There is always a possibility of damaging the queen by accident when inspecting a hive although we were very careful and have not spotted her on any of the recent occasions, although she had clearly been there, given the presence of copious quantities of eggs and young larvae. There were several supersedure cells – those queen cells generally built on the face of the comb – so we are hopeful of a successful replacement. The loss of the original queen, though, is a rather disappointing.
Over the last couple of months we have been increasingly bothered with one of our colonies, which has become a little aggressive. The bees also have the bad habit of following us after we approach the hive. As hobby beekeepers, working with a large colony of angry bees is not pleasant and we certainly do not want anyone to get stung. We therefore decided to replace the queen before matters got out of hand. Rather than try to introduce a new queen, which is never certain of success, we decided to allow them to create a replacement. However, we did not want one from this queen’s eggs, but from another colony of very nice bees. To start with, we went through the hive to make sure there were no existing swarm or supersedure cells. We then found the queen and removed her. Continue reading