First inspection (attempt no. 1)

The healthiest, happiest hive.

The healthiest, happiest hive.

So on Thursday we went to carry out our first solo inspection of the hives (and to replace the crown boards).

It was another beautiful, incredibly hot day, with the ground in the distance shimmering in the heat. We arrived at the site where the hives are kept (fortunately a nice shady area!), had a quick breather, and then got stuck in. First job was to replace the crown boards on two of the hives. The bees were a lot calmer now that they’ve had a chance to settle into their new home, however, as we seem to have misplaced our hive tool and our bees love their propolis, we weren’t able to pry many frames out to take a proper look. From what we could see however, everything in the healthy, Q+ hive looks good, and the Q- hive which had capped queen cells last week is brimming with (slightly grumpy) bees.

With a new hive tool on the way, we’re aiming to give all the hives a proper inspection this Sunday (Saturday has a very wet forecast, which would make for grumpy bees!). Most urgent is to check the status of the grumpy hive, to see whether or not there is a queen present, or if there are still queen cells. If there is a queen in residence, we’ll be adding a brood box as this hive is absolutely brimming with bees!

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Worker bees busily drawing out the comb. You can see the glistening of honey in the cells if you look closely!

The final job for Sunday is to sort out the hive with the laying workers. The plan is to firstly take the entire hive and dump all of the bees out about 50-70 metres from the current site, the idea being that the flying bees (who are not laying) will fly back to the original hive, and the nurse bees (the laying workers) will be disorientated and will not return, as they have never left the hive before. Then, we’ll try inserting a frame of open brood, which will emit the pheromones which help to suppress the laying instinct in the worker bees, and from which they’ll hopefully try to raise their own queen. If we find any spare queen cells in the other hives, we’ll also be attaching one to the frame of brood in the hope that they may accept that as their new queen.

We’ve been told that there’s a high probability this may fail, but we feel it’s worth a try, as left to its own devices the colony would die out anyway, and at least this way we have a chance of saving it.

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The worker bees on this frame are just starting to draw out the comb. Hopefully over the next few weeks they’ll fill this with honey!

Thank you for all the advice we’ve been given up to this point from all the experienced beekeepers we’ve spoken to, especially the people over at http://www.beekeepingforum.co.uk/.

Fingers crossed everything goes as planned on Sunday, although you never know with bees!

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The Great Move

Last night, at around midnight, three figures were sneaking furtively through a pitch black patch of forest in the middle of a Vineyard.

Yep, last night we put our new bees in place in their new home. Sadly it was just too dark to get any pictures, or even any effective video, and a couple of wrong turns meant we were in no mood to post by the time we got home. The bees are now there however, and we’re happy to have them in place.

The move itself was simple – though the management of them will require a little work. We know that one hive is queen right (i.e. has a good, mated queen and healthy brood). One may or may not have a mated or virgin queen, and we’ll be checking for that today when we get the chance. The last has drone-laying workers. We’ve had various advice on what to do with this one, and we’ll make a final decision on what to do when we go for the inspection later.

For now though the bees are in place, I’m back to being stuck in the office (day job), but managed to negotiate an early release to get down there and have a look at them.

Only one sting through the night as well, even though the bees were definitely not happy about the trip (it was after their bedtime after all). Probably a few more today, unless they’ve calmed down over the course of the day and are enjoying their new territory.

I think the fact that I’m in a good mood having been lugging heavy beehives through pitch black woodland up until nearly midnight suggests that this might be the life for me. Either that or the sting is making me delirious.

The lifecycle of the worker bee

Worker bee Photo by Makro Freak Licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

Worker bee
Photo by Makro Freak
Licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

Today’s post is about the most humble member of the colony, the worker bee. The worker bees are the building blocks of the hive, serving all functions from nurses to cleaners and foragers to guards. At any one time there may be as many as 80,000 worker bees in a single colony.

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Beekeeping vocab!

 

Honey bee on the lavender at Denbies.

Honey bee on the lavender at Denbies.

I don’t know about most of you out there, but there’s quite a bit of subject-specific terminology around beekeeping. We’re still very new to it, and I think the Old Boar himself probably knows more than I do as he’s the one who’s done the most reading! So for those of you that, like me, don’t really know what a lot of beekeeping terms mean, here a short (and by no mean inexhaustible!) list of what I’ve come across so far: Continue reading

We have bees!

Examining our new hives!

The Old Boar examining our new hives!

Well, as of yesterday I am pleased to say that we are now the proud owners of one hive and four colonies of bees. Two are healthy colonies with laying queens and a third one which we are assuming is queenless with five queen cells that we could count, that are ready to emerge very soon. There is a fourth, but that is currently full of laying workers who were slightly less happy about our intrusion than the other colonies were. Continue reading

The Big Reveal!

Photo by Colin Smith CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Photo by Colin Smith
CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/971360

We’ve kept this under wraps for a while now, but we can now reveal the location of our apiary – at Denbies Vineyard in Dorking!

A few months ago Denbies put out a tweet on their Twitter account saying that they wanted to bring bees back to Denbies. The Old Boar saw this and contacted them, a meeting was set up, and that’s where it all began!

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First Taste

Used under CCA 3.0 - created by Wojsyl

Used under CCA 3.0 – created by Wojsyl

On Saturday the better half and myself went along to our first batch of beekeeping training. While it was interesting I can’t help but feel that the amount of pre-reading and self-study I’ve been doing prevented me from enjoying the course quite as much as I could have done. Without any of the pre-reading it would have seemed packed with information and tidbits – but unfortunately all the theory felt to me like retreading old ground. Continue reading

The Bee Rustler

Apparently bBeekeepersmoker[1]ee rustling is a thing.

Recently I ran across an article (see end of post) about a man who has been bee rustling since 1977, a man who had the dubious honour of  becoming the first man in the US state of California to be convicted of bee rustling. As honey bee numbers around the world have declined, there has been an increase in the number of hives stolen by those wanting to make money from hiring out the hives to pollinate farmers’ crops. Continue reading

Where did all the bees go?

Varroa_Mite[1]

A varroa mite Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varroa

Over the last few years there has been a huge decline in honeybee numbers both in Europe and the US. Various reasons have been put forward for this, including the use of certain pesticides and chemicals, as well as a bee parasite called varroa, all leading to worker bees abruptly disappearing from the hive, commonly known as colony collapse disorder. This is bad news both for the environment and agriculture, so in recent years there has been a surge of initiatives to try and alleviate the situation, such as the Co-op’s Plan Bee and new legislation in the EU restricting the use of certain pesticides. Continue reading