Monday, 17 March 2014

More moving of bees.

OK - So we didn't really get too far in moving the bees. - They'd gone about 10 feet from their original home, but were now in the way, and we still had about 40 feet to go.  I looked around the internet for other options for short distance moves, and anyway, this is what we did...  The basic thing seems to be to try to force the bees to reorient themselves.  There seem to be two ways of doing this, either confine them for some time, or change the environment immediately outside the hive radically. - We tried a combination approach.

1. - Day one.  Block the hive in the evening.  Move the hive to it's new location at the same time and leave it blocked.

2. - After 72 hours, open the entrance and we left a leafy plant in front of the entrance so that emerging bees might be forced further to reorient.

After a couple of hours, there were bees bringing pollen back to the hive in it's new location.  True, there are a number of bees around the old location of the hive, and some of them are clearly confused foragers, but I guess we expected we might lose a few.  By the evening, there were no bees in the old location so they'd either clustered somewhere, or found the new location.  Either way, I think we tentatively judge this a success for now - watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Bees On the move.

A glorious day here today, though still only about 11 degrees, it's very calm with no wind, and the garden in full sun.  The bees are flying by their thousand.  Not sure they are going very far, but they are all coming out for some fresh air and it's great to see.

The recent storms have brought down the fence between our house and next door.  This means there is very little to force the bees to overfly their garden.  Also, I felt the bees were a little close to their house, especially if they were on their patio.  So, in order to keep relations sweet, we are moving them - gradually, each couple of days we move the hive a couple of feet.  They are going up the garden where an area has been cleared and paving slabs put down.  This won't get quite as much sun, but will mean that they are forced to fly over our shed, and the neighbours before overflying the neighbour's garden which I will feel happier about.  It should also mean there is more room for a second hive which will likely be necessary when the season kicks off.

So far, we've moved the hive about 10 feet.  Some of the bees can be seen clustering around the old location, but I'm hoping they will get the message and find the new location as it creeps up the garden.  In a couple of weeks or so, the hive should be in it's new home and everyone happy.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year 2014

It's 2nd Januaray 2014.  It seems to have been raining for days, but today is bright and sunny.  Only about 7 degrees, but there are a suprising number of bees out and about.  I gave them a small lump of christmas cake which they seem to love.

I would have done a varroa count, but the board has blown out of the back of the hive, so I cleaned it and replaced it and will count later.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Bees still around.

I've been working outside nearby the hive today.  It's not warm, but it's crept up to about 10C, and it's very still.  All of a sudden, there were quite a number of bees emerging from the hive.  They seem to be orienting and then flying off.  There are returnees too, so they are obviously not suicide missions.  Don't know what they are doing, or where they are going!  It could be they just wanted to take advantage of the relatively mild weather for a bit of fresh air and a toilet break, or potentially they are hungry?  As a precaution, I've ordered some fondant / protein feed - I'm guessing they will only eat this if they are hungry anyhow.

Still monitoring varroa - current drop rate of about 3 per day.  I think this is just about acceptable for this time of year.

Monday this week was a social event at the beekeeping association.  I was kind of sorry to miss it but didn't feel up to it at the time.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


This week started off warm and bright - the bees were continuing as if it were still summer as the temperature was nudging over 20 degrees each day.  By Wednesday, thing changed - the night time temp fell to about 5 degrees, and we've had heavy rain and strong winds since then.

I thought the bees had given up, but today the rain stopped and the sun came out.  It still only managed about 13 degrees this afternoon, but the girls were out and about and still brining in pollen from somewhere. - Michaelmas daisies are flowering in the garden, but mostly the bees seem to be foraging further afield.  I'm still unsure where they go, but mostly they fly off over the neighbour's garden to the east, with a smaller number heading south from the hive. - This takes them directly down our garden, but not proved to be a problem in either case as yet.  When the neighbours were out working on their pond, they did say that the bees were stopping over for water and there were a considerable number of them, but I don't think they really mind - I guess we will get to see that properly next year when we have a full summer of them with luck.

I've not opened the hive since the last visit - other than a quick look under the roof - nothing I really need to see currently, and so best just to leave them to their own devices.  I guess we expect the numbers to start declining pretty sharply from here, and certainly there are more dead and dying bees around the hive than previously - I guess they are flying in pretty marginal temperature now and if they get too tired, they can't make it back.

Fingers crossed until the next time.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Last look at the bees?

It's been two weeks since I last looked into the hive, and Sunday was warm and dry so I decided we'd have what may be the last look at the bees.  They are still extremely busy during the warmest part of the day and managing to bring in masses of pollen from somewhere. - There seems to be some scrub / fallow fields round about which have variety of plants still in flower though they are spread pretty widely - the bees obviously know where to look and don't seem to have any problems finding good sources.

It was also time to remove the 'apiguard' which should have done it's job by now.  We cleaned the varroa monitoring board and will leave that for a few days to measure the rate of mite drop - my suspicion is that it's still going to be higher than the 10 per day which is supposedly acceptable going into October, but we will see.

My helper for today was the boy - operating the smoker - a little too generously in some cases - too much smoke seems to make the bees cross rather than calming them down - it's a fine balance and clearly not easy for a 10 year old boy, the fascination of the smoker cum flame thrower can outweigh the 'minimum' of smoke necessary to have the desired effect....

Anyway - going into the hive, we removed the 'empty' super which was really just on there to let the vapour from the apiguard circulate, removed the apiguard tray and then had a look at some of the frames without distubing them too much. - It still wasn't hot outside so didn't want to cool them more than necessary.

The top super is almost totally filled with capped honey now - barring the sides nearest the outside of the hive.  It's a fair weight to lift that - the sort of weight you wouldn't want to be much heavier - that's a good thing as it's got to keep the bees going until next spring.  I believe they need at least 20-25Kg of stores to see them through and the weight of the super is around that at a guess.

Going into the brood box - The outside couple of frames at each side are honey, then going into the frames, there is more pollen - I think they are putting pollen into some of the area previously used for brood which would make sense if the queen is starting to slow down laying.  We didn't really look for brood, nor see the queen as the bees were getting a little touchy at this point. - There's little I can do this late in the year even if there were a problem with the queen, so better just let them get on and do their thing. - I'm pretty sure all is OK anyhow.

On this frame, you can see that it's got some capped honey round the edge and toward the left of the picutre, and then most of the rest of the frame is pollen. - You can see the different colours toward the right of the shot pretty well.

The bees hadn't really touched the last lot of syrup I'd put on there, but since it is still reasonably warm and dry, I left that on when we closed up the hive.  Checking back tonight, they've nearly emptied the feeder so maybe they'd just not found it before. - The crown board is now directly on top of the super, and the feeder directly on top of that, so it's much easier for them to find the feeder than it was when I had the empty super on top of the 'stores' super. - Either way, I think this will be the last of the liquid feed I will give them this year.  I might get some fondant feed to tide them over the winter if necessary - though how I know if they need it or not I'm not sure at this point.

Still a large number of bees around, though drones are increasingly rare when we stand watching them coming and going. - The poor drones get kicked out as they are unneeded mouths to feed over the winter.  I guess we'd expect the number of workers in the hive to reduce too from this point, and there just to remain a core of workers to overwinter with the queen.

Jobs remaining to do...

1. - Think about insulation - maybe have a look at options to insulate the roof cavity, and potentially the outside of the hive.
2. - Check varroa drop & assess possible options for treatment if it's still high.
3. - Get some fondant food in.

I will keep looking in on them from time to time if the weather is warm enough, but that's going to be increasingly rare from this point on.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Hive Examination. - 14/09/13

Cooler today and rain forecast this afternoon. - About 14 degrees, so just wanted a quick look at the bees to see what the situation is following the second does of apiguard applied last weekend.

Bees are very busy this morning brining in masses of pollen.  They have been taking over 1L of 'heavy' syrup each day containing 1Kg sugar, and they must have been doing something with it!

Opening the top of the hive, the bees are busy but not agressive. - There are a lot of them on all frames in the super.

Where previously there had been brood in the central frames of the super, they are now storing honey (syrup) in these frames, and apart from the outside sides, the frames are all drawn and filling with syrup / honey.  Hopefully this is a good sign that they will have enough stores for the winter.

Moving down into the brood box, we saw plenty of stores in there too, capped brood, grubs and eventually the queen. - Again, all frames are full of bees - it all looks very much busier even than last week I think.

The girl was helping today and operated the smoker as required.  Also held a frame stores from the brood box for the first time which she found very exciting.

There were few signs of queen cells - except those which were partially torn down from previously. - Having seen the queen, and seen signs of laying etc, then I think we conclude all is as well as can be hoped at this stage. - Feeling pretty happy after examination today!

I think we will continue feeding for a little while longer and I will seek advice on when to stop.  I'm assuming that the bees will stop taking the syrup when they feel they have had enough but unsure so need to check.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Fingers crossed - things might be more positive.

Weather is definitely turning cooler.  This morning's bike ride was distinctly cold, and we'd already had a couple of showers.  Temperature approx 13 degrees, but when the sun came out around midday it was pleasant enough to open the bees.

Today's plan was to follow up on the previous situation - see what had happened to the queen cells / supersedure cells and see if we could see evidence that a queen is laying and active.

Several points were I think tentatively good news.  Firstly, we saw the original queen (and didn't see any other queens).  Secondly, we saw grubs.  Since it's 6 days since we last opened the hive, it's highly significant that we've seen grubs. - When they fill the bottom of the cell prior to capping they have been there for about 8 days.  This means they must have been eggs around the time we last looked - indicating the queen was laying at that time. - I'm taking this as a very positive sign that the queen is OK and not permanently off colour.  In fact, there were a lot of grubs, and it seemed a lot of capped brood - and indeed, there seem to be more bees than previously though that might just be that it's not a particularly good flying day I guess.

The third point of interest was that ALL the supersedure / queen cells (of which previously about 5) were open. - We know that they were all sealed 6 days ago on 2nd September, so they have either hatched, or they have been torn down by the bees. - What has happened here I've no idea. - Either the virgin queen(s) hatched, and there is still a virgin somewhere in the hive along with her mother, or the existing queen killed the new queen(s), or the bees did either before or after hatching. - Comments welcome below.

Here you can see quite a few grubs / larvae just to the right of centre of the shot (shiny white things in the bottom of some of the cells.)

And here you can see one of the previous sealed queen cells is torn down - I guess it's being tidied away by the workers. - It's the bigger cell to the left of shot.  The one in the centre isn't so big and probably was never a proper queen cell.

An interesting thing I learned at the demo yesterday is that 'supersedure' queen cells tend to be built in the middle of the brood frames - perpendicular to the 'normal' direction of cells in the honeycomb. - This contrasts with 'swarm' queen cells which would tend to be built at the edges or the bottom of frames.  If this is true, the bees must have some reason for making the differently positioned cells - either something to do with temperature maybe, or the way the new queen's pheromone will affect the hive. - Clearly they know why they do it that way, but I don't.

So - in conclusion - we now have a hive which appears to have a laying queen, and the prior queen cells are not active.  On that basis, I added the second does of Apiguard varroa treatment which was supposed to be added 2 weeks after the first.  I 'hope' that if it were that which affected the queen previously they will now be more used to it, and it won't be so destructive this time.  There are as I said a 'lot' of bees, and there seems to be quite a lot of capped brood.  The 'super' is now heavy with 'honey' (probably mostly acutally syrup) with most frames filled and capped except where there's brood in the centre frames, so for now I'm quite a bit happier than I was the last couple of times I have examined the hive.

The only thing I saw this time which I've not seen before were just a couple of 'bald' brood.  Since there were only a few, I doubt this is anything to fret over.  You can see these partial cappings with the brood visible in the photo below.

I added the varroa floor again today and will count the mite drop at the next examination.

Far more relaxed this time round (me, not the bees).  I've sort of resigned myself that 'what will be will be', and that this is after all a learning experience.

OK - we will examine again in about a week or less and see what surprises they are trying to scare me with at that time!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival

We spent the afternoon at the Bristol Bee and Pollination Festival.  This was at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden - not somewhere I've been before, but a fascinating garden.  Lots of bright and exotic flowers, trees and shrubs and several glasshouses with interesting orchids, banana plants etc.

A large marquee housed honey displays, a live exhibition hive and stalls about bumble bees and other pollinators.

The live beekeeping demonstration was held just as the weather was turning cold, but the beekeeper (Garth Chatham) was engaging and entertaining and held the crowd enthralled looking through a small colony in a mesh tent.  Great to see the children so interested in all that was going on in the hive and during the demo.

Many honey bees and other insects in evidence on the flowers around the garden - at least before the rain came....

As to our own bees - they are still happy doing bee things.  I will inspect again shortly to see what's happening with the queen situation. - Watch this space.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Still wondering....

After examining the hive yesterday, and making a possible connection to the Apiguard, I did a little googling and asked an expert for an opinion.  The answer from both seems to be uncertain.  There is certainly the possibility that the Apiguard is the cause - maybe it stopped the queen laying, and I suspect that in itself could have triggered supersedure  proceedings from the bees.

The positive thing is that the queen is still here, and the bees appear to be behaving as normal - brining in plenty of pollen and taking syrup etc so I'm increasingly sure they are not leaving.  Supersedure might not be the best thing to happen at this time when there are limited drones to mate with, but it could be that the current queen will 'recover' in time to prevent it, or there may even be some sort of co-existence with the new queen until she is mated etc.

So - I think the way forward at the moment is to carry on as before. - Complete the varroa treatment, and see what happens.  The reality is that there's not much I can do to modify what the bees think is best for them, and if they want to supersede the queen, they will. - So, I might as well just relax a bit, enjoy them and see what happens - whatever it is will be a learning experience.  Maybe what I've already learned is 'ask before you act!'

Another warm sunny day, and the sedum is just coming out in the garden.  For the first time we saw our bees on it - it's been worked by the bumble bees for a while, but is now interesting the honey bees.