Saturday, March 29, 2014

More prep and a trip to the bee shop.!

Oil seed rape is already in flower, as too, is just about ever early spring flower you can think of, its a bonanza for our bees but a shame the last week has really been too cold to forage in great numbers.

I did a favour for our local farmer and couldnt help but think, oh well, I was actually going right past my local bee shop, so i paid a visit whilst en route with some large metal gate sections.

Found myself a nice little pollen trap, so i can store a little pollen for use when i insert my grafts in to the queen production hive. Although not essential, its a good idea to have pollen in very close proximity. I also didnt know, until recently, that you can harvest pollen from each hive, for one day or two, preferably a day apart, then freeze it down until you need it.
You can then pour a good handful of the stuff and rub it in to a drawn up frame, then insert that in to the hive when needed, making feeding larvae so much easier for the bees. The one I bought wasnt the one I had intended to buy, but its a real beauty, and you can retract the reduced hole section and allow the bees to come and go, rather than give up their pollen load, which is a nice feature.
Pollen is collected in the draw beneath.

I also bought some extra supers and hive bodys. The wood is excellent quality from this shop and the price is good.  All their woodwork is also sanded to a good finish , which i like too. This will give me a few more hives to make up over the spring and summer should I have need for them and capacity to have an extra super for nearly all my hives in honey production. I will be fitting a piece of 25 x 25 mm pine around the upper third, making the supers easier to handle the little handles cut in to the 25mm sections are ok, but not that practical when handling them full!! (

I have also made up another roof for a hive that was spare last summer. I lent the hive to a friend in order he could copy it, then realised it had no roof  when I collected it last week. I used 3 pieces of  15mm exterior and one piece of 10 mm for the sides of the roof and the top was made from the weather proof fiber board, ( grade 3) moisture resistant, but was from the skip! I will try and make more roofs like this, as its reasonably cheap and although the production ones from this shop are really good, they still are 20 euos each!!!

Painted up with roof attached ( metal sheet from printers again)

 Roof in situ!!

Electric bees!!
Well there was some other very good news, in that a colony of bees has established itself inside a large concrete pylon, that is actually situated on the land of a fellow beekeeper, just over a kilometer from me.
This is excellent news, as it could be there for a long time, as no idiot will be able to cut it down, as they probably wood do, if it was  in an oak tree. This colony will be swarming away for generations to come!!

Will have another very quick look in to my hives, nearly two weks since my last feed of three. hopefully they will be increasing in size well!
Good weather forecast for tomorrow and the next week, temperatures near normal  which is good news for the bees!!

Enjoy!! I will !! once i`ve made a start on painting up those supers!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Queens laying very nicely thank you!!!

What a great start to this years season.
 Despite some recent days of fog, when it clears its been beautiful. I fed a light sugar queen stimulation feed last week and this week and will give another half litre next week but really its not been totally necessary.
Many of my hives were well stocked, so the emphasis was more on convincing the queen that there a always sugar availible ( more of a flow) than anything else. Feeding generously now, wouldnt do any favours other than inducing earlier swarming, which is whats going to happen anyway this year, if were not careful.
The queens must have space to lay in to, especially if your putting on your first honey supers in another 4 weeks. If you use queen barriers in the spring, take out some of the old honey bound frames and generally make sure the queen  has room to lay. If you remove a frame of honey, if you can, replace it with a ready drawn up comb and keep the honey bound frame for artificial swarming.
When the oil seed rape starts to flower in another two weeks, it going to become very cramped in a very short space of time. This year, if it stays warm could be an excellent honey crop. Correct supering is also a must.
I would advise putting on two supers, on any strong colony, they may even make 3 full this spring.
I also like to put on my new supers filled with pain undrawn up wax sheets and capitalize on the crazy  rush of the bees in springtime. After all it is only spring honey. Presenting your bees with drawn up supers for the summer honey crop is a more sensible option!
We already have populations rising rapidly, plenty of early goat willow and camelia, to name but a few and the oil seed rape looks like being 2 weeks early. 4 weeks earler than last year, so be prepared.

I choose to artificial swarm my strongest hives (early april this year i think) and use the slightly weaker ones for spring honey.
I will also be trying a different method of swam control and instead of artificial swarming, i intend to take out some bees and perhaps one frame of brood, then combine this with the same amount of bees from another hive, then give it a queen cell and create some colonies like that.  Just a different way of thinking, not hitting the colony so hard and leave the hive nearly emptyof forragers, until the remaining brood start to hatch out and start to forrage for the existing queen again.

Dont stop searching for info, you never stop learning.

I have been doing a fair bit of reading this winter and feel more confident to try and think more laterally with my methods, underpinning knowledge is key!
Number one is to work with the bees, do what you want to do with them, when they want to natrually do the same.

Just bought this book and would reccommend that every beekeeper should read it. Perhaps not if you a new beekeeper, but certainly if your in your third year. It broadens your horizons on many aspects and gives you more ideas on how to be more sustainable in your methods. Really enoying the idealogy.

Hers a link to a really interesting talk at the bee show! would like to spend some time working at this guys apirarys!!

Theres so much promise this year, not for huge profits but interesting and enjoyable beekeeping!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Optimistic start!!

First Inspection, Hive death, Sugar and frames.

After what one would describe as probably the wettest winter on record and certainly in my lifetime, we can reflect on how bad its been but at the same time be a bit thankful that at least its been mild, very mild the entire winter. I think I can remember a few early frosts in Novemer time, but our old friend the north atlantic drift has protected us from severe cold weather and has instead fuelled sucessive severe winter storms via the very strong  south westerly jet stream.

I went in to my hives last week. The weather was very briefly sunny and quite a lot of my bees were flying, with no wind. In summary it was good news. One colony completly dead with only dead bees and remarkable, a marked dead queen. Another colony with no brood and eggs and queenless, with not many bees, so therefore thats dead too. I will leave the mouse guard up in April and allow this to be robbed out so i can have spare frames for my swarm traps.

Clearly this queen failed to lay, the numbers of bees declined and the slippery slope of colony collapse is evident here. I imagine that this colony has been dead for a while. Tt took all its autumn feed and was laying well, so it looks like it failed to lay down or manage sufficient stores.
You can see the bees in the picture beneath. They have died in the clasic position, with their heads in the bottom of each cell, in a despeate attempt to lick out and remaining sugars.

All ready for the spring feed. I have been buying sugar from my local supermarket for the last couple of months, a couple of bags each trip spreads the cost. It looks like spring will start next week, with temperatures rising to the dizzy heights of 15 degrees, so i will be giving each hive, half a litre of sugar syrop, each week for the next 3 weeks. This should help stimulate the queen in to laying more, so thoretically assisting the spring build up.

All frames ready for the off. Spare frames for the swarm traps. I like to put in at least one very old, smelly brown coloured frame in the middle, with at least two half drawn up frames either side of this.
The two outside frames, just new undrawn out wax sheets on new frames.

 I have also extended my workshop bench for solely beekeeping stuff. hopefully a kind of "grafting table" too. ( when its tidy)

I am also making a new apiary at home, where my bees used to be. I have made up some wooded supports . These 4,5 meter lengths are of tanilised, pressure treated timber that were a bit twisted and on sale really cheaply at my wood store, so they are perfet for me and should last for a while. These beams sit on four concrete blocks which works really well. I will be covering the soil around with plastic sheeting and plantng through this with winter flowering honeysuckle, a long term plan for a bit of extra winter wild food.

I want some of my bees here at home here so, more so for queen prodution in  the late spring and summer. I need the hives as close as possible to my house so everything is a bit easier.
I will be doing a video on  queen rearing in dadant hives, which is the same process during the initial screened bottom box and grafting section, but will be using a isolastion cage during the finishing process, as dadants dont have two brood sectons and keeping the queen away from the developing queen cells is not possible without a queen excluder, so i am working to find the best way to keep her isolated, but still keep the queen cells in the brood nest.

Its all looking good at the moment, plenty of food for the bees when its warm enough. Willow already starting to flower and also the prospect of much of the green manures flowering over the next few weeks. They are usually killed off by the winter frosts. so potentially a very strong spring ahead!

But theres some way to go, this week last year we had Blizzards..  Not again this year thanks!!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Beekeeping Calendar.

Annual Beekeeping Calender, what to do and when!!

Ok, so we are nearly at the end of the year and I have been meaning to translate a copy of the original calender made by Charles Basset, my beekeeping teacher! I have sent it to a few friends but never translated it to English, so here it is!

It is a good guide on how to manage your bees, here in northern Brittany and I cannot stress enough, thats it not a gospel, as we all like to do things differently! Having said that, I have used this all my beekeeping life and cant see anything on it that I would change. The dates are approimate but on yearly averges, they are correct. The original writer, Charles basset has many years of beekeeping in this region and theres not much he dosent know about bees!!

If your new to beekeeping you won`t go wrong by following this exactly.


Fix and repair damaged Hives. Repaint and treat woodwork.
Have a plan for how you want to proceed in to the new year.
Consider making extra Nuc boxes and Hives, ordering now will buy you time in an early spring.
Put together frames

Clean and sterilise old hives with a blow torch, by digging out old propolis (saving this in a jar for new nuc treatment if required) and heating up the surface of the internal parts of the hive.

Look for places to put out swarm traps in Mid April. This may take 2 or 3 visits to convince the property owner!!

If the weather permits, you may see bees on cleansing flights and also some pollen coming in from the hazel trees at the end of the month.

Feed with candy, not sugar syrop, if the hives are light. "Shuck" or lift hives very gently to acertain weight if needed but do not disturb!


Finish preparation  the same as January. Your equipment should nearly be ready. If time permits, make up another Nuc. You can never have too many!!

Pollen should be returning with forraging bees and the queens will start to increase their laying frequency if the weather is not too cold.

As the weather starts to warm up, check your stored Hives, Nucs and supers for signs of hatching wax moth larvae. An infestation now could be a disaster.  By the time you need your honey supers in April, you may just find a loads of larvae!  Treat with "Bascillus thurigiensis" if necessary.

Feed with a little candy if all previous has been removed!

The season starts!!

 At the end of the first week, if the weather pemits,  (around or above 12 degrees with no wind) carry out the first inspection of your hives with your cleaned hive tool etc. Dont use dirty tools from last year.

Remove a frame from each end of the hive, ie no 1 and 10. These can be used in your traps or just stored until you have a swarm. The bees will draw up these replaced new frames as the colony size increases over the next few months. Its a good opportunity to get hold of some used frames which otherwise are difficult to procure! Always take the opportunity to pool your resourses and collect useful material like this!!

Be cautious about bothering the brood nest if its cold.  As soon as you see brood or eggs return the frames to normal position quickly. Remember you wont see a lot of brood or eggs, but there should be some!

Consider your Varroa treatent. You can use cardboard impregnated strips with Amitraze or other designated chemicals, or Vaporise oxyalic acid instead, if you didnt treat in the previous autumn or you think you are badly re infested.

Give a light feed of sugar syrop ( one part sugar, to one part water) over the next 3 weeks(500ml per week). This will help stimulate the queen in to increasing her egg laying.
If you have seen eggs on one inspection, dont bother the hive for the sake of it!! If you damage the queen, remember that the chances of the colony making the hive queen right before the end of April are extremely slim!!


Around the 15th April, place a honey super on each of your hives to collect spring honey, or in the following two  or three weeks be prepared to carry out artificial swarms (or risk losing your own swarms if your not around)
Decide if you want spring or summer honey, as late swarming colonies wont produce much summer honey so either artificial swarm in April and have potential for more summer honey or take spring honey and prepare for swarms or artificially  swarm your hives after the spring honey harvest.

Dont open the nucs from the artificial swarms for at lease one month, to give the queen time to start laying. She may have difficulty in mating if the weather is poor in April, so be patient!

Feed your nucs for the first week and then from day 16. This will give the queens the best chances sucessfull development before and after mating.

Put out all your swarm traps around the 15th of the month. If it has been cold, deley this for another week or so. Remember, you feed your bees, wild colonies do everything for themselves, so will be later in swarming.


Harvest your spring honey crop no later than the 15th May!! Dont delay or you risk the honey crystalising in the super! If you can guarantee no oil seed rape around you, then this can be delelyed a little.
Carry out artificial swarms to your colonies after the harvest, but as it was said in April you wont get much summer honey from your late swarm bees due to reduced worker numbers.


Place you honey supers on your hives for the main honey crop as soon as you are sure all the oil seed rape has finished flowering. Even a small nectar flow from rape seed flowers can result in some crystalisation within the super.  Remember, you wont be harvesting this honey until the end of August!
The main nectar flow usually starts around the 25th of June. Add another honey super to your hives when the first one is nearly full. You need to checking your hives at least once a week  for the next month!
With the main nectar flow comes the greatest risk of swarming, (for the next 4 weeks.)


Its the end of the swarming season and also the end of the main nectar flow!
Its pointless adding additional supers to your hives after the second week of July. The bees wont be finding much to bring back to the colony, following the catkins on the chestnut trees turning brown and starting to fall.
If it is dry, then this is usually the start of the dearth and there will be little food around now until the ivy starts to flower around the end of September.

Carry out "artificial swarms" on all your colonies if you need more bees for next year. As soon as the catkins begin to drop from the chestnut trees utilise the high numbers of workers in the hive and create new colonies for free. Its said that the best queens are ones made in the summer months. there well fed and most importantly well mated with high numbers of drones in the vicinity.

 Move the honey supers with the mother hives when artificially swarming your colonies. The honey still needs a few more weeks curing and the remaining bees and hatching brood will take care of this. Initially, put up entrance reducers on all swarmed mother hives for the first two weeks, until the numbers in the hive increase again. This helps the hive guard the reamining stores with fewer bees and creates a less stressfull hive!

All artificial swarms created in July onwards, will remain in these nucs until spring the following year. Theres just not enough food around to fill an entire 10 framed hive!

Feed all articicial swarms created in this month generously! Theres little or no food around.

 Collect up all your swarm traps. You might have a late surprise! Treat all the traps against wax moth before storage. You may well need some of the nucs for artificial swarming if you have used up all your nucs you had stored away!


Dont open any Nucs containing artificial swarms until one month has passed. Feed all nucs weekly and be aware that "robbing" will have started in earnest and weak colonies will die out over the next few weeks if they are pillaged sufficiently!
Dont spill any sugar syrop on or near hives, as this will very quickly attract robber bees in "swarm like quantities"
Your bees will also defend the hive more so always wear you protective clothing if around your hives. They are also getting attacked by wasps and hornets, attracted by the smell or honey which in turn, will induce your bees to be more protective of their colony!

The honey harvest can start on or around the 15th August. Generally in the super frames, one should see three quarters of each frame capped over. As a guide, this should ensure the moisture content is low enough the stop post harvest fermentation.

Give the honey supers back to the bees for a couple of days only, otherwise the wasps will damage the cells on the frames. Put your frames away immediately after this. Wax moth can easily become established even later in the year. Store them sealed, also away from mice!


Its now the time to feed your bees and treat against Varroa mite.
Give all your hives 5 litres of strong sugar syrop. If after one week, the sugar has not been taken up, the hive is lost. If this is the case inspect the hive and give the syrop to other colonies. Its likely that if the syrop has not been drunk, then the hive will have already been robbed quite heavily.

If you are treating your mites with chemicals soaked  or impregnated cardboard, treat imediately, while temperatures within the hive are still high. This will help the effectiveness of the tranfer of the treatment around the hive, as the volitile carrier vaporises.
Wait until end of  October /November if vaporising oxyalic acid or drizzing thymol solution, when the temperatures are much lower and brood area will be much reduced.

On insepection, re centre the brood nest if necessary. The season is over now and we must be thinking of how to help the bees prepare for the winter.

The ivy should be in full flower. You will see large amounts of pollen coming back in to the hive.
Dont give any more sugar in the form of syrop. If the weather turns damp and cool, the bees wont be able to dry and store it!
Check hives for size of colonies, you may need to downsize colonies (back in to a nuc) if they are on less than 5 frames of brood, eggs and stores. This will also help the colony manage the  heating in  the hive over the winter months and also permit a quicker build up the following spring.
If you find a queenless hive, its pointless trying to requeen it now. Simply combine it with another  queenright colony before it dies over the winter, or put up mose guards and allow it to be robbed out while bees are still forraging and keep the frames for next year. If the frames from dead hives are full of honey, keep them for artificial swarming the following year or for a weak colony or swarm in the spring. They will store well in a screened ventilated nuc and be a valuable asset to you!
Feed all bees with Candy or bakers Fondant if the hive is light. Definately no sugar syrop!
Ensure that all your hives have mouse guards fitted!
Treat with  vaporised oxyalic acid if the temperature is above 4 degrees. Observe the mite drop.

Treat with thymol if you prefer.
While you have time, clean out all old hives that contained colonies this year.
Think about your beekeeping for next year. Order your new Colonies, frames and hives.
Check your honey supers for wax moth.
Enjoy your honey!! It never lasts long.

The end of the year! Leave your bees well alone. Theres nothing you can do to any colonies until next March!

Consider your options for next year, reflect on you successes and failures on the current year. Plan your next years beekeeping. Use you winter times very wisely. It all starts again in 3 months!

Start making more material!! especially Nucs and Hives

Check the uptake of candy , if at all! very little may be taken from the feeding tray until well in to January. This is normal!
You may observe some pollen coming into the hive from Mahonia shrubs, but thats about all thats in flower this time of the year.

Consider being a mentor for someone next year!! If they have you to help, then they may well take up the hobby. Beekeeping buddies get you thinking about your bees more!!

In Brittany, France, dont forget to declare you number of hives and their location. to the vetiniary service. It must be done during December.

Plant shrubs out in you garden that will benefit bees in general. Most can be planted out until the month of march. Remember the more diverse pollens around, the better diet your bees will have, it can only lead to better bee health!!!
Richard Noel, December 2013.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Making up Dadant Frames

Heres how I make up my frames. Now the winter beekeeping has started in earnest, i wanted to show you ust how easy it is!!

Heres the video!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Varroa Destructor Treatment with Oxyalic acid Vaporiser

With the weather cooling down I thought I would give my new vaporiser a go. I had  my buddy Alan to video the proceedings. It was about 7 degrees centigrade. Perfect conditions, with the breeze blowing from behind up, so all vapour blowing away from us!  Bees were much less grumpy this week as it was a little bit cooler. less of a welcoming party!!

Heres the video

Ok so if you want to buy one of these its on sale by mailing

I think it was about £80 including p and p  so as far as i am concerned its money well very well spent.
I treated the first half of my hives last week and i didnt remove the wooen tray i inserted under the hive and to my great surprise the mite count was teriffic! and thats only after the first treatment.
If you zoom in on the pictures you can even see the mites feet! Cracking pic i thought. It is worth saying too that i could have covered over the hive entrance once more. after removing the vaporiser, and waited aother couple of minutes, but i think in general, its pretty efective!
Thanks to Alan for doing the video!

You can see the mites very clearly. They are the shiny black/red dots.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Swarm Trap Report 2013

Swarms of 2013

The season started of very badly, with what can only be described as the most apalling March on record. Blizzards for 3 days during the first week, when usually you should be thinking about carrying out your first inspection, however the year setled down and a few middle to small sized swarms were cast from late may onwards. It wasnt until be actually got in to mid june, when the weather went good and the high nectar levels started to boost the populations in the hive and minimise space that i saw good sized swarms going in to my traps.

During the period from late june to the end of july i trapped 12 swarms, all of very good quality and vigor. Typically many of my traps looked as though they already had taken up residence but after careful inspection, you soon realised there was no bees in the hive at the end of the evening making is almost possible to predict that a swarm wold soon arrive. I missed the exact time but arrived at this swarm trap a few minutes later to see the remaining body of bees entering this trap, that had had scout bees present from about 5 days before.

A wonderful site to see on a fantastic morning.
I put out 30 traps baited with at least 2 good frames in each, plus propolis, lemon grass oil and nasanov pheromone.
In total for the season i caught 13 swarms, with the vast majority being caught during the decent spell of weather between june and the 3rd week of july.
For the first time ever, i caught two swarms in the sameplace and well apart in time terms, so both swarms, more than likely, would have originated from different sources.
if i saw a fair amount of activity form scout bees i wouldagain bait the nuc with extra lemon grass oil. I found it increased the activity of the bees. Certainly seemed to help!
Theres no doubt the fantastic weather during the summer swarming season made our hives stronger this year. Swarms were very vigorous, absolutly stunk of chestnut tree nectar after colonising a trap and filled out frames with increased  speed. For the final 4 weeks of the peak nectar flow, every swarm was good to above average size and they were colonising traps in places that i was trying for a second time, after catching no swarms there in the previous year, proving my point that you have to patient, watch your trapsand try one lace for at least 2 years to be in with a chance.
In one trap trap, checked some 3 days before with no scout bees around and in its second year of deployment,  a very large swarm arrived and colonised the trap, filling all 5 frames in less than 2days. I was worried that this swarm would abscond because there was too much congestion in the trap, a massive nectar flow, very dry, sheltered position in full sun all day during a heatwave, forcing a permanent fannng party circulate air through the hive all day. Many bees continuously on the front landing strip, with the hive minging of chestnut nectar. I may consider fitting some vents to the rear of the swarm traps that could remain shut during the attraction stage but oppened up if a large swarm occupys the box. 
I also learned that if i misted some water over the front landing strip, this encouraged most of the bees to go back in to the hive, before fitting the front door for transportation and when i mean mist, i mean fery fine water dropplets just blowing in the wind to mimic a foggy evening or drizzle.
In short, an excellent year good sunshine makes a massive difference! My personal best year in terms of swarms and honey. I had a great time in learning new techniques and trying out different things.
Already making inquiries about trapping for next year. It will soon come around!
We have now had the end of the ivy nectar flow and the tempeatures are starting to climb down to daily highs of single figures. we do need some cooler weather now. I have nerly made up my first 100 replacement frames for a new load of hives i have orderd, in plank form. All i have to do then is cut them up in to the four sections, screw them together and then paint them.
I will hopefully need them by the end of march if my overwintering nucs survive!
Start your winter beekeping as soon as you can!