Apart from my stupidity in not rocognising a very lightweight hive, things seem to be going well.
We all make mistakes and this one cost me the hive contents. During what I described as a recent dearth before the main nectar flow started, I moved my hives to a valley where there is an abundance of chestnut trees, but failed to act on a very light hive in time to save it. One unusually cold night and the result was catastrophic for the colony. Probably 25,000 dead in one night. It was certainly starvation as there was not a drop of honey in the hive and no gradual weakening over days. All other hives adjacent very strong so i can rule out poisoning! well that will be in my diary for next year.
Still the hive did give me an artificial swarm (split) and i made use of the 10 drawn u frames in my taps. Like always with beekeeping, you loose in some areas and gain in others.
Bramble, clover and of course the chestnut trees are in full flower. The glorious stink of chestnut emminating from the hives is reasuring that all colonies are getting what they need. Full nectar flow means happy bees and hives full of honey. Honey supers should be on all hives now and queen excluders should be cleaned and stored away until next spring. The summer honey allows a late harvest and all brood (mostly drone) layed in to the upper parts of the hive ( the supers) will mostly hatch out and be replaced by honey, by the end of august, just in time for the harvest, but abpve all the queen has the freedom of the hive to organise more honey storage and brood production, so she is much less lilely to swarm. \Theres also a good arguement that shes already starting to prepare for the coming dearth , before the onset of autumn, depressing though it might be, it wont be far away!!
It is a waste of time putting on a honey super after the middle of july, as its the end of the main nectar flow and the end of the swarming season.
This swarm had been on this garden fence for probably four days and had built comb in to the fence. we managed to get most of the bees off, so we then were able to remove the comb and remarkably the bees just walked off the fence, in to the new hive we placed on the floor just adjacent. Its almost as if they were pleased of their new accomodation. The colony has a very small queen that appears to be laying well, so fingers crossed. Thanks again Alan, it was a rather nasty ditch, that was full of nettles that you managed to climb up, while i stood the other side of the fence, as you smoked them across.
Another person that called me, said they had the remains of a small swarm in their vegetable patch that had mostly disipated to elsewhere, so i put a swarm trap out and he morning after a swarm arrived and took up residence. Its just having enough traps and material thats the problem. You must have well used nucs, with well used frames in, if you want a realistic chance of success.
My swarm traps have worked well. Over the last week I have found another 6 swarms in my traps. they are all of varying sizes, some on all 5 frames and some on only two. The smaller ones however, seem to be laying just as quickly as the larger colonies. As soon as you see a few eggs you are reasured that that colony has a realisitc chance of making it through this coming winter, in to the next spring. If the queen fails for many reasons, mostly she just is worn out and exhausted, then as long as she has laid a few eggs to cement her dynasty, thats all a colony will need under the emergency response to successfuly flood a larvae with royal jelly, float out and extend a worker cell in to a beautiful queen cell.
So my plan is to keep as many swarms as possible in ventilated nucs for overwintering.
My criteria for this will be, for this year that they have queens from this years artificially swarming, as its a pretty sure thing that most swarms will contain queens that are probably from last year or more than likely the year before. I cant be any more selective than that, as i havent at this stage chosen eggs to graft from that subsequently will give me better selected characteristics and so on! you have to start somewhere.
This will give me a brood factory for next year, so i can make up a very strong hive for queen rearing, which in turn might give me better stronger queens, it will allow me to have a nuc, or a queen ready to transfer in to another hive at short notice. and also give brood or frames of eggs to weaker colonies.
The whole concept is so clear to me now and initially is a lot of work to set up but in the long term the results should help make better queens and stronger hives but from a much more sustainable source!!
I hope your Bees are working well, good forecast for the next few days, just when we need it. Enjoy!!
Well, its all nice and quiet, too quiet really. This weather has been a little too cold and wet for the last two weeks now. We have had more rain which is good but were missng the heat. No bees around any swarm traps and a few swarms emerging from managed hives at the glimse of a bit of sunshine, clasially typical of this kind of weather!! Theres enough food around but not a huge flow, a sort of calmer period or "Mini Dearth" before the big nectar flow starts.
Phacellia begining to flower, giving purple polen in the frames!
After all my artificial swarms were created , with the valued help of my good friend Alan, most of my hives ( 10 framed hives) have returned to the home apiary about 400 meters from their original location. Lots of forraging bees thus returning home, to find queen gone and a hugely reduced colony.
I looked through all the reciever nucs last saturday and was pleasantly suprised to find at least 9 of the 13 seem to be queen right. There is the possibility that there could be another one of these may be qeenright but its often difficult to be sure until that queen has begun to lay eggs. So overall I am very happy with these results despite the crappy weather for the nuptual flights, we have laying queens in over 75% of nucs, so thats very encouraging>
I will be doing another load of artificial swarming at the end of the main nectar flow arond the second week of july. this should produce the best queens of the year, when the weather should allow longer mating flights, with more mature males around.
Virgin queen, just emerged!
I had a couple of swarms from my apiary, but none of them huge. one was from a Nuc that was full of bees, out comes first queen and decided the shes good to leave, well stocked with aditonal unopened queen cells, so thats now a good laying colony.
Second larger swarm that i have risked putting straight in to a large 10 framed hive. This was a little more of a difficult extraction, as most of the colony was within the hedge, but I did the old box trick and they were soon on their way!
All hives going to be moved to the summer forraging ground next week. The chestnut trees are begining to show the first few flower stalks. flowering in about another 3 weeks!
I will be double supering straight away to give that queen lots of room in the hive and hope reduce the risk of swarming just at the critical time in the necta calender. bring it on!!
have you ever heard of the 7p`s..... Perfect Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Perormance!!
Well what a busy busy month its been. Not even time to do any blogging! Still here i am to report back on what has been an excellent April.
I mentioned my new pollen trap in my March posting, well i used it for a few days and have harvested more than I need,although i am thinking that I might stick it back on my hives and just harvest a bit more, a its easy to freeze it down until needed.
I intend to use it mainly during queen cell production. I hope to have my first attempt in about 3 weeks. There will be a small gap then before i move the majority of my hives for the main nectar flow of the summer.
Spring honey and swarming.
I have been asked many times this spring when will you have your first honey? well this year i will have virtually none. Only one of my hives (of the three) had any appreciable ammount in the super, so on the other two, the supers were removed and they were artificially swarmed. There was queen cells in a packed brood nest of ten frames. This is good, as they were going to swarm early. So, as far as I am concerned, I am controling the swarming and its going to be at least another 6 weeks before we need the bee numbers high again.
Its been an odd start as well as a good one. Plenty of food around for the bees, a very strong flow indeed. I must remark on how the relacement frames from artificial swarming 4 days previously, were already drawn up! and mrs queen laying in to the majority! the question will I will be wanting to know, is should i reduce the numbers of bees still further to avoid the bees having another go at swarming. I had masses of unhatched brood in the hives, an i think this spring is so strong that it might be necessary in another couple of weeks. However i am going to monitor my hives very closely and i am expecting much reduced flow after next week, when the majority of the oil seed rape ha finished flowering and the apple blossom has nearly finished, so i might not have to many problems. I want my numbers high but not too high to enduce swarming again! I may add the first super in about 3 weeks, just to make the queen entirely happy shes got space, but i would dearly love to be able to do this after i have moved my hives but its probably not going to be possible to move them until the 1st week of june!! its all a juggling act.
One of my strongest hives was full of really good sized, accessible queen cells so i cut the majority out and inserted them in to my nucs( with queen cell protectors) for good measure. some had only made one or two queen cells, so i didnt want to miss the opportunity and waste good cells, (made under the swarming response, under deal conditions, by the bees in their own time) possible giving me the best made queens!! Its always something to remember. Thanks to Alan for helping me cut those out and then artificially swarm the hive, the insert all those queen cells!
Its also a point to note that eventhough i keep saying "you can never have enough nucs", artificially swarming 10 nucs plus does have its practical difficulties. I have been making more nucs sincelast november, and ive made about another 20 since then, but they soon get used up!
I have also incorporated a ventilated base and also some ventilation in the roof space.
After the last very wet winter and my desire to become more sutainable and create some nuc banks for brood production I have tweeked my nucs a little and this should help against winter humidity and help spring build up.
I remove the feet after marking, cut out the middle section and place in the mesh. It could be blocked off, if need be,to create a sealed box for use as a trap.
I have also cut out a 30m hole in each end of the roof section. Its closed with mesh too. I really think this will help with ventilation problems.
First very early Swarms
First swarm of this year, caught on the 19th April, about a month early, and my earliest yet, hadnt even finished putting out all my traps. Lovely to see. This is the afternoon, following arrival late morning, so I am led to believe. Classic trap senario with nothing two days before, a build up the day before, then swarm arrival mid morning on a lovely warm sunny day.
Close up of the front landing strip, showing bees fanning and generally dancing around the front of the hive.
In total I now have 3 swarms, they all came within the first week, and since then the weather has gone off a little but i am still very pleased. All 3 have good strong laying queens( now marked), that have layed extremely well following arrival, So should give me honey this year. Two of them can go in to full sized hives next week.
Well Its finally appeared at my apiary, but luckily this one was trapped in my special, beer, white wine and blackcurrant mix. so thats one laying qeen dead. I have doubled the number of traps arond here to try and keep their numbers down. It all depends if one makes a nest near my bees or not.
One can only try.
Good times with good strong hives. long may it continue!!
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!!
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!
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!
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!!