Thursday, 23 June 2011

Long absence

A number of people have written and asked what is happening to my bees. I am sorry to not have given an updated before now my work has got in the way.

Since my last entry I have more, or less lost one hive due to laying workers. Regardless how I tried I cannot get rid of them. I think there are more then one. So I decided to let nature take its course. It is, however, still a mystery to me how, or when that particular queen died. I taook a quick look at it this morning there is still a few bees flying in an out of the hive and that is just about it.

Last winter was cold and many bees had perished. I did see a massive number of dead bees outside hive 1. It must be around the same time when the queen in hive 2 also died. What is happening now is that hive 1 is still active although with a much reduced number. I saw that queen bee twice so far and it seemed to be laying well. But, each time I inspected the hive the number remain on the low side unlike last season. This of course will affect honey production this year. Frankly I am not expecting too many jar this season, if any. I suppose this is how things are with live stock. Some time despite you best efforts things can still go wrong.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Spring clean

We are, at last, at that point in spring when fine weather has more substance. The spring clean I had been planning can now be put into action. In the past weeks I spent time reading over what to do and also got two new brood boxes and frames ready.

Last week I managed to sort out Hive 2 and this week, with much better weather, is the turn of Hive 1. The photo you see here is Hive 1. The colony size is not dissimilar to that of the original nuc I bought two years ago, though a bit bigger. It's clear that the poor weather had affected Hive1 more then Hive 2. When I was clearing tout he old brood box at Hive 2 the bees were not happy at all and really wanted to have a go at me. Hive 1, on the other hand, is quieter that led me to worry about the health of this colony.

My worry was soon put to rest when I opened it up and had a proper look. There were eggs, grubs and sealed brood cells. Once again I have difficulty finding the queen. but rather then sepnding time searching for her I concentrate at transferring most of the old frames into the new brood box and replaced two old frames with new ones. The old brood box is now two years old and definitely needs some attention. I spend time cleaning it out and did some minor repairs.

Later in the evening I spotted a robin flying into my bee area. My wife said it's after the few dead bees. Nature's way of recycling. My next task will be to find the queens in both hives and mark them. It's a two person job. It will make searching for the queen much easier. Of course I still need to pay attention to signs of swarming activities, which may, or may not happen.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Waiting - for the sun.

Buds on my pear tree (see last posting) are now in full bloom. The bees had been visiting the tree on sunny days, and the flowers are also attracting a number of bumble bees from around. What is a lacking are higher temperature - warm enough for the bees and for me to suit up and give my hives a good going over.

After the initial warm spells a few weeks ago the weather did an about turn and we are back to waiting for warm sunny days again.

Meanwhile I am getting some equipments ready for the all important first proper inspection and, of course, the swarming season. Two new brood boxes are laying in my sitting room ready for action, and so am I. I have also bought a glass quilt. No, this is not to keep the bees warm, but a transparent crown board that will allow me to observe the hive without having to remove the board thus less disturbance to the bees. It will be fun to see them in action inside the hive. I am sure my family will love it.

My next job is to make a Snelgrove board, which I shall be needing when the swarm season gets under way. This is a clever piece of kit which is used to maintain hive number (an essential consideration if you have a small garden) when carrying out artificial swarming. I shall post a photo of this when (if) I have successfully made one.

Come sun!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

First sight

Tuesday, March 8th. Today is International Women's day. The day began with a light frost but it soon gave way to the warm spring sun. By the afternoon there were hard shadows on my garden wall. Air temperature had climbed to a low double figure. The bees (all female) are out in numbers dancing, enjoying the sun.

I took this window of opportunity to do a quick hive inspection. Hive 1 (my older one) looks fine although the population number is on the low side. I saw quite a few dead bees on the floor including a few dead unhatched young bees. This is the hive that had a big population and lost a large number of bees in the winter. I had to remove two big clumps of dead bees from the land board a few months ago. The bees are now busy cleaning and there are sign of pollen.

Deep into mid hive I was pleased to see a few sealed brood cells and sign of young grubs. Although I cannot find the Queen, it has to be somewhere. I noted that there are still a few frames of honey left from last season so my concern for their lacking in food, a few days ago, may be unfounded. Bees from this hive displayed an inquisitive rather that over active concern at my opening up the hive. This is very different in Hive 2 as I discovered later.

The bees number in hive 2 is much greater and they are more agiutated with my inspection. Again no sign if the Queen. At present this, I think, is the stronger colony, which is the reverse to last year. Once again there are signs of seal brood cells and grubs though there were less honey store then Hive 1. I had some difficulties in prising open the frames. My effort in doing so only served to annoy them even more. The bees had done a good job cementing the frames together.

Well I now know where the colonies are at, so I shall wait for the weather to improve further before I open the hive up again.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Third Season: March 2011

At the end of February we had a few days of 'warm' weather then quite suddenly the cold returns. The few Great and Blue tits that had gone elsewhere for wild food were once again visiting my bird feeders. With them came two Robins and the usual host of Wood and Town pigeons hanging around for bits of seeds discarded by the smaller birds.

When the air was warming up I had hoped that at last I could start the beekeeping season with a quick look at what is happening with my hives. Memory of last year's early swarming is still fresh in my mind when I checked my hive late in Match.

The good news is that both hives are showing signs of life: The bees are flying. I had been worrying about the amount of food they may have left. When I last checked I discovered that, over the winter, they had hardly touch the syrup I left for them at the end of the season back in October. I mentioned this to a friend last weekend and she suggested that I really need to take a closer look and may need to feed them.

So on Tuesday I took advantage of the dry spell and cook up a new sugary mixture ( 1kg sugar: 1 L water). While I placed the syrup in the feeder for the bees I also gave both hives a big dollop of honey (from last year). The reaction was immediate. A few more bees flew out to investigate. They were out and about again yesterday. Today the sky is grey and chill wind is blowing so all I can do is wait and keep and eye on the weather forecast.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Bottoms up

After some discussion with a few seasoned beekeepers I went ahead and extracted the last two supers of honey. The idea is to then feed the bees with their own honey. Some beekeepers suggest this is better then uncapping the frames and leave the bees to 'transfer' their honey to the brood frames. Everyone agrees that one cannot just leave the capped honey frames, in the super, as the bees may not climb up to the super when the weather turns cold, in which case they will go hungry, or even starve.

I took the opportunity to carry out the seasonal Varroa treatments with Apiguard. All in all I spent most of Thursday sorting all this out going to and fro from the hives. I extracted some 15 pounds of honey. This give me a grand total production of honey, for the year, between 70 to 80 pounds. The honey I extracted this time round is for the bees. I have a surplus of around 50 pounds for myself. This gives me an idea what I should be expecting for the next season. Without doubt better organisation, my my part, would give me a bigger yield.

When I placed the empty frames near the hives the bee and other insects just went completely crazy. They were all over the frames cleaning them of the residual honey. I looked this morning and saw (photo) bees feeding happily next to wasps; their heads deep in the honey cells and their bottoms pointing up in the air. It was a comical sight. The frames were cleaned of honey in no time at all.

I noticed that the mornings are turning cooler even though we are having our usual September sunny days. Horse chestnut trees near by are ripening with nuts. Autumn is not far behind.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The colour of summer

We are now heading towards the end of another beekeeping season. Summer is near its end and I have just harvested my second and last crop of honey for the year.

The photo shows the difference between the Spring (right) and the Summer honey. It is known that as seasons progress honey acquires a darker colour. We can certainly see this in the photo. In terms of taste my summer honey is a touch sweeter, but still taste as good as the Spring crop.

I inspected both hive this morning (got stung on my backside) and was surprise how many seal brood cells and grubs there are in HV1. I saw the queen(HV1) for the second time this season. She clearly has a busy years so far. HV2 is still small, but is looking healthy and good. Both hives are left with a super of honey: HV1 has about 6 full frames, and HV2 has about 4. I am starting to think about preparing for the winter, treating the hives for Varroa, and feeding the bees. Generally getting them ready for the winter.

I noticed that my sun flower has yet to open up and we are already at the end of August. This season has been a strange one with many keepers saying that honey flow came to a stop suddenly in July where as June is suppose the month when there is a gap in honey flow. I expect there will be a little bit of nectar around before the season comes to an end. Whatever the bees collect from now on will be theirs. For me they have produced a total of over 50 lb of honey, It's modest, but very welcome.