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Beehive Blog

On this page I intend to keep you updated with what is happening with my bees. If there is anything that you want to know, just ask.

Summary so far of year 2019
Big changes- instead of living in the Medway Towns, I have now moved to the Salisbury area in Wiltshire. Moving the colonies down to Wiltshire was "fun", having so many bees in the car was an experience. Over the year, I have two new apiaries, and a third just being agreed. More info and further updates will come later this year now I have moved and have time.

Summary of year 2014
One word really summarise the year-fantastic. The bees had their best year to date, the winter was kind to the bees, all colonies came through. The build-up in colony size was fast, swarming and honey collection took u p a lot of time. This year I tried a new method to control swarming-Demaree Method, although I used this only on one hive, it worked well and produced a colony huge in numbers, details on the method are here. Next year I intend to use the method on all three hives.

Honey collected by the three colonies that I extracted amounted to 93 kg. Four extractions took place during the year, these were 5May-19 kg, 12July-30 kg, 24August-35 kg and 15 October- 9 kg. They actually continued to collect and fill numerous other frames with honey, unfortunately it set hard and I didn’t attempt to extract it. Amongst my normal 340 g jars of honey, I also prepared and sold a number of pieces of ‘cut comb’. This proved easy to produce and easy to sell!

Things progressed rather fast, queen rearing time past quickly and I didn’t really have the chance to try. I did manage to have an apidea setup for the winter, but I hadn’t prepared it well and the very small colony didn’t survive. I had the pleasure of removing one very small colony from a air brick in a wall, but arrived too late to build the colony up once removed, it was late in the year to be collecting swarms.

Going into winter, I had in addition to the 2 apideas, my three full size hives and two nucs-these were a poly 14x12 nuc and a national nuc. All came through winter. The national nuc actually contained two queens, a little surprising to find the old queen dead on the hive floor, and see eggs within days!

Summary of year 2013
The year started slowly, a long cold wet winter. The bees gradually built up and one hive prepared for swarming, this gave me a chance to increase my hives-a poly 14x12 national resulted after an artificial swarm. I also removed 3 queen cells and placed them into Apidea's. As an experiment, I took one frame with a queen cell on and the accompanying bees and placed into a 14x12 poly nuc, this went onto flourish for the remaining year. One hive started to become defensive for the rest of the year, and occasionally resulting in the 'banana smelling' alarm pheromone being produced. A spray with water was a great help in controlling them. Eventually two of the three queens became mated in the Apidea’s, the other didn’t and the bees were merged with the other two. One queen suddenly departed, leaving only one-this small colony gradually increased and as an experiment I thought I'd take it though winter with an additional 5 mini frames and a super full of fondant, a 3D printed 'open mesh floor' was also used to reduce condensation.

During June, one hive produced a swarm (caused by a miscounted queen cell), which landed in my garden and was promptly returned back to its hive, they were as expected exceptionally calm. This swarm allowed an excellent video to be captured showing the bees fanning at the entrance drawing home the stragglers. The two WBC’s produced some dark honey, which was a privilege to extract and taste. Varroa was treated in the WBC's and poly nuc by using MAQS. No oxalic acid was used over the winter period.

The poly hive is always more active than the WBC’s, perhaps due to the extra insulation. Next year, the intention will be to concentrate on honey production rather than increasing hive numbers. During swarming, the resulting artificial swarms will be recombined to produce larger sized colonies. Hopefully I can also carry on experimenting with the Apidea’s perhaps, even selling some colonies.

So, in summary the year has resulted in a little honey, 3 full sized hives with colonies, a nuc and an Apidea going into winter, if they all survive I intend to sell the nuc and maybe the Apidea if it builds up fast enough.

24 November 2013
Checking on the hives today, all are doing well, a total of five hives consisting of two of 14x12 WBC's, 14x12 poly hive, 14x12 nuc, and an apidea with extra brood box and super holding fondant. The apidea is normally only for mating a queen in the height of summer. I have added some more insulation and so they may make it through the winter. This year I have concentrated on increasing the numbers of hives, next year I'll be looking to maximise honey production.

For the bees, the year is now over, they have reproduced (swarmed) and stocked up on food (honey) for the long winter. At temperatures lower than 8C, they will huddle together to keep warm, at temperatures higher than this, if its not raining they probably will venture outside. I will now only check that they are alive every month or so, by simply tapping and listening for the increasing in buzzing coming from the hive. The apidea will be checked to see if there is enough food at the same time, the others gently lifted off the stand to see how heavy i.e. how much food is left. Roll on spring. The ideal winter would be short cold snaps followed by warm clear days. We'll have to wait and see.

I'll write a short summary of the year over the next month or so.

08 August 2013
Well, the bees have done well, I have removed two supers (one off each hive) that after extraction resulted in around 30lb of lovely dark honey. Unfortunately there is no cut comb honey this year, the bees didn't fully cooperate in finishing off the capping of the frames. Hopefully next year! I have written a page on how I extracted the honey for those interested, it can be found here.

31 July 2013
Time flies in the beekeeping world. Honey is coming. Three hives are collecting nectar and changing it into honey, couple more weeks and I will extract the honey. One Nuc is coming on well, this has built up from one frame of bees to now 5. Please let me know if you want some!

16 June 2013
Well, what a couple of weeks. Earlier on in the week, another experience. While inspecting the hives, wearing my bee suit is a must. So, when I realised that a bee had got inside, I waited patiently for the inevitable. She eventually stung me on my shoulder. I remained calm (ish!) throughout this, and carefully removed the offending bee (still alive- not crushed!). Closer inspection of the suit revealed a large split in the plastic veil material-at least it was only one. I have written a new page to cover the rest of the events, including the bees swarming!

11 May 2013
Both hives are building up steadily, hive 2 as you would expect is progressing very fast. I placed a frame in the brood box to encourage the production of males within this hive. This was drawn out and the queen has laid an egg in each cell, all within the week. I have also added a super full of frames, these frames will hopefully store the excess honey that I can then remove later on in the year.

20 April 2013
A week ago tomorrow, I carried out the first inspection of the year. Both hives are alive. The inspection consists of looking through the hive to find the queen, ensure that she is laying properly, and that there are eggs and brood developing. Also, checking that adequate room and food remains until next inspection. On cleaning the floor, hive 1 had a complete floor covering of dead bees, whereas hive 2 only had a couple. Hive 1 bees covered around one to two complete frames, hive 2 covered around four to 5 frames. I am really pleased with hive 1. Definitely going to raise queens from that hive. The new polystyrene hive has been painted with masonry paint, and placed into position in the apiary. You can see this new hive along with a nuc box in between the other two hives on the webcam. Just need to allow bee numbers to increase adequately before the new hive is populated.

10 April 2013
The bees are certainly enjoying the warmer weather. Both hives have been flying when the temperatures hit 8C, this has been most of the week. Both are slowly munching through the fondant especially hive 1. Looking forward to the weekend, where if warm enough I may do the first full inspection of the hives. Checking the data-loggers this evening, inside above the fondant it was 19C, while the external temp was 8C, perhaps the queen is back laying ? Hive 1 was still flying after 1800.

01 April 2013
Its been a year since I have been a Beekeeper. What a difference in weather from this time last year. I have added a temperature gauge below the one of the hives to show the ambient temperature.

29 March 2013
For the first time in a number of days, I saw some bees flying from one of the hives. Only a couple, but they were flying. Not bad for a temperature of just over 6C.

27 March 2013
I had a quick look inside both hives this afternoon, by removing the roof and looking through the glass crown board. Both hives are still alive, one hive has data loggers fitted inside (reading 10C) and outside (reading 2C) the hive. This enduring cold weather is not good for bees- it doesn't allow them to move around in the hive and find more stored food. I have added numbers to the hive, these are viewable via the webcam page

24 March 2013
The snow has returned. Checking on both hives yesterday, I added some fondant to one to ensure the bees have enough food. Hopefully the weather will improve soon allowing both hives to expand. I think the bees are about 1 month behind compared to a normal year.

17 March 2013
Its nearly been a year since I started out with honey bees, I have learned a huge amount by looking after them

Both hives are doing well, they are slowly munching their way through the additional 2.5kg of fondant that I gave them some weeks ago. I think the queens have started laying, as I can feel the heat coming from the glass crown board, definitely an increase.

Summary of year 2012
The nuc gradually built up increasing the number of bees. During the 'June Gap' they required feeding, although it took a while to recognize this, the increasing number of dead bees outside on the ground should have been a good clue!

The week prior to our summer holiday to Cornwall caused concern, on inspection a number of queens cells were sealed and even more ready to be sealed. The cells were all in the center of the frame indicating that the queen was being replaced by supercedure. Subsequently to this, I split the hive placing the remaining bees in another WBC hive. Ensuring that each hive had good queen cell, I left them well alone.

Due to the poor weather it took a number of weeks before the queen mated and eventually started to lay. A gradual build up then began in each hive.

Winter feeding began as late as I dare in the season, I just managed to get the bees to fill all the frames with feed before the cold weather set in.

Interestingly over the winter period I have noticed that hive '2' flies at a far lower temperature than hive'1', hive '2' will fly as soon as the temperature hits around 7C. on the other hand, hive '1' requires nearly 10C.

The build up in hive '2' was also faster, the queen laying quicker, with both of these points in mind, I intend to select this hive to produce drones increasing my bee colonies to three and hopefully produce some spare queens to either sell or overwinter.

April 2012
The new nuc of bees arrives, and is installed into the WBC hive.