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What do I do if a swarm of bees turns up?

If you have a swarm of bees - DON'T PANIC. The first thing to check is if they are honey bees. If they really are honey bees then ring your local beekeepers association. For more details on how to check what you have got and get help see our swarms page.

If you live near to Bridport in Dorset then you can ring us on 01308 423808.

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Completed our apiary round-up


A very full beekeeping weekend. Unfortunately, we didn't make it to the association apiary yesterday but our own bees had to take priority.

Today we headed over to Green Lane and checked three of our hives over there.

Hive 1 is doing extremely well and although colonies will already have peaked, this one is still working a two-and-a-half brood with 13 and six halves across the nest. We saw the queen - red with a black tail. There are 3 supers with one completely capped and another almost ready to remove. So, we moved the fully sealed one to the top and placed a clearer below and also added an additional super - a wet one from last year. We marked the super to be cleared next time as a reminder so that we don't have to try and work it out at the point.

Colony 2 is somewhat low on bees and has clearly not only swarmed but lost at least one caste. There is a queen though. We didn't see her but did see two frames with eggs and open brood. This could be a candidate for adding the bees from the Rectory - that would give them a much needed boost. There are two supers on this hive but one is fairly empty - we added it to give them more space but just a little too late to stop them swarming.

Colony 3 has a new queen. She is pale and laying on two frames - all open brood. It never ceases to inspire when you see a queen laying on a frame - wonderful. As we found her in the brood box, we were able to move the QX down above the single brood. There are three supers on the hive so there may be spare honey to remove next month.

We decided to leave colonies 4 and 5 alone. They are both raising queens and a little behind colony 3 so it would be unlikely we would see much and they will benefit by being left undisturbed.

Then it was back home and after lunch I made up a couple of brood boxes of frames and foundation and also managed to have a bit of a clear up in the bee shed. I'm sure there will be something we can't find but hopefully it will be a little easier to put our hands on what we need.
Posted by sally on Sunday 07 July 2013 - 22:43:23 |printer friendly

Catching up in the sunshine


Summer is here at last - thankfully - and the bees are flying well.  The weekend is set fair so we hope to get round all of our remaining colonies today and tomorrow.

No need to look again at G1 in the garden (the swarm that arrived end of May). Now that it has been re-housed in a WBC, it has plenty to be getting on with and lots of room for brood and honey. The two nucs in the garden though were due a check so we went through them before lunch today.

G2, in the small green nuc, was supposed to be raising a queen and indeed we saw eggs on one frame. There were a few cells with multiple eggs but the pattern of egg-laying was concentrated altogether so it's likely to be a new queen just starting to lay. So, we'll leave them alone for a bit and hope they come good. The other nuc, where we moved a queen and bees from Green Lane, was doing very well. The queen, possibly one that goes back to 2010, has laid across every frame in the nuc and clearly needs more room. So, we set up a new brood box, added a further five frames (one starter strip, one drawn comb and three foundation) and re-housed the colony in a WBC.

After lunch it was over to the Hill and the colony over there has done extremely well. When David and the Bee Inspector last looked, there were queen cells about to hatch and, although we didn't see the queen, she is definitely there and has laid in 5 brood frames and 3 halves. Varroa is in check at less than one a day, having benefited from the break in the brood cycle and the brood looks good and healthy. And the honey super is filling nicely too. We added a further super above - a wet one from last season so we're hoping they first clean it up and then use it for more stores.

Over at the Rectory it was a less positive picture. The hive looked as if it had been knocked and was leaning slightly but we straightened it up and inspected the colony. Clearly it has swarmed but the remaining queen has not come good and the colony had no brood or sign of even a virgin queen. The bees were bringing in honey and at least there is no laying worker as yet so we will try and unite the bees with another colony as soon as we can. The super - which had been used as a half brood - was being filled with honey and quite a few frames were capped or partly sealed so we put a clearer board below so that we can remove both boxes easily.

More to do tomorrow but that was a good day's beekeeping.
Posted by sally on Saturday 06 July 2013 - 22:40:38 |printer friendly

Time to check out that swarm


The swarm landed back on the last day in May and we've left it alone. The weather has been very mixed so it hasn't been our priority with other things that needed to be seen to in the apiaries. But today we decided to take a look inside and plan to move the colony into a WBC and resite it a few feet away. Of course that meant clearing a load of soil that was in the way and leveling a new site but isn't that always the way!

The swarm had taken residence in a pile of national boxes piled high with two brood boxes and four supers. Most had full boxes of frames with just a few gaps and over Winter the wax moth had really gone to town, especially on the lower brood box which had old frames with mouldy pollen and not very nice frames at all. Basically they were ready for melting down and not much good for anything else. Consequently, the bees had moved up and in the main used the four supers for brood and honey stores plus a few frames in the brood box which were actually super sized frames. Clearly there was a queen as we saw eggs and when we transferred the colony into the WBC have ended up with a newly set up brood box (in the hopes that she will go down and use that) plus three half broods and one super filling nicely with honey and partly capped. They did seem to have some sac brood but hopefully the new circumstance we have given them will give them a much better chance to sort themselves before Winter.

Posted by sally on Sunday 30 June 2013 - 22:39:48 |printer friendly

Garden nucs


David checked on the nucs in the garden yesterday and it seems that G2 - the one raising a queen, is still waiting for her to get started.  He saw no sign of a queen and the comb was very dark so nigh on impossible to see eggs. They are OK for stores though so we'll check again in a couple of weeks.

The other nuc, G3, was created with a queen from Green Lane and he saw her plus three frames of brood with eggs.  There didn't seem to be any open brood though. However, this was a 2010 queen and we wondered if they would replace her and David's description of her seemed different to the one we recorded back in May last year. So, they may have superceded. A little light on stores so David fed another box of cappings today.
Posted by sally on Friday 28 June 2013 - 22:51:21 |printer friendly

More cappings for the bees


Very unsettled weather so to be on the safe side we added another couple of boxes of cappings to each of the nucs in the garden. Always wise especially if there are not so many flying bees in a colony.
Posted by sally on Sunday 23 June 2013 - 23:02:27 |printer friendly

Always best to check


We were pretty sure all was OK but David sought advice from the Bee Inspector after our last visit and they met at Green Lane today to double check all was in order. David says he is now very clear about how to recognise the difference between sac brood and early chalk brood. Our biggest concern is still varroa - counts are still high but the colonies seem strong.  Virgin queens were found in both GL4 and GL5 so that will knock the varroa back!
Posted by sally on Thursday 20 June 2013 - 23:38:35 |printer friendly

Honey cappings - a great feed for the bees


We kept back cappings from last season's honey harvest - neighbours are often glad of it to help symptoms of Winter colds and flu - so we fed some to both nucs in the garden today. That should help them in this very variable weather
Posted by sally on Saturday 15 June 2013 - 23:01:18 |printer friendly

Back to Green Lane


Green Lane again today and this time we went through GL1. The queen is red with a black tail and she is laying on 13 and 6 half frames. We removed one lovely frame of honey and replaced with drawn foundation in the super but there will be honey from that hive.

GL3 had many queen cells so we removed the queen and 3 frames of brood, added a couple of frames of foundation and brought her back to the garden. So, we have left that colony queenless with 3 and 5 halves of brood and 6-7 queen cells. We also added a super.

Whilst at Green Lane we also added a super to GL4 above a QX.
Posted by sally on Sunday 09 June 2013 - 23:28:32 |printer friendly

Another visit to Green Lane


David was over at Green Lane again yesterday, doing varroa checks and continuing with strimming. Varroa is very high but although we have some treatment options, it really has been too cool to open hives.  

Then today we both went over (my first outing to the bees since my foot operation) and took a look in hives 4 and 5.

We saw no queen in GL4 but did see eggs and there were 9 plus 8 halves of brood. They really don't have much room though and so we plan to take over a super soon.

GL5 had queen cells and 11 frames of brood so we decided to create a nuc, taking 3 frames of brood, leaving 7, 1 good frame with stores and added one of foundation and brought the nuc back to the Garden to raise a queen. If the queen hasn't gone already, we have left her in situ but there are eggs if needed (plus a queen cell or two if I remember rightly).

Interesting to note that we saw evidence of hygienic behaviour in hive 2 with drones extracted from cells fallen onto the varroa board.
Posted by sally on Friday 07 June 2013 - 23:17:00 |printer friendly

Bee Inspector commeth


There is European Foulbrood in the area and the Bee Inspector is working round the nearby apiaries to check out the situation. Our colony on the Hill is only a mile-and-a-half away from the outbreak so we were only too pleased to get a visit from him. Mind you, it had to wait until the weather was favourable but today David met Kevin over at the site and they looked through the one colony there.

All looked to be OK but there was actually no open brood as the colony had clearly swarmed some nine days ago. With two queen cells ready to hatch we will have to leave them to it and see how they fare. That colony is on a brood-and-a-half with six frames of brood in each plus a super filling with honey.
Posted by sally on Monday 03 June 2013 - 23:11:02 |printer friendly

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