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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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Mating Swarm

David took a trip over to Green Lane today to get some strimming done and he noticed there was what seemed to be a mating swarm from colony 2 with lots of bees hanging outside. So, that's one that got away
Posted by sally on Sunday 02 June 2013 - 23:14:50 |printer friendly

in the midst of a swarm

It never ceases to amaze. We'd noticed bees were checking out unoccupied hives in the garden and all had gone fairly quiet just before we had our lunch. And then at 2pm, as we were taking a walk up the garden, they came. We saw the swarm heavy in the air a short distance away. It was heading towards us. It had chosen a tall stack of hive boxes and descended into our garden and the chosen hive.
There is something quite special about standing in the midst of a swarm. It's as if you are part of an ancient ritual and I guess that is what it is. We've missed the bees in our garden and I can only imagine that the garden had too. In any event, ladies, you are welcome.

Posted by sally on Friday 31 May 2013 - 15:58:40 |printer friendly

May Day and first inspections finally completed

At last! A day of warm weather. 16 degrees centigrade at each of the apiaries where the last two hives reside that we wanted to inspect. Two trips to the Hill as we forgot the smoker first time round (we're still getting into the swing of things!) and then onto the Rectory.

We saw both queens. At the Hill she is distinctively red with dark stripes, has 5 frames of brood and 6 halves and a good amount of stores. The Rectory's queen is pale with a dark tail and there are 4 frames of brood plus 5 halves and again a fair amount of stores. So, fairly similar with both 2011 queens building up well. Varroa is high though - David saw ferritic varroa in each hive - so we will need to take remedial action with all of our colonies.

The ideal would be to create a swarm circumstance for each of the colonies thus breaking the cycle of varroa reproduction but the long range forecast doesn't look as if it would stay warm for long enough for shook swarms. We'll no doubt mull over our options over the next week.

Posted by sally on Wednesday 01 May 2013 - 23:28:12 |printer friendly

Clean up

Another busy day cleaning up beekeeping kit - and a messy one too.

It's still too cold to think about opening up a hive but the sun was shining and it seemed a good day to clean up some of those old frames that have been lying around. We bought a boiler a couple of years back and it works really well to boil up a tank full of water with a packet of soda crystals added and just add in the frames. We have to turn them but that's fine and I get quite a good system going. They come out really clean and just need a little scrape or clean up if they were wired or very messed up and I stack them in my old plastic greenhouse where they dry off nicely. Of course I had to move a whole load I had done last year so the bee shed is now full again.

I also managed to get to the last couple of boxes that needed clearing of old brood frames and yes, the dreaded wax moth was building up not so nicely. All gone now though.  (I have a bit of a thing about moths so that is my least favourite aspect of beekeeping.)

'Ran out of time to clear everything away but I'll empty the tank and put it away again tomorrow.
Posted by sally on Saturday 27 April 2013 - 23:25:54 |printer friendly

Temperature wavers

We had hoped this afternoon would be warm so that we could finish off our first inspections. We have a colony at the Rectory and one on The Hill but the day never really warmed up properly. The themometer was recording 13 degrees in the garden so it was unlikely to be any better at the out-apiaries.  So, let's see if it is improved tomorrow but there was no way we were going to open up the hives below 15 degrees.

I made best use of a snatched half hour in the garden though and cleaned up a crown board and a couple of QXes we had brought back from Green Lane yesterday. The colonies over there either have nice clean QXes above their brood or stored under the roof just in case we need them. Well, that's another drop in our ocean of work taken care of!
Posted by sally on Wednesday 24 April 2013 - 21:49:31 |printer friendly

Warm enough at last ...

Yes this afternoon it hit a high of 16 degrees (centigrade) so we headed over to Green Lane to check on our colonies over there. It varied between 15 and 16 degrees whilst there so just warm enough to open up the hives. We didn't plan to do anything major; just to check what was going on and see that they were OK and disease-free. We wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible but to gather the facts so that we could make a plan of action for when the weather is once again dry and warm.

All colonies seem fairly strong and building up nicely. However, a couple of colonies have chalk brood and varroa is high in all hives with phoretic varroa and some wing damage seen.

Colony 5 - the late 2012 swarm we brought over from Little Piece - has a lovely long pale queen with 4 good frames of brood and eggs and plenty of stores. Oh and a lovely temperament so no unpleasant surprises there.

Colony 4 - a colony moved from the Garden at the end of last season with a newly raised queen - has 3 and 3 halves of brood and is heavy with stores. We saw eggs but didn't see the queen. The bees seemed quite small but a lot of the comb is old which could be why.

Colony 3 - again from the Garden but, at the time of moving, with a 2010 queen - also has 3 and 3 halves of brood, eggs and good stores.

Colony 2 - last year's Green Lane swarm with a brood box with entirely natural comb - has a very good 7 frames of brood, eggs and good stores in brood and super. This one is definitely a candidate for a double brood and building up very nicely indeed.

Colony 1 also had 7 frames of brood in the upper brood box plus 4 halves in the super above. The lower brood box is empty of brood but is being used for pollen storage. It'll need replacing though as most the comb is old. There are a further 2 supers above, one of which has a good amount of stores.

So, four of the five queens were hiding but we don't mind that; we did see eggs. We've left colonies 2 and 4 to finish off the cappings we had given them but there's actually a fair amount of honey in this apiary. The weather is still uncertain though and they may yet need it so we're not rushing to take any anyway.

Lovely temperament all round and wonderful to spend time with these fine hard-working ladies again. There's a few boys being raised too so we'll look forward to seeing them soon.
Posted by sally on Tuesday 23 April 2013 - 22:22:47 |printer friendly

External checks - too cold to open a hive at 12 degrees

Yet more cleaning of kit today - managed to clean, flame and sort three good brood boxes and with enough frames and foundation to do two shook swarms if the weather was kind (unlikely I know). The nuc boxes are clean too so we may not have everything sorted but we are ready for some eventualities at the first inspections once the weather gets a little warmer.

We did wonder if it would be warm enough to check on some bees yesterday but although it was sunny, the temperature was down at 11/12 degrees through the day - too low to open up a hive. We've bought a thermometer to add to the beekeeping box - I suspect it will be useful this year.

We did take a tour round all of our hives and did an external visual check and also counted varroa. Varroa is high - hence being ready to shook swarm as one possible option - but all colonies are flying well and taking in pollen.

So, we're hoping for an improvement in the weather Tuesday/Wednesday. And maybe we'll be able to do our first inspection then.
Posted by sally on Sunday 21 April 2013 - 22:53:51 |printer friendly

Beekeeping kit

A sunny day today, albeit quite windy, so I made a start on cleaning up some of our beekeeping kit.  Mostly crown boards, QXes, and clearer boards plus the little green nuc but all scraped and flamed ready for re-use. Only scratched the surface really but at least it's a start.

Two new beekeeping jackets that we'd ordered arrived today too - nice lightweight ones. We tend to use jackets rather than full suits - easy to get on and off when going to out-apiaries.
Posted by sally on Thursday 18 April 2013 - 18:54:28 |printer friendly

Association meeting

First association meeting of the year for the West Dorset Beekeepers Association. How different to last year when we'd had an early Spring but at least it was sunny and dry if rather cold.

It was too cold to open up all the hives for an inspection but one was selected to use for a varroa control experiment. We had to be quick given the chill but added two packets of predator mites to the brood.

The idea is that these predators are a biological control as they feed on the varroa mite. and are added at regular intervals to the hive throughout the year in order to control levels of varoa throughout the season. The mites are indiginous to the UKand are to be found feasting in leaf litter. The association will be monitoring results throughout the year.
Posted by sally on Saturday 06 April 2013 - 19:18:03 |printer friendly

Green Lane's fifth colony

Well. the bees were fine this morning after having spent the night in the back of our car. We took them over to Green Lane and placed them on the National stand that we still have over there. They still had a clearer board below their crown board (they were an unexpected late swarm that took residence in a pile of kit we had left on the site) so we removed that and replaced with a new crown board that would make it easy to feed them. We'd made up some strong (1:1) syrup for them as they had felt very light when we moved them, but hadn't brought either the feeder or an eke (not in the way of things yet!) so settled them in to return later.

When we did return, they were very active, busy taking in pollen, and clearly a queenright colony. Some resilience eh?! Their roof was a little rickety so we replaced that while we were about it and they have had about 3lbs of syrup so have got something immediately available if needed.

Each of the colonies at Green Lane seemed to be bringing in different coloured pollen and all were very active. Colony 3 seems to be the late riser but all appear to be faring well. We did do some varroa counts with varying results of 2-5 a day over the 3 weeks the boards had been in place but boards are clean again now to get a good count for next time.
Posted by sally on Saturday 06 April 2013 - 18:55:12 |printer friendly

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