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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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If you enjoy our stories and ponderings or want to give us feedback or suggestions for the site or our beekeeping escapades you can contact us by Email

In the garden

One of our bees on that blue-flowered shrub in our garden
In the couple of weeks that we have had the bees we have never really seen them nearby apart from a brief forage in the cherry tree at the end of the garden. They have never been on the dandelions we so carefully left them (my excuse for not cutting the grass!) or other flowers in the garden. But today quite a few were picking pollen from this blue-flowered shrub whose name I do not know.
Posted by David on Friday 09 May 2008 - 14:26:19 |printer friendly

Sending out the signal

Well I'm in Birmingham right now and a long way from our Dorset home so I can't nip out and take a look at the bees but I'm ever hopeful some new residents will turn up in our lure.  Thanks David for setting that up and who knows, it might just work.  Great to look at the pictures though whilst I can't be there and reinforce the signal ...
Posted by sally on Wednesday 07 May 2008 - 18:29:27 |printer friendly

Very alluring

Well it probably won't work, but it's worth a try.  We have set up a bait hive hoping to get a swarm turn up in it.  We know it is not in an ideal spot and that it should be higher up etc, but it was the first flat site I could create easily.  

Bait hive set up in the apiaryWe had talked about doing it for a while, but last evening whilst fiddling about in the shed I decided it was time to act.  I had left the shed door open for a few minutes and returned to find two bees inside the shed - one right inside the half open bag containg a brood box half filled with frames of foundation - and another bee buzzing at the door.  It was past 7.30pm.  They may well have been our bees, though they were darker than most of them. We have three distinct colours in the hive, one of which is quite dark.  So they might just have been scout bees from somewhere else.  With the weather set fair for the coming few days and the start of swarming time finally upon us, I though it worth having a go.  So we have a fresh hive set up with a brood full of new foundation (the best we have) and a swarm lure bought from Thornes.  Fingers crossed.

By the way, we are now professionally ready to go swarm collecting.  We have invested in a skep in the hope that it will send out the signal that we want a swarm or two.  I used a cardboard box or an old travel box in the old days, but a skep means acting the part!
Posted by David on Wednesday 07 May 2008 - 16:28:49 |printer friendly

Doing OK

We haven't really kept up to date this past few days.  It was Sally's birthday so we were out quite a bit. It was also the WDBKA apiary meeting on Saturday - quite a long one - and we had the last of our Basic Beekeeping evenings.  So here is a little catch up:

Our bees are doing fine.  There seem to be pleny of bees covering the frames and they are drawing out the foundation quite rapidly now. During last week's poor weather they finally discovered the feeder and took down all the syrup we had given them.  Sally was fired up after an exciting apiary visit - and it being her birthday! - so was keen to go through the hive.  The forecast for Monday was not good so we decided to look through on Sunday afternoon even though it was getting on in the day.

Birthday BeesonWe got togged up and set the smoker going.  (I wish I had created a better wad of cardboard as it kept falling over and was difficult to keep alight. We are looking out for better fuel as we don't really trust cardboard to be very environmentally- or bee-friendly.) As it was Sally's birthday, and her turn, she was in charge.

We first had a look at the varroa board.  I had put the board in 4 days previously and we had looked at it on Friday.  As then we were delighted to discover absolutely no mites on the board.  It doesn't mean that we don't have any varroa, but it is a good indication that it is not a problem levels at the moment.

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Posted by David on Wednesday 07 May 2008 - 15:46:24 |printer friendly

Play flights

I could probably watch them all day - in fact I did most of yesterday.  When the young bees emerge from the hive they have to orient themselves and do this strange backward flight out from the hive and keep returning to the entrance and start out again backwards at different angles.  There is such a playful sound too - probably just the density of bees in the close-by area but it really does sound like excitement.

I'm really starting to notice other bees too.  All manner of bees seem to have taken up residence in the grass or the stone wall around the behive or are simply visiting the garden flora.  They've probably been setting up home there for years but this year, they've certainly got my attention.
Posted by sally on Tuesday 06 May 2008 - 22:12:42 |printer friendly

Under the Microscope

A great birthday gift - a microscope.  The detail is amazing.  It's all very well seeing those larger than life pics in the books which help to understand the anatomy of the bee but to take one of the bees from one's own hive and look at it in detail is wonderful.  To see in fine detail the hairy body of this amazing insect, so intricate, no wonder the bees are constantly cleaning one another - I could easily see the glistening sugary-like substance all over its body.

I shall enjoy this new toy!

NB: No bees were harmed for this indulgance!
Posted by sally on Sunday 04 May 2008 - 12:14:03 |printer friendly

To check next time ...

Note to ourselves - next time we open up the hive we need to check the bottom space and bracecomb and also see if any feed has been taken,

Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, we agreed it would be much better to have made notes at the time of inspection rather than "recalling" events over a glass of wine!  Well, at least the camera helped ...
Posted by sally on Monday 28 April 2008 - 22:19:46 |printer friendly

Hiving the Nucleus

Sally firing up the smoker Like all good beekeepers should we planned it well and talked over exactly what we were going to do before acting - still forgot the bee brush which would have been so useful mind!

We got together three new frames with foundation, the dummy board, hive tools, smoker, feeder, syrup and camera of course. Then we put on our bee suits and I got the smoker going. A few gentle wafts at the nucleus entrance to let them know we were coming. Throughout the whole event, the bees were so good-natured and calm - definitely scoring a 10 in our hive notes.

We moved the travelling box and put it on another WBC base beside the new hive and put the new clean brood box in position. David cut away the top screen on the travelling box and gently eased out the first frame. I saw her straight away - the queen marked white - busy laying on that first frame. We assembled all the kit we neededWe'd seen her and knew she was safe so really didn't want to distrub the bees more than was necessary as we moved each frame one by one into the new brood box. There were lots of bees, particularly on the first three frames.

A quick look and a few photos enabled us to make a few notes on the make-up of our first colony.

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Posted by sally on Monday 28 April 2008 - 22:11:58 |printer friendly

Now there's a thing

Honey bee on blossom When the bees were first set free on Saturday they were quite happy with the cherry tree right next to them for nectar and a little pollen. It's quite a big tree. It's in full blossom. So it seems obvious that with the short distance they have to fly to get cherry food it has to be on the menu. It was on Saturday but it isn't today. Yes there were a few bees on it earlier when i went out to take a photo of them, but it was hard to find them in comparison to Saturday. They seem mostly to be flying off against the wind and in the opposite direction! Clearly they have found something of far greater nutitional interest.
Posted by David on Monday 28 April 2008 - 17:04:12 |printer friendly

The bees are here

Travelling box placed on stand and shielded from the sun and windAt last, on Saturday, we picked up our bees. A quick round trip to Ascot made us the proud possessors of a 5-frame nucleus. Wedged carefully in the boot, they travelled well and we all arrived back to Dorset safely. We placed the travelling box on the floor of the hive in the chosen spot and shielded them from the sun and wind by propping the roof against it. After leaving them to settle down for just a little while Sally gently pulled out the foam stopper and set them free at last. In just a few moments the first intrepid bee made her way out, soon followed by some more of her sisters. Several minutes later there were many bees hovering outside orienting themselves.

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Posted by David on Sunday 27 April 2008 - 20:55:54 |printer friendly

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