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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

Encouraging signs in the Garden Apiary

The bees have been active for some weeks now, taking advantage of the sunshine when it makes an appearance and we've seen pollen going into all of our hives. We had been a little worried about the bees in the skep but there is a lot of activity there too now and a good deal of pollen going in. Still need to keep an eye on them all but right now things are looking good.
Posted by sally on Thursday 05 March 2015 - 16:56:50 |printer friendly

Spring is in the Air

It really did feel like Spring was in the air today. I have really missed the gentle buzzing of the bees over Winter and today one of the colony's in the garden, bathed by the warm afternoon sunshine, came alive. There were bees orienting and bees collecting water and bees making one of the best sounds in the world to stir the soul.

Posted by sally on Monday 16 February 2015 - 21:19:28 |printer friendly

The Season Ahead

We usually try to get a planning session in over Winter to get ready for the season ahead and hopefully we will manage to spend some time deciding where we want to go with the bees but I'm pleased to say, by some uniting and selling or passing on swarms, that we managed to reduce our beekeeping commitment to five colonies by the end of last season. We still have three apiaries but are now closer to our ideal of having bees primarily in our garden.

A big warning here - if you are planning on taking up beekeeping, realise that you will get taken up by it in one way or another and you may need to remind yourself of what you actually want before you end up, as we did, with an excess of 30 colonies across five apiaries. Not easy to manage, even if there are two of you, when you're both working full time (and in my case working away from home during the week).

So, our starting point is this:


We still have work to do in our Apiary in the Garden. It's were we want our bees to be for the long term and we'd like to design it right for us and them. Over a couple fo years trying to clear our garden of bees whilst we sort it, and for them to keep turning up, we now have two colonies in our Garden.

Colony G1 is an older queen. We could have missed a re-queening but she is either a 2010 or 2012 queen. She has been prolific and her progeny both industrious and good-tempered.

She was the one that swarmed late May just as we were about to open our home for Dorset Art Weeks and, as the colony happily entered one of our skeps, we have left them in it, just housing it for extra protection in a WBC body.
They are pretty light so not out of the woods yet but are still going and we've just fed with some cappings (by putting a tub of cappings within the WBC but on the outside of the skep).

Colony G2 is her daughter. They've been flying well all Winter and as they seemed a little light we have given them some cappings too, by using a tub with a hole in the lid, upturned on the crown board.

The Hill
Our colony over on the Hill is doing splendidly. It's good and heavy. She's a 2013 queen on a brood-and-a-half and we left two further supers on for Winter.

Green Lane

Two colonies over at Green Lane.

GL1 is a 2011 queen and went into Winter on a two-and-a-half brood plus two supers of stores. It didn't feel as heavy as we might have expected when we checked earlier today so we'll need to keep an eye on that one. Large colonies can certainly get through a lot of stores ahead of the start of a good nectar flow. They are also in the gateway to the apiary and have a tendency to 'follow' so we'l need to be sure their temperament is right.
GL2 went into Winter on a single brood with two supers, one of which was all capped and if they haven't needed it, will be a good bonus for us in the Spring. It's been mild though so they may yet need it. This one is a swarm that joined us in 2012 so we don't know how old the queen is.

So, five interesting - and different - colonies. Much to ponder and plan for the new season and then, of course, the bees will do whatever they choose!
Posted by sally on Sunday 15 February 2015 - 17:47:26 |printer friendly

Winter Checks

It's been a mild Winter so far and that means the bees will have been largely active throughout.  Luckily we leave plenty of honey on our hives just in case - after all, it's easy enough to take off honey in the Spring if the bees have surplus at that stage - and during a long mild Winter, the bees can get through a lot of honey.

So, today we visited all of our hives to check their weight and get an idea of how they are doing. Here's David listening to see that there are bees in our number 2 colony at Green Lane. A tap on the hive, followed by a loud buzz settling back to a low background noise was the confirmation that yes, there were indeed bees in this hive and they sounded Queen-right.

Posted by sally on Sunday 15 February 2015 - 16:59:24 |printer friendly

Our blog - coming out of Winter

We didn't blog at all last season. How remiss!

It was a very busy year for us with lots going on besides the bees. I posted a fair bit on Twitter whenever we were out and about at our apiaries and you can follow me on Twitter at @SallyattheHive but I reckon it's about time I added a few things to this site.

Coming out of what has been a very mild Winter, the bees will be making use of their Winter stores and starting to respond to the Spring urge to grow and expand. Some of the early flowers are already out - snowdrops and crocuses and primroses in our garden - and the bulbs are coming up good and strong.

We'll be doing our first checks of the year this weekend and the key thing will be how heavy or light do the hives feel. We have plenty of tubs of cappings left over from honey production so we will be able to feed back to the bees some of their own honey rather than using fondant (although I do still have some fondant left that I made during our first year of beekeeping).

We left all of our hives with honey - some with a lot! Of course, it's all relative and if there is a very large colony then they are going to need a lot of feeding. We do have a colony in a skep though. A colony in our garden swarmed last year and we ended up leaving the swarm in the skep. Of course, that meant we had no idea how well it was doing on stores. It was quite an old queen and a very small swarm and we decided to let it be, not really expecting it to get through. Still early days for that one but we may try some remote feeding but within the WBC hive that we have placed the skep into.
Posted by sally on Saturday 14 February 2015 - 22:23:00 |printer friendly

Final checks

The Garden colony seems to be collecting stores rather than cleaning up the supers we had added. We ended up moving one of the supers we expected to be cleaned, down below the crown board and have left the brood box full of a mixed of size of frames and added another super to clean above the crown board. We hope to remove the top two boxes soon but this is a very heavy hive. At this rate, we'll be taking more honey!

Green Lane Apiary

Over at Green Lane all seems well. We half expected GL2 to have succombed to wasps but they seem to be holding their own. We gave a bit of attention to the entrance blocks to make sure there were no un-guarded gaps. A couple of colonies are higher on varroa than we'd like but two are very low so we'll need to consider when and how we might take action if needed.
Posted by sally on Sunday 29 September 2013 - 23:12:05 |printer friendly

Bees withstanding the Wasps

We're making use of our good, strong colony in the Garden to clean up the supers now that honey-spinning is over.  We've put a brood box (with a mix of brood- and super-sized frames) plus a super above the QX to be cleaned.  This is a rather tall hive with a nest comprising a brood and three hives but at least they have plenty of honey. Wasp levels are still high in the Garden - not helped by the neighbours active wasp nest - but they don't seem to be a problem for this hive.

We also popped over the the Hill where we were concerned the colony may be a little light on stores.  Actually it helfted OK and they still seen to be bringing in nectar. We put a couple tubs of cappings over the crown board which will give a further boost. Wasps are trying to get in but the bees seem to be holding their own very well but we reduced the entrance.

Apart from mouseguards when the wasps have passed, the colonies are fairly well set for Winter now althoug we'll still keep an eye on varroa levels in case we need to take action.
Posted by sally on Sunday 22 September 2013 - 23:07:00 |printer friendly

Moving Bees

Once again our lovely much-travelled queen (from 2010!) and her colony have returned to Green Lane. We took a look through the colony yesterday and reduced it down to a single brood box, and made ready to move. Then, this morning we took it over to Green Lane and set it up on position GL3. We also added the super that we had taken off the colony at the Rectory last week. It's quite heavy so they should be fine for Winter. Must remember we brought away the QX to clean up but we have left it so that the queen has the run of the hive should they need to go up to the stores.

Whilst there we reduced all entrances, checked on varroa and replaced all boards.  Wasps seem to be quite an issue over at Green Lane and GL2 is the one struggling to hold them off so we'll need to watch that one.
Posted by sally on Sunday 15 September 2013 - 13:21:42 |printer friendly

And then there were 3

... Apiaries that is ... We went over to the Rectory this weekend and cleared the empty hive. There was still some honey in the super with 3-4 good sealed frames so that is now stored in the kitchen. We may want it for one of the other colonies for over-Wintering or we could spin it. We'll see what we need.

All bodes much better for next season. We have reduced from 5 to 3 apiaries which will be much easier to manage.
Posted by sally on Sunday 08 September 2013 - 14:31:34 |printer friendly

Preparation is everything

After being unable to get it done last week, David made it back to Green Lane today to finish strimming and set up a hive position on the old GL3 site ready for when we are able to move colony G3 from the Garden. Thank you David.
Posted by sally on Tuesday 03 September 2013 - 23:03:31 |printer friendly

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