Monday, 9 August 2010

Preparations for new arrivals

Along with clearing out the overgrown jungle of a yard that passes as my apiary, I have been attaching thin strips of foundation wax into the recesses of the top bars, this is to encourage the bees to build the comb along the middle of the bars. We had decided one of the potential problems with the top bars was the likelihood of the comb breaking off the bar if the bar was tilted during inspection. We decided to try putting some dowel into the middle of the bars.

This was a sight that gladdened my heart this evening - a happy bunch of fanning bees in my very own top bar hive!

Its been a job but finally they're in there.

Last week we collected a swarm from a tree in Heggat and with the top bar hive ready and waiting for occupants, all looked good to go. We shook and brushed the bees into their new home, and added a shallow frame full of honey to keep them going. Conveniently, shallow frames fit the top bar hive- so as a temporary measure this is really handy. Bees all in at 9 am.

6pm they were all up the Willow tree.

Yup - they'd swarmed.

Safely regathered, we guessed that this big new box wasn't particularly homely. To get the bees to stay around we needed to give them a frame of brood. A couple of shallow frames of brood were found and the bees were popped back into the top bar hive.

A week later and all is looking good. I couldn't resist a peek to see how all was progressing. I had no idea what to expect the bees to have achieved in a week. But on removing the roof I could see 3-4 bars had now got lovely tongue shaped natural comb built from them (just where it should be) so off to a good start! I parted the bars and took out the endmost comb which had a nice array of colours of pollen. The next comb had both sealed and unsealed brood. The bees had done a good job reducing the size of the second entrance by about two thirds with propolis and seemed really laid back and happy.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Top bar hive

Got my very own top bar hive ready to go now, just in time for any swarm that may come my way. Have had these made for the shop / website.

I've heard a few beekeepers' opinions on this style of hive and method of beekeeping and I'm really keen to get personal experience of how they work in practice, I'm sure its going to be an experience!

These hives are not aimed at major honey production like a National or WBC hive, but are a simple, bee friendly and low cost way of keeping bees.

In an ideal world everyone would have one of these in their back garden, enjoy a small honey crop, and help look after our bee population.

Watch this space for our progress!

Pheromones and an occupied queen cell

Following our earlier check on queen cell building, we were very keen to get that next 'super' on to give the bees a bit more space. First thing we saw when we opened up was this little lady fanning away like mad. There is a pheremone producing gland on the honey bee's bum called the Nasonov gland. This pheremone alerts other bees to the presence of food. Aparently bumble bees use a similar pheremone in this way.

All was looking good inside. lots of happy bees still, you can see all the lovely brood and the pollen and nectar in the cells.

Checked out one of those empty queen cells we saw last visit and lo and behold we had an occupant this time- that little white dash is a potential new queen. Welcome to swarm season!

Friday, 30 April 2010

Solitary bee

Yesterday sitting out in the sunshine at lunchtime we spotted this:
A bee using one of the bee boxes on display outside the shop. Thing is, this is a bumble bee box, but the bee is a solitary bee of some type.

She was entering the tube and about 3-4 mins later out she popped and flew away only to return a few mins later to repeat the performance. Intrigued as to what exactly she was up to, we peeped into the box to find she'd bunged up the end of the tube-like so.
Leaf cutter bees create cells in a long channel. They line them with cut leaves that they bring home and then lay an egg in the cell with some pollen and nectar and cap it off with more leaves. Very tidy. They repeat the process creating a line of brood in a row nose to tail (so to speak) and they hatch and nibble their way out to emerge all in order. Not quite sure how they work things out because it's a first in last out kind of thing!

We are watching this space to see if she carries on or notices the proper solitary bee habitat on the shelf next to it!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Spring cleaning

Went through the bees today and got my first sting of the year (on my thumb!)

The bees have been bringing in plenty of nectar and queen cells have been spotted in some hives locally, so we were looking to see if there was any serious intention to swarm and have a quick spring clean.

The bees were up the roof space and had built some comb in there, so in need of a super pretty quickly:

We scraped off the brace comb from on top of the frames:

A few frames in- sure enough we found a queen cell, a half hearted attempt and no egg so we carried on:

We found a couple more queen cells-just cups really. We didn’t spot the queen, but lots of sealed and unsealed brood and nectar coming in was a good sign and the bees seem pretty happy (apart form the one that got my thumb) so we were too.

Smoking the bees so they keep their heads down during the clean up!