Spring seem to have started and the bees are out and about today, the temperature is a balmy 12c and the sun is shining. Had a quick inspection last week and gave them all a slab of fondant. We have lost 2 small colonies over winter taking us down to 16 hives, I really should have combined them together as they both swarmed late in the season. Lesson learnt for this year.
I was sorting thought my bee equipment in readiness for the new season and I seen to have a nice collection of wax, old comb, capping etc. I dug out my old melting pot and the electric hob and have a melting session. looks and smell disgusting but the end produce after just one filtering looks great. I need to filter it a few time before I can use it.
We now have a hive at our new apiary site at Laneshaw bridge. I’ve taken one hive up for now to see how they go. If they do OK Ill take another one up in a couple of weeks. There is plenty of hedgerow flowers out at the moment and heather will be around later in the year. It is a little remote so I will be bringing them back to the Aire vally once the weather turns cold.
A work colleague asked if I would give a short talk to the Grassington Friendship Group on bees and bee keeping. They were a very welcoming group of about 30 mature ladies and just a few gentlemen. I had put together about 30 slides on power point, on basic bee keeping. I had also taken a National beehive filled with various frames, wax, plastic, drawn-out, etc and a selection of equipment. The icing on the cake was a 3 frame observation hive filled with bees. The talk lasted for about 30 mins, with a few questions at the end, which led nicely into tea and biscuits. While we had the intermission, I invited them to have a closer look at the hive and equipment I had brought. The meeting finished about an hour later and was thanked by several people as they left, as they had found it very interesting.
15°C in the sun here today, all the bees were out in force. I took advantage of the warm day and had a look in most of the hives. A couple of hives had brood on 2 frames, some just small patches of brood. There were 2 that were very short of stores and no brood. I’ve a few spare frames with honey and pollen from the 2 hives I lost over winter. I’ve moved some of these frames into the struggling colonies, I also put more fondant on all the hives for when the weather changes.
Lots were out and about bringing in yellow pollen.
As you will be aware we have had a drop of rain up here in Yorkshire over the last couple of months and one or two floods. I left the bees alone as the damp weather and inspections don’t make for happy bees. We had a break in the weather last week so I had a quick look under the crown board to see how they are doing and they are all still alive. The air temperature is very mild for the time of year, we’ve only had a couple of frosts. On the drier days we’ve seen the bees flying and bringing dark grey pollen. The next nice day will see me adding a slab of fondant on each hive to keep them going. There is a couple of colonies that is looking small so might need to keep and eye on them and maybe combine them early in spring.
We have just got permission from a land owner to use a small area for my bee hives. Its a little late in the season now to move the bees, but next spring I’ll try it out. Ive just put a couple of dummy hives on there to see if anyone interferes with them. They are a couple of home made hives, the most expensive part is the flag stone that the stand is on.
Spot the hives, they do blend in OK
Its a little remote, but less than a mile from some of the local villages and late in the season there’s plenty balsam and heather. It will be an interesting study to see if they thrive.
Our last inspection day showed us how easy it is to loose your bees to starvation. On the inspection the week before there were eggs, larva and stores, everything was fine. After a week they had nothing. There were no stores, no larva and there was lots of uncapped brood. One hive was so bad it had 4-5 thousand dead in the hive.
I made up gallons of 1:1 sugar water and fed all my hives with rapid feeders on the crown boards. I topped them up though out the week and now there all looking great. The combs are full of syrup and the queens are laying eggs like crazy.
Had our weekly inspection of the hives today and most of the new swarms are now laying. I got a nice picture of the eggs inside the comb. They look like a grain of rice in the bottom of each cell. I did find a queen-less hive so we took a frame of eggs from a full colony and put it in the queen-less one, they should make there own queen and may be a few spare. I’ve also had another go at grafting, but im not that hopeful. Ill have a peek in 3 days and let you know.
Early Saturday morning saw our usual shopping to trip to Harrogate Bee club to restock on bee supplies. On my return I was greeted by my wife saying there’s a swarm in the garden. As I got to the garden the air was full of bees and the buzzing sound was everywhere. They slowly moved from one side of the garden to the other and finally settled in a neighbours tree about 20ft up. My first thoughts were they are from my large Buckfast colony.
As they were 20ft up I would need to cobble together some equipment. This consisted of a landing net with an old tee-shirt inside with the arm and neck holes tied up and a couple of landing net pole taped together. I struggled getting anywhere near the tree in the neighbour’s garden, as it was surrounded by thick brambles and a few smaller trees. I only managed to get a few hundred bees in my makeshift net. I decided to give up there and approach it from my side of the garden. With my ladders and the net I could just reach them from my side. So there I was up a ladder armed with my net, the first try didn’t see many bees in the net. I needed something to shake the branch. Second try now armed with a mop, with the net under the bees I shook the branch with the mop. Result, the net come down with thousands of bees inside. As I poured them into the Nuc box I spotted an unmarked queen. I continued to collect the bees with my net and on the 4th go I spotted another unmarked queen. She was quickly caught and put in a cage, I could use her later to make a split. Bees were fanning at the Nuc entrance and hour later, most of them had settled in the Nuc box.
On inspection of my hives we had no swarm cells, queen cell or missing bees, so this swarm didn’t come from my apiary.
On Thursday 11th there was a swarm frenzy around Keighley. I had 4 phone calls regarding swarms in the area. I managed to get to one in Silsden. When I got there it looked like a nice little swarm on a rock and a near by rose bush. I put down a white sheet with the nuc box on top and gave them a little smoke to push them in the right direction. They obliged and started walking towards the nuc. Some of them wanted to climb up the rock, so I placed a little Skep on the top of this. After 45mins they were walking into the nuc and a few were fanning, summoning the rest of the colony. I had a quick look under the Skep which was fulling up nicely. Then I noticed a little red dot running around, I had found the queen. The half full Skep of bees were quickly move into the nuc box along with the queen. With the queen in the box the bees were now moving at a steady pace. There were more bees than I initially thought, so I decided to transfer them all into a full size hive. After another hour most of the bee were in the hive, so I closed it up and called it a day. I have a quick look at them yesterday, they are covering 8 frames in the hive and they seem to be settling into their new home nicely.