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Well its’ the first opportunity that’s been had to enter the hives and see what’s going on and OMG what a ‘mare!
Firstly Oonagh, Robert & Julia came to help as it was the first inspection since last year we met obstacles and problems all the way but it tested our limited experience and Oonaghs wealth. Thank you!

Yellow – last years Queen, doing well – floors changed and now on a brood and a half. Queen marked with a white spot, using my new Queen cage. Pretty fuss free by comparison to the others – brood and larvae present and she is a beauty.
They had done well on the fondant supplied – 3kg in total eaten.

On to the white and here the fun truly started – Mouse damage! Although overwintered on a brood and a half only using half the space thanks to the mouse. In addition there was sign of deformed wings on young bees = Varroa infestation! Although they had all been treated in January with Oxalic.
Eaten half pound of their own honey. We removed all drone comb and upon inspection discovered Varroa in abundance. Eggs, larvae & sealed brood, all present. They remain on a brood and half were treated with Hive Clean.

Onto the Green well the Queen had absconded, no brood larvae or anything else really going on. Therefore left with a dilemma. Left them to one side til insepction of the cream

Queen present but no eggs, larvae or sealed brood,So we decided to unite both Green & Cream colonies, using newspaper. Cream Green became pale blue hive.

All hives were bringing in plenty of pollen, but what had caused the problem was my leaving them with their honey. There must have been summer rape as most food stores had granulated on the comb as a consequence although strong when going into winter as accessible food stores diminished so did tthe bees and therefore he heat needed to keep the honey stores liquid.

Lesson learnt – don’t leave them with their own honey syrup feed stores are what they must be left with.

All in all a depressing although productive session. Not a single sting between us and we had them open for quite a while.I now need to work out how I am going to get this honey off the comb and what to do with it – flippin mare as still got honey left from last year!

Well hopefully it will all be Ok from this point on, now that everyone has clean floors, drawn comb and foundation and food stores where the remain have been scored.

I’ll keep you posted as to how I go.

Aside from that Terence has escaped to chase Pleasants and was found just in time before he discovered 8 dudks and a very deepsided mini lake in our neighbours garden.
Teresa is doing well but Lulu is having a tough time with her diability an now has a bit of an eye problem.

Since my last time of writing, Doris has died – heart attack at the vets BUT we have a Rhode Island Red who has joined the gang, she goes by the name of Gloria!

The blossom is emerging and the temperature steadily rising. So we jys hope for good warm weather to help my struggling Bees.

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April ended with a visit from my local Bee Inspector, who gave everyone a clean bill of health. – Thank you Peter and everything being in order at that last April inspection.

Next thing we know there is havoc in the Hives.  There I was thinking everything was all in order but then I was ready  for them and their antics and me oh my have they had some fun testing me to see if I knew what I was doing and I think I was caught unawares but fingers crossed we have survived the month. As a Bee Keeper there is really no good time to go on holiday apparently and I was hesitant about going to Scotland but I what the hell we can’t have life dictated by Bees, can we?
White Hive – Although a National I decided that with going away the second week in May I should probably put them on a Brood and a half as they were filling up nicely. The rape and blossom were out things could go POP while I was away. So the gals got a Brood and a half and a super at the beginning of the month, as so much food I gave them foundation.
Green Hive – 2009 Queen was to away she had gotten started in the brood building stakes. But eventually they got off to a flying start, not literally. They were also put on a brood and a half and a super at the beginning of the month as on a WBC. I figured that the emerging brood would like to have some work to do so with some fresh foundation so I removed some food as they had stacks and loaded them up.
Blue Hive – 2008 Queen – Hello what was going on here then? No Queen and no fresh eggs – Flippin eck this wasn’t good How could Peter and I have missed something, I knew we hadn’t seen her but this wasn’t good. Aaaarrggghhh! 3 Queen cells all capped We completely missed them, we had torn down the cups the previous inspection. Didn’t know what to make of it really but decided that I would leave until my final inspection before going away.
So I spent an evening making up frames before I left, supers and brood just so everything was ready for use while I was gone as dearest Oliver was going to do an inspection while I was away, just to be sure. Preparation, preparation, preparation.Having everything ready to go I had one last job to do before we left…..The Bees.
Barrow loaded I ventured forth to the Apiary, I had frames of foundation for supers, brood,food, tools the works. And in I went knowing that my dear husband was waiting for us to go!
First into the White: There they were, loads of Bees! Uh oh I checked through every frame looking for Queen cells and cups, but I was in the clear – Nada. But as there were so many I decided to add another super as the nectar was coming in thick n fast along with the pollen.
I then decided to do the Green as I had a good feeling about them, and they were rocking so I added another super. Feeling happy and confident that my time was going according to plan.
What to do with the Blue? I knew that there was no Queen and really not sure what I was going to find, no Bees half the Bees or what? Were the Queen cells still there to haunt me. I had spoken to a couple of people and they suggested tearing down cells transplanting them and doing technical stuff but I decided that this was too risky as all v close to one another.
So I made a decision let nature take it’s course and this is what I did…. I left them alone rearranged the brood chamber by taking the undrawn foundation and putting on the outside of the main brood frames. Left them with a super of drawn comb closed them up and told them to wait until I got home before doing anything stupid.
Then I ran around like a loony!  Building 2 dummy hives with foundation, located them in 2 separate sites around the garden, put my kit away now hot n flustered and running late, dived into the shower and went on holiday!
Much to my disappointment I only saw 2 Hives while away and that was in Glencoe on someones well cared for Croft. Beyond that I nada.  But what a great holiday, sunshine and rainbows all the way. Long walks along the coast, over and around bogs, round mountains and up hills. Brilliant.
Oliver checked the girls on the Saturday while I was away and said all was in order but still no Queen in the Blue.
We got home on the Wednesday and what with work I had to wait to check them. There was an apiary visit on the Saturday which was great, we had an influx of new members and there was the case of the Vanishing Queen at Julia’s which was great for us to inspect but not so good for her. But that said she did get a Queen from a fellow member who had a spare which he had just made a nuc with.  I digress.
On a boiling hot Sunday John and I inspected my girls. Both Green and White were flourishing there was stacks of brood, lots of new bees including Drones and I was a very happy Bee Keeper. So into the Blue…. 5 frames in there she was, a brand new Queen not full bodied but there she was a beauty. All three cells were down but there was just one Queen and that’s all we need.
Todays inspection, the last of May, was full of activity too, I thought that there may be more trouble ahead as there were so many Drones and the Green was packed to the rafters. White Hive was behaving well still with space to lay and good levels of stores in the Supers. The brood and a half has paid off, it takes longer to go through them as there are 22 frames to check rather than 11.There were limited cups and I didn’t spot any Queen cells. They are almost ready to extract but I will add another super next week as I want them to thrive not starve and I think that last year I took too much from the colonies as they were very strong.
Blue Hive was doing OK, but due to the light I couldn’t be 100% sure that there were eggs. So I hope that she has been up to a seminary and returned safely as I didn’t spot her. If it’s been a success I will put her on a brood and a half so that they can build up strongly, which they will have to do now to see themselves through the winter. As soon as I see fresh eggs she will be clipped and marked – a task I will get help with.
And finally on to the Green. They are such lovely Bees, I love this colony they just amaze me every time I have a look at them. I admire their ability to be happy in their everyday and  to watch them do their BeeHiveJive sharing information. Heavy supers off I began to get involved in the search for the Queen, 3 frames in on the half and I encountered 3 Queen cells! 1 capped 2 in process. I understood how I had missed these last time, they were in a warped frame and built into the fold, thwarted I decided to carry on and find my beautiful Queen with her green bindi. Luckily she was in the main brood chamber. I segregated her straight away with the excluder.
Leaving the mayhem of supers I got a second Hive (cream) ready and then ran in to get John and my book ‘Bees at the Bottom of the Garden’, an Artificial Swarm was about to take place – my first! 2 pairs of eyes and arms would make this job easier and it was. John is very good at Queen spotting and I guessed she would have moved half way through the Brood when we got back and there she was. We grabbed the frame and popped it into the new hive with a frame of food and filled it up with foundation. She was then put back into the original position, with the supers.  Meanwhile the old brood boxes with Queen cells was put into the new position a metre to the left of the original.
As soon as the green hive was settled it began to roar and the lighting board was suddenly a mass of Bees who left to enter the green where their Queen awaited them. Incredible! I will check them on Monday to check that they have enough food -the green, the cream should be fine as they have 2 supers of food.

So there we have it my first artificial swarm – 3 Hives will hopefully become 4 and I may well have to do another with the White.
Menagerie

Sadly Doris died this month – RIP Doris.

Teresa never had any ducklings but this is a blessing in disguise we have decided and she seems to have had her broody phase and is enjoying paddling about the garden with Terence, while Lulu is now broody.
They started the month looking lovely and as the has month progressed we have become somewhat bedraggled. Terence is losing he breeding plumage and is once again become a brown duck but he looks extremely scruffy as the transition takes place. Teresa has managed to retain her dignity and feathers so far and is still a very pretty little thing. However, Lulu has been to the vet as she was constantly pulling at her feathers and had little bald patches on her under carriage. Given an antibiotic and a spot on treatment she is now recovering, we get a short moment to check that all is well when she finally pops out of the Duck House for a manic moment. But she seems to be OK still as vocal as ever and does the crazy Lulu hobble around the garden Love her to bits.
Harold and Dot are happy together and don’t seem to notice Doris’ absence, sad but true.

New daily visitors include a couple of Partridges, who are highly entertaining and no one seems to mind them as they are delightful, if somewhat noisy.

As for the cats they are as delightful as ever!

Garden

Well I was doing really well and then while we were away there were 2 nights of hard frost! Need I say more?Everything in the Greenhouse is thriving, unfortunately I had planted a lot out before I went away. :o(The new bed is filling out and I am pleased with the outcome, but the weeds are a comin’.

I feel as though I have watched Spring unfold this year, acutely aware of natures progress as the season has slowly begun to develop into a crescendo of life. Whether that is due to to the concern for the Bees or just because I have been busy in the garden.

Speak to anyone at anytime and they have constantly referred to the long hard winter and all we as Bee Keepers can hope for is a good strong build up in order for the colonies to survive. Well I am pleased to report that this is finally happening.   Having checked the Bees, weekly I have had the pleasure of watching this happen, albeit it slowly.

Although we are not yet at the end of April, it seems to have been a very busy time all round and I am pleased with how the month appears to be closing. Each Hive has it’s own story to tell and I hope that I provide you with complete information, based on memory and records.

Green Hive – This lot really are star performers and as they are in a WBC they will have to be monitored very closely, their stores have been good all through the winter and they have taken everything I have offered and it is paying dividends. At the beginning of the month there was brood but not in great quantities. By 23rd April we appeared to be operating at a good rate, the new foundation wasn’t completely drawn out but where it was eggs had been laid. As last years Queen she was looking good and full bodied with a happy colony

Blue Hive – Man this Queen is good, she was hatched in 2008 and is a fabulous layer.  I am to consult with my guru, Terry, on about her becoming a Breeder Queen, I haven’t quite grasped this yet. Plenty of food stores and her colony haven’t quite grasped how good a Queen they have as she wants to lay and they can’t draw the foundation out quickly enough for her to lay. Good build up of Brood all at various stages. Having seen her at the last visit I can’t get over what a beauty she is. As my first Queen I am keen to keep her going for as long as possible, I have a soft spot for her and am going to let nature take it’s course rather than killing her off as many of the old hands suggest, because she is 2 years old. Lets watch this space.

White Hive – Well what a busy lot these are, I love ‘em. they never cease to amaze me. Not only are they a beautiful colour and temperament they perform well. Not only have they had plenty of food, they draw out their foundation well so that our lovely Queen do her thing. She has a good long body and looks mighty fine. As a consequence we have 6 frames of brood and she doesn’t care about the wire.

Cream Hive – A sad story really. As you know they had a terrible case of the squits and each and every frame was riddled with mould, dead bees were everywhere, and no Queen. Too many bottoms sticking out of cells for anyone’s liking. Upon reflection they didn’t take down the sugar syrup in the same way as the others, when fed their own honey they played with it and the only thing they seemed to take was fondant but by that point it was already too late.  Having been so ill I didn’t unite the remaining few bees, as I didn’t want to transfer any disease, so I gave them food in their reduced Hive and have slowly watched them decline which is sad but this is natures way. Needless to say they still had the energy to tell me where to go, as I was given a graze sting through my suit on my forearm.

So what have I done with them this month? Well it’s a bit odd really as the inspections have been driven by the weather and the icy winds that prevailed. Not wanting to chill the brood they have been kept short and general house keeping jobs have been left late until the weather warmed up. Which in itself is frustrating but we finally got there, although all behind schedule, according to the Bee Keepers I have spoken to. It seems that I have been lucky many have lost 50% of their colonies and some unfortunate souls have lost them all.

When there was very little food available from foraging as all the blossoms were late, I scored some of the food stores as it didn’t look as if they could access it easily, provided new foundation – 3 frames each at the first signs of the Spring rape beginning to colour. At the same time each were given a Super of drawn comb, well there was nothing to collect and they needed work to do and it meant that we would save time when the rape finally came out.  Just this week when the weather warmed I provided 2 with NEW varroa mesh floors and scraped the third clean. Since the beginning of the month. have only been through the hives completely twice, due to the weather temperature.

Secretary to President in 2 short months!

I attended the County AGM in my capacity as branch Secretary and I met folk from the other Divisions, which was all good fun. They all welcomed me and said I could pop along to their Apiaries at anytime. I gleaned from this brief meeting that every division does things differently.  We had a very interesting presentation all about Skeps, their history and how there seems to be a bit of a Skep revival.  Skeps and Bee Boles really does appeal, it sort of takes you back to a slower more wholesome but much harder way of life. I like the idea, I see the benefits but I still have nightmares about the girls swarming, so I don’t think at this stage they are really for me – maybe later when my Apiary grows.

My  Bee Course finally came to an end and much to my surprise they gave us all a certificate, joy of joys. As part of the course we then visited 2 Apiaries, each one very different in layout, location and personal style of management. Awesome.

Our Division had the first meeting of the year and it was followed by a very nice cream tea. The sun shone and we inspected the hives, one alive one dead had a very interesting Queen clipping and marking session from Derek, from the neighbour division. At this meeting I was elected Honorary President for the County! How you ask yourself as do I? Well the Chairman, Editor and Membership Secretary didn’t want to so before you could say “Yes, please, I’d love a cup of tea” I had been nominated and the nomination had been seconded!

My new position has provided everyone close to me with laughter and will no doubt be my ribbing of the year. But what it does mean is that I am obliged to visit every division and see how they do their meetings etc So YOU, and I, will benefit from all my new found knowledge and experiences.

Who said men don’t like to shop?

Stoneleigh, the big BBKA meeting was on last weekend, John and I went in the ‘new second-hand’ van. What a laugh that was – the journey was nice n easy although not the fastest one we have ever made. We arrived after the scrum, but in plenty of time to get what was needed – Varroa floors, Brood Boxes, Supers, legs, entrance slides, 2nd hand books etc etc.   I have never seen so many men in one place parting with money so readily be it for treatments, parts, accessories, books, clothing and taking great pleasure in it!

We drove back in the glorious afternoon sunshine and got home in time to enjoy the Bees drinking at the pools and buzzing in the heat

Now the fun begins in the making, it should be a therapeutic exercise and extremely satisfying.

As the rape is now in bloom the girls are very busy heading off to nearby fields to collect this glucose packed food. The yellow smudges on their heads give the game away and as the sun heats up the ground and air everything starts to spring to life.

The Garden

Well what can I say the new border has been hard work but it has added interest to what was just a rectangular lawn. I am so glad that the plants were bedded in early as despite the frosts, of which there have been many, everything is starting to look somewhat more established. With the warmer temperatures they are really starting to take off.

Anyone who has been following me on Twitter (www.beehivejive@twitter.com) will have borne witness to my joys and anxieties as they unfold, although in very small snippets.

    Well, I have had better days that’s for sure.

    I couldn’t wait any longer so as the sun was shining I decided to have a look although the breeze was chilly. I will cut to the chase as I will be back with an update as soon as.

    Green WBC – Plenty of stores and plenty of Bees. There was also a sign of Brood but I didn’t go beyond the 4th frame in as I didn’t want to chill the brood.

    Blue National in WBC lifts – Plenty of Bees, all calm food stores, but then the wind picked up so didn’t go further, but noted mould on the floor. However outside the front of the HIve there were about 10 bees with pollen but they hadn’t made it back. a cluster of 3 were sat on the leg of the hive.

    White National in WBC lifts – Many a bee inside, again plenty of food but didn’t go beyond, saw traces of mould on the floor as I lifted out 2 frames.

    Cream National in WC lifts – OMG diorreah everywhere and dead bees on the crown board. All the frames were mucky and the Bees were clustered to the right handside of the brood box. Dead Bees were on the frames and mould was on the floor, the frames and all over the brood box walls. I positioned my only functioning spare brood box onto a clean floor, transferred the 3 frames with Bees, a clean mould free frame of food and 1 frames of foundation. I then assembled the Hive and left the guards off to allow airflow and removed the contaminated hive and frames.

    I await a warmer day and new supplies so that they can be transferred to clean sterile hives in order to give them the best chance and a dousing of Bee Vital.

    Hive Tool cleaned after each Hive visit using Cider Vinegar and clean gloves used per inspection and   disposed of afterward.

    The Garden

    I seem to have been digging forever – no gold or treasures found as yet. The border is now set – turf removed and stacked to form a Loam Stack, 2 trailer loads of well rotted farmyard manure dug in, leggy lavender dug up, roses pruned, Mahonia seedlings removed, self seeded Viburnum & trees dug up all ready for the planting. All sorts of marvellous plants (98 actually) are now bedded in.

    The job wouldn’t have been a success without the constant help of Teresa, who enjoyed herself grabbing worms,bugs and anything else she could get in her muddy little beak. Dot followed on picking up whatever Teresa had missed while Terence waited for hand picked scraps from me. Teresa became more and more fearless, waiting for the fork to lift so she could get first dibs on the goodies only deterred by Doris’s bullying tactics.

    In the process of the big dig I disturbed a hibernating hedgehog, which is I am pleased to report safe and well and is currently dining on freshly sourced snails and catfood! Now the digging is over he shall be released. On the same day I found the hog, our neighbours rescued an abandoned Fox cub, he was revived in front of their Aga and was reported to the RSPCA, who promptly delivered him to Tiggywinkles. We had news this week he had not survived due to liver failure.

    As we look toward the woodland there are varying shades of yellow from the Daffodils that dance in the breeze echoing the wild primroses that form a pastel carpet at their feet. Dotted amid the Primroses are Cylla which although tiny  wear their purple blue flowers with pride. Leaf buds are forming but not yet bursting and the blossom buds are just waiting for a burst of warmth so they can lure the bees to their heart. Bumble Bees abound desperate for food and seem to bombard you as if you have the answers to their needs. If only I had the key.

    The Critters

    Teresa has a clutch of 4/5 eggs which she cares for when not foraging for worms and helping me in the garden. Terence is as ever a territorial duck. He proudly chases Pheasants around and out of the garden, all he needs is the Benny Hill theme tune to add to the comedy of it all. Limping Lulu, is happy and well, although she can’t keep up with TnT she does well.  Terence pays her attention, which she adores and Teresa stays with her for the napping time, which she seems to appreciate as the garden is very long and steep for a small duck with a gammy leg.

    Harold, Dot & Doris are  doing well. Harold is giving Doris alot of Spring loving, which shows in her feathers, good job she’s got plenty. Dot is having an easier time this year, much to her relief. Eggs a plenty as a result of the extras from the big dig!

    Catch up with you soon, as now I take my aching Glute’s to bed.

    Lulu & Teresa

    Lulu & Teresa

    …about flipping time too. Well if they all survive we will all be VERY happy. It’s been so cold I haven’t dared to take a peek, but when I came home (Mon 1st) – after a long weekend away – the sun was shining and I went for a quick look – standing on the outside watching for signs of life the Blue hive had activity, but there was only a flicker of life from the Green, while the other 2 remained completely still.

    On Wednesday evening I attended the first session of my Introduction to Bee Keeping course – all about the anatomy of the Bee, basic Hive knowledge and history of Bee Keeping. The group was about 36 strong, and was over subscribed. Thursday was followed by the monthly group meeting with a talk on Spring preparation which was interesting if a little disjointed.  Next month – Swarm control. One thing that has stayed with me is – 16 days for a Queen to hatch from the colony decision to turn the egg to a Queen. Must crack on with those other Hives so I am prepared for the forthcoming season, it will be easier as the days lengthen and the temperature rises.

    This weekend the sun shone – brilliant feeling – warmth, bright light, snowdrops nodding while catkins danced in the breeze.  The vegetable patch was cleared of the last bits of detritus in the beds, netting cleared and soil turned in preparation for transplanting and sowing. We then proceeded to finish the digging in of the rabbit fencing, determined the gate position, ready for the gate and posts.

    Then on to check the Bees with much apprehension, kitted out and taking a deep breath but no smoker I moved forward to the Apiary. Green first – Lifting the roof off I was elated to see the girls had eaten almost 1lb of honey, there were lots of them and they were busy buzzing away happily. On to the Blue – these were fed fondant rather than honey  and they had eaten the lot! Happy girls in the warm and cosy Hive, I gave them a jar of last years honey to tide them over. Apprehensively I lifted the lid on the White, beneath the sacks I could see that there was activity and a contented hum as they fed on the honey provided at the end of January. Checking the available food – half a jar of honey, still to go. Finally the Cream – once again last fed fondant – all gone, so replaced with a jar of honey. Happily I wrapped them up and made sure that everyone was secure and trotted back to the Veg, happy in the knowledge that so far they had survived.

    Note to self and all readers – the Cream Hive had a lot of dead Bees on the alighting board but there were signs of diorreah and I must check out exactly what is to be done.

    Happy in the knowledge that they are alive and well. I can move forward.

    Menagerie wise – Terence has his 2 new friends – Teresa and Lulu! Obviously I was only supposed to collect 1 companion for him, he had started to venture away from home in the search of a mate – a tad risky since there are Foxes that have been visiting our neighbours and as he can’t fly, but just run quite quickly it’s not advisable that he venture too far from home. So Terence now has his companions and is hopefully no longer confused about why the Chickens don’t like water except to drink! On going to get Teresa a small duck was sat alone in a pen – pretty, small and sad she sat. Upon asking why she was alone – ‘she’s lame, if you like you can have her for free’ – a sucker for a pretty face I said yes! and that is how we come to have 2 ladies, with affection she was named Limping Lulu.

    Now all 3 sleep together in the converted chicken house and run, which although it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge training Terence, he is almost there and the girls enter without question. Result! we sleep deeply in the knowledge that they are safe.

    Harold and his ladies are fluffed up and gorgeous, both have been laying and since the Spring urges have taken a hold of Harold, both Dot & Doris have become more tolerant of one another.  Although somewhat defensive of food initially they have also taken the new Ducks in their stride.

    It’s a funny sight watching Terence toddling off with his women in tow and Harold in hot pursuit of his women as they definitely rule the garden, if not the roost.  Meanwhile the cats are only interested in chasing the pheasants, much to Terences’ delight as it saves him a job.

    Well as well know it’s been a tad chilly for us and I worried about my Bees throughout December and January, probably just like any other novice.

    We snuck in some jars of the honey extracted last year and 2 of the 4 were pleased as punch that they had a new food source. A sneak peak a few days later showed that it hadn’t really had a dent made into it.

    Then yesterday I had a phone call from Terry who said if I was up for it he would be able to come and do an Oxalic Acid treatment on the girls if I wanted. Now if a regular reader you’ll be aware that at the beginning I had lots of reservations about chemical treatments, but having seen the varroa drop off following the use of the Apiguard, I decided that this may be a good option especially as I hadn’t got the Bee Vital timing right last year.

    For reference yesterday was very cold – a light snow fall and Terence’s pond and the ground were frozen, the sun shone from mid morning but the snow didn’t thaw until about 3.30pm.

    So as instructed the sacks and food stores were withdrawn, the objective being that they go back down into the hive for warmth. As the forecast had predicted today was again freezing overnight, with a light breeze today, again sunshine from mid morning although hazy today.

    Terry arrived mid morning and we headed to the Bees, where, we commenced our treatment and this is the outcome from that treatment:

    Green Hive – bursting with Bees – 30ml of treatment, as there was a level of moisture on the roof we did not replace the insulation, but replaced the half jar and a new jar of honey. This hive had a new Queen last year but was a hive that originally swarmed.

    Blue Hive – a surprise as this had been one of the strongest the last time I had been in there. Although not short of Bees, there were 50% in quantity of the Green – 20ml given. On removing the honey jars it transpired that they hadn’t had any of it, so I gave them a tub of fondant, replaced the sacks – to keep them warm and to stop the fondant from drying out. This Hive houses my original Queen, who is now entering her 3rd year – another decision to be made later on.

    White Hive – gazillions of Bees, full to bursting. 30ml given. Honey jars put in place and sacks replaced. This is the nuc that I got from Terry last year, so she is a 2009 Queen.

    Cream Hive – opened with anticipation, but lots of Bees not as many as any of the others but they were looking good. They were bad on taking the sugar syrup and hadn’t touched the honey left for them, so they were left fondant, sacks replaced and closed after receiving 15-20ml.

    Woodpecker guards seem to be working well, fingers crossed they keep on going.

    Things of interest

    • Oxalic Acid is mixed with sugar syrup and is squirted over the Bees on the frames – theory bees clean each other thus removing mites – same theory as the BeeVital.
    • Moisture in the Hive is BAD – to much moisture leading to mould etc is just as bad for them as it is for us – Bees prefer a nice dry hive. Bees in a cluster can get temperatures in the heart of the cluster can reach 90 degrees.
    • When using sacks remember to tuck them in tight around the edges so that thy don’t get caught up in them, because once they do they won’t be able to get back.
    • Having lots of Bees means that they need lots of food so need to be monitored!

    Having done mine we went over to see Oliver who wanted his doing too. All of the 9 in his field were doing well, although fewer Bees in each hive than in mine they were a happy healthy looking bunch. All in nationals with no entrance guards, they were all dry and doing OK.

    However, the one kept in neighbours garden was the saddest thing I have ever seen. 5 frames of Bees, all completely dead – having starved to death. Such a heart rending thing to see, very sad.

    So my top tips – keep them fed, keep them warm, keep them dry, when handling fondant its easier with wet hands!

    Bee meetings start again this month – hurrah! -so I’ll let you know what I learn – til then…

    Protected, colour coded and warm in the snow

    It’s been a very long time since I last blogged about my gals and for this I apologise…

    It was a bit of a fraught autumn as I discovered that the girls had been busy eating all their honey stores and that of the supers!. 3 of the 4 colonies were bursting with Bees and due to the weather there hadn’t been enough food for them to forage. So as a consequence they were in need of feeding.

    Caught unprepared for this early feeding frenzy every cupboard was ransacked reasonable sized plastic containers, loads found but not necessarily with matching lids. Calm settled after I had spent ages piercing lids with carious apparatus – by the way a meat fork works extremely well. Opening cupboard doors the search for sugar was on and how to make sugar syrup – so that it wasn’t so thin that it would drown them an not so thick that they couldn’t take it down, only to discover that there wasn’t enough sugar in the house – off to the supermarket for caster sugar. It may sound as if I exaggerate but I was in a blind panic as they had very little food.  Flippin’ ‘eck I sound like a mother hen, but I was really unprepared and they had nothing.

    John (trusty husband), assisted me to load the up with the food, being sure that there was a vacuum so that the syrupy goo didn’t leak out everywhere. Now we had food on tap there was a further issue at hand – wasps – the jars all had to be replenished with watery jam and rehung.  Checking and topping up became a very messy affair – John ended up getting stung and although I shouldn’t laugh his bee escape dance while sticky with sugar is  embedded in my memory and makes me smile at the the thought. However it has not deterred him in helping.  Eventually I bought some proper feeders which made life a lot less messy and disturbed the girls less.

    First weekend in September I attended the last proper bee gathering of our local group and learnt that the majority were all doing their Varroa treatment or had completed it. Now this was a bit of a stinger as I was of the belief that this would take place later when the weather was cooler and they would be less likely to leave the hive due to the heavy aroma associated with the Api-guard. Of the 4 hives, 3 took the syrup easily and with speed, the 4th sipped and neglected to take it in any quantity.

    While all this was ongoing I was a lucky girl as I managed to acquire some WBC’s for a highly competitive price, although in need of work they were an absolute snip. So I commenced stripping and sorting the lifts and floors into some semblence of order and have made 4 complete hives so far. I have decided to do each one a different colour, this should aid in reporting and working out who is doing what, plus colour makes me happy so it’s much nicer to make reference to green, blue, cream, etc. Just another quirk – apparently the French do a lot of bright colours – and they have a natural affinity for style, eh voila!

    Why go for a WBC I hear you ask – well we have a lot of woodpeckers, of various sorts and bees need to be kept warm. By putting my national into a WBC, they benefit from added protection from the outer layer, an extra layer of insulation, it’s an extra layer the birds have to penetrate to get to the precious cargo.

    Getting wrapped up for winter, was a challenge as we were inundated with wasps right up until November! The little demons just would not desist despite wasp catchers laden with dilute homemade jam,  hanging from trees, pierced jam jars strategically positioned and me poised with hive tool ready squash any that should dare to challenge the colonies in my presence!

    As a novice Beekeeper and not having mesh floors on my hives – bar one – I didn’t do a proper Varroa count BUT as the Apiguard was cleared by the bees and I was transferring them to WBC’s I was able to identify a good fall out. I did try putting sheets of cardboard on the hive floor but I lost more evidence on the removal than learn the number dropping. .

    Transferral of the hives to the WBC floors was easy and meant that I could do one last check before I closed them right down for winter. 3 of the 4 were brimming with Bees, Brood and Food, ;0). That which had not taken down much syrup wasn’t doing so well and was lighter in weight when lifting onto it’s new floor and there was evidence that the Varroa had affected the colony due to some of the Bees falling short of the Hive on their return, with some slight wing deformation.

    When in position it was time to wrap the girls up with sacks inside the roof to retain the warmth, ensure the entrances were secure and draught proof and create a further barricade against the woodpeckers!  A chicken ring fence was created for each hive and we cut up an old net which was draped over the top of each.

    On the milder sunny days 2 weeks before Christmas they have been flying, not just for a cleanse but foraging too. Wasps declined dramatically at the beginning of December although we did have a hornet in the house around that time. Bees on the landing stage are greater on the smallest (cream) colony.

    Meanwhile everyone else has been enjoying or been somewhat caught out by the recent winter weather, be it frozen ponds, uncertainty as to what to do in the white stuff or just taking a chill pill from a cold winters day.

    Lazy Evenings

    To see the girls into the new year and while the weather was slightly more mild they were delivered a 1lb jar of their own honey to aid them, on new years eve. Green, Blue & White hives were full of dozy bees all snuggling together, but the Cream was very low so keep your fingers crossed and wish them well.

    I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR  and if you are a Bee Keeper may your bees survive the winter!

    I wull now be working on WBC renovation, frame making and getting ready for Spring. My working location will be the log store and garage – in my thermals no doubt!

    Open workshop & log store

    Thermals Required - open air workshop

    Next blog…. Terry and the winter Varroa treatment