The Bee-ginning of a New Season

4/26/2017 03:47:00 pm 0 Comments

We carried out the first full inspection of 2017 on the Honeydale beehives this week and there’s lots to report.

The day before the inspection, Paul checked on all the hives, assisted by Ian’s wife, Celene. They noted that there was little or no fondant left in our two WBC hives. In one of them, honeycomb had been created on the queen excluder to fill the big gap left behind as the fondant was used up, but since the queen might be on this comb, Paul didn’t remove it, but added as many super frames as would fit for the time being.


The new hive was full of busy bees which had also created honeycomb inside the lid. 


There’s lots of rapeseed flowering at the moment and these additional honeycombs that have been created inside two of the hives show that the colonies have developed so well over the spring they’re cramped for space. It’s good to see all three hives with lots of bees building stores and from the outside Chris' five hives were also looking good and busy.


However, just as we were about to leave, we found a swarm in the hedge roughly the size of a football. 



Paul cleared away the grasses and brambles so he could get a box under the swarm and shook the swarm into the swarm box. Two brood frames were added together with small amount of fondant left over from another hive (watch the video below).



When Paul came back the next day with Chris to carry out the full inspection, all his existing hives were preparing to swarm and were very busy with queens being reared. Chris removed so many queen cells from each hive to prevent swarming that he used up all of his queen cell cages! It was clear that one of them had swarmed - likely to be the swarm we’d discovered in the hedge. Empty supers and frames were added to all five hives.


When he arrived at Honeydale, Chris’s first task had been to place five new colonies in their 'nuc' boxes, beside his existing hives (also visible in photo above, nuc box on the right). These had been left for an hour or so to calm down after transit, then the doors were opened so the bees could start to acclimatise to their new location. These colonies will be re-homed into proper national hives ASAP, ie as soon as weather permits. 

The inspections of the white WBC hive with honeycomb on the queen excluder showed there to be no eggs or brood on this honeycomb, so we were confident the queen was not on them. The worker bees were shaken into the hive and the honeycomb removed. 

Regular inspections were then carried out on the other two WBC hives. A few queen cells were discovered in one hive and we broke these open to determine the development of the queens. In the picture you can see the tiny queen larvae at the centre of the cell, surrounded by Royal Jelly, which is required to rear a queen from a regular larvae.


Both existing 2016 queens were found looking healthy and laying lots of eggs and stores were being filled with lots of rape pollen. With all the rape flowering at the moment we expect the supers on these two hives to fill quickly.

The third hive, which was recently donated to us, was also busy and healthy. We were unable to spot a queen as yet, but we could see lots of drone brood, so we’re confident she’s in there somewhere. The bees were still a little bad tempered and twitchy though, so we may decide to re-queen this colony in due course. When we re-home the bees into their lovely new refurbished hive, we will try to locate her and ask her why she is in such a bad mood!

You may remember in a recent update that storm Doris lifted the lid clean off this hive, here you can see Paul fitting straps to it to prevent this happening in the future.


The keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed that there are some new non-bee additions to the apiary since last year. We had some leftover trees from the 250 tree heritage fruit orchard and we thought it would be a great idea to plant them in the apiary. These consist of apple, cherry and plum trees and in a few years with a little bit of TLC, the bees will be enjoying the 'fruits' of our labour!


Watch this space for the next update, we'll be visiting the bees again as soon as the weather allows, to re-home the 'nuc' box bees into proper hives and also the donated bees into their new refurbished National hive.

Matthew Johnson

Graphic Designer at Cotswold Seeds Google

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