Friday, 30 August 2013

Bees still busy

Despite the obvious onset of autumn the bees, bumble and honey, are still finding plenty of flowers.
 Sunflower "Ruby Queen" - about 2m tall has multiple stems so needs good support.
Globe thistle is a bonus at this time of year.  This is one plant and,
until I arrived with my camera ,was buzzing with bees!
This plant can become rather invasive and needs splitting every
Autumn if you don't want it to romp all over everything else.

QB is off to make up 11 shallow, thin wax frames to take to Yellow hive on the heather.

QB buzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Decisions to be made

Now QB is planning what actions to take to prepare the colonies for the winter
and also for next year.
A quick look into each hive gives some 'food for thought'.  QB does a lot of thinking!
Next Sunday's full inspection will finalise plans, but at the moment:
Blue hive (white Q 2011) has super almost ready to take off.
Red hive (blue Q 2010) has the top super full and starting to cap.
Miniblue hive has a new Q (not marked yet), 4 combs of brood (various stages) and
eggs. They are putting winter stores in the super.
Silver hive has new Q (marked red) with 5 combs brood etc. They are licking honey
from comb which has been extracted. Filling other super with winter stores.
Yellow hive is still on the heather moors. They  have drawn all the frames of full sheet
and half sheet very thin foundation and have almost filled them with honey.

What to think about?
When to take last supers of honey.
Whether/or not to treat against varroa mites.
How much syrup to feed each colony (final stores should weigh at least 25kg)
Whether to combine any hive which may look weaker or has an ageing Q.
QB zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz thinking.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Flying Ants

There are still lots of flowers for the bees to gather nectar and pollen. These "China Girl" lillies and Agapanthus are great favourites with several species of bumblebee.  The Tagetes, Ladybird poppies and
Clematis are the focus for honeybees.

QB visited Yellow hive on the heather moors today and got quite a surprise!.
The heather is almost in full flower now and the colony is working very hard.
The capped brood is emerging and I can see the young bees on the letboard trying out their wings.
We seemed to time our arrival at the site with the biggest cloud of flying ants I have ever seen. They
were all over the car and all over the hive too.  The bees seemed to ignore them completely and got
on with their work.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

That sinking feeling

Off I went to the apiary light of heart and bright of spirit to take a super of capped
honey from Blue hive.  Now this is the colony that we artificially swarmed around 18th July.
The white queen (2011) settled in well and the workers were happily drawing the deep foundation
for her to lay her eggs in.I decided  to leave them all undisturbed for a few weeks. There were 2 supers
above the QX and last week I gave them some wet comb (10 combs from which the honey has been extracted).  Had a little peek in and saw the top super of honey was being capped.
Anyway, today I lifted the roof and took away the 'wet'combs which the bees had licked clean and dry.
Now for the golden prize - but "Oh, no!!" Instead of rows of white cappings I found sealed brood.
The first 2 I took out were drone brood so, ever the optimist, I told myself (and the bees) that we have
a laying worker whose ovaries have gone wonky.  "Oh Bother" I said words to that effect. So I took out the next comb which was full of beautiful, serried ranks of worker brood in perfect pattern.
And then, who did I see tootling happily around the comb but The White Queen!.
WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT (after momentarily panicking)?
Well here's what I did and we'll hope it works.
- Remove the drone comb and save it for the birds. Put 2 dry combs in the space.
-  Brush the Queen down into the brood box (now full of honey!)
- Replace the QX.
- Place the offending super on top (this brood will hatch out and join the workforce)
- Place the other super on top.
- Take away the dried "wet" comb.
- Close the hive up and say a little prayer.

Monday, 19 August 2013


Bees very grumpy today - could be the storm clouds or wind (climatic not digestive)
QB has found a crop which isn't dependent on pollinators - not directly at any rate.
This is a very fruitful year for field mushrooms.  QB simply can't get enough!!

Varroa- count results/action

QB uses WBC hives with mesh floors and a slide-out wooden tray beneath.
The dead mites (or living if bees have been grooming) drop through the mesh on to the white paper
which I place on the tray.
Since V. management is an essential part of helping the bees to stay healthy QB monitors the
number of mites which drop through at least 4X /year.
I have just carried out a count for every colony (currently 4). All had debris eg wax scales and pollen
"Whoops!! Dropped it!"
Red hive - 0 mites but a few badger hairs.
Silver hive - 1 mite with 2 fine hairs
Blue hive - 1 mite
Mini-blue - 0 but several badger hairs
This very low count pattern has been more or less the same throughout the season.
 QB likes to icing-sugar dust the bees on the surface of each comb - NOT on a breezy
day though. The idea is that as they lick each other any mites become dislodged and drop off.
Sorry this is all a bit boring!!
You can download all the details about V. from Defra's website (
ACTION : As the count is so low I could take no action. I might consider putting Apistan
above each broodnest (£4 cheaper from Paynes than Thornes for the 10 tray size - treats
5 colonies) in September as an extra insurance.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Time to count Varroa destructor

It's worth doing a final season count to decide if any treatment is needed before winter kicks in.
Having a last good wipe-out could save you the heartbreak of opening up the hive(s) next year
and finding a mass of little dead furry bodies.
QB put white paper in the trays below the mesh floors 10 days ago and will have a count-up
Watch this space for results and what to do next.
QB ZZZZZ  PS Sorry no pics. of mites.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Heather Honey Time

Just about the time when the Rosebay Willowherb comes into flower we take off the supers of honey -
making sure we leave plenty for each colony to feed them through the winter (approx. 40lb / hive).

Willowherb pollen is a lovely blue/grey colour. Other flowers are still productive.
However, the main summer nectarflow is over and, as the temperatures drop, the bees are preparing for winter.
Poppy pollen is a spectacular black!
 Just as the bee activity slows down
heather (ling) moors burst into that
amazing purple haze.
Heather honey is different - it is a gel
in the comb which makes it impossible
to extract in the normal way.

The taste and quality of heather honey is so memorable that QB is taking a colony to a nearby heather moor.
I have chosen Yellow colony as this has the youngest queen and the strongest brood nest.  You need a very
full and active colony as the bees need to build wax comb before they can store the heather nectar.
 These bees will need very careful treatment on their return home mid-Sept.
Yellow colony has been transferred to a National hive one week before going on
their hols. WBC is very difficult to transport - the separate parts tend to slide
about, upsetting the bees and the beekeeper.
When we arrived at our chosen spot (with prior permission from the farmer, of
course!) the special heather floor enabled me to unscrew a simple wing-nut which lowered the entrance flap.  The bees came out very warily in small numbers. They soon got their bearings and started work.
This colony now has a brood box
and one super with 11 frames of thin foundation.  There is no queen excluder and QB has prepared a second super to put on when the bees have almost filled this one.
I miss them being absent from the apiary and go to visit them every few days!
More news soon QB ZZZZ

Saturday, 3 August 2013


What I did with 5 queen cells.
Well firstly, I looked into all the colonies to see if any were strong enough to donate
some brood to a nucleus.  Yes! There was a lot of spare brood and workers. OK
Make a note of which hives would gift 2 or 3 combs.
Next , I took another look into the "5 queencell" hive (now named miniblue).
And then I decided to forget all my plans for them because I found 3 of the 5 had hatched
out queens and the workers had destroyed 2 of the 5.
The queens will sort each other out and I hope the strongest, blackest, best-matured one
will win.  Anyway whichever queen is still alive will be high in the cloudless blue sky having a grand
old time. After several trips out she will come home with her spermothecae full and then she'll get
down to the serious work of laying eggs (most diploid and a few haploid.) In full lay she can produce
up to 2,000 eggs/day.
So the stunning picture above shows a barren nuc.!!!
For "How to set up a nuc. when you DO HAVE spare Q.cells" see blog "The next day"

Friday, 2 August 2013

"Bring out the Drones" (apologies to Hilary Mantel)

Honeybees love Mesembryanthemums. They collect the reddish pollen in their pollen baskets on their back legs.

 In the middle of these pics. you will spot one or two drones.
Do not be alarmed if your female workers (diploid) start pushing out the
male drones (haploid).  This time of the year the drones which are still alive will be extra mouths to feed , contributing nothing to the colony's
efforts to store food for the winter months. The productive drones will not have made it back to the hive - plummeting to earth after mating with the virgin queen. A sad but true story. Drones never come out on top despite their efforts although they do contribute their genes to the colony.
PS If you're a drone reading this do not become dispirited. The time in between can be fun !