Sunday, 28 June 2015

A bit of a bee weekend

OK I know I haven't done a bee post for awhile (hooray you say!) but there's been a lot happening beewise in, and out, of the apiary. I'll do a quick précis of my girls first.

My bees arrived on the 21st May and I left them for a couple of weeks to settle in. They seemed very happy and were getting on with life. I did my first (solo!) inspection on the 9th June and all was well. They were drawing out the frames, the queen was seen and there were eggs. As you can see in the photograph lots of different pollen types was coming in (left of the photograph).
Honey bees and pollen

Happy with their progress I left them another week before checking but this time things had changed. Looking at the frames I could see what looked like capped queen cells, I couldn't see the queen and there were no eggs.

I'd always been told to look for queen cells at the edge of the frames as this was where they liked to hide them before swarming but these were three in the middle and why were they there as this was a new queen? A little panicked I phoned Jamie my bee mentor. He's very laid back and said they sounded like supercedure queen cells, either there was a problem with the queen or she'd gone. It turns out there's been a lot of this in our area this year, new queens just up and going. He said just leave them and they'll sort themselves out. Unfortunately they didn't as when we looked on Saturday we couldn't see a queen and still no brood, so we decided to join another swarm with a queen (from the same source as my original bees).

Examining the hive
You put a sheet of newspaper on top of the original brood box then put the new bees on top. By the time they've munched their way through the pheromones have done their work and all the bees are happy.

Sadly they're not happy immediately and Sunday was quite upsetting as there were quite a lot of bee fights as the original bees took a dislike to the newbies who hadn't stayed in their brood box.
Putting on the newspaper

Checking three days later - paper eaten through

More bees and a laying queen
Now they've all settled down happily.

While Jamie was round I mentioned that if he had a swarm to collect in the area I'd like to come along. Three hours later the phone rang - there was a swarm at the Fenland Aviation Museum and the beekeeper who was already there needed a hand. Would I like to tag along?

The bees had decided to take up residence behind the panelling in one of the exhibition sheds. The museum guide had closed the section off but obviously they needed moving.

Technically honeybees are not protected.
Now at first it didn't look too bad as Jamie and Steve took one of the panels off.

Yes it's a vacuum cleaner but modified - please don't try it at home
The idea is to get the queen into a nuc box and then the rest of the bees will follow, usually you leave them until evening or the following morning before collecting,

The more bees that were scooped out the more we realised were around. Apparently this was a prime swarm, probably a whole colony had left the hive and we were looking at about 40000 bees.

I managed to take a short video so if you want to know what it's like to be surrounded by thousands of bees…

And just to complete the weekend we now have bumblebees in the soffit boards!


  1. Wow! That video is very vivid. Are you sure you have time to devote to the demands of those bees AND do a house 're-looker-ing' project?

  2. Sometimes I wonder! I'm hoping that the bees will settle down now and just get on with things, so that I can :-)

  3. Impressive sharon and I really wish i had a outfit like yours ......... I dont think my small nest is honey bees after seeing your nest unless you some times get a few bumble bees or queens buzzing round the front fighting ( 2 ) ..... still trying to get a close up picture but its hard as they are in shade and gardening the opening .... hopefull have a picture for you soon ..... mike

  4. We had a swarm in the garden the day before we went to Glasto ...think it was from one of Rog's hives. Unfortunately it was suspended from a tree bough about 20 feet up so no chance to retrieve. It's left us now so keep an eye/ear out! Carol x

    1. We'll have no 'foreign' bees up here thank you! I'm hoping that mine have settled down now and just getting on with making me some honey :-)