A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Apiary Inspection 25/05/2012

After all the rubbish weather we've had in Wakefield this May the last few days have been a really refreshing change, the weather has been absolutely smashing! For nearly a week now we have had glorious sunshine and I have been desperate to get to my apiary and see how my hives are doing, but have been stuck doing the late shift at work; this Friday was my first day off and as luck would be the weather was still great so I did my inspection.

When I got to the apiary I got suited up and just watched the Bees for a few minutes; there was lots of bees returning with pollen and nectar from both hives. So far so good. With the weather being so nice there would be a much reduced number of Bees in the hive as they are out foraging; due to this I decided to be brave and didn't use smoke. The first hive I went into was my original hive which had queen cells in it last time I checked. I was hoping to find the queen and mark her so I would be able to find her easier in the future. Within a couple of frames my hopes where raised when I could see eggs in the cells but a second later they were dashed slightly as I noticed some of the cells had multiple eggs in them. More than one egg in a cell can be a sign of worker Bees laying but sometimes newly mated queens lay more than one egg until they get used to laying. Also the eggs were right at the bottom of the cells which is also encouraging as laying workers will lay at the side of the cell as their abdomens aren't as long. I continued searching but was unable to find the queen. There was plenty of honey stored in the brood area and lots of pollen as well, they have even started storing some honey in the supers.

The second hive was a lot simpler. I found the queen in the second frame so there was no concerns. The hive had plenty of stores and also plenty of room to expand into the new frames. All in all I was very happy with the progress of this hive. When I moved onto the super I had a very pleasant surprise, they had started storing loads of honey and some of it looked like they where about to start capping it. This means I could be harvesting some honey very soon! As the majority of the honey will probably be from oil seed rape flower I will have to hurry up with extracting the honey as oil seed rape honey has a tendency to set solid in the cells! Hopefully that won't happen but if it does I'll just have to scrape it all out and maybe dissolve it in water to make mead!

WPBKA – Apiary Visit (Saturday 19.05.12)

Once again, this is the beekeepers wife speaking. Apparently I must have done a good job of the last post I wrote, as I have been invited to write another one!

I accompanied the beekeeper to the Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeeping Association Apiary meeting at one of the members’ homes last weekend. The Beekeeper attended this meeting last summer and you can read about this here.

When everyone had arrived at the house we all suited up and began the long adventurous walk to the apiary, through the large garden, orchard and along a public footpath and through some trees. And as anyone who lives in the north of England will know its been raining a lot in the past few weeks so the ground was a bit wet underfoot and some areas were a little muddy. The day itself was dry, but it was dull and very cold, not what you’d expect in May, and more importantly not the ideal weather for inspecting bees as all of the flying bees who would normally be out foraging were at home so the hive was very busy inside.

The Regional Bee Inspector was leading the meeting and he was combining this visit with one of his inspections so was making notes about what he saw in the hives. He was looking at the health of the bees and for signs of disease and also at their strength, which can be seen in how many frames of stores and frames of brood, and if there’s pollen present etc.

The first hive that was inspected was a British National Hive which had a very strong colony of bees in it, and so had 2 brood boxes; which were full of bees. This could have been a problem as when a hive gets too full the bees often swarm. This hive had already had a nucleus of bees removed from it, and it was still very strong, so it was decided that the best course of action would be to split the hive, in a move similar to the one that we describe here.

Whilst we were looking in this hive, a gentleman was showing us how to see the semen in a drone bee. I’m not entirely sure why he decided to show us this, but it was an interesting process involving killing the bee by squashing him, which then made his phallus pop out and the semen was just there. This process can be used to collect semen to artificially inseminate a Queen bee and is called either full or partial “eversion”. This is explained in much more detail in this website.

This illustration comes from the same website and shows the back end of the bee and his endophallus and its horns or cornua.

The second hive that was inspected was a very weak colony in a Dartington Long Deep Hive. There were hardly any bees in this hive and they were showing signs of a disease called Sacbrood.

Although it is not a good condition for Bees to have, Sacbrood is not a notifiable disease and is a relatively common virus that does not usually mean the loss of a whole colony. Sacbrood affects both the larvae of worker and drones but not adult bees. Dead brood is often seen in amongst healthy brood and in a strong colony the adult bees will remove the dead larvae. The dead larvae have a dark, scaly appearance and are sometimes known as “Chinese Slippers” due to their shape.

Sacbrood can be spread in a number of ways including:

  • Beekeepers using contaminated equipment in different hives.
  • Nurse Bees who carry the virus around the hive.
  • Robbing Bees who will attack a weak colony and transfer the virus between different apiaries.
  • Swarming Bees who will carry the virus to their new brood.

Sacbrood is discussed in much more detail – with a picture of it on this website.

There were a number of courses of action that could be taken to help this colony, including killing the old Queen, and adding a new one, a process aptly called “Re-Queening”. There was also a chemical treatment discussed and the option of moving the bees to a different hive that was smaller and much better suited to this size of colony. Unfortunately most of the people at the meeting were all seasoned Beekeepers, the discussion got much too technical for me at this point, so I’ll leave it at that. I did however get the impression that lots of the people there were not fans of this hive design. Its frames are a different size which makes it difficult to swap frames or split the hive unless you have others like it. It is possible though to split the hive using a dummy board, making two completely separate colonies in the one unit.

And finally a nucleus hive was inspected; this was very brief as a number of people were saying they were in desperate need of a warm cup of tea by this point.

We all walked back to the house and had sandwiches, cake and other snacks which were very welcome and very tasty. And perhaps the best bit of the day – we won a bottle of Wells Waggledance Ale in the raffle.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Apiary Inspection 08/05/2012

Today after work I visited the Bees and did a good inspection of both hives. When I got to the apiary the first thing I did was watch the Bees coming and going for a few minutes. I could see Bees returning from the nearby oil seed rape fields loaded up with pollen. When I'd got the smoker lit and I had suited up I dived into the first hive.


The hive had still got a queen excluder under the brood chamber that was put in place to stop Queen Bee-atrix from absconding. My first job was to remove this then place the whole hive onto my newly constructed hive stand. When I started working through the hive I was really lucky in that the Queen was on the first frame I looked at (the first couple of frames aren't fully drawn out yet so I didn't have a proper look at them). There were eggs and brood of all levels present in the hive. As this hive seems to be doing well I didn't spend too much time on it and did a quick inspection. One thing that I noted was that on one of the last frames the Bees had made some odd looking comb. It's hard to describe what it looked like and I will try for a photo next time. The comb was kind of bent around and overlapped, this may cause a problem later as the Queen may be able to hide in the flap created. I may have to remove this odd shaped comb at some time! When I was happy that I'd done all I could in the hive I filled up the frame feeder with syrup and put the hive back together with a extra super so the Bees have more room to start expanding.


Onto my original hive. This is the hive that had the Queen removed and last time I was at the hive there were Queen cells. By now the Queen cells should have hatched and any day now the Queen should be doing her mating flight. When I opened the hive I was impressed with the amount of Bees but there was no brood or eggs which to be honest was expected. One thing that did shock me was that there was still Queen cells present so I took a few photos of them. The only thing I can think of is that the Queen has already hatched and killed the Queens in the other cells, but the worker Bees haven't had time to remove the dead Queen cells. I did see 2 Queen cells that were empty. Fingers crossed that next time I visit there will be eggs. The next new task for me then would be to try to mark the new Queen to make her easy to see. Usually Queens are marked a different colour each year but as I am colour blind I am going to just use white to begin with. In the hive there was lots of stored nectar and hopefully they will start storing in the supers as soon as eggs are being laid.

Below are the pictures of the Queen cells I took.

A Queen cell

2 Queen cells and a few drones visible as well

Busy busy Bees!