All shook up

Bees at entrance to hive

Here we are at the end of our beekeeping course for the final session at the apiary. So, what did we do today?

After opening the colonies we were looking at a couple of weeks ago, we could see how busy the queens had been and saw newly laid eggs. Surprising how small these are, when you are used to looking at photos of them in books or online. There were a few drones that had hatched since we last took a look - these were what we would be practising queen marking. As you can imagine, queens are valuable in a colony so not a good idea to let a group of beginners loose on handling them without trying what it feels like picking up bees and getting our confidence.

All shook up

As we went through the frames looking for drones, David uncapped a small cluster of drone cells as it's an early way of finding out how many varroa there might be. One frame we could clearly see 2-3 varroa on each developing drone - not a good sign. However, looking on another frame, there wasn't any sign of varroa. Two options when dealing with varroa - naturally or chemically. Naturally would be to create an artificial swarm then once completed, destroy the old frames. Yes, you'll lose bees, but the well-being of the colony is greater.

Learning to shake bees off frames was not as easy as David made it look. The bees definitely raised their buzz when it was our turn to have a go. Despite everything, the bees put up with us admirably - after all, practice makes perfect - or better!

Practice Session - marking a drone

Beekeeping isn't for everyone and there are fears that we all have - the big one obviously is getting stung - but treat bees with respect and resist the temptation to interfere with them, I've a feeling the girls will be less inclined to try and persuade you otherwise with the only means they have. We'll make mistakes on our way, but what I have learnt is that beekeepers are passionate about their bees and more than happy to share their enthusiasm and wisdom when asked.

Just to end with, I'd like to say a big thank you to David who took us under his wing at the beginning of this year and has guided us through our coursework and practicals at the apiary. He has encouraged us to think for ourselves and not to be afraid of trying things. He also has a wicked sense of humour that kept us on our toes as never too sure if he's joking or not (your smile gave it away David)!