Stacking up the supers

Honey bee colonies with large stacks of supers

Have had an amazing weekend helping a beekeeping friend to take off supers from her colonies. There's me with my three hives thinking that was hard work!

It all started on the Friday when I asked Jan if she needed any jars as was about to put in an order with C Wynne Jones this week. To cut a long story short, I volunteered to give a helping hand as she mentioned the supers were difficult to take off, especially on her own. How high were they?

Having a super time

Apiary showing stacked supers

It's been another busy weekend removing supers full of honey, spinning it out and watching the liquid gold silently pouring into jars. Yet again the weather has been a scorcher and climbing into the beesuit soon had me hot and bothered.. and that was before I even got started!

The month of June tends to be the month when there is little forage around for the bees, but not so this year. There's been an abundance of nectar and the girls have been out gathering the bounty.

Opening the honey gate

Honey pouring out through honey gate

With the sweltering heat of the summer, the last thing you want to do is put on a beesuit, but the weekly inspections must carry on for a little longer to make sure there's ample space for the queen to lay as well as ensuring there's sufficient space to prevent the colony from getting congested - one of the main reasons why a colony will swarm is not having enough room. However, with a good nectar flow on, the girls are busy bees and there's an abundance of honey being made. That means lifting off very heavy supers to reach the brood box!

A glimmer of hope for swarming bees

Swarm lured from roof space

Has it really been nearly 2 months since I last jotted down some of my beekeeping adventures? Well, what a way to come back - luring a swarming of bees out of a roof space at work and into a bait hive!

This time of year is when honey bees are likely to swarm as their colony sizes grow and the next generation needs room to expand. It’s a beekeeper’s job is to try and prevent that from happening as not everyone likes honey bees and they could be seen as a nuisance, especially when they take up residence in your roof space – and that’s what happened at work last Thursday!

Super queen cell

Capped queen cell

It's official... I've now experienced what it's like to carry out an artificial swarm. It's the one thing I've been dreading since becoming a beekeeper in 2016. You read about it in books, you watch videos and practice. But when it comes to doing it, everything seems to be forgotten and you're left there wondering what to do while thousands of bees fly around as you disrupt their home!

Queens busy laying

Eggs in worker cells

Second inspections of the year reveal a lot of activity going on inside the hives since I last took a look 7 days ago. The queens are all busy laying eggs to build up their colony sizes now that the warmer weather is with us. If it stays as it is, then we should start seeing the bees flying out on the nectar flow - a time when there's an abundance of nectar available from flowers and trees.

Module 3 - Paper 1

Varroa destructor on the head of an emerging bee

With Module 1: Honey Bee Management safely tucked under my beekeeping belt in 2017, this year I've chosen to study Module 3: Honey Bee Pests, Diseases and Poisoning for my correspondence course. I'm giving myself the full year to learn as found it quite challenging last year to find enough hours in the day to spend time doing my research before thinking about sitting the exam.

Brimming with bees

Queen bee

I don't normally blog about the bees I look after at work, although I probably should as they are also under my beekeeper wing as it were but having struggled to keep this colony going through last year and expecting the worst after the long drawn-out winter months and cold snap, I genuinely couldn't believe what awaited me today on the very first inspection of the year. And this is what I saw - a beautiful new queen that superseded the old queen last Autumn heading a very strong and health colony of honey bees.

First spring inspection

Frame of brood - spot the queen!

With the temperature in double figures today and the sun shining, the long-awaited first spring inspection of my three colonies happened today. There's a whole raft of emotions I found myself feeling as it's been about 7 months since closing them up for the long-drawn out winter months. I felt excited to be getting back to my beekeeping and opening up the hives, but at the same time feeling anxious as to what state the colonies would be in after the endless months of cold weather.

Cold weather continues into Easter

Easter feeding

With the Met Office having issued a snow warning for parts of the south-west and the high grounds of Devon, it's a worrying time as the long cold snap continues preventing the bees from breaking out of their winter cluster to head out to forage. They have had so little flying days this year and here we are with April knocking on the door in a couple of days.