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 And this is what I saw - a beautiful new queen that superseded the old queen last Autumn heading a very strong and health colony of honey bees.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.

Mini-beast from the east arrives

Apiary in the snow

With the first day of (astronomical) spring just days away, the cold snap that’s being called the ‘mini-beast from the east’ has brought more snow this weekend which apparently has been caused by high pressure over Scandinavia causing the unseasonable weather conditions here in the UK.

The need to feed

Fondant being fed to honey bees

With Easter only a couple of weeks away, it's hard to believe that it's been snowing most of today here in this part of Devon. The temperature outside is still in single figures with a wind chill of -5oC today and the 14 day weather forecast offers no sign of warmer weather. With the long drawn out wintry weather, there's a need to feed our colonies of honey bees, or at least monitor them weekly to check they have adequate stores.

Emma and the beast from the east

Snow at the apiary

With the majority of the country laying under a blanket of snow, it was inevitable that the beast from the east would finally reach us in Devon with Storm Emma due to arrive later from the west. With the weather conditions as they are, the car keys were left hanging up and the woolly hat and gloves donned for a trudge in the snow over to the apiary to check the hives.