Unexpected new bees move in

Overbrook colony move

March is beginning to warm up down here in Devon but not enough for the girls to be out flying full-time yet but there's plenty to be doing in readiness for when the nectar starts to flow. Last week I ordered new frames and foundation because it won't be long now before beekeepers start to make regular inspections of their colonies and looking out for their bees making swarming preparations.

Rhubarb, bees... and varroa

Rhubarb patch in garden

I read a very interesting article in this month's copy of The Beekeepers Quarterly (No. 127) on how a couple of beekeepers, Ann and Maciej Winiarski, in Poland have been using rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) as an effective method of controlling varroa.

Holsworthy Spring Convention 2017

Holsworthy Spring Convention 2017

This weekend was the Holsworthy Spring Convention which started with Graham Royal, Master Beekeeper and Seasonal Bee Inspector, giving an awesome presentation on “Apis through the looking glass” taking a close-up look at the honey bee – literally! Using photos he had taken under the microscope, he took us through the honey bee’s anatomy which was an incredible insight shown in intricate detail.

Keeping an old craft alive

Mike Male, skepper

This weekend I rolled up my sleeves with a group of other people to learn how to make a skep under the expert tuition of Mike Male from the Newton Abbot branch of the Devon Beekeepers' Association. This was the first of a two-day workshop for beekeepers - both novice and wiser - to make their own skep in time for the swarming season.

An innovative bait hive making its debut

Josh Akhtar's bait hive

I've only been a beekeeper for 8 months and must confess that the swarming season fills me with both dread and excitement at the same time. Dread because I've yet to experience carrying out an artificial swarm, or even seeing a swarm issue from a hive. And excitement because it's going to be a challenge to see how well I do in preventing my girls from swarming themselves.

Blooming lovely

First crocus this year in garden

Here in this patch of East Devon, there was a sharp frost on the ground this January morning but as the sun began to rise, it soon disappeared leaving a beautiful sunny day. As the temperature rose, I looked across the garden to where Lizzie and her family reside in their beehive and there was a wonderful display of bees orienteering - getting to know where home is. Looking closer, I could even see one or two of the older bees bringing back yellow pollen. Sitting alongside a beehive, listening to the buzz of bees on a warm winter's day - perfect way to relax and enjoy the day.

December... a time to relax and reflect

December honey bees

This is my first winter as a beekeeper and I've been attending all my monthly branch meetings during the year, reading up on bees and what the beekeeper can expect in December in the many beekeeper diaries you read both in books and online. Quite a few said it's a time to relax, put your feet up and enjoy the season's festivities before getting back into the swing of routine inspections and hopefully extracting honey later in the year - if we've looked after our bees well. Having said that, it's obvious that the bees themselves have thrown the books out and have other plans of their own.

Three counts

Bees on Vapmite rod

Three weeks ago, I wasn't looking forward to the job in hand - that of treating the girls with oxalic acid - to try and bring under control the high level of varroa mites that Lizzie and her family are carrying... literally! The worry of vapourising the colony, as a new beekeeper, is quite daunting when you've never done something like this before. The way I looked at it was I had to be cruel (to the mites) to be kind (to the bees). So how are they doing?

Icy - Spot Detector

Icy - Spot Detector

Life just got better as a beekeeper, thanks to a great new open source tool for counting spots of all things! Over the past couple of weeks I've been treating Lizzie and her family to a dose of Api-Bioxal to try and bring the varroa mite infestation back down to a manageable level.

Three more long minutes

Varroa drop after treatment with Api-Bioxal

Peering outside this morning, I looked across at the girls and all was quiet on this cold and drizzly sort of day. Interesting to see that where Lizzie and her family are clustering towards the front of the hive, there's a dry shape on the outside of the hive. The weather this month seems to bring with it a range of different temperatures. One day there's a hard frost, the next bright and sunny and the girls are out flying. With the frosty weather last week, it was ideal to venture into unknown territory for me as a new beekeeper...