After two weeks of searching for her Ladyship and beginning to wonder if she was really in there, I finally got to meet Lizzie for the first time on frame 9 out of 12 while systematically going through the brood box this afternoon. What a very special moment to see her and an enourage of attendant bees surrounding her. With press-in queen marking cage and marker pen to hand, I wanted to mark her as quickly as possible without causing her any harm or stress.
There was an interesting article on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme presented by Anna Hill this week reporting that the stop start Spring seems to be confusing honey bees this year and beekeepers are reporting a slow start in producing honey as their bees don't seem to be making honey as fast as they might. She spoke to David Southgate, a Norfolk beekeeper and a swarm collector for the local area.
Who could resist a taste of honey, especially when a spoonful is offered to you sitting on top of a scone with clotted cream (Devon cream tea style)! This was the Devon County Show and this is where I volunteered to help in the Devon Beekeepers Association marquee. Pardon the pun, but the place was buzzing with people who would certainly have left the marquee knowing a lot more about bees - and hopefully a thought on what they can do in their own daily lives to help bees, whether it be planting more bee-friendly plants in their gardens or eventually becoming beekeepers themselves.
It's a good news day for bees today as ministers rejected an application from the National Farmers Union to use banned pesticides on one-third of oilseed rape crops in this country. This is the first time our government has ruled against farmers using neonicotinoids which are bee-harming pesticides.
In 2013 the European Commission banned these pesticides from being used on flowering crops as they were shown to be harmful to bees.
It has now been five days since the girls moved into their new residence at 59a at the bottom of the garden and there's a sense of complete calm and all is well in the world when sitting and just watching them going about their daily business. Before going to work, I eagerly peer out of one of the back windows to see if any of them are up and about. I'll go downstairs, put the kettle on and sit at watch for any early risers in the hive. You can easily lose hours - honestly.
As a newbee, when it comes to buying frames for the brood and super boxes, do you go for ready assembled or roll your sleeves up and do a bit of DIY? Having never made up a frame before, it was a really valuable lesson David Packham, our tutor, went through during one of the hands-on practical sessions at the apiary towards the end of the Beekeeping for Beginners course. He showed us first how to knock up a frame, which only seemed to take minutes. Simple right?
Well in this instance, it certainly does! Meet the new neighbours - a colony of bees at the bottom of the garden settling into their new home. All day they've been making maiden flights to learn their new surroundings and sources of food to go and forage. Because they are still planning their flights, it's important to feed the girls and so later tonight I'll be adding a feeder with a supply of sugar syprup (1:1 ratio of white granulated sugar and water) and keeping an eye on it over the coming week.
Today's the day when "Plan Bee" finally gets its first colony of bees. After waiting for what seems ages, I happened to be chatting with a lovely lady called Sylvia at the Annual Nosema Testing Day I went along to help at this weekend. It turned out that she had far too many bees herself and was thinking of getting rid of some of them. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
This week I've had to come to terms with killing some bees and the only way I can look at it is that it's all for the good of the colony. Thirty bees was all that was needed for me to take along to the Exeter Beekeepers Association's Annual Nosema Testing Day where I had previously volunteered to go along to help with getting the samples brought in ready for testing.
Right. I've gone and got myself a beehive so need to get a wriggle on to finish off the patch of garden where the apiary will be. Easier said than done when it involves moving heavy blocks of concrete, broken up paving slabs, a heap of old bricks, a stack of old plasterboard sheets and wood pile. Not a job to be done in 5 minutes - time to roll up my sleeves!