Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunny , warm and light winds

Well, the good weather had finally arrived, it is hot today , about 27 degrees and wall to wall sunshine. Its a terrible shame it was not two weeks ago but thats nature for you.

I took some film last saturday of midday bees working very hard on mainly chestnut, bramble and thistle flowers and wanted you to see just how busy it gets at the entrance to a hive.

I artificially swarmed 3 of my hives just after I took this video. I wanted to make a couple more colonies for next year as I still have not got my own numbers of hives at my apiary up to 12 hives. I got rid of a few swarms in the spring and was relying on having some decent weather to precipitate  sucessful mating of virgin queens to re queen colonies that had swarmed, but that just did not happen this year. So I have learned that lesson well. Never rely on bees to requeen themselves if the weather is poor!

The colonies that I have hopefully created last saturday, will remain in the same nucs for the whole of the forthcoming winter and  if they are queen right in the next month they will have enough time to prepare themselves for the forthcoming winter. I will feed them generously over the next few days as very soon the main nectar flow stops, leaving only a few shrubs and plants in flower.
The honey that the bees have been gathering in haste is now being dried and capped, when it is judged by the bees to contain the right amount of sugar and water. Not too much water to allow it to ferment, but not too much sugar to let the sugar solidify and become more difficult to extract over the winter when the need arises.
I will be harvesting the honey crop on or very close to the end of August.

Skep Beekeeping.

I was doing some surfing on u tube last week and found this wonderful insight in to the virtually extinct method of beekeeping.

It is actually a very well filmed and informative series of films, explaining in quite detail, the work at the skep aipary. It incredible just how labour intensive it is! The hours are very long and the rewards don`t seem to justify the work put in, but  I think if you trained there, you would certainly know you bees well!

There are 7 films in total , this being the first one. you should be able to follow the link afterwards to the next 6, It is worth a look.
 I love the naration, so wonderfully like Pathe news from the 1940`s and 50`s. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A lesson in artificial swarming

Beekeepers from the region attend workshop in artificial swarming.

Last sunday 15th July, Myself and a group of beekeepers from the surrounding region attended a lesson in artificial swarming. 
The Lessons are held by my beekeeping teacher Mr Charles Basset, at his place in Quevert. The whole objective is to pass on the theory and practice the technique of artificial swarming on the Dadant hive here In Brittany.

 Charles has  been carrying out this method for over 20 years and now has a success rate of about 85 percent.

The method is as described in one of my previous blogs, as is the video posted on you tube.

We carried out AS on about 15 hives at two sites, giving everyone practice and the confidence to carry out the procedure on their own hives when the need arises, avoiding swarming and losing half your colony.

I had used this method myself many times before but it was great to go along and meet new beekeepers , who had`nt used or seen this done and I was able to help explain in more detail to a couple of english speaking  beekeepers, who were in their first year of beekeeping.

 I always say you never stop learning with beekeeping. This was a first for me. This photo shows clearly what hapends when your hive becomes congested and bees start to run out of space. They build comb else where, wherever they can. In this case the top feeding tray of a combined frame cover and feeder
Their wax working is quite a work of art, if a little disjointed..

A lovely picture of the 5 framed nuc in place of the donor hive. All the flying bees from the mother hive begin to return from their foraging  to find a new hive in its place but no queen. Look at all that lovely pollen they are carrying.!
The next "seance" will probably be on, or around the 15th Aprill 2013. Please feel to e mail me nearer the time, or contact Charles Basset via the link on this blog if you want some more information or just to make contact.

Going to these events is a really great way of getting to know a few faces in the french beekeeping world and I think a great place to comment about the really crappy weather!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Poor weather and more swarms

More swarms and the poor weather continues.

I had this swarm at the end of june and it wasnt that large so i put it straight back in to a nuc box. They have got away well, with the queen laying within 3 days. I fed them a bag of sugar as well. Even though there is lots of food around  the weather has not been in their favour, so at least if they were stuck in side then they have enough sugar to continue to build comb which is what swarms love to do.

I had another 2 swarms from my hives sunday afternoon. There was a gap in the weather and the sun shone and it was actually quite warm for the afternoon. I was really busy at home but thought it would be a good idea to pop past and see if anything was happening that I needed to sort out. Sure enough it had. 2  of my hives had swarmed. One large sized one and one smaller one.

The largest swarm pictured above) had settled nicely on the hedges in front of my hives. I had my swarm catching box but I didnt have another hive quite ready so I shook the swarm in to the box, put in the bottom door and turned it upside down, slowly. This bottom door has a small gap when nearly closed and gives the  bees total darkness once inside but still allows access in and out I will post some pictures of this later in the year. So after they initially rushed out to the front they soon realised their queen was safe and they were in an ideal place for the time being and then they started to fan on the front lip attracting all the other bees in. This bought be a bit of time until I could get another hive ready.

Bees Fanning producing the "come on in pheremone" Nasanov 

It was only when I turned around did I see the second swarm , high up above my hives in some lovely prickly sloe bushes. This was going to be a ladder job, back to the house again for a spare nuc and my biggest ladder.

I managed to cut away the majority of branches with secateurs and this gave me a free hand to hold the swarm as I was cutting. It was a relatively simple job. I then came down the ladder and put the swarm on top of the nuc and let them get on with it.

Swarm placed in to the top of the nuc.

So I had captured the second swarm . I then went back to the first swarm and shook the bees installed in the box , in to a 10 framed hive. There was 5 new frames to the outside and  when I had shook them in, I placed some other partially drawn up frames in to the middle of the colony that had come from one of my other smaller swarms from earlier in the season that had become queenless and basically died out natrually.
This will give them a good start and help the colony get away quicker.

Chestnut Trees  "Castania Sativa"

The chestnut trees are now in flower. They are the main source of the summer honey crop. This year the trees are only just coming in to full flower as the weather has been so rainy and cool. By this time last year all the trees had finished flowering and we were in the middle of a drought.

Pollen rich fronds on each flower spike

Chest nut trees are an amazing species of tree. Their wood has a very high calorific, value making it excellent fire wood and its easy to split and is so wet but you will need to dry it for 3 year before burning.
The tree copes very well with being pollarded. The stump below shows how much growth you can expect just after 2 years in a heavily leafed wood. Amazing I think!

Typical chestnut tree in full flower.

Another flower many insects love including bees is phacelia. Bees go mad for it. It is an annual . I like to sow as much as possible as late, in the year as I can so My bees have another source of pollen and nectar later in the year, just before the Ivy starts flowering.

I have just sown about 400 meters square yesterday and left it to germinate. Its being well watered in today. It should be in flower in about 6 weeks . I will post some more pictures as it comes up and comes in to flower. By the way this cost me about  15 euros for the seed. Very little for a large return for the bees.