Monday, December 30, 2013

Beekeeping Calendar.

Annual Beekeeping Calender, what to do and when!!

Ok, so we are nearly at the end of the year and I have been meaning to translate a copy of the original calender made by Charles Basset, my beekeeping teacher! I have sent it to a few friends but never translated it to English, so here it is!

It is a good guide on how to manage your bees, here in northern Brittany and I cannot stress enough, thats it not a gospel, as we all like to do things differently! Having said that, I have used this all my beekeeping life and cant see anything on it that I would change. The dates are approimate but on yearly averges, they are correct. The original writer, Charles basset has many years of beekeeping in this region and theres not much he dosent know about bees!!

If your new to beekeeping you won`t go wrong by following this exactly.


Fix and repair damaged Hives. Repaint and treat woodwork.
Have a plan for how you want to proceed in to the new year.
Consider making extra Nuc boxes and Hives, ordering now will buy you time in an early spring.
Put together frames

Clean and sterilise old hives with a blow torch, by digging out old propolis (saving this in a jar for new nuc treatment if required) and heating up the surface of the internal parts of the hive.

Look for places to put out swarm traps in Mid April. This may take 2 or 3 visits to convince the property owner!!

If the weather permits, you may see bees on cleansing flights and also some pollen coming in from the hazel trees at the end of the month.

Feed with candy, not sugar syrop, if the hives are light. "Shuck" or lift hives very gently to acertain weight if needed but do not disturb!


Finish preparation  the same as January. Your equipment should nearly be ready. If time permits, make up another Nuc. You can never have too many!!

Pollen should be returning with forraging bees and the queens will start to increase their laying frequency if the weather is not too cold.

As the weather starts to warm up, check your stored Hives, Nucs and supers for signs of hatching wax moth larvae. An infestation now could be a disaster.  By the time you need your honey supers in April, you may just find a loads of larvae!  Treat with "Bascillus thurigiensis" if necessary.

Feed with a little candy if all previous has been removed!

The season starts!!

 At the end of the first week, if the weather pemits,  (around or above 12 degrees with no wind) carry out the first inspection of your hives with your cleaned hive tool etc. Dont use dirty tools from last year.

Remove a frame from each end of the hive, ie no 1 and 10. These can be used in your traps or just stored until you have a swarm. The bees will draw up these replaced new frames as the colony size increases over the next few months. Its a good opportunity to get hold of some used frames which otherwise are difficult to procure! Always take the opportunity to pool your resourses and collect useful material like this!!

Be cautious about bothering the brood nest if its cold.  As soon as you see brood or eggs return the frames to normal position quickly. Remember you wont see a lot of brood or eggs, but there should be some!

Consider your Varroa treatent. You can use cardboard impregnated strips with Amitraze or other designated chemicals, or Vaporise oxyalic acid instead, if you didnt treat in the previous autumn or you think you are badly re infested.

Give a light feed of sugar syrop ( one part sugar, to one part water) over the next 3 weeks(500ml per week). This will help stimulate the queen in to increasing her egg laying.
If you have seen eggs on one inspection, dont bother the hive for the sake of it!! If you damage the queen, remember that the chances of the colony making the hive queen right before the end of April are extremely slim!!


Around the 15th April, place a honey super on each of your hives to collect spring honey, or in the following two  or three weeks be prepared to carry out artificial swarms (or risk losing your own swarms if your not around)
Decide if you want spring or summer honey, as late swarming colonies wont produce much summer honey so either artificial swarm in April and have potential for more summer honey or take spring honey and prepare for swarms or artificially  swarm your hives after the spring honey harvest.

Dont open the nucs from the artificial swarms for at lease one month, to give the queen time to start laying. She may have difficulty in mating if the weather is poor in April, so be patient!

Feed your nucs for the first week and then from day 16. This will give the queens the best chances sucessfull development before and after mating.

Put out all your swarm traps around the 15th of the month. If it has been cold, deley this for another week or so. Remember, you feed your bees, wild colonies do everything for themselves, so will be later in swarming.


Harvest your spring honey crop no later than the 15th May!! Dont delay or you risk the honey crystalising in the super! If you can guarantee no oil seed rape around you, then this can be delelyed a little.
Carry out artificial swarms to your colonies after the harvest, but as it was said in April you wont get much summer honey from your late swarm bees due to reduced worker numbers.


Place you honey supers on your hives for the main honey crop as soon as you are sure all the oil seed rape has finished flowering. Even a small nectar flow from rape seed flowers can result in some crystalisation within the super.  Remember, you wont be harvesting this honey until the end of August!
The main nectar flow usually starts around the 25th of June. Add another honey super to your hives when the first one is nearly full. You need to checking your hives at least once a week  for the next month!
With the main nectar flow comes the greatest risk of swarming, (for the next 4 weeks.)


Its the end of the swarming season and also the end of the main nectar flow!
Its pointless adding additional supers to your hives after the second week of July. The bees wont be finding much to bring back to the colony, following the catkins on the chestnut trees turning brown and starting to fall.
If it is dry, then this is usually the start of the dearth and there will be little food around now until the ivy starts to flower around the end of September.

Carry out "artificial swarms" on all your colonies if you need more bees for next year. As soon as the catkins begin to drop from the chestnut trees utilise the high numbers of workers in the hive and create new colonies for free. Its said that the best queens are ones made in the summer months. there well fed and most importantly well mated with high numbers of drones in the vicinity.

 Move the honey supers with the mother hives when artificially swarming your colonies. The honey still needs a few more weeks curing and the remaining bees and hatching brood will take care of this. Initially, put up entrance reducers on all swarmed mother hives for the first two weeks, until the numbers in the hive increase again. This helps the hive guard the reamining stores with fewer bees and creates a less stressfull hive!

All artificial swarms created in July onwards, will remain in these nucs until spring the following year. Theres just not enough food around to fill an entire 10 framed hive!

Feed all articicial swarms created in this month generously! Theres little or no food around.

 Collect up all your swarm traps. You might have a late surprise! Treat all the traps against wax moth before storage. You may well need some of the nucs for artificial swarming if you have used up all your nucs you had stored away!


Dont open any Nucs containing artificial swarms until one month has passed. Feed all nucs weekly and be aware that "robbing" will have started in earnest and weak colonies will die out over the next few weeks if they are pillaged sufficiently!
Dont spill any sugar syrop on or near hives, as this will very quickly attract robber bees in "swarm like quantities"
Your bees will also defend the hive more so always wear you protective clothing if around your hives. They are also getting attacked by wasps and hornets, attracted by the smell or honey which in turn, will induce your bees to be more protective of their colony!

The honey harvest can start on or around the 15th August. Generally in the super frames, one should see three quarters of each frame capped over. As a guide, this should ensure the moisture content is low enough the stop post harvest fermentation.

Give the honey supers back to the bees for a couple of days only, otherwise the wasps will damage the cells on the frames. Put your frames away immediately after this. Wax moth can easily become established even later in the year. Store them sealed, also away from mice!


Its now the time to feed your bees and treat against Varroa mite.
Give all your hives 5 litres of strong sugar syrop. If after one week, the sugar has not been taken up, the hive is lost. If this is the case inspect the hive and give the syrop to other colonies. Its likely that if the syrop has not been drunk, then the hive will have already been robbed quite heavily.

If you are treating your mites with chemicals soaked  or impregnated cardboard, treat imediately, while temperatures within the hive are still high. This will help the effectiveness of the tranfer of the treatment around the hive, as the volitile carrier vaporises.
Wait until end of  October /November if vaporising oxyalic acid or drizzing thymol solution, when the temperatures are much lower and brood area will be much reduced.

On insepection, re centre the brood nest if necessary. The season is over now and we must be thinking of how to help the bees prepare for the winter.

The ivy should be in full flower. You will see large amounts of pollen coming back in to the hive.
Dont give any more sugar in the form of syrop. If the weather turns damp and cool, the bees wont be able to dry and store it!
Check hives for size of colonies, you may need to downsize colonies (back in to a nuc) if they are on less than 5 frames of brood, eggs and stores. This will also help the colony manage the  heating in  the hive over the winter months and also permit a quicker build up the following spring.
If you find a queenless hive, its pointless trying to requeen it now. Simply combine it with another  queenright colony before it dies over the winter, or put up mose guards and allow it to be robbed out while bees are still forraging and keep the frames for next year. If the frames from dead hives are full of honey, keep them for artificial swarming the following year or for a weak colony or swarm in the spring. They will store well in a screened ventilated nuc and be a valuable asset to you!
Feed all bees with Candy or bakers Fondant if the hive is light. Definately no sugar syrop!
Ensure that all your hives have mouse guards fitted!
Treat with  vaporised oxyalic acid if the temperature is above 4 degrees. Observe the mite drop.

Treat with thymol if you prefer.
While you have time, clean out all old hives that contained colonies this year.
Think about your beekeeping for next year. Order your new Colonies, frames and hives.
Check your honey supers for wax moth.
Enjoy your honey!! It never lasts long.

The end of the year! Leave your bees well alone. Theres nothing you can do to any colonies until next March!

Consider your options for next year, reflect on you successes and failures on the current year. Plan your next years beekeeping. Use you winter times very wisely. It all starts again in 3 months!

Start making more material!! especially Nucs and Hives

Check the uptake of candy , if at all! very little may be taken from the feeding tray until well in to January. This is normal!
You may observe some pollen coming into the hive from Mahonia shrubs, but thats about all thats in flower this time of the year.

Consider being a mentor for someone next year!! If they have you to help, then they may well take up the hobby. Beekeeping buddies get you thinking about your bees more!!

In Brittany, France, dont forget to declare you number of hives and their location. to the vetiniary service. It must be done during December.

Plant shrubs out in you garden that will benefit bees in general. Most can be planted out until the month of march. Remember the more diverse pollens around, the better diet your bees will have, it can only lead to better bee health!!!
Richard Noel, December 2013.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Making up Dadant Frames

Heres how I make up my frames. Now the winter beekeeping has started in earnest, i wanted to show you ust how easy it is!!

Heres the video!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Varroa Destructor Treatment with Oxyalic acid Vaporiser

With the weather cooling down I thought I would give my new vaporiser a go. I had  my buddy Alan to video the proceedings. It was about 7 degrees centigrade. Perfect conditions, with the breeze blowing from behind up, so all vapour blowing away from us!  Bees were much less grumpy this week as it was a little bit cooler. less of a welcoming party!!

Heres the video

Ok so if you want to buy one of these its on sale by mailing

I think it was about £80 including p and p  so as far as i am concerned its money well very well spent.
I treated the first half of my hives last week and i didnt remove the wooen tray i inserted under the hive and to my great surprise the mite count was teriffic! and thats only after the first treatment.
If you zoom in on the pictures you can even see the mites feet! Cracking pic i thought. It is worth saying too that i could have covered over the hive entrance once more. after removing the vaporiser, and waited aother couple of minutes, but i think in general, its pretty efective!
Thanks to Alan for doing the video!

You can see the mites very clearly. They are the shiny black/red dots.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Swarm Trap Report 2013

Swarms of 2013

The season started of very badly, with what can only be described as the most apalling March on record. Blizzards for 3 days during the first week, when usually you should be thinking about carrying out your first inspection, however the year setled down and a few middle to small sized swarms were cast from late may onwards. It wasnt until be actually got in to mid june, when the weather went good and the high nectar levels started to boost the populations in the hive and minimise space that i saw good sized swarms going in to my traps.

During the period from late june to the end of july i trapped 12 swarms, all of very good quality and vigor. Typically many of my traps looked as though they already had taken up residence but after careful inspection, you soon realised there was no bees in the hive at the end of the evening making is almost possible to predict that a swarm wold soon arrive. I missed the exact time but arrived at this swarm trap a few minutes later to see the remaining body of bees entering this trap, that had had scout bees present from about 5 days before.

A wonderful site to see on a fantastic morning.
I put out 30 traps baited with at least 2 good frames in each, plus propolis, lemon grass oil and nasanov pheromone.
In total for the season i caught 13 swarms, with the vast majority being caught during the decent spell of weather between june and the 3rd week of july.
For the first time ever, i caught two swarms in the sameplace and well apart in time terms, so both swarms, more than likely, would have originated from different sources.
if i saw a fair amount of activity form scout bees i wouldagain bait the nuc with extra lemon grass oil. I found it increased the activity of the bees. Certainly seemed to help!
Theres no doubt the fantastic weather during the summer swarming season made our hives stronger this year. Swarms were very vigorous, absolutly stunk of chestnut tree nectar after colonising a trap and filled out frames with increased  speed. For the final 4 weeks of the peak nectar flow, every swarm was good to above average size and they were colonising traps in places that i was trying for a second time, after catching no swarms there in the previous year, proving my point that you have to patient, watch your trapsand try one lace for at least 2 years to be in with a chance.
In one trap trap, checked some 3 days before with no scout bees around and in its second year of deployment,  a very large swarm arrived and colonised the trap, filling all 5 frames in less than 2days. I was worried that this swarm would abscond because there was too much congestion in the trap, a massive nectar flow, very dry, sheltered position in full sun all day during a heatwave, forcing a permanent fannng party circulate air through the hive all day. Many bees continuously on the front landing strip, with the hive minging of chestnut nectar. I may consider fitting some vents to the rear of the swarm traps that could remain shut during the attraction stage but oppened up if a large swarm occupys the box. 
I also learned that if i misted some water over the front landing strip, this encouraged most of the bees to go back in to the hive, before fitting the front door for transportation and when i mean mist, i mean fery fine water dropplets just blowing in the wind to mimic a foggy evening or drizzle.
In short, an excellent year good sunshine makes a massive difference! My personal best year in terms of swarms and honey. I had a great time in learning new techniques and trying out different things.
Already making inquiries about trapping for next year. It will soon come around!
We have now had the end of the ivy nectar flow and the tempeatures are starting to climb down to daily highs of single figures. we do need some cooler weather now. I have nerly made up my first 100 replacement frames for a new load of hives i have orderd, in plank form. All i have to do then is cut them up in to the four sections, screw them together and then paint them.
I will hopefully need them by the end of march if my overwintering nucs survive!
Start your winter beekeping as soon as you can!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The end of the dearth !!

Finally the ivy is in flower
From the end of the nectar flow to mid september, we have had virtually no rain and therefore no nectar. After looking through most of my hives almost all my queens had stopped laying. The hives remained well populated and there was plenty of stored honey within each hive buy its as though the queen had put egg production on hold.
One good thing about this is that the numbers of varola mite in the hive should decline due to the minimal presence of capped brood and larvae, crucial in the life cycle of the mites!

The queens just know that if nectar flow is low, they slow down or stop laying!!
The weather is now good, with the mild weather  supposed to continue for the next week at least. This is a crucial time of year for the bees but its looking very positive. Theres every chance the bees will be able to replenish their hives up before the onset of the cold winter weather days. Hopefully I wont need to feed too much candy at the end of November.
I had another look in my hives very recently and every hive has at least 2 frames of brood, so it just shows you how a nectar flow and a couple of weeks of warm weather can turn things around.

I took a few pictures of some frames of brood, eggs, Pollen and honey stores. Purely beuause they are such a great example how a frame should look.

Lovely coloured pollen

Brood, eggs, larvae and royal jelly

Good, strong and even laying  brood pattern.

Excellent honey stores!

Next month Its varolla treatment with my new vaporiser. I wil be treating with vapourised oxalic acid crystals, 3 times over 3 weeks. That will be all I treat this year.

Mouse gurads must go up next month, mice can have a lot of fun munching their way around the hive when the bees are in a semi comatosed state.

Winter beekeeping continues. I have just finished making up the last of the lids and frame covers for the new nucs I have just made. You forget just how much work is needed.!

My frames should arrive soon. That will be the next job before I start building some more full sized hives around christmas time. Always plenty to do.

Start to check out places to put out swarm traps. It wont be long before that time of year comes around.!!

Keep collecting scrap wood every time you go past your local dump! One persons waste is a lot of girls happyness next year!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Honey Harvest, late queen rearing and the Dearth.

What a summer we finally had! From the first week July to the first week of September we have seen excellent beekeeping weather. generally light winds, good day and night time temperatures and generally warm and settled weather and i will add , not excessively hot!

My honey harvest was good. From 8 hives I had 80 Kilos, which is far more than i ever anticipated, but not unusual for the amount of hives. The chestnut trees oppened their first flowers, three weeks late but were finished  only just over a week late, meaning the actual peak nectar flow was  probably a little shorted than usual.
Some people have commented that  they thought that the weather was too hot when the trees were in flower, but i totally disagree! We had a huge amount of winter rains that carried on until May so the ground was well stocked up and  despite a relatively dry period before the main nectar flow started, i would argue that the majority of well grown trees had large tap roots, capable of supplying the needs of the trees without  a problem.
Yes i would agree that the flowering period was a little shorter, but thats probably due to the heat bringing things on faster. so it may have been an even better flow than usual but perhaps not as long as one might have hoped for.  Anyone who didnt have a reasonable crop must have been lacking in forrager bees or just not near enough to many chestnut trees!

So the chestnut trees finished fowering and suddenly the death started, but as most of you know at the end of the main nectar flow its possible to artificially swarm your honey bees ( with honey supers on the mother hives) and produce bees for free. Thats what I did  in the end had made another 6 colonies for free, all with new queens and all should lay well next year as they all mated in excellent conditions.

Yes I have posted this link before, but I cant tell people enough just how simple this technique is and how wells works in reasonable conditions. I must have looked at it 20 times before I finally , truly understood the method and the reasons why it works. Its such a usefull tool and a lot less complicated than the majority of most artificial swarming methods. You must feed well when artificially swarming as well fed bees peoduce lots more royal jelly, and especially in the dearth always feed your nucs until at least day 6 and for a few days when the queen emerges as she will mate and  be stronger if shes being fed by workers that are well fed!!

I am feeling more cofident with my beekeeping now and this year, 6 days after first carrying out my artificial swarms on those colnies, looked inside all 6 nucs, very carefully, but also to see if each colony had made queen cells. I waited 6 days because that would mean that all the queen cells in production in each nuc would have been closed off while the developing queen cell pupates.  Its interesting beacuse each colony was different. Yes, emergency queen cells in each hive  but all in different places on the frame, indicating how the bees had chosen a larvae in exactly the right time of its development, to change its developmet from a worker bee in to a queen cell.
I was also was able to confirm that all nucs would be producing at least 2 cells, which is a minimum requirement as far as I am concerned.

So with this the safe knowledge of good queen cells, I eased off the feeding and on day 18 I looked in all the hives again to see if I could see any young queens.
In each hive I easily found a young, unmated queen on the boundary line between  the brood comb and the honey stores. They seem to always be in this area. I didnt touch or mark them at this stage. That will be done when there mated and back in the hive laying.
On one Nuc the behaviour was completly different.
No sign of any queen and alot of bees fanning and restlessness. This was exactly what i was looking for, a queen less artificial swarm.
So Immediately i was able to try and rectify this.
My plan was to instead of taking a whole frams of eggs from another a colony my plan was to use a queen rearing frame, graft in to it and then stick that into the colony and see what happends.

So immediately imput in my frame with my JZBZ queen cell cups on, to give the bees time to polish out the cell cups.

The next day I grafted in to this frame, knowing full well that only 3 weeks after becoming queenless they still would have the instinct to try and raise another queen and if i was wrong and there was a queen in the hive then she would tear down the cells as soon as they were made so whats to loose.

After 24 hours i had a look and too my amazement they had started to feed about 14 of the 27 grafts i had done.
On day 8 i had another look and thay had reduced the amount of graftsdown to 4 queen cells, but for me thats pretty good for a first go.


I only need 2 queen cells so i was able to give a couple of cells to one of my mates who had a queenless hive  so that was just perfect for him too!

JZBZ also sell 2 types of queen cell protectors that stop any bees taring down the queen cell. as they always attack form the side f the cell and never the tip the plastic cell cover or sleve slides over the queen cell and fits tight to the queen cell cup giving it protection at the top too.

There are two types of cell protector. One that you can sit in between two frames, over a warmed brood area or one like the above, that you simply push in to the brood area as it has a plastic spike on it.
Ingenious  little pieces of plastic. You can see where the queen has successfully hatched out of this one by the neat circular hole thats been eaten around.

you can but most JZBZ parts from the Buzzy bee shop in the uk. The link is

The weather has been excellent until very recently so even though it was very late in the year, I knew there was still some good drones around and they hadnt been kicked out of the hive just yet. Sure enough within another 2 weeks, they had mated and started to lay. so now i have 6 nucs for next year, with brand new well mated queens in.
I will be leaving these colonies in Nucs until next spring. As the dearth is on and  with only the ivy to come in to flower in the next 2 weks, nuc sized colonies never fill out hives and draw up wax sheets in time so there just no point putting a very happy colony in to oversized hive untill the the of march, early april next year.
Have a go at rearing your own queens. Its really easy and a lot of fun. I intent to polish my technique next year and make modifications to one of my hives to allow a queen to exist in the hive but excluded from the queen cells so that the colony can stay queened but also raise queens!!

Have  a look at this link to you tube. If you can follow this, you can raise queens. Modify it slightly if you need to suit your hive, but the practical principals are very much demonstrated and its a really hands on 10 mins of video!!!

Heres how and when to insert queencells in to a queen less nucs.

For next year i have bought a new purpose built frame from my local french supplier that has a feeder tray in built to the top of the queen cell frame.

 The frame above and a close up picture of the feeder section, roughted out of the  top section. simple but very effective!

I have already started making up some nucs for next year. as I always say, you can never have too many nucs!!! Happy beekeeping!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cut out in Scrignac, Bretagne.

I had a phone call from a home owner who had returned to her holiday home after a 4 week abscence, only to find this upon her return.

A large, beautiful swarm of bees had established itself behind the shutter, in typical fasion. building comb between the window and the shutter.

Scrignac being 140 kilometers from my house is not usually in my radius for collection, but after looking at the map, almost all of was on motorway. The swarm was in a downstairs window. There was access to right outside the house making it all feesible and a safe bet!

So with my beekeeping buddy Alan, we set off and an hour 20 mins later we arrived at the house. we brought most things except a ladder which was great. the prospect of doing a cut out on a ladder is always much more difficult.
The first thing was to try and acertain just where the bees had attached the comb too, and in this case most of it was on the above supporting lintel. I smoked them and then waited for about 2 minutes, then carefully we opened the rear of the inside window.

You can see how the bees cleared as i smoked the pure white comb.

With the second window open it was possible to really get at the comb. they had built around all the shutter fixings.

I then went out in to garden side of the nest to find the wall covered in bees, and to my good luck and astonishment, there was the queen sitting on the wall above the nest.

So out with my trusty queen clip and in two seconds she was in the cage, safe and undamaged. Job done!

 As the comb was so fresh, but contained some honey at the top i had to cut out the lower 3 quarters of each comb, purely because the weight of the honey was so much, that each each seqment collapsed if i tried to hold the whole piece!

Using the elastic band method on bare frames to hold as much of the small amount of comb as possible. The idea being that if i could get as much of the viable comb in the nuc, the bees might follow. After this section was complete i then put in  the queen (stil in the cage) in between the two sections of comb. The bees would smell her there and hopefully start migrating towards her!

Brood comb sections being placed in to the frames by skilled technicians ! LOL
Notice the handsome one in white!!

If you zoom in on this pic you can see larvae at all stages of development.

 So with all the comb in to about 3 frames, we carefully cleared off all the remaining wax and i placed the nuc box on the window sill, hoping for the same as last years cut out.
 I took a dustpan, brushed a load of bees in to it and simply tipped them in to the box and the rest soon started to make their way down the wall in to the box, not too quickly but all fanning , telling the others where to go. Truly remarkable! JP the Beeman would have been Proud of us!!

 It wasnt long before the vast majority of the bees were in the box. It had rained lightly all afternoon, probably helping us, as most of the bees were at home.

The bees were very gently in nature, possibly because their home was not fully grown and they were still in swarm type mode. So this is always a massive help. If they are at all badly behaved, you will get stung and this was the first cut out i have ever done and not been stung! I will be usig their larvae if they survive the winter for queen production next year. We all love gentle bees!!

This was also a great first cut out for my good mate Alan to see and help with! the best way to learn about bees is do a couple of cut outs. You learn about the nest, the proximit of honey and brood patterns, so important in reation to bees in our hives today!

Very many thanks to the home owner Jacqueline, for making the effort to ring us and ask about possible removal. I wish many more would do the same rather than just getting in pest control and killing the lot!! we did this for free and will try and get some honey to Jacqueline. I consider it a privelige to be able to help!
There is sometimes when this is not possible and you always must be realistic in your approach!

The colony is doing really well. I released the queen that evening back in to the nuc and the next morning i placed them in to a full sized 10 framed hive. To be honest i had underestimated the amount of bees in this swarm and they have since drawn up more comb and are occupying all 10 frames.
A good day was had by all!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Large summer swarm.

With the weather now settling in to something resembling a decent period of weather the swarms are now coming. A little late but never the less and also timed in accordance with the now bountiful food supply.

I got a call this afternoon for a swarm in languenan, very close to my village and luckily was ready to go and collect it. The weather was absolutly pefect, sunny and hot with not much wind.
The bees were extremly docile and to be honest i dont think i would have needed my smock, but never should you assume they will always be like that!

I shook the bees in to the top of the nuc, which fortunatelycontainey a frame of honey from an artificial swarm that hadnt made a queen this spring s they were straight on to that and happy to go straight in!

Once I saw they had started fanning i left the lid off for a while, then moved them slightly swat and put the nuc on the lid of the box to elevate the hive a little.

You can see they are really puoring in in this last short clip. I actually went back home and collected aother 10 framed hive as the swarm was big and they can take the karger hive straight away. On one week they will have drawn up all remaining 9 frames. Swarms are monster comb builders so i will feed them a little too, eventhough there is loads of food around at the moment. It gives them something to do at night!

 I just love being  a beekeeper when the weather is like this!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Swarm arrives at trap on beautiful sunny morning

Well, you may have seen my last post , showing a cat guarding my swarm trap.

So about 2 weeks later, this happened one sunny fine beautiful morning.!
Loads of Scout bees for the two days  before, so many i fact that I thought there was already a swarm in the trap, so upon inspection the evening before i realised there was nothing in the trap so i just withdrew and added a little more lemon grass oil to the front of the trap.
This was a very good sized swarm, the best this year. they all have been small so far due to the terrible early spring weather, so thats why we are only seeing some beter sized swarms now.
If you watch all three short videos you will see how quickly they entered the swarm trap.
Incidentially, this one had lemon grass oil inside, but it wasnt that strongly baited and only recently did it have lemon grass on the front (about 2 weeks previously) and no, if its fresh it dosent seem t put them off. ( that questioned worried me)
I was pretty sure a swarm was coming so i was interested to see if there was any other activity at the trap of a fellow beekeepers, some 5oo meters away. There was a couple of bees at the trap, checking it out, but nothing like the 20 or 30 that were around mine, so this time luckily, mine was the mst favoured. I think also that the trap was the best proximity to the nest of bees. Ie it was their prefered distance to swarm to.
Moving the swarm.
So this is the big question, how long after the bees have swarmed, is it still safe to move the bees back to your apiary, if its less than 3 miles away?
Well my thoughts on this are mixed. Personally I think if you move the swarm the minute all the bees are inside and just a few fanning on the front then it will be fine, but in this case, it was less than a mile to my apiary and the bees had been coming and going from this trap for a few days and i felt they had built up a good map in their heads of the positions of their nest (the source of the swarm) and the place they swarmed too.
They arrived fairly early in the morning, and had been checking out the area all afternoon, which in my book, means getting used to their new surroundings so, it was going to have to moved to the three mile or more to ensure they didnt know where they were.
I will bring them back to my apiary after 3 days have passed and that will ensure they have forgot where they are.
Its a big swarm, they emptied the first feeder overnight after moving them and they are already on their second load of sugar. When I bring them back i will put them straight in  to a new  10 framed hive. I also put out another trap in the same place because this was evidently a prime swarm and with the weather due to stay fine for the nexw week or too theres every chance of a cast swarm!
This was a lovely experience, One i may not see again, so i am glad i managed to get some video, even if i nearly broke my leg after shinning up the drain pipe adjacent to the swarm, as my ladder wasnt handy but it was worth it! Hope you liked it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Spring in the apiary.

Well spring has sprung and apologies for not posting but it's been a very busy period.

Nice Jucy swarm Cells!

I had a few early swarms from my own bees but the weather was poor and again the nuc hives struggled to requeen due to the continuous cold temperatures.
Overall it's a positive note and it's nice to say the bees have shown how dynamic they are in the face of adversity.

How Ironic, a swarm on the back of a warning sign saying "beware bees"

So far to date I have caught 4 swarms in four swarm traps. I am hoping for a few more in the next few weeks as the bees here should still be capable of swarming in until the end of July.
The forecast is good and up until very recently we have had little or no sunshine, so it could still be a good honey harvest.
Conditions are good. The chestnut trees are coming in to flower ( three weeks late) and if the forecast does live up to its predicted trend then we should have  the potential for a lot if honey.

Heres some of the spring honey I took from two of my hives.

I will be artificially swarming all my strong hives in the latter part of July, and moving honey supers with the mother hive, so they can continue to dry and cap it all, ready for the harvest around the last week of August but that's a long way off yet.
Typically two of my strong hives have become queen less at the wrong time so they are our of production for this year. I doubt they will requeen in time!

Natural Hive rqueening can result in this problem when using  an open mesh flooring. In this case the recently mated (i hope) queen has returned to the hive, can smell it, and thinks she is back in. So the best way to deal with this is , with two of you., have another base handy. Unclip the base and lift off the hive. Your assistant then carefully lifts up the base with the swarm hanging underneath and then replaces it with the spare one. The hive is then put back on top and the swarm can then be lowered on to the top of the frames and hopefully the queen will resume her role within the hive.

Had a swarm from one of my nucs that I was feeding. It had a queen cell in it, or at least i think it was a single cell? but when I came past the other week they had swarmed on to a nearby tree and i didnt know which it had come from so I went back home to get my swarm catching box only to find on my return they had all gone back in to this Nuc. So it was a queen obviously couldnt decide if she was swarming or on a mating flight.  You can see in the pic they have all just returned with loads fanning on the front of ther hive. Lovely to see when I was there. The air was heavily scented with Nasanov.

Cracking picture of one of my queens. I mark them all with  yellow. I find it is easier to see and is supposed to last longer in the hive.

Next year I want to raise a batch of queens to try and get around this problem and by using small mating boxes I am hoping to be able to have a few, ready mated queens on standby to be inserted in to poorly laying  or queenless hives if need be. But that will be next spring before any of that will be considered. Its going to take a lot of work but it looks like a great project for next year. I will need to have a started hive packed full of bees, with the existing queen not present and then a finishing hive to finish and incubate the queen larvae if i have any! I will be posting how i do this. Theres still qite a few things i need to get sorted out prior to next spring.
I will be making my own queen cups and the grafting in to these quees cups so I will have a go at doing sme grafting before that, just to get used to using the tools. I have purchased the chinese and stainless steel grafting tools. I see they both are reccomended but everyone has a preference.

Bought some frame hangers to try. Only £7 from the uk. I think they will make life easier at the apiary. I am always having to lean frames up against the hive, on the floor and this should now get rid of that problem. They are a universal fit.

Finally , do you think this cat is waiting for a swarm too, or just being a typical cat and having an afternoon snooze in front of my swarm trap. Never a dull moment!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prime and cast swarms. Artificial swarms and making a new home for a colony in my barn wall.

Holiday Swarm
Well just got back from a 2 week break and typically one of my hives had swarmed while i was away. Fortunately its not all bad news. I caught the swarm in one of my swarm traps. So that was the first swarm!
The second was a typical "cast swarm". much smaller in size,a few days later, and with a vigin queen!
I recorded a few seconds of film . I shook this one on to a while and very slowly they crawled in to the hive. It had been raining a little  and was cold so They werent very happy, but still very well tempered.

So once i had instaled that swarm in to a Nuc, then i went on to check my other hives.
Principally i have put three honey supers on three of my stongest hives and thought that as the weather had been so poor up until now, the chances of swarming would be small but, in beekeeping , expect the unexpected! It was obvious that it was one of these three that had swarmed,
Hardly any honey in the honey super, and a lot less bees and also the swarm directly in front of  suspected hive.
So then I checked my 4 hives and 3 of then had closed queencells on brood frames so i had to perform artificial swarms on these 3 , after dashing back to the house to find some spare nucs!
So, all those were artificially swarmed, but not in ideal conditions and not as many bees as i would have liked in the colony but, really not with much choice over the matter, or face losing your bees and a weak colony for a little while longer. At least if i act now then things should recover by the time of the summer honey starts to flow, well thats the theory!!!
Creating a nich in the wall of my barn for a swarm! 

 After I did a cut out last year at Callac in exactly the same window niche,  a thought occured to me that i have exactly the same blocked up window in my old storage shed. So i have been dying to knock the rubbe out of the blocked up window and today i got on with it.
Luckily it was of very old  lime mortasr so it came away pretty easily.

The finished exposed window, how it would have looked all those years ago!
the next job will be to build a frame inside the rear of the widow(inside the shed) and some how incorporate a glass viewing strip, including a  door for access and then to build a front landing tray and incorporate a winter mouse guard and closing  entrance door to shut them in if needed. Ie, work on the barn or oxyalic acid treatment.
So thats my plan and i hopefuly can have it completd in the next few weeks so I can get a swarm established this year. Its lot of work  but i think i can get it finished in time.
I am going to fit in a timber roof with lines of wax melted in to the wood at the correct distance in the hope that the build nice vertical combs so i can see whats going on all the tme. Should be great fun if it works out.
With the help of my son Thoma,s we soon had the front carefully knocked out!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Swarm traps, queen Marking and Honey Supers

Swarm Traps deployed.
In all I have 34 traps out this year. I finished putting them all out last week. 30 of them have the feromone nasanov in and 4 of them just have lemon grass oil in. I tried to remember to take a picture of each swarm trap after it was deployed. This is a great help in remembering which hive went where.
The season is about 3 to 4 weeks late this year and to be honest the chances of trapping many swarms are not good.
Firstly the seasons of 2000 and 2001 were very dry in their summers and last year with the terrible weather we had from mid April to mid July lead to problems with requeening motherhives or requeening weak queens in general.(suprsedure). The cool temperatures, low numbers of males and  just  generally poor weather has lead to a decline in wild colonies by perhaps 30%.
Saying all of that ,i am still optimistic. Bees are very dynamic. and as long as i can catch a few swarms I will be delighted. If i get any where the 30 % success rate of last year then i will be very pleased!
All my traps contained at least 2 old smelly frames this year, due to last years losses, so you lose on one side but gain massively on the other and i also managd to rotate my nucs last summer and almost all my nucs,  that are now swarm traps have been used at least once before. I have made another swarm trap for tree deployment, that is just pinned up. all different things to try test out different ideas.

Most traps are about waist to head height, in sheltered corner, face south west to west and  are in areas where i have caught swarms before or i just cant resist the area due to its topography, position in relation to old trees and its sheltered positions.

Swarm traps are a really great way of introducing the general publec to beekeeping.
Very often i will make contact with a landowner that happends to be near to where i have been working and i ask them if they would mind if i put a swarm trap on their property or land.
Mostly the general public are quite negative about bees but the tide is turning thanks to education and the internet.

So when I arrive with one of my traps in the spring, put it up and explain to the property owner what will happen when a swarm arrives they are usually mortified or quite aprehensive as to what probems these bees might cause when they come. The truth of it is that they sometimes dont even notive a swarm ariving or it arives when they are out and all they notice is a few bees starting to come and go with pollen on their legs.

Once this has happened most people realise and enjoy the experience and sometimes peoply have asked me to leave recently arived swarms in situ, so they can watch them develop. Generally though its a good idea to remove a swarm within a week . When that queen starts to lay and the bees become a little more protective, its time to move the colony to the apiary.

Some of the typical wilow pollen that came out in early April this year three weeks alter than usual.

Queen Marking
I took the opportuity to mark a few of my queens during early April. The colonies were still on the small side and the queens are easier to find. I generally dont like to rip the colonies apart just for this purpose, but it if i see a queen, and am ready with the marking cup, she gets a yellow dot on her thorax.
As I have said before, I like to keep my qeen in the mother hive during artificial swarming.  That way I feel my mother hive isnt lost for honey production afterwards and finding the queen quickly is a great help. The yellow I use dosent indicate the year of my queens , its just easier to find the queen, quickly and I have been told that yellow and white paint tends to stay on he best, so thats why i am using yellow.
This year we suddenly seem to be getting some near normal weather. The temperatures are slowly rising and for the next two weeks it looks as though we will have perfect spring weather for spring honey production, totally different to last year.
I have put on three honey supers on three on my colonies and will harvest them about a week later this year, but certainly no longer in case of crystalisaton in the frames, now that would be a shame!
Happy beekeeping . The next 4 months are the best of the year, I just love this time of year.