Saturday, March 29, 2014

More prep and a trip to the bee shop.!

Oil seed rape is already in flower, as too, is just about ever early spring flower you can think of, its a bonanza for our bees but a shame the last week has really been too cold to forage in great numbers.

I did a favour for our local farmer and couldnt help but think, oh well, I was actually going right past my local bee shop, so i paid a visit whilst en route with some large metal gate sections.

Found myself a nice little pollen trap, so i can store a little pollen for use when i insert my grafts in to the queen production hive. Although not essential, its a good idea to have pollen in very close proximity. I also didnt know, until recently, that you can harvest pollen from each hive, for one day or two, preferably a day apart, then freeze it down until you need it.
You can then pour a good handful of the stuff and rub it in to a drawn up frame, then insert that in to the hive when needed, making feeding larvae so much easier for the bees. The one I bought wasnt the one I had intended to buy, but its a real beauty, and you can retract the reduced hole section and allow the bees to come and go, rather than give up their pollen load, which is a nice feature.
Pollen is collected in the draw beneath.

I also bought some extra supers and hive bodys. The wood is excellent quality from this shop and the price is good.  All their woodwork is also sanded to a good finish , which i like too. This will give me a few more hives to make up over the spring and summer should I have need for them and capacity to have an extra super for nearly all my hives in honey production. I will be fitting a piece of 25 x 25 mm pine around the upper third, making the supers easier to handle the little handles cut in to the 25mm sections are ok, but not that practical when handling them full!! (

I have also made up another roof for a hive that was spare last summer. I lent the hive to a friend in order he could copy it, then realised it had no roof  when I collected it last week. I used 3 pieces of  15mm exterior and one piece of 10 mm for the sides of the roof and the top was made from the weather proof fiber board, ( grade 3) moisture resistant, but was from the skip! I will try and make more roofs like this, as its reasonably cheap and although the production ones from this shop are really good, they still are 20 euos each!!!

Painted up with roof attached ( metal sheet from printers again)

 Roof in situ!!

Electric bees!!
Well there was some other very good news, in that a colony of bees has established itself inside a large concrete pylon, that is actually situated on the land of a fellow beekeeper, just over a kilometer from me.
This is excellent news, as it could be there for a long time, as no idiot will be able to cut it down, as they probably wood do, if it was  in an oak tree. This colony will be swarming away for generations to come!!

Will have another very quick look in to my hives, nearly two weks since my last feed of three. hopefully they will be increasing in size well!
Good weather forecast for tomorrow and the next week, temperatures near normal  which is good news for the bees!!

Enjoy!! I will !! once i`ve made a start on painting up those supers!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Queens laying very nicely thank you!!!

What a great start to this years season.
 Despite some recent days of fog, when it clears its been beautiful. I fed a light sugar queen stimulation feed last week and this week and will give another half litre next week but really its not been totally necessary.
Many of my hives were well stocked, so the emphasis was more on convincing the queen that there a always sugar availible ( more of a flow) than anything else. Feeding generously now, wouldnt do any favours other than inducing earlier swarming, which is whats going to happen anyway this year, if were not careful.
The queens must have space to lay in to, especially if your putting on your first honey supers in another 4 weeks. If you use queen barriers in the spring, take out some of the old honey bound frames and generally make sure the queen  has room to lay. If you remove a frame of honey, if you can, replace it with a ready drawn up comb and keep the honey bound frame for artificial swarming.
When the oil seed rape starts to flower in another two weeks, it going to become very cramped in a very short space of time. This year, if it stays warm could be an excellent honey crop. Correct supering is also a must.
I would advise putting on two supers, on any strong colony, they may even make 3 full this spring.
I also like to put on my new supers filled with pain undrawn up wax sheets and capitalize on the crazy  rush of the bees in springtime. After all it is only spring honey. Presenting your bees with drawn up supers for the summer honey crop is a more sensible option!
We already have populations rising rapidly, plenty of early goat willow and camelia, to name but a few and the oil seed rape looks like being 2 weeks early. 4 weeks earler than last year, so be prepared.

I choose to artificial swarm my strongest hives (early april this year i think) and use the slightly weaker ones for spring honey.
I will also be trying a different method of swam control and instead of artificial swarming, i intend to take out some bees and perhaps one frame of brood, then combine this with the same amount of bees from another hive, then give it a queen cell and create some colonies like that.  Just a different way of thinking, not hitting the colony so hard and leave the hive nearly emptyof forragers, until the remaining brood start to hatch out and start to forrage for the existing queen again.

Dont stop searching for info, you never stop learning.

I have been doing a fair bit of reading this winter and feel more confident to try and think more laterally with my methods, underpinning knowledge is key!
Number one is to work with the bees, do what you want to do with them, when they want to natrually do the same.

Just bought this book and would reccommend that every beekeeper should read it. Perhaps not if you a new beekeeper, but certainly if your in your third year. It broadens your horizons on many aspects and gives you more ideas on how to be more sustainable in your methods. Really enoying the idealogy.

Hers a link to a really interesting talk at the bee show! would like to spend some time working at this guys apirarys!!

Theres so much promise this year, not for huge profits but interesting and enjoyable beekeeping!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Optimistic start!!

First Inspection, Hive death, Sugar and frames.

After what one would describe as probably the wettest winter on record and certainly in my lifetime, we can reflect on how bad its been but at the same time be a bit thankful that at least its been mild, very mild the entire winter. I think I can remember a few early frosts in Novemer time, but our old friend the north atlantic drift has protected us from severe cold weather and has instead fuelled sucessive severe winter storms via the very strong  south westerly jet stream.

I went in to my hives last week. The weather was very briefly sunny and quite a lot of my bees were flying, with no wind. In summary it was good news. One colony completly dead with only dead bees and remarkable, a marked dead queen. Another colony with no brood and eggs and queenless, with not many bees, so therefore thats dead too. I will leave the mouse guard up in April and allow this to be robbed out so i can have spare frames for my swarm traps.

Clearly this queen failed to lay, the numbers of bees declined and the slippery slope of colony collapse is evident here. I imagine that this colony has been dead for a while. Tt took all its autumn feed and was laying well, so it looks like it failed to lay down or manage sufficient stores.
You can see the bees in the picture beneath. They have died in the clasic position, with their heads in the bottom of each cell, in a despeate attempt to lick out and remaining sugars.

All ready for the spring feed. I have been buying sugar from my local supermarket for the last couple of months, a couple of bags each trip spreads the cost. It looks like spring will start next week, with temperatures rising to the dizzy heights of 15 degrees, so i will be giving each hive, half a litre of sugar syrop, each week for the next 3 weeks. This should help stimulate the queen in to laying more, so thoretically assisting the spring build up.

All frames ready for the off. Spare frames for the swarm traps. I like to put in at least one very old, smelly brown coloured frame in the middle, with at least two half drawn up frames either side of this.
The two outside frames, just new undrawn out wax sheets on new frames.

 I have also extended my workshop bench for solely beekeeping stuff. hopefully a kind of "grafting table" too. ( when its tidy)

I am also making a new apiary at home, where my bees used to be. I have made up some wooded supports . These 4,5 meter lengths are of tanilised, pressure treated timber that were a bit twisted and on sale really cheaply at my wood store, so they are perfet for me and should last for a while. These beams sit on four concrete blocks which works really well. I will be covering the soil around with plastic sheeting and plantng through this with winter flowering honeysuckle, a long term plan for a bit of extra winter wild food.

I want some of my bees here at home here so, more so for queen prodution in  the late spring and summer. I need the hives as close as possible to my house so everything is a bit easier.
I will be doing a video on  queen rearing in dadant hives, which is the same process during the initial screened bottom box and grafting section, but will be using a isolastion cage during the finishing process, as dadants dont have two brood sectons and keeping the queen away from the developing queen cells is not possible without a queen excluder, so i am working to find the best way to keep her isolated, but still keep the queen cells in the brood nest.

Its all looking good at the moment, plenty of food for the bees when its warm enough. Willow already starting to flower and also the prospect of much of the green manures flowering over the next few weeks. They are usually killed off by the winter frosts. so potentially a very strong spring ahead!

But theres some way to go, this week last year we had Blizzards..  Not again this year thanks!!