Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Winter - a time to be patient

The first three weeks of November saw some frosty nights, but many of the days were sunny and warm enough for the bees to fly. A few had been spotted coming back to the hive with small amounts of pollen.

This week, winter has arrived with a vengeance! We've not had as much snow as the north east and Scotland, but now have around 6 inches laying in the garden and temperatures have plummeted to as low as -8 C at night and daytime temperatures barely make 0 C.

Now is the time to hope that they have stored enough honey to see them through the winter. I'd like to see them survive without any supplementary feeding, but not having had them when it was warm enough to check through the hive, I've no idea of how much they have. Just have to hope for a break in the weather at some point so that I can check, I guess.

It is reassuring to be able to hear their hum by listening at the entrance!  I check every morning and evening at the moment....

Now to practice my patience!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Comb or Art?

When I bought the hive, the previous owner had moved a piece of "problem" comb to the back of the hive. My better half is a science teacher and as soon as she saw it thought it would be good to show the children at school something of the secret life of bees. 

She is now armed with this beautiful creation and a few dead bees (drones and a couple of workers) collected from outside of the hive. This and use of the school microscope will hopefully open the eyes of a few of the children to a fascinating new world!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Orientation Flights

Despite a cold, frosty start to the day, the sun came out and hit the hive. By mid morning the girls were out to play and looking around the garden. Lots of bees hovering in front of the hive, so they can recognize their new home, and gradually moving away in increasing circles. It didn't take long for them to disappear back in to the hive when the clouds came along!

Orientation Flights

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bees - At Last!

During the swarm season the excitement rose as bees showed interest in the bait hive and the garden hive, then dropped as swarms failed to appear........ repeatedly!

August and the chance of a swarm gone, but another new beekeeper a few miles away thought they had some swarm cells and would I like one with some bees? WOULD I LIKE SOME???? Well, a more experienced beekeeper went to my friends hive to help harvest the swarm cells, but couldn't find a single swarm cell in the hive! Another disappointment!

This beekeeping is full of highs and lows!

We are well into autumn now and given up on the idea of getting bees, then, on the Natural Beekeeping forum a post offering a colony complete with a National to top-bar conversion hive, and only 10 miles from where I work! Contact made and a visit on November 1st. A few bees had been flying during the day and collecting.pollen. A colony of Carnolian bees installed from a nucleus in June and looking well. Almost no evidence of Varroa, but having a small amount of supplementary feed going into winter. Offer made, deal done.

I collected the bees on November 4th after work. The hive was sealed and put into an old duvet cover which was then tied shut. The journey home (50 miles) although nerve racking was uneventful. Soon after arrival the heavens opened and dropped a rain storm of biblical proportions! Result, the hive was carefully placed in the garage, the duvet cover removed and some syrup added to keep them going.

Next morning, the weather is cool, but dry. Upon opening the garage door I was greeted with a loud buzz. A closer listen and I could hear them chewing on the tape that was still over the entrance. After the final prep of the area, we carried the hive to it's new location.

Removal of the tape over the entrance resulted in a lot of bees coming out to see what was going on. Realising they were now in Yorkshire, not Lancashire, they started to circle to re-orientate. As the temperature wasn't great they soon started to head back into the hive and hang out at the entrance.

It wasn't long before the weather came back - it's now raining again and I'll have to revert to patience mode!

Feeding 2:1 syrup for a while to make sure they have enough stores to get through the winter. They were being fed by the previous owner, but I'll make a judgment if/when I can get into the hive for a brief inspection (weather being the issue at this time of year in the north-west of England!) or when they stop taking it.

As well as a first colony I also now have the conversion hive. An ingenious device that looks like a Kenyan top-bar hive but,  at one end is a vertical sided box that can take 5 National frames from a nucleus. In their own time the bees can expand into the top-bar part of the hive. Bars can the be moved to a normal top-bar hive.