My First Season with Bees
Ever since I was a small boy Spring has always filled me with excitement, as the new plants and bulbs appear, the weather starts to get warmer and the nights noticeably get shorter, and the promise of sunny days ahead (maybe!) but this feeling has increased even more so since deciding to take the plunge and get me some bees!
With two and a bit second hand WBC hives and some bits and bobs from a friend who was retiring and hanging up his smoker (which is now my smoker) and some beautifully behaved healthy bees from another friend, I made a start.
Learning fast and doubling my phone bill, the season seemed to go well, although with little in the way of honey. It all was to change come February last year, having not seen one bee, even on a warm day, I decided to investigate, only to find 50 or so dead bees were all that I had left.
With a heavy heart the search for new bees for the season started. Nuclei being thin on the ground last season this left me ringing suppliers to buy a nucleus outside the area. Reserving one in Cambridge to be delivered later in the spring left me feeling a little more optimistic for the new season ahead.
A couple of weeks later I got a call to tell me that the company who were supplying the bees were closing due to health problems of the owner so no nucleus would be available, but I could have a complete commercial hive for the same price if I came to collect it within a week. I accepted the offer, made a date to collect and with that phone call unbeknown to me I had just started a season that would make me have to learn faster than I ever thought possible.
With a good briefing about what I needed to take when collecting the bees, travel screen, tape, protective clothing and veil, and with stories about cars full of bees ringing in my ears I set off to collect the hive. I was told “If you don’t turn your car off until you get home, the bees won’t mind the journey, the vibration keeps them calm you know” I’ve got this sorted I thought, I've got my sandwiches and a large flask of coffee, no problem. And there wasn’t, until having drunk the contents of the flask over a 2-hour period I needed to go to the toilet!
Having reached the services about 30 miles from home I could wait no longer, leaving my still running car with a police patrol, explaining what was in the back of the car, ignoring the expression on their faces the mission was accomplished!
With the bee’s safely home on the 16th March, put down in the appropriate position and left for 20 hours, I put on my gear and went to investigate what I had bought. On taking off the travel screen, empty super and crown board, my mouth fell open. The bees were dark in colour almost black with large eyes, and extremely lively compared to my previous bees. But the thing that surprised me most was the shear number of them. The brood box was full to bursting. Giving them a super of foundation and a feed of syrup everything settled down and they started to make honey at a fair rate. The brood seemed happy and all was well. The queen I was told was just starting her first season. An odd looking girl about an inch long, quite flat across the back and articulated but could lay for England.
About 4.00 one May afternoon I got a phone call at work from Jack who owns the market garden where my hives stand. With stress showing in his voice he said that the bees had all come out and were stuck to his fence. I rang the man who I knew would know what to do and told him what I had heard and with a thousand things to remember dashed back to assess the situation.
When I got to the field the swarm was on a 4 x 4 fence post which was carrying square mesh fencing with a buddleia bush running through the wire. The bees were entwined with the bush and the wire around the top of the post. With a brood box full of foundation painted with syrup balanced on the top wire and propped up with a plank, smoker in hand and sweaty palms I set about persuading the swarm the size of a bucket to go where I needed them to be.
This went on until nearly dark. Fanning showed that the queen was in the box, but still many refused to move much more than just below the box. As darkness fell however, in they went. I had had time to bring an already prepared hive from home up the road, knocking the bees neatly into the hive, my first swarm was in. So I gained a second hive, and a good one at that. Both hives were working well when I checked a week later. Pleased with my shaky but effective new found skill I did not realise more practice was on the way and in June two swarms within two days of each other together started me a third hive.
The commercial hive and the large swarm in the second hive had been doing extremely well all season producing our first honey crop of about 130 lb between them, also filling one super each for their winter stores. The third hive however was struggling. There was no brood, no eggs and no visible sign of a queen at all, though the bees still fanned as if she was in there somewhere.
In late August with the help of the man who knows how, we united this hive with my May swarm in their hive, as I don’t think they would have survived much longer alone.
Putting newspaper and a queen excluder above the main hive, one super up then placing the complete brood box on top of that, crown board and roof, I then left them alone for two weeks. This seemed like a very long two weeks, but on opening the hive sure enough through a 3 inch hole in the newspaper made by the bees, two colonies had now become one. Above the upper queen excluder we were only left with a few dead drones and the remains of the smallest queen I have ever seen, no bigger than one of the workers. The bees were right she was there after all!
It is late January now and on two mild days we have already seen bees on the fronts of my two hives. What a relief, so here we go again (with any luck).
- Bee Candy
- A Volumetric Approach to Swarm Control
- Do drones need more energy than workers ?
- What is the Catenary HIve ?
- An Intrusion Into The Private Life of the Queen
- A Cheshire System of Beekeeping
- Artificial Swarming to make Increase
- Re-queening An Aggressive Colony
- Frames and Frame-spacing
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 1
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 2
- Something To Consider - Treating Hives
- Make up Of Honey
- Brainbox Bees
- An Inspector Calls
- The Laws Of Beekeeping
- TBS versus BBS
- Colony Records
- My First Season With Bees
- Integrated Pest Management Workshop
- BBKA Examination System
- Will Your Bees Survive this Winter?
- Anaphylactic Shock - What to do!
- Anaphylactic Shock - A Personal Experience
- Beekeeping Records
- L. L. Langstroth's - BEE-KEEPER'S AXIOMS
- Osmia Rufa
- Beginner's Corner - Out-apiary sites
- Beginner's Corner - Syrup feeders