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Waking up again

Hedgerow in flower

It’s been a while, but the new season has made me think about starting up the blogging again. 

Spring has definitely sprung around here (the north of Cambridgeshire) with lots of white blossoms in the hedgerows and also the vivid yellow of OSR in the fields. 

And so, as spring has started my beekeeping has kicked back off again after the enforced quiet of winter. 

A quick state of the nation:

  • We went into the winter with 13 hives,  across two apiaries, having lost one late in the season to wasps.
  • Over the winter one hive died. It looks like isolation starvation, despite having fondant on the top of the hive – a really sad sight. 
  • However, I’ve acquired another colony, by accident, together with a new apiary site. More on which another time. 
  • We’ve moved three hives to the new apiary. 
  • So, as it stands that’s 13 hives spread across three sites all ready for the new season. 

It’s a new season, the sun is shining, the bees are flying and perhaps there will even be a few more blog posts … maybe!

Hive switching!

Last summer I picked up a swarm during the summer and popped it into a jumbo langstroth Modern Beekeeping poly nuc.  The swarm had gone into a compost bin in a back garden of a woman who really didn’t want them there, but they moved quickly up into the body of the poly nuc (with a bit of encouragement / smoke).

With obligatory gaffer tape!

With obligatory gaffer tape!

The polynuc is a jumbo langstroth.  One end is boxed in, so that the commercial frames fit with the right beespace (except at the bottom).  They do seem to be good polynuc’s, the sides and the lid seem quite thick.

One end blanked off to get a commercial frame fit

One end blanked off to get a commercial frame fit

In the summer rush they got a bit ignored, with infrequent checks and a lack of anywhere else to put them.  However I’ve made sure they had fondant on the top and they have really thrived and seem to have come out of the winter strong.  This was them back in early Feb, making the most of a day with some sunshine.

Cleansing flights in Feb

Cleansing flights in Feb

So, on Friday I had a day off and decided it was time to move them into one of the now vacant hives that had died out over the winter (hive D1).  The hive got a flame out (it’s wooden not poly!) and they were moved over very quickly.

It was a lovely day here and so after popping the new hive on the site of the polynuc, it was a five-minute job to move the frames across.  Not an angry bee in sight, all the flying bees went to the old site with the new hive and the ones in the nuc stayed calm as I moved them across.

Confused bees!

Confused bees!

Just a bit of extra activity in front of the hive as they get used to their new home.  Fingers crossed they’ll build up well for later in the year.

After a cold and wet Saturday morning the afternoon turned out to be sunny and warm and was spent with the Peterborough and District Beekeepers spring course attendees.  It was the last week of the course and they were able to get into and inspect some hives in pairs.   The bees were well behaved and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

I hope and think quite a few will look to go on and keep bees.


Ross rounds, initial views


I’ve buckled!  I’d been looking at them for some time but the price had put me off.  Finally though, I’ve bought a Ross round section super for use after the oil seed rape is over.

I bought it from Mann Lake, it was about £84 (I ordered some MAQS at the same time to benefit from free postage).  The cost from Thornes would have been £130.  However, as I found out later (although if I had read the details it was there!), it wasn’t quite a 1-1 comparison.  The Thorne’s version has 40 rounds, whilst the Mann Lake one has 32.  Even so, the Mann Lake one is about 20% cheaper on a round for round basis.

There are 8 of the frames, which as you can see come apart to allow the insertion of the rings and the foundation.  I’ve inserted the rings that came with it and stored away the covers.  The rings sit snuggly inside the frames, as can be seen below:

IMG_0021 IMG_0022

When I fit foundation, this will go between the two halves of the frames and the rings.  So then one ring will be on each side.  The idea then is that the bees build out comb on either side and once capped off I can take out the comb and the rings, trim back the foundation and put a cover on top and bottom.  Tape around the side and then it should be a case of labelling and selling.

The big challenge I have with all of this is that you end up selling the rings and covers with the honey. It should make for a nice presentation, however it does make it quite costly.  Before you factor in the cost of the super I’m estimating that the packaging alone comes in at just about £1.05 for each section.

First impressions are that the frames look well made.  The super looks quite basic, OK, but not finely finished.  I think from the photo that the Thornes one would probably be better finished, but the sections will taste the same!  I’m also surprised that the springs seem to protrude below the super. I need to see how it all goes together when I have it on a hive.

I’ve ordered more rings, covers and also foundation from CirComb, based up in Dundee.  They seem good value, and arrived quickly.


I’ve had a quick look at the size of the foundation, and it looks to be shorter, and also quite a lot wider than national super sized foundation.





The cruelty of winter

Flat and windyToo exposed for bees over winter?

The other day was the first chance I had had in about a month to get up to the apiaries and check out all of the hives, make sure they all had stores etc.

The overall count going into the winter was 11 hives, split over three different sites.

Unfortunately I’ve lost three over the winter, my first winter losses.  I need to go through and confirm why, but from a first look it appears to be isolation starvation.  All three losses were from one particular site and so now I am putting it down to beekeeper error.

There is a saying that cold doesn’t kill bees, but that moisture does. In this case though I think the site (too exposed in hindsight) meant that they were stuck, cold, in a cluster, close to food but unable to get to it.

The next night we moved the hives around so they are all less exposed.

Hopefully spring will kick in soon and then we can get back to building colonies and raising strong healthy bees.


Oops – that went quickly!

Oh dear, we’re at the end of October already and once again I’ve been too busy to do much in the way of posting.

So, where are things now? Well what a season. The combined colony count is up to ten, and the harvest of honey weighs in at over 100 kg. I’ve kept a record of honey harvest by the number of frames and then allocated the total for each harvest proportionately, it is rough and ready but good enough to get a feel, the scores on the doors are:

 Hive Number 05/05/2014 18/05/2014 08/06/2014 13/07/2014 Totals
D1                    8.1                      –                    7.2                    6.6          21.9
D2                    3.7                11.2                    9.3                    7.7          31.8
D3                    3.7                      –                    2.0                    4.4          10.1
D4                    3.7                    0.7                    5.6                  11.0          21.1
D5                      –                      –                      –                      –               –
D6                      –                      –                      –                      –              –
D7                     –                    3.6                      –            3.6
D8                     –                    3.7                    0.4                     –            4.1
T1                   8.2                    0.4                      –            8.6
T2                      –                      –                      –                      –               –
T3 2.9  3.0 2.8                      –            8.7
 Grand total 22 26.8 31.4 29.8 110

So what can we take from this?  Well:

  • D5 and D7 were in the copse, I placed D5 there last year, when the weather was hot. I’d read that bees don’t do well in woods and now I can see why.  The damp wasn’t conducive to them doing well, the bees were aggressive and so lesson learnt.  Key lesson: don’t keep bees inside woods
  • D2 – what a performance!  At times this hive was stacked with supers, and the 31kg is an understatement as it doesn’t include a national brood box they filled when we ran out, but then couldn’t extract.  The hive was on the edge of the copse, good ventilation, sun in the morning.  It didn’t swarm, and that seems to have made all the difference.
  • D1 & D4 – solid performances.  They were sat on the edge of a field which has OSR early on, and whilst they swarmed it didn’t seem to stop them having a good year.
  • T1 and D3 – both started the year in national brood boxes and ended them in commercial brood boxes (which is the size I run), so they took a bit of time doing so.  It would probably have worked better to bite the bullet and move them move actively earlier rather than the slow way I did.
  • D6 – beekeeper error! A ham-fisted split from D1, meant that they ended up queenless, which meant they needed a frame of eggs and brood.  This put them behind and then weak going into late summer.
  • D8 – split from D1, did well to make a surplus.
  • T2 and T3 – Did OK, they were on a different site.  The main problem being their tendency to keep swarming, which we need to deal with, but that is a problem for next year …..


Running to keep up

Well the last few weeks have been eventful. Three colonies artificially swarmed. One passed on to a new beekeeper, and two new colonies retained.

One of the main problems at this time of year is keeping up with the need for equipment. Of course in an ideal world I would simply turn to my ready made stack of brood boxes, fill them with frames I constructed over the winter and head out.

In practice I have been playing ‘catch-up’ and making frames up late at night.


So repeat after me, “next year I will be more organised ….”