What are they doing in there?

The bees have been with us a week now. They have got through 2kg of sugar so they must be busy in there. I’ve been watching their comings and goings, seen young bees on ‘play flights’ circling the hive as they learn about their surroundings. In the last few days I’ve noticed them bringing in a lot of cream coloured pollen from somewhere – think it’s probably elder flowers as there’s a lt of it in the hedgerows. Most people think of pollen as yellow but it can a whole range of colours including red and blue – see the colour chart on the Sheffield Beekeepers’ Association site for more information. Today however it  was time to open the hive and take a closer look. I got the smoker going using some straw and paper and donned the bee suit. Quite excited to find out what has been going on in the hive.

We took each frame out to have a close look. The bees have started to draw out wax foundation in the two new frames nearest to the 5 original frames we put in the hive a week ago. You can see the workers on the new cells in the photo below.

I didn’t manage to spot the queen (she isn’t marked) but we know she has been busy as we saw larvae at different stages. I was a bit anxious to get the bees back in their box, especially as the smoker kept going out, so didn’t spend too long inspecting each frame. Enough for a first inspection – I’ll have a bit of practice with the smoker before the next one.

Bees drawing out foundation

Bees on new frame drawing out the foundation

Advertisements

We have bees!

A local beekeeper brought my bees their little nuc box yesterday. We had a wander round the garden talking about the pros and cons of different sites for the hive. As we run a B&B we wanted to make sure it wouldn’t cause any concerns for our guests.

Aerial photo of garden

Aerial photo of garden

The end of the garden by the compost heap (A) would be well away from guests but we would need to cut the grass around it. The back garden (A) has no lawn to be cut and no hens but the hive would be visible to guests, some of whom may worry about it. Somewhere we hadn’t considered was the flat rood (C), ideal for ensuring the bees would be flying well above head height but very visible and not very practical when having to carry stuff up and down a ladder! So, we settled on a sheltered spot (D), hidden from view with the hive entrance facing north. Our garden is quite a bit higher that our neighbour’s so the bees wouldn’t cause any nuisance to them. The hive gets some morning and evening sun here and there is no grass needing to be cut.

Beehive in place

Beehive in place

Having decided on the position for the hive, we then got our bee suits on, smoker ready (wasn’t needed) and transferred the 5 frames of bees from the nuc box into the new hive. It was fascinating to watch the bees checking things out, doing little flights around the hive. They soon settled. I filled a feeder with sugar syrup and placed it on top of the brood box. All was nice and calm. Our cat Molly had to come and investigate. She got a little too close and was stung so I think she’ll now keep well away.

Will be looking out for bees around the flowers in the garden.

Waiting for bees

Everything is ready! I’ve made a stand for the hive out of bits timber we had in the shed. A quick coat of paint and all is ready for the bees. It’s been a long wait for bees. There were about 22 of us on the beekeeping course, all of whom want a colony of bees. It’s been an exceptionally bad year for bees with beekeepers having to feed their bees already. However, the wait is over as the local bee inspector is coming tomorrow morning with a nucleus (a small colony) of bees. Not quite sure yet where in the garden to put the hive but I’m sure I’ll have some good advice on what would be best. No honey this year but the colony will grow large enough to survive the winter and produce a good crop next year.

Here is all the kit, with a bit of explanation of what’s what.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Assembling the frames

brood frame

A brood frame fitted with wax foundation

Once the boxes (brood box and supers) are assembled, the next step is to assemble the frames. The frames are where the bees make the wax comb. In order to get them to build the comb so it’s easier for the beekeeper to manage, a sheet of wax foundation is fitted into a frame and the bees then add wax to it to build up their cells. Each frame can hold 5 – 6 lbs of honey so the wax foundation is reinforced with thin wire.
This is a very pleasant job to do, with the lovely smell of beeswax. Just hope I can get some bees soon otherwise the wax dries out and the bees don’t like it.

Beehive assembly

beehiveWe’re lucky to have Wynne Jones beekeeping supplies nearby so I can just pop in after my welsh lesson to pick up what I need. I’ve started with one brood box and a couple of supers. The brood box is where the queen lives and lays her eggs, tended by the worker bees. As the bees increase in number, they will need more space to store honey so you put on an extra box called a super. This is shallower than the brood box so it won’t get too heavy when full of honey.

As you can see, the hive is supplied as a kit. What could be better – you have the fun of lots of nailing and glueing to do! I could happily assemble bee hives all day. Assembly instructions can be downloaded from Thornes who make the hive but I followed the sequence on this video:

Learning about bees

Novice beekeepers

Novice beekeepers in the apiary

I recently finished a beekeeping course at Llysfasi College near Ruthin. The course was excellent and I’d certainly recommend it for anyone wanting to get started with bees. It was a good mixture of theory in the classroom and hands on learning in the apiary.  Loved opening the hives and finding the queen, the smell of the wax combs and the bees flying around us. Such a lot to learn though and hard to imagine getting to the stage where we can take honey from our own hive. I hope to tell the story of getting there in this blog.