Yesterday, our Head Beekeeper, Charles, arrived to inspect our hives.

Great excitement!

Then Diane announced that a couple of bee suits had arrived from the Sheffield Bee Buddies Project.

This meant that two of us could fully accompany Charles in his bee manipulations.Inspecting the hives.

Even greater excitement!

During the project last year, we were all very aware that the hives sat on our Orchard Plot didn’t belong to us.  They were Jez’s, and we were always aware that whenever he came to visit us, he was seeing to his bees.

This year, it’s different.  This year it’s better, because in less than 12 months time, we’ll be fully responsible for the well-being of our hives.

They’ll be ours!

With this firmly in mind, Charles is very keen to ‘take a back seat’ and watch (…and of course guide…) us while we do stuff with them.

Hence all the excitement!

I quickly volunteered to don a suit, and was surprised to find that the suits supplied weren’t the full jobbies we’d been used to on the course we’ve just been on.

These little numbers were white jackets with hoods on, of course with tightly fitting waist and wrist bands.

Much better and certainly much easier to put on -there was no taking your boots off to get into them.

Bees at the feeder.Of course, you had to be wearing thick jeans, long socks and decent boots, but as this is ‘standard wear’ for The Plots, it presented no problem.

Last week, I’d been pretty concerned for the centre hive of the three.  During all that recent hideous weather, I’d checked the level of the feeder and found it unmoved, but more alarmingly, I’d noticed no bees whatsoever in the top of the feeder.

Remembering the lessons of last week, I’d very gently lifted the feeder and poured a little of the syrup right down into the super and brood box beneath it.  This was to ‘show them the way’.

Well, I needn’t have worried!  The centre hive was the first one we opened, and I was immensely relieved to see loads of bees in the top of it, hungrily feasting on the solution.  This photo up to the left here is just some of them.  Don’t worry -they’re not trapped in there!  There’s a large-bore hole right in the centre of this which leads down into the super below it.

And on looking into the super, I was very pleased to see that this hive I had been ‘fretting over’ is actually the one with the frames of foundation that I made in it!A super full of bees and foundation.

Here’s the photo to prove it.  Spooky, eh?

We also noticed that the workers are starting to build up this foundation in the supers, meaning that with a little warmer, sunnier weather, we could be in for some honey.

Let’s hope so.  I, for one, can’t wait to see how it tastes!

After inspecting the super, we moved onto the lower brood box.

To get to this, you have to prise off the queen excluder, and after Charles reminded me how to do this, I took my hive tool to each of the four corners then lifted and gently twisted to get it off.Prising off the queen excluder.

Whilst doing this, I was amazed at how quickly the bees had built up comb after the pouring of the feed down through the super.

The top of the queen excluder had quite a lot of new comb build-up.Brand new comb being built.

As we were changing the queen excluders anyway for our own, Charles ‘donated’ this lump of new comb.  Maybe I’ll make a very small candle from it!

Underneath the excluder is where all the action takes place.  This is the brood box where new eggs are laid, brood nurtured and then new workers finally emerge.

At the risk of collective groans, yesterday, despite the weather being so dull and cold, the brood boxes were hives of activity.  Sorry.

The brood box.This is the centre hive as we opened it, and Charles immediately remarked on just how many bees there were.

Because of this, he decided that we should re-arrange the hives slightly to accommodate all these bees.  This will hopefully prevent them from wanting to swarm.  When they run out of room -which these clearly had!- their instinct is to hatch a new queen and naturally split the hive in two.

Thankfully, we found no active queen cells -which would have been another sign- so we put the new brood boxes full of foundation on top on the old ones, then put the queen excluder on top of that before replacing the supers.  This will give the colonies ‘something to do’ while the weather continues to be awful.

We also topped up all three feeders -the left hand most one was completely empty!New brood box on top of the old one.

To the right here is as we placed the new brood box on top of the old, before we fitted the new queen excluder then the super on top.

When putting the new brood box on, its very important to make sure that its the right way round!  You don’t want one with the frames running left to right with the other with the frames running front to back.  Also to note is that you must make sure that all your boxes are exactly on top of each other.

Done!So, in all the excitement yesterday, on all three hives we moved the new brood boxes down to be directly above the old ones -each full of new foundation.  We also made a quick inspection of the brood frames themselves to see that everything was okay and we also topped up all the feeders.

Even though I’m sure it only took a matter of minutes, after it all, I was totally exhausted.

But very happy!

Saturday, I plan to just open the tops up and check the feeder levels.  Charles has left us some syrup in case they’re running low.

Now we just need some sunshine!


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