Browsing Posts tagged bees

Early this morning, there was some consternation down by the Plots as one of the beech trees across the road blew over, completely blocking the road to everything but foot traffic.  I’ll bet the bus drivers loved the little diversion through the housing estates.  Or maybe they didn’t.

Still, it meant that for once, it was quiet down the Plots without the constant roar of traffic, and Carol managed to persuade the tree surgeons to drop us off all the wood chippings they’d made in clearing up the mess.  A bit of a shame we couldn’t have some of the wood, but it did look rather big, exceedingly heavy, and apparently, all the wood went to another contractor.

Still, no worries.  We’ll now have plenty of wood chip for the area by the top wooden shed when we put the gazebos up when (if!), it gets warm in a few weeks time.

So for me today, it was all about our bees.

Our head beekeeper, Charles, arrived pretty early and we got suited up ready for action.

Today, we moved one colony from its ‘nuc’ into a full hive.

This was the swarm that Diane so skillfully caught last summer in the cardboard box, and though the colony was not as large as Charles would have liked, it was still large enough to spare two frames for the new arrivals as we moved it into its own brood box.

The centre hive, however, had fared much better over the long winter, so we ‘borrowed’ two frames of larvae and capped brood from this.

This left us with four frames of good, strong bees.

Charles had brought two new nuc boxes with him, and two new queens he’s received in the post the other day.  Surprisingly (…well, to me anyway…), yes, you are allowed to post queens with a few attendant workers, as long as they obviously can’t get out!

These two queens were housed in clear, smallish containers with vents on their sides, and the idea is that you should introduce them gradually to their new workers.

To do this, Charles put two of the full frames plus two ‘blank’ frames into each nuc, then sealed them up so the bees can get a chance to learn their way around their new home.

Oh, and when I say ‘sealed’, I mean he only sealed up the front entry holes. There is plenty of breathing space up through the bottom, so they won’t suffocate!

Then, Jon very carefully placed a queen in each of the new nucs, still her ‘royal box’, suspended right above where the capped brood was, hanging by a matchstick through the top of her box.

By doing this, her pheromones will hopefully mingle with those of the rest of the hive, so when Jon and I come to release the pair of them, probably Monday, there’ll be much less of a chance of the workers rejecting their new queens.

We’ll probably open the front doors at the same time to allow the foragers out to collect pollen and nectar.

So, hopefully by this time in a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to go in the new nucs again, and check that everything is well and that both queens are laying as they should.

We finally finished, and when I checked the time, I was astonished that over an hour had completely flown by.

Anyway, I’m going to have to leave it here for now.  It’s well past my bedtime, and I promise I’ll process the photos in time for Saturday’s entry.

Then again, if I finish off what I have to do early tomorrow, I may well spend an hour going through all the shots that PXI Nick took with my camera today.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave it there, if I may.

Pillow & Duvet calling a very tired Nick!

Phew! 13/04/13

That’s about the only thing I can say about today.

Loads of volunteers -even given the lousy weather, loads of visitors, and surprisingly, given all the visitors, loads was achieved!

I arrived well before ten to get stuff ready, but mainly to get the first pot of tea on.  I’d run out of tea bags at home, so unsurprisingly, I was pretty desperate!

I’d just got our friend Kelly the Kettle merrily brewing, when we had our first couple of visitors -Julie and her brother, Mick.  We stood chatting up by the top gate until Jon arrived and could let them in -my gate key doesn’t work!

Of course, our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi was soon on hand to welcome the pair of them, and luckily, they both love cats, so little Mitzi was in her element, bless.

New volunteer, Shaun, arrived pretty soon afterwards, and he quickly changed into his boots and sawed up the masses of holly Ian (no relation) and I had feverishly cut down last Sunday.  The larger branches are now just the right size to feed into the pizza oven, while all the smaller stuff has been safely carted down the the fire pit on the Children’s Plot.  We’ll burn this as soon as we can.  Yes, holly looks great, but that’s at Christmas, and those sharp prickles play havoc with wheelbarrow tires!

Julie and Mick stayed for nearly an hour, as more and more volunteers arrived and got on with their tasks for the day, and were pretty impressed as I showed them around.  They’d been past many times in cars or on buses, but never actually seen The Plots ‘up close’, and were particularly impressed with our bees.  This was just as well, because the weather this morning was pretty warm, so there were loads of them out, bringing in nectar and pollen.

As they were leaving, Jon said that he was leaving early this afternoon, and did we want to inspect the hives and possibly feed them?  Obviously, that was a ‘Yes!’

Our two remaining hives looked in pretty good shape.  The centre one had taken all its feed, and on inspecting the small ‘nuc’, we decided to feed that some syrup as well, as per Charles’ instructions.  Charles will be making a couple of visits this week, hopefully with a couple of new queens, and I’ll remember to charge the camera so I can take plenty of shots.  (Like a chimp, I’d forgotten it today.  Sorry!)

Pretty soon, Sara arrived, then it was time for lunch.  I’d been up to the local supermarket on my way over, and had loads of bread and cheese for everyone to share, of course over a couple of cups of tea, and we were discussing what needed planting in the greenhouse. Sara very kindly volunteered for this job, and we now have an entire packet of broccoli, and entire packet of white cabbage, and four trays of Savoy cabbage, all happily planted and watered in.

In a few weeks, if the weather continues to improve, we should have literally hundreds of seedlings in there, so we’ll have to have the beds ready for them all to go in!

Meanwhile, Gary and new volunteer, Shaun, were busy with the long bed by the metal shed I mentioned a few posts ago.  This is very slow work due to all the bindweed and other perennial weed in there, but they made steady progress.

I tackled a bed on the Children’s Plot, as Carol is thinking we should get some of the many pot-bound herbs in there.  We’ll see, but either way, it certainly needed weeding, and I have the nettle stings to prove it.  I also had to fight a load of dock plants with their massive tap roots, but since working on Area 34 last year, this was familiar work to me.

I was only a few minutes into my weeding when our favourite welder, who lives nearby, came down.  He brought his sister and brother-in-law, so I had to show them round, and as his sister and her husband are keen bee-keepers, they were very interested in our bees and the trauma we had a few days ago losing that hive.  They themselves have thirteen hives, but have lost seven of them over winter, so as I previously said, we’ve been pretty lucky this year only losing the one!

Matt popped in today, but he had stuff to do on his own plot, so didn’t spend much time with us.  Gerry, likewise had stuff to do -he didn’t even stop for a cup of tea!

All too soon, it was gone five o’clock, but luckily I’d finished the bed on the Children’s Plot, so we wearily packed up and made for home.  Not before I’d finished the last of the washing up and tidied up the top shed, though.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may just pop over to see how things are, but officially, I’m now ‘off-duty’ while next Wednesday.

Well, I say ‘officially’, but in actual fact, I’ll hopefully be seeing Diane on Monday, and any spare time in between, I’ll be working on iButtons and electric bikes.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave you for now, tired, but happy!

(P.S.  The other day I was browsing eBay (as you do), and came across ‘Hive Tools’.  A hive tool is a strip of stainless steel you use to crack open a beehive when you need to inspect.  Hives tend to get clogged with propolis, which is tremendously sticky.  Of course, I ordered one -I still can’t find the ‘official’ LEAF hive tool, so I intend to get mine stamped with at least my initials in it -just so we know whose is whose.  Of course, after getting a hive tool, I’ll need a bee-keeper’s smock.  Then a smoker.  Then a ‘nuc’.  Then my own bees.  It’s only a matter of time…)

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

Again today, it dawned bright and comparatively warm.  Well, I say comparatively warm, it’s certainly at least a couple of degrees down on where we should be for this time of year, but given the recent lousy weather, we’re pretty happy with this.

And most of our bees were happy too, today. The centre hive was very busy, while the ‘nuc’ was pretty active, and watching for a while, I noticed quite a few of the foragers coming back with ‘trousers’ full of bright yellow pollen.  As I’ve previously said, this means that both the queens are in there, and they’re both doing their job -laying the next generation of workers.

As I mentioned earlier, the far hive nearest Gary was as dead as a dead thing.  Yes, there were a few bees about, hanging around the entrance, but they looked dazed and sluggish, and there was certainly no foraging happening.  This means we’ve almost certainly lost the queen in that hive, but by all reports, having two out of the three still alive is pretty good for this year, so we can’t complain.Pear tree with a haircut!

Ian (no relation) texted me this morning, suggesting that we come out to ‘play’ for just a couple of hours, and as I needed to check on the bees anyway, it gave me the perfect excuse to get my ‘fun’ clothes on and trot over there.

As I arrived, Ian had started to get the tea makings out of the top shed, so I quickly got the Kelly Kettle lit for the first cuppa.

Ian today decided that he would finish off his work in the orchard, pruning back all the detritus and bad wood from our fruit trees.  This shot to the right shows one of the two plum trees after its haircut, and we agreed that there is a much better chance of actually getting some plums from this tree this year.

Gary soon arrived to tend to his chickens, then Matt, who’d come down to plant mini-pop sweetcorn.

Ian had brought down some apple strudel that wasn’t eaten yesterday, so we ate that, of course, washed down with copious amounts of tea, then carried on with our jobs for the day.

As Ian was about finishing with the orchard, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided that the overgrown, and overhanging, holly that scratched you every time you went from our main plot to the orchard just had to be cut back.

Well, Ian and I attacked this with some gusto!Holly cut back

We cut some pretty hefty branches from the main tree, and as you can see from the shot to the left, while we’ve cut it back considerably, there’s still plenty to grow, and in a few months, it’ll still provide food for the bees nearby.

All too soon it was time to go.  Gary had loads to do on his plot, Matt was busy planting the mini-pops, and Ian and I had other stuff to do back at our respective places.

Anyway, there’ll be more fun and frolics from our Plots on Wednesday, so I’ll chat with you then, Dear Reader!

A winter ‘check-up’.

Today, Charles, our head beekeeper came over to check on our hives.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost a couple of colonies over the cold period, but that leaves us with three -the same number we started out with last year, so we’re not too downhearted.

Last week, Jon and myself had put a couple of feeders on the two ‘main’ hives.  When we checked today, one of the feeders was entirely empty, but the other one hadn’t been touched, but as Charles said, that particular hive was left with masses of capped honey, and with the cold weather we’ve been having lately, the bees would rather tuck into this, rather than the long, cold climb up to the feeder.

So today, we warmed up the syrup in the one that hadn’t been touched, then warmed up some fresh for the hive that had taken it all.

Generally, Charles is pretty happy with our bees, and if Charles is happy, then we’re happy.

Next week, Jon and I will check the feeders again, and top up as necessary.

In the meantime, Bring On The Spring!

Yes, snow is great for Big Kids like myself, maybe for a day or two, but to be honest, the older I get, the less I can stand the cold, wet and miserable stuff that gets thrown on us every year.

Will this summer be any better?  No-one knows, but first, let’s get the Spring underway!

Totally chilled. 26/05/12

Yesterday, I spent virtually the whole day running around doing jobs I didn’t really want to do, seeing people I didn’t really want to see and finishing off boring stuff I wished I’d never started.

But then I was cool with this, for I knew that come late afternoon I’d be doing a job I did want to do, seeing over one hundred thousand guys I really wanted to see, and I certainly wouldn’t be bored!

So in the glorious sunshine of the late afternoon Diane, Matt, Jon and I had an appointment with our bees.A LEAF brood frame

What made this inspection all the more ‘fun’ was the for the first time, we’d be completely without our head beekeeper, Charles.  He’d be unavoidably called off somewhere urgent, so we were on our own.


What made it even more frightening was that we are just coming into swarming season!

Now, we weren’t frightened by the bees possibly swarming per se.  When bees swarm, you are less likely to get stung than at any other time!

When they swarm, the bees themselves are prepared for a possibly long journey, so they ‘fill up’ on nectar and pollen, and are so docile they have no intention of using their stingers.  Just imagine yourself after a huge Sunday roast.  All you want to do is ‘veg out’ in front of the TV.  Same with the bees, just without the TV!

No, we were concerned about swarming because we could potentially lose quite a few weeks’ worth of honey production.

We decided that Matt, Jon and I would take a hive each, while Diane oversaw the whole procedure, cameras at the ready.

Matt went first, and on opening his hive, we were pretty surprised to see that the ‘super’ (…honey store…) on the hive had hardly been worked on.A view of a brood frame.

Moving down, under the queen excluder, Matt opened up the top brood box, and we saw the reason why the top super had been so quiet.  The bees had been working down here, busily filling the new box with comb, then filling it with all manner of interesting stuff.

If you click on this photo to the left, you’ll see one of the frames that Matt removed.

The capped cells have larvae in them, ready to hatch in a few days.  Around this capped brood, you can clearly see the little ‘maggots’, swimming in nectar that will be capped soon, then further to the left of these, you can just make out even younger eggs that have only just been laid.

Fascinating, yes?

Now, can you spot the three male drones on this frame?

Two of them are in the centre of this photo pointing upwards, with the third still in the centre, but towards the bottom of the frame pointing downwards.  You can tell they’re drones because they’re bigger, and they have a characteristic ‘blunt bottom’, whereas the female workers have a much more pointy rear end.

When we saw this, we were greatly relieved.  It means that the queen is laying well, and on inspecting the cells, there were no signs of disease.A 'play cup' on the bottom of a brood frame.

This shot to the right shows another frame looking at it from the bottom.  The first thing to look for was just the sheer numbers of bees.  This appears to be a thriving colony!

The centre of this photos shows a ‘play cup’.  This is a dummy queen cell, and we checked it very thoroughly to make sure there wasn’t a young queen inside.  Thankfully, all clear!

Moving on to other frames, we noted that on a the bottoms of quite a few of the frames were these:-Capped drone cells.

These are capped drone cells.  You can easily spot these because they stand proud of the comb with little domes on them.  You can also see some young drone larvae about to be capped in the surrounding cells.  Notice as well all the nectar, glistening in the surrounding cells.  Just last week, this was fresh, new foundation!

Quick question: Can you spot the drones on this photo?  Top marks if you say up towards the top left of this photo!

Diane had spoken with Charles before we did this inspection, and he told her that if there were any queen cells present, then odds on, they’d be hanging from the bottom of the top brood frames we were inspecting.  There were none visible, so we were greatly relieved!

However, we saw lots of ‘bridging comb’ on the tops of the lower brood frames.Removing the bridging comb with the hive tool.  I removed this using the hive tool, as you can see in this photo to the right.  By taking this out, it should make it easier to take the brood boxes off in future.  Then again, the rate these hives are filling up, it’ll be re-made very, very quickly.

And so, to the ‘Main Lady’ of the day’s events.

Where was she?

Luckily, Charles had made sure on the last inspection that each of the three queens were marked with a white spot on their backs.

The white spot shows the queen.And here she is!

This is in the last hive that Jon inspected.  We assume other two had moved into the lower brood boxes as we opened them up.  As a rule, queens don’t much like the light or disturbance of a hive inspection, so they tend to hide away out of sight.

I’m sorry about the low quality of this shot.  Jon was moving this frame around quite a lot as I took it.

I’ll try to get a better one next time!

And so, to the title of this post.  You’re no doubt thinking by this that all we did was sit around ‘chilling out’, drinking tea!

Far from it!

No, the title for this post came from the almost overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility I felt as I walked home last night.

Yes, we’d spent over an hour in hot, sweaty suits, lifting pretty heavy frames, so the activity itself was far from ‘chilled out’.

Chatting with Diane about this later last night when she briefly came round to pick some stuff up, we both agreed that the ‘bee activity’ itself was ‘supremely chilling’.

There’s something so relaxing about working with bees.

Maybe this is why every beekeeper I’ve met has been this way.

I’ll chat with the others when I go over there today, and see what they say.

Maybe the ‘LEAF Effect’ is now combined with the ‘LEAF Bee Effect’?



Phew! 17/05/12

What a day!

Thursday is a regular ‘LEAF Day’ up at The Plots and if the weather’s good, then we normally get a good number of volunteers.  Today however, despite the rain forecast, The Plots seemed to be heaving with people!

But before most of them arrived, it was ‘Clay Time’, which funnily enough rhymes with ‘Play Time’, and this morning was definitely a morning for Grown Ups Playing With Clay.

PXI Nick was there, and he was very keen to ‘get his feet dirty’, take his shoes and socks off and get stuck in.PXI Nick, before he got stuck in, looking on in trepidation.

Well, he said he was keen, and certainly wasted no time in getting barefoot, but when Diane had laid out one of the batches I had done over the weekend, he didn’t look quite so enthusiastic.

As you can see here to the right!

He soon got into it though, after the initial ‘OUCH that’s cold!’ as he first put his feet into it.

The plan was to re-do the mixes I’d done and if necessary, mix some together in case some batches were ‘wetter’ than others.

Yay!  This is <i>great</i> fun!As you can see here to the left, after the initial shock of the cold of the clay, he very quickly got into it, and was soon happily dancing up and down.

Of course, it helped that there were so many other people around to encourage him on.

Meanwhile, Matt and I made a start on the ‘final’ coat of clay on the oven itself.

This top coat didn’t need the insulating straw in it -this was just a final ‘top coat’ to give it a nice finish, rather than the ugly ‘High Altitude Elephant’s Extreme Surprise’ we left it as the other afternoon.

Matt and I putting on the top coat.As the weather forecasters had said today would be showery, we put gazebos up on both the puddling area and over the oven itself.  It didn’t really matter to the clay that it should get wet, but as we’d rather stay dry, it seemed sensible.

Here we are to the right with our two different techniques.  Matt favoured the small lumps and carefully placed on, making sure it stuck properly.  I was more for the ‘throw it on and pick up off the floor what doesn’t stick’ method.  As Matt said, both valid ways, and both very entertaining to watch.  Ian and Graham (Both no relation.) sat and watched us right the way through, continually making ‘helpful comments’ like: “You missed a bit!” and “Is it meant to look like that?”

All said and done in the best possible way!

We realised that we’d need two more mixes to really finish it off, so we went back up to the top mixing area.  Nick quickly took his shoes and socks off again, and this time Ian decided to give it a try!  The three of us had great fun working on these two mixes, and I really must say it makes a whole world of difference having more than one of us doing this.Ian and I with Nick, busy in the background.

You’re no doubt wondering over all these photos, and how they were taken given that I’d promised to spare my new camera the indignity of sand and clay.  Thankfully, ‘Ace Lens Diane’ was on hand to take these shots.

Here are Ian and myself about halfway through ‘our’ mix, with Nick busy in the background.

After only a few minutes it seemed, these mixes were done and ready to be applied to the dome.

Matt had been busy down at the oven with the plasterer’s float, smoothing off this top layer, so we brought down the final mixes and while I slapped it on (…A scientific term, this…), he expertly went round the whole dome getting it to an almost mirror finish.Matt, proud of his work!

Here he is, happy in the knowledge that he’s done an absolutely perfect job!

With the clay work now finished, we wasted no time in getting it lit and starting to dry.  Shaun helped me get a fire going with some of the wood that Ian had cut a few weeks ago when we got the ultimate Big Boy’s Toy -the axe.

Pretty soon, I was feeding wood in a quite a rate -as you have to do to get a fire going really well.

I did notice though that once it was up to temperature, it didn’t need much more fuel to keep that temperature up, and also that it didn’t rapidly heat and cool as it had tended to do in the past.

Maybe it was my imagination, but I don’t think so.  We’ll see on Saturday when we use it ‘in rage’, properly finished for the first time.

A quick lunch, then Charles our new Head Beekeeper arrived.  Over to the hives, then!

Today, we would be swapping over the lower dark drown brood boxes that came with the bees for more of our new brood boxes.

The top of the hive off, along with the top super and queen-excluder.Because we currently have three hives, Jon, Shaun and I were each ‘chosen’ to go in the hives with Charles keeping an ever-watchful eye on us to make sure we didn’t make any stupid mistakes.

You may think that this is easy, but take it from me, there’s been so much to learn about these little creatures in so short a time, each of us was ‘on edge’ when faced with a hive with more than 30,000 bees in!

This shot to the left shows yours Charles and I after we’d taken the top of the hive off checking the top brood box for signs of the queen laying eggs in it.

Happily, there were plenty of newly laid eggs in abundance.Checking for brood and for the queen.

Here I am to the right here, checking the top brood box, and you can clearly see the frame with new comb on it built in only a few days by the workers.

At this point, I must say that even though this may look an easy thing to do, it’s really not!  Making sure you pick the frames up in the correct manner, disturbing the bees as little as possible is pretty difficult stuff -especially for ‘newbies’!

The queen wasn’t in this top box -she’d wisely gone straight down into the lower box to get away from all the confusion, noise and light from above.

So that meant she was in the bottom box -the one we were going to swap.

Carefully lifting the bottom brood box.This shot is as I lifted the old brood box off the hive floor.  I carefully placed this to one side, always conscious that there was a valuable queen in there.  If I was to accidentally squash her, we’d lose at least a couple of months’ worth of honey production.

With the old brood box safely off, Charles carefully inspected the hive floor for signs of varroa mite and finding only a couple, I replaced it with a brand new brood box.

To the right here you can see Shaun as he is placing the old frame into his new brood box, and you can see how carefully he’s inspecting the frame.Shaun carefully inspecting each frame.  He’d never been inside a hive before -he missed the last bee training course- so he was especially in awe of the bees.

To say he was a complete beginner, he did very well, though -You really wouldn’t have known it was his first time, he handled them that well!

Jon did all the above for the last frame, but for some reason, I have no shots of this.  Take it from me though that he handled himself very well!

All too soon (…it seemed!..), it was time for Charles to leave.  I thought he’d only been around a matter of minutes, but when I checked my watch, I found well over an hour had passed!  Astonishing.

After Charles had gone (…along with most of the afternoon, it seemed!..), we went back to check the clay oven.Finally finished and fired-up!

The roaring flames had died down pretty much, but the heat still coming off it was terrific!

We did notice that by the chimney the clay was starting to crack, but Shaun found some unused clay mix and skilfully patched it, and it now looks as good as new.  We knew this would happen -it’s happened on every layer so far, and we were satisfied that the cracks can only be about 3 inches deep -through one layer.

In total, the walls of this oven are in excess of 9 inches thick.

Yes, that’s quite a lot of clay -but sooooo worthwhile!Ian and I, happy after our puddling efforts today.

Tomorrow, after a hopefully brief visit into town to ‘see a man about a cat’ (…bit like ‘a man about a dog’, but this is a feline household…), I’ll be straight back here to carry on with the electronics and hopefully the programming for the electric bikes.

Of course, this will be after I’ve changed the screen that arrived today in that camera so I can present it to Matt on Saturday, fully fixed and working.  I may even charge the battery for him.

He will be pleased!

So, this last photo here to the right of myself and Ian kind of sums up the feelings of all today’s volunteers after a hard day’s work.

Tired, but happy.

More on Saturday, but this time with added pizza.

Yum to that!



Really buzzin’! 04/05/12

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!


And on our Plots… 05/04/12

…Spring has most definitely sprung!The orchard nearly in full blossom.

Here is a quick shot of our orchard this morning in the sunshine, and as you can see, most of the fruit trees are in blossom.

Last year, I remember we had a bad storm almost as soon as our trees came into bloom like this, and we lost quite a lot of it in the wind and rain.  Well, checking with the weather reports this morning showed that (…crossing fingers here…) there should be no high winds or stormy weather for a good few days.  Let’s hope that this year we can keep the blossom on the trees long enough for them to be pollinated.

And talking of pollination and bees, Charles our new head bee-keeper popped in unannounced today to give us an update on our bees.Re-vamped bee area.

They were due to arrive tomorrow, but with the weather being so awful yesterday, The Man from DEFRA who needs to inspect them before they’re moved couldn’t get to see them.  This has been slightly put back to the middle of next week, so by Thursday, they should be safely on-site and settling in.

And we can’t wait!

I know it sounds silly to say, but without the hives, there’s definitely something ‘missing’ from LEAF.

Anyway, Diane and the lads have pulled out all the stops before the arrival of the new hives, and up to the left here you can see the re-worked bee area.  The screens to the top right have been mostly repaired or replaced, but the main thing is the new stumps running in a much longer line.  This clearly marks the limit as to how near we can get to the hives without needing bee suits on.

Charles will be making a couple more trips early next week to sort out the arrangement for just what the hives will stand on.  Current thinking is traditional bee-stands sat on breeze blocks.  Of course, I’ll get some photos when they’re in position.

In other news, it appears that Ian has once and for all sorted out what the ‘peappleum’ on my plot is.  Down on Area 34, we’d lost just a couple of blooms, so today Ian brought one of them up to compare close-up with the LEAF fruit trees.

After much ‘umm-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’, it was decided that the tree we have on Area 34 is…

…A PEAR tree!The LEAF pot-pear.

Ian only discovered this by accident!  After several of us going round the various trees, comparing branches, leaves and blossom, Ian noticed a sad pear tree sat in a little pot quite close to the new bee area.  This terrible shot to the right shows it, and the leaves and blossom are an exact match.  Sorted.

On leaving the orchard to go towards the kitchen area, you pass one of the stands of LEAF rhubarb.

And it’s looking pretty good right now!One of the stands of LEAF rhubarb.

I remember last year we have a massive hail storm with hailstones so big they punched many holes right through the leaves.  It looked like we’d had an attack of huge slugs!

Luckily, none of that this year, and already I can’t help thinking of Matt and his incredible rhubarb & ‘x’ pies.

This is where: ‘x’=’anything’!

I’m thinking of ‘emergency’ runs up to the local ‘Tescos’ for double cream…

And of course, I’m thinking of Plot Tea!

Even though it’s Good Friday tomorrow, I guess there’ll be quite a bit happening down on the allotments.  If not up at LEAF, then certainly down on Area 34.

More then.

Fun in the sun. 22/03/12

After this morning’s early low, clinging mist, the sun soon came out, and as we had our Head Beekeeper, Charles arriving, it made working outside all the more enjoyable.The demonstration hive.

Today he brought with him a ‘demonstration hive’ of a single comb with glass on either side.  You can see it here to the right with Fran eagerly snapping away with Diane’s camera, Diane next to her and Gary to her left with his camera phone.

I waited while everyone had had a good look and had taken shots on their various cameras before I got up close with my own.Close-up of the demonstration hive.

Its a shame this shot on the left here didn’t come out any better, but the sun angle was wrong, and I couldn’t help but get the reflection of the box in the glass side.

Still, if you click on this image to get the enlarged version, you’ll see the bees hard at work.

There’s something about bees, how they live and work that I find totally fascinating.  I really could quite happily sit all day just watching them.

After we’d ooh-ed and aah-ed for a good while (…of course drinking tea at the same time!..), it was time to crack on and get some frames built for the hives being delivered in a couple of weeks.

Moving down to by the greenhouse and the large working area this affords, Charles wasted no time in showing us how to build a frame.Building a frame.

The parts for these come ‘flat-packed’ (…A bit like IKEA, but with no screws missing!..), so all you have to do it knock them together and then insert the ‘former’ that the wax comb is built up on by the bees.  Sometimes, the wax formers are a little misshapen or over-sized -ours today were just a gnats too long, but a sharp Stanley knife and a straight edged rule soon sorted that out.

Once the comb former is in, its a simple matter to tack it together using quite long tacks so they go right through the wood.Tacking it together.

To the left here you can see Charles putting the bottom three tacks in which line up nicely with the metal ‘hoops’ embedded within the comb itself.

We seemed to take forever building these, but Charles says that with a little practise on a cold winter’s day (…indoors, obviously!..), he can knock together about 30 an hour.  Practice makes perfect!And we have a go!

To the right here you can see Fran on the left next to Pam who’s standing next to Carol.  From the right inwards we have PXI Nick, Shaun, Gary then Jon on the far right.

Someone laughingly remembered ‘The Generation Game’ with pairs of contestants having just a couple of minutes to complete some task.  Well, this took us a few more than a couple of minutes!

I left the group early to go do some digging down on my plot, but not before I’d made a couple of frames up, and here you can see my first in the new super that in just a few weeks time will literally be buzzing!Grafitti.

As you can probably work out, each of these will hold ten frames.

In total we made up fifty frames for our five hives.

Not bad going for complete beginners, eh?

Buzzin’! 22/03/12

Today our new Head Beekeeper, Charles, is due down to The Plots for about 10.30am.

He’ll be here to meet and greet us, but also to join us in making the frames for the five new bee hives we’ll be having delivered in just a couple of weeks time.

All exciting stuff!

I’ll Blog later with photos to tell you how it all went.

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