Archive for Bees

Fun with the bees

Yesterday Neil got a call from a friend who is a beekeeper to say she had a swarm of bees and would Neil like them.  He jumped at the chance since all his bees had died last year.  So Jan caught the swarm in a box and a sheet and brought them over and emptied them out where Neil had prepared a hive for them.  He put a piece of hardboard across the stand and hoped that they would process along the ramp and into the hive.  but unfortunately instead they settled under the ramp, in a big cluster around the queen.

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Neil put a pheromone lure and a sugar syrup feed (one to one ratio of sugar and water)  into the hive to encourage them into it, but we were sitting in the front garden this afternoon having a cup of tea and we suddenly heard this loud buzzing coming towards us, and they had swarmed again.  Now they have settled in a tree the other side of our garage, a really difficult place to get to.  It seems they weren’t interested in taking up home in Neil’s nice new hive for them, but maybe they are just a flighty lot and will keep on moving.  Anyhow it would appear we have lost them now.  Such a shame as I was looking forward to some of our own honey again.

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Moving the bees

During the cold spell we have had, Neil decided to move the bees into the woods.  It is best to move them when they are more or less dormant and there is no activity outside the hive.  He moved them from the side of our field, near to where the hens are just about 100 yards into the woods. This will enable us to extend the hen run without being too close to bees.

He made a special stand for the hive at waist height, so as not to have to bend down to examine the hive.  He made it big enough to take 2 hives so when he gets another hive of bees later this year, he can also position them there.

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The above picture is taken looking down the slope into the woods.  You might wonder what the green bags are for either side of the hive. Well that is to flap about and put off any woodpeckers from pecking the hive and eating the bees.

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This is the front of the hive, where you can see we have strapped the hive down to the stand, this is to stop any deer from dislodging it.

Even although today it is a sunny day, the hive has not warmed up enough for the bees to start flying again.  But now that Spring is on its way hopefully they will start flying again soon.

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STOP PRESS:  we still have availability at the B&B for Easter Sunday 31st March and Bank Holiday Monday 1st April

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Birthday “Bee” Cake

Last night we  had friends over to dinner to celebrate 3 birthdays in 2 days.  Neil’s birthday is today so we are looking forward to a nice day pootling about, generally chilling out and not doing too much.  But last night one of our friends arrived with a birthday cake for Neil shaped like a bee hive with little bees.  It was really brilliant.

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It was a honey and lemon cake to boot which made it even more appropriate.  The little bees she had made our of marzipan and liquorice with almond flakes for wings.  Very creative and what a lovely surprise!!

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Of Bees and hens and pheasants in the snow

None of the snow has cleared today.  It’s such a cold day, it’s just sitting where it fell.  Neil went down to clear the entrance to the beehive which was blocked with snow.  Not that the little bees want to come out and fly today, but they need air to circulate so they don’t suffocate.

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We’ve tried to entice the hens outside, but they don’t like putting their feet on the snow, so we cleared an area just outside the henhouse to encourage them out to scratch around and at least eat their food.  Big Chook was eating the snow.  Their water had frozen up so we put another smaller container of water nearer the hen house.  We still got 8 eggs today.  I thought they might go on strike in this bad weather, I’m surprised they are still laying.

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We have been feeding the birds, hanging up nuts and seeds. In particular we  want to ensure that the woodpeckers have sufficient suet and nuts to eat so that they won’t attack the beehive in search of honey and bees to eat.  This has happened to one of the beekeepers in the village last year.  The seeds disappear at the rate of knots, so we have also sprinkled some on the ground for the ground feeding birds like the blackbirds to peck at.  And then alongs comes Mr Pheasant thinking he will have a go at the seeds too.  He’s just like a big chicken scratching around on the ground, only he doesn’t mind his feet in the snow!!

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Our little monkey puzzle tree covered in snow looks like a mini snowman, very cute!!

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The woods look so beautiful with all the snow…..

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I particularly like this view of one of our gates in the snow.

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On the stables the snow has dripped, then frozen again, so there is quite an overhang.

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The forecasters say we are in for several days of this cold spell, so we may be snowed in for quite a while, but luckily we have plenty of supplies.

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RIP Bees

We  have lost 2 hives of bees.  When I say lost, I don’t mean we have mislaid them, I mean they have died.

Three weeks ago on a sunny Sunday, we could see the bees flying from all three hives.  Then gradually this movement slowed down in hives 1 and 2, until last Monday we could see no movement.  So Neil donned his bee suit and went to investigate.  In hive 1 there was nothing, no bees at all, and in hive 2 there was a mass of dead bees.

A mass of dead bees

So Neil spoke to the bee inspector and sent over some pictures, and the bee inspector said it was most likely that the bees had died because of the varrora mite.  Last year, when these 2 hives were inspected, varrora mite was found.  So Neil treated the hives with thymol which is supposed to kill the varrora mite, but it would seem that with the Spring the varrora became active again and the bees just didn’t have the number or the resistance to survive the mites.

Neil was really disappointed and felt quite despondent when he discovered this.  But unfortunately it is something that sometimes happens to bees, and the bee inspector himself had lost 5 hives out of 30, so it’s not just us.

We are thinking that maybe we will buy another nucleus of bees to replace the dead ones, but firstly the hives need clearing out, all the frames destroyed and the hives themselves fumigated and sterilised.

I don’t think you go into beekeeping to make money!!.  Whilst we still have some honey to sell and some to serve to our B&B guests, we obviously hope to produce more this year, and so we will have to pay out over £120 for a new nucleus of bees.

Life in the country eh!!!

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Bee Inspection

Today Neil was visited by the Defra Bee Inspector who came to have a look through Neil’s hives to check for disease and advise on any issues Neil had.  Neil and he spent 2 hours going through the hives, taking them apart and checking the brood chambers to ensure they were healthy.  Hives no 1 and no 2 have some verrora in them. This is a blood sucking mite that attacks the bees.  After Neil has taken the honey off he will then treat these hives with Apiguard to rid them of the verrora. 

Hive no 3 is a very healthy and busy hive, which is storing away quite a bit of honey, which we will take off soon.  The bee inspector advised Neil to split this hive, as there is a viable queen cell on one of the frames, which means the bees are making a new queen.  If Neil removes this frame and puts it into a new hive along with some of the bees, when the new queen emerges, hopefully she will form a new colony.

Neil was also advised to put a small colony into a smaller hive to over winter it, thus ensuring they stay warm during the winter and hopefully will survive the cold weather. He also advised feeding it to build up stores for the winter.

It’s always useful to have another pair of eyes to look through the hives and have someone more experienced to answer any questions.  With beekeeping you are learning all the time.

The Bee Inspector relaxes with a cup of tea 2nd Aug 2011

Here is Simon the Bee Inspector enjoying a well earned cup of tea and piece of honey cake after spending 2 hours looking through the hives in the sunshine today.

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We went to a Waggle Dance!!!

Yesterday evening we went to the Taunton and District Beekeepers’ Waggle Dance and Hog roast.

So what is a Waggle Dance I hear you ask?  Well it’s the movements that the bees do to tell other bees where the forage is. But for us humans it is a celidh!!

Dancing at the Waggle Dance 2nd July 2011

This took place in Neroche Hall which is a converted church.  There was a folk band and a caller, and as no one really knew what they were doing we had to concentrate on the instructions from the caller, to know when to swing your partner, form an arch or dose do!

more dancing at the Waggle Dance 2nd July 2011

The hog roast was delicious as were the puds!.  It was a glorious evening and we had great fun dancing the evening away.  See what fun us country folk get up to!!

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