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You may have noticed a small fenced area at the back of the garden, well if you take a closer look you’ll see some strange boxes. And if you look closer you’ll see bees flying out and bees flying in.
The bees leaving are heading out into the surrounding countryside in search of nectar and pollen. They take in the nectar and carry the pollen on their back legs.
Once loaded, they head back to the hive and if you pay close attention to the returning bees you may see the brightly coloured pollen stuck on their legs - it varies in colour depending on the plants on which they have been foraging. But inside the hive there is also a lot of activity.
The queen, and there is only one, lays eggs - up to 2,000 every day. These eggs mostly hatch into worker bees and they can number up to 60,000 inside the hive.
Before the workers are ready to take on foraging duties they are put to work inside the hive, cleaning and preparing cells, removing debris and some tend to the queen.
At this time of year, it’s all systems go - the workers prepare cells for the queen to lay eggs as fast as possible. Foraging bees work from sunrise to sunset bringing back nectar and pollen.
The bees produce tiny plates of wax that are used to make the honeycomb into which everything is stored.
Eggs are laid in the cells and workers provide enough food before capping the cell and three weeks later the newly hatched bees emerge.
The cells are also used to store food.
Incoming bees pass their stores to other bees who pack the pollen into empty cells, and the nectar is processed into honey which is stored in cells that when full is sealed with a wax lid.
All of this is so that the queen and all her brood can survive the winter during which they seldom leave the hive, huddled together and living off the honey stores created during the long hot days of summer.
You might ask where are the boy bees?
Well that’s a story for another day.
Andrew, The Bee Keeper @ Rhyddings
The three beehives on the park are doing well.
The top bar hive is a bit of a concern as they have a lot of work to do if they are going to see the other side of winter.
The poly hive is bulging and we are hoping that there will be a honey harvest, even though it might be small. We have experimented with a tray of inverted honey jars seeded with foundation (pressed wax) and they have taken to it, so hopefully some of those jars will be removed and topped up with the other honey.
The fibreglass hive is working well and next week we’ll be putting the honey frames on it and then they can get on with what they do best – making honey to over winter.We are also building another topbar hive in readiness, but for the time being it will be something that people can look at without having to worry about the bees.
The good weather has been wonderful for the bees to make up for all the days that they couldn’t forage. By end of August early September, the nectar flow will have stopped and they will have reduced food, so the drones will be disposed of – take note men!!
The queen will reduce her rate of laying and the hive will start to prepare for winter.
We will help them to keep the heat in and the pests out, provide them with some additional food to help them over the cold months and we’ll only see them again around March.
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Well, some good news and sad news.
The small swarm that went into the top bar hive is dwindling away and unlikely to survive. For those remaining it might be best to combine them with the others.
The poly hive is working very well and as you will see from the ‘jam jar’ experiment there are lots of bees working on the combs. After checking the jars we selves into the lower super and it is largely full of honey - difficult to say, but possible if we harvested half we would get about a dozen jars - not bad for such a dreadful year.
Have fitted an entrance to the hive that should minimise the activity of wasps as they won’t enter through such small openings.
The fibreglass box is also thriving and the queen is definitely in the brood box as there were eggs, larvae and capped brood. There is also a fair amount of honey. This hive will need tidying up but all is looking good.
Interesting that above the queen excluder were a number of dead bees - seems the drones that hatched couldn’t get through - unfortunate casualties of the move.
By mid next month we’ll get the gear together to harvest the honey and then we can prepare them for winter and leave them alone through the dark and cold.
Andrew the BeeKeeper
Update regarding the bees at Rhyddings
The topbar hive is empty, so the remaining bees left – one hopes they may have tried to join one of the other hives – at least there were no dead bees in the box so they finished what they had stored and left.
The good news is that we can use the comb they produced to show on the 18th October at the Bee event and there are some deposits of pollen that we can investigate.
The poly hive is very strong and the entire honey super is full, so we can remove a couple of frames for the 18th.
The jars are doing okay and we’ll remove some of those for the 18th so that people can get an up close and personal look!!
The white box is not doing so well and they have not managed to lay down any food stores in the super, so they will need to be fed over winter, but otherwise there are plenty of bees and the brood box appeared to have quite a bit of honey.
It just goes to show that there are many factors that impact colonies and many are out of our control.
Unlike ‘domesticated’ animals that are farmed by people, that have adapted to suit our needs, bees have not and if conditions are not to their liking there is nothing you can do – they remain wild and all we can do is try to provide what they need.
Well, the year is almost over so the main task now is to ready them for winter and wait until the warmer weather arrives – what ever honey is left them we will harvest, but for now it is their winter store and they have worked hard to gather it !!
Andrew, The Bee Keeper
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Community members meet the bees and learn more about them
It’s getting close to year end with nights drawing in and temperatures noticeably cooler. For the bees, the frantic foraging has come to an end and the results of their labours will determine how well they manage through the months ahead.
The poly hive is thriving and all looks promising, while the hi-tech hive does not seem to be doing to well and in the next week or so we will install a feeder to help them over the winter.
On Sunday a small group gathered and we had a fairly general introduction to bees ending with an arms length look at the hives – a couple of bees decided to show their aggressive side and showed that pound for pound they are fearless!
The honey-jar experiment worked in that the bees created a substantial amount of comb but the limited time meant that none were capped. It did provide some samples for people to get a closer look and the lesson learned for next year is to start earlier.
Thank you to those that came – hope it was informative.
A couple of frames of honey were removed for demonstration purposes and these are being extracted and a few jars will be taken to the park.
News from Andrew The Bee Keeper
Today John and I put feeders on the two hives and despite bringing them sustenance the girls were particularly irritable!
The harvest from the 2 frames taken off the poly hive delivered 3 pounds of light clear honey. It’s a strong colony so hopefully next year we’ll get quite a lot more
Not much activity from now until the warm weather, other than to keep an eye on them and keep them fed.
It’s been a weird year anyway so hopefully the next will be better all round.
Andrew, The Bee Keeper
After a chat with Andrew, Louisa, an experienced local beekeeper, checked the Bees @ Rhyddings to ensure all was well and enough food was available for the Bees
This is the undertaker bee taking out a dead drone bee to make sure the entrance in clear. You can tell it’s a drone as it’s a lot bigger than the females and it’s eyes are a lot bigger too. They serve no purpose at this time of year so they’ve normally been turfed out so they don’t steal valuable food
Today I gave the bees some treatment to kill off any varroa mites that may be present in the hive. The mites like to sneak into a brood cell just before the bees seal it and feed on the larvae leading to malformation, spreading diseases and can lead to the collapse of a colony. Now, the coldest time of the year, there aren’t any brood so the mites are out and about in the hive rather than hidden away so it’s a great time to treat them with a special chemical. By reducing their numbers now it means the hive will be healthy come spring when the queen starts laying again. The poly hive had about six seams of bees (a seam is where you look down from above and can see bees on the frames). This is really good news as the bees have clustered to keep warm and to have so many full frames means the colony is really strong. The white hive only had two seams of bees, so much fewer bees. They were still clustered though and taking the fondant we put on in December.
This is the plastic queen excluder I removed from the poly hive. This has holes that allow the workers through but are too small to allow the queen through
I removed it so that if the clusters wants to move up to get more food from the super or the fondant we put on, they all move together and don’t leave the queen behind. Without her workers with her the queen would starve so it’s important they all stick together