Sunday 23 December 2012


The break in the rain has seen a lot of activity from the colony in my chimney. Not sure if there is much forage around for them but the chance to stretch their wings and look for some late Himalayan Balsam or Ivy won't pass them by I'm sure. How are things with other folks?

Do folks think it might be an idea to organise some sort of promotional/recruitment exercise, in say February, to promote 'natural beekeeping' and encourage new members? Will be a bit short notice but would be keen to give it a try before I leave.

Have finally had confirmation of the job in Qatar (still can't quite believe how much they are willing to pay) so barring the final paperwork checks I suspect I will be leaving at the end of February. Still have lots to sort out but will at least make two more DaDBeeP meetings.

Hope your and yours (not just the bees) have a Good Holiday & Prosperous New Year, and hopefully see some of you on the 9th January.


Friday 14 December 2012

Feeding fondant - yet another way.

It’s been puzzling me - how to feed fondant to bees when they are clustered in a top bar hive:

  • without forcing them to move around their hive too much;
  • where my no-floor policy can continue;
  • where their stores can be topped up with minimal intervention;
  • where topping up causes limited undue stress to the colony;

So here’s what I’ve tried out this year. I started by removing much of the comb that has little or no stores in it. As my colonies have no floor to their hives the bees tend to build down rather than outwards, although the strong colonies will fill a 4 foot Chandler with combs. The follower boards are then put up against the remaining comb simply to give something for the bees to complete their propolising on and to offer just a little lateral wind protection to the comb, although braced comb will do just as well.

Removing the excess comb may help limit the opportunity for fungal growth in comb that might see limited use over the winter months, and reduce the risk of co-habitation by unwanted critters.

So the colony has limited movement within the remaining combs. Towards the centre of the colony I drilled four 10mm holes next to each other, two on each bar. This is best done during a late autumn sunny and warm day, when the bees are less tightly clustered, just in case the drill goes in too far.

Over the top of this hole I placed upside down a clean clear plastic food tray. This provides a way of keeping the ‘bee smell’, warmth and humidity as close to the cluster as possible. I put solid fondant under the tray and directly onto the top bars. Around the plastic tray I placed wooden battens (100mm x 50mm in this case). This provides additional insulation and some protection from any drafts. On top of the battens I placed a wooden plate at least 20mm thick. I then used a brick to weigh down the lid before replacing the hive roof.

I have found that the bees have reduced their cluster movement through the hive, and, because of its close proximity to the cluster, the bees have been very eager to include the fondant within their stores. It is easy to see when supplies need to be replenished as the clear plastic offers a window to the fondant without disturbing the bee smell. Resupply is the only time the plastic need be moved and this can be done without disturbing the main cluster. When feeding is not required the drilled holes can be covered with cloth or paper and the bees will probably propolise the holes from the inside until the following winter.

I hope this helps and someone else can let us know if they also find any success with this method.


Tuesday 4 December 2012

December meeting

We will be meeting up on Wednesday 5th December at the Tandoori Nights Restaurant, Shardlow at 19:00. A table is currently booked for thirteen but if you are interested in coming along to this pre-Christmas get together just call in; I'm sure we could accomodate a few more.


Sunday 11 November 2012

Possible talking venue.

Whilst browsing the local web I came across the Melbourne Area Transition (, their 'Community Response to Peak Oil and Climate Change'.

It may be that they might be interested in finding out more about sustainable beekeeping the Dadbeep way. If anyone fancies joining me I'm happy to approach them and find out if they might like to hear about what we do.

Let me know what you thing about this in the comments.

All the best to you all,


Wednesday 7 November 2012

Meeting cancelled

Very sorry for the short notice, and hopefully in this age of mass communication my e-mails and texts meant nobody made a fruitless journey, but due to so few people being able to make it I've decided to cancel the November meeting.

The bee related quiz can wait until another time but I will hassle you all to confirm if you intend on coming to the DaDBeeP Xmas meal (Wednesday 5 December, Tandoori Nights Restaurant, Shardlow).

Kind regards

Saturday 27 October 2012

All packed.....

....and ready to go. After a few hectic weeks it is now the evening before I fly to Qatar. I've double checked my tickets, passport etc. and now need to have an early night before driving to Birmingham at 02:30 tomorrow morning. Having just spoken to Cath I know the weather there will be slightly warmer than the frosty start I had this morning, with the daytime temperatures somewhere in the high thirties!

In between trying to sort a job out and going glamping (glamorous camping) I intend to try and visit the only commercial apiary in Qatar. Not sure how easy that will be, especially as this week is the Muslim festival of Eid. I know where some of the hives are kept - in the ground of Qatar University - so it is worth a try.

Will hopefully be able to find out if natural beekeeping is viable and, more pertinently, allowable. I have no idea if  'non-Qatari, Joe public types' are even allowed to keep bees but I'm sure going to give it a go and find out. Hardcore subversive beekeeping here I come!


Monday 15 October 2012

Forward Planning !?

For anyone who knows me well a 'planner' would not be first on the list of descriptive terms; 'tall' possibly but 'organised', 'forward thinking' and 'planner' probably not. But looking back over the year I feel that we could begin to think about next year a little earlier, especially in areas like Outreach, Hive building and Colony provision.

Now I'm a huge fan of TED (check out if you are unfamiliar) and I've just been hearing about Incredible Edible Todmorden and wondering how I might contribute to something similar. A quick glimpse of their website and the picture of a couple of beekeepers made me realise that I already perform an important community service and its down to others to take advantage of the pollinators I house if they wish to.

However, it got me thinking about how to spread this idea of volunteer community action on food production. Now I'm no marketeer so please add your ideas as comments below. There are the usual things like posters in windows, etc but also getting links to Dadbeep and on our local community websites. Maybe Facebook users (I'm not one) may be able to provide links and likes to community pages and walls. Are there local commercial businesses linked to the Eco theme that might be able to provide some notice board space or some other link to the bee friendly initiative, and then link to us or Just some ideas to get us started. How about linking up with the local gardening and horticultural types and groups, maybe giving small presentations to WI clubs.

But then what could we then do to support this growing interest. Well, how about a hive building day. With a bit of negotiation I'm sure that one of us could be persuaded to host a session. With a little notice enough wood and pre-building could be done to make sure that each pre-registered participant could go home with a 4 foot Chandler for £50 - £60. Slap on a Barbie and who could ask for more.

But the usual problem is bees. We have been reliant on swarm collection and its only the efforts of a few who's work permits the mobility to go and collect when they can. Planning for splits needs to happen early, especially the manufacture of suitable mini-nuc boxes. We also need to understand how splitting works and how to motivate our surviving colonies to split so that we can provide bees to our new enthusiasts. I am definitely no expert at this and I for one will need to get a lot of research done before I feel confident in giving it a go for real.

So with all this in mind I'm thinking that next year will be starting early if we want to build on what we've begun. Is it just me wittering on? Comments and ideas please. Lots and lots of comments ......


Tuesday 9 October 2012

Various bits & bobs!

Have just been catching up on the Blog after abit of an absence due to a) trip to Scotland b) stinking cold & rather than adding several comments in various places, thought it would be easier to add a post - as with the M&Ms of Weston my bees are still showing signs of the Himalayan stripe, few & far between now compared to a month ago & having walked round the Castle today it looks like most has gone to seed, just a few left still flowering so think this really must be about the last week they'll find any.

I also had a look inside my hive at the weekend for first time in weeks & there are no new combs to when Boyd & I last looked, which is 8 bars.  Which leads me on to my next comment, yes please to some insulation Boyd if its on offer since my hive is less than half full, will need to start thinking about insulation & 3rd point, will put feeder in at the same time, since Balsam definitely coming to an end.

Do leaf cutter Bees like geraniums (Pelagoniums - not the perennials) since my summer pots are still out & leaves are full of holes...somehow would rather it was bees than slugs!

Yes please count me in for the Christmas curry on the 5th Dec but should see everyone Nov meet (7th?) anyway, unless prospect of a quiz (highlighting gross ignorance) puts me off in the meantime?!?!

Monday 8 October 2012

Insulation Material (Free)

I've managed to salvage quite a few sheets of 25-30mm thick polystyrene packing material. It is easily cut to TBH follower board size and will act as excellent insulation in the empty ends of a hive. I have some already cut, and by taping together the cut-off bits it is possible to get two out of most sheets - or maybe three if you are using the Weston mini TBH design! It can also be laid on top of the bars as insulation under the roof. If you are interested I will ferry some of it home and we can discuss how/when to get it to you. The nights are getting ever colder so I suspect it will be needed sooner rather than later.


QI - hopefully

Sorry for another long winded way around things but hopefully it will reach some sort of Quite Interesting conclusion:-

I recently posted comments on relating to the youtube movie that was embedded in the link below.

I noticed that the bee foraging through the centre of a Sunflower was collecting pollen by sticking it to its underside rather than in 'bundles' on its back legs. Not having seen this before I thought it might have been some local adaptation and might be worthy of some further investigation. Left it at that and didn't think any more of it.

Fast forward to yesterday, Sunday, and whilst talking to Monique at Attenborough Nature Reserve she suggested that we could maybe do something extra during the DaDBeeP monthly meeting like a guest speaker or a quiz. So that evening I started gathering (ie. stealing) information from other web sites suitable for a quiz in November utilising a nifty bit of software/hardware that I can borrow from work called TurningPoint - bet you can't wait? Anyway, after trawling through lots of difficult (ie. boring) BBKA quizzes, I came across a few that had suitable questions and one of them was:

Which type of bee collects pollen by sticking it to its underside?

The answer: a Leaf Cutter Bee (see info. below). So if you find, as we have, your roses or other shrubs with neat little circular scalloped edges you probably have Leaf Cutter Bees in the vicinity.

From Wikipedia
The Megachilidae are a cosmopolitan family of (mostly) solitary bees whose pollen-carrying structure (called a scopa) is restricted to the ventral surface of the abdomen (rather than mostly or exclusively on the hind legs as in other bee families). They are most commonly known as mason bees and leafcutter bees, reflecting the materials they build their nest cells from (soil or leaves, respectively).


Sunday 7 October 2012

Flight Path Issues !

Not of all you may know that Weston is close to the airport flight path . However my neighbours have been googling recently as we have started to get a lot of yellow deposits on their cars ( they suspected that it may be from the airport) - these seem to follow the bees flight path .

Does anyone else have a similar thing, also is it a problem,  as the hive is OK with very little in the way of yellow spots? The roof of the house has them as well .

This was taken this morning just as the fog cleared and flight control cleared them all for takeoff on another HB mission.

Any thoughts or ideas please let us know or we'll be car cleaning for a while


Wednesday 3 October 2012

Double Header

A quick report on two bee meetings I've been to this week:

Firstly, on Tuesday 2nd October at the invite of Marise Taylor who had attended our first meeting, I went along to the Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeeping Association meeting. The guest speaker was Clive DeBruyn who gave a very entertaining talk on commercial beekeeping and possible cross-overs between professional and amateur beekeeping. He seemed to have a fairly broadminded attitude to all types of hive and beekeeping in general; he even as part of a discussion about Queen rearing talked about top bar hives. I felt a bit like a Celtic support in a Rangers pub and didn't make it well know that I was of a 'different persuasion' but I'm sure it wouldn't have caused that much of an outcry. If I go again maybe I'll be brave enough to stand-up and say "Hi! My names Boyd and I keep bees in a top bar hive!".

Secondly, being the first Wednesday of October, tonight was the monthly DaDBeeP meeting. After a few apologies I was expecting not many to turn up and certainly not the thirty odd that attended the Leicester meeting. I was pleasantly surprised that eight hardy soles made it out into the blustery evening and we had a good chin-wag; sometimes even talking about bees. There again seemed to be a lot of discussion about winter feeding and what to be looking for in terms of colony expansion/contraction. As a good number of our colonies are first year swarms, collected late, during a poor summer it was thought generally to be a good thing to feed. Obviously this will depend upon the individuals perception of what natural beekeeping is and their local conditions; Mike and Monique's hive in Weston-on-Trent seems to have unlimited access to Himalayan balsam and correspondingly has grown very rapidly to fill twenty bars (it will be interesting to compare with Alison B's hive that is in a similar location). Whatever you decide to do sadly there will be some loses and all we can try to do is do the best we can for our charges.

There was a discussion as to whether monthly meeting during the Winter were valuable and the consensus seemed to be yes. So for the time being will continue to meet the first Wednesday of the month.

There was also proposal, again widely accepted, that we should have a Christmas meal on Wednesday 5th December at the Tandoori Nights restaurant opposite the Shakespeare pub. I will contact the restaurant and make a provisional reservation; I'll confirm numbers nearer the time.


Sunday 9 September 2012

Land of Milk and Honey

My sermon today concerns the Land of Milk and Honey:

I called over to Castle Donington yesterday to see Tim to return a nuc box and we started discussing again winter feeding. We talked through various ideas of how to get the 'feed', in whatever form, near enough to the cluster without opening the hive at all. This obviously highlights two problems; firstly: any opening of the hive during wintertime will probably chill the bees sufficiently to negate the food/energy they then consume to re-heat themselves, secondly: the cluster will slowly move through their store area and will not return or move towards a food source that is too far away. So after trawling through the forum of the Natural Beekeeping Network I came across the following:

It is an interesting duscussion about many issues relating to winter feeding and the types of feed, but the thing that caught my attention was a very simple feeding method apparently used by 'traditional' beekeepers for many years. They dunk a bag of sugar in water until the paper is wet, but not too sodden, and then leave it on top of the frames. The bees then eat through the paper to access the sugar, and the initial damping plus any condensation hardens the outside of the packet. Come springtime it would be found that the bees had tunnelled throughout the sugar mass. This could be a simple and effective feeding method for TBHs with one addition. Unlike national frames top bars do not have gaps between them to allow bees free movement so they would either need spacers or probably more effectively 6-7mm holes drilled through the bars that can be plugged when not in use. A 1Kg bag of sugar could easily lay across several bars and allow easy bee access, without leaving the cluster, to a ready food source. Obviously the easiest time to think about doing this would be now as any disturbance would be less traumatic than in the depths of winter.


Thank you brothers and sisters. We will now sing Hymn 298  "I wanna go where the milk and honey flow".

Reverend Brooks

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Meeting 5 September 2012

Dave and Pete were not expected to attend but there was still a pretty good turnout for a chilly evening in September; with eight altogether. Excellent range of banter that occasionally veered towards bees and beekeeping. There was a lot of discussion regarding winter feeding and, as is often the case, there were several conflicting views on whether to or not, and how to go about it. It is often quoted that 'you will get as many answers to a beekeeping question as there are beekeepers listening' and that was certainly the case tonight. Feeding is also a hotly discussed topic on the Natural Beekeeping Forum and they to have not managed, as you would expect in such an un-dogmatic organisation, to come up with anything definitive. It really is a case of doing what you think is best for your bees (or not!) and being prepared to change or take on board other ideas if things don't turn-out as planned. Below are some links that might be of interest:

I will try to draw a plan of the feeder I made (now in the possession of Alison) which is different to the one seen in the biobees forum.

There was also discussion about whether the next meeting will take place at The Shakespeare Inn as it has a large 'Pub To Rent' sign up outside which doesn't bode well. I looked at our 'membership' distribution, with the extremes being Belper, Loughborough, Ilkeston and Moira, and quite by chance Shardlow is about roughly in the centre. If anyone has any suggestion for a new venue please fire away (it is not set in stone).

So "Thanks!" to those who made it and "Maybe see you next time!" to those who didn't.


Sunday 26 August 2012

You loose some and you loose some ....

A tale of two halves. On the down side some weeks ago I rescued a swarm from a colony in Leicester that had clustered in an apple tree 10 yards from their hive. However, due to the occupier's lack of vigilance they had been in the rain for two days. I was able to scrape a few survivors from the grass and the bedraggled remains of the swarm were carefully clipped into a box and brought back to Donington for some R & R. I had thought they were doing well. Numbers were beginning to rise, there was some brood, the queen was moving well, pollen and nectar was coming in, all looked good. So I left them for a couple of weeks for holidays and stuff but now I've returned the hive is empty of life: just a couple of workers head first in comb, a sure sign of starvation. I had hoped they would pull through for a happy ending.

On the plus side, Adam and I homed a swarm today, collected from Richard's garden (the fourth swarm in less than a year - his house must be on a lay line). Adam's hive is on the roof of his shed at the bottom of his lovely garden in Woodville. Whilst the colony had not expanded dramatically they had collected sufficient to be storing a surplus at the top of a couple of comb. This was more than enough to demonstrate that if they can get through the winter, with a bit of feeding they will do well next year. The bees were content to be moved and handled, despite my trepidation, as they had been quite noisy in their box on the way to their new home. I'm optimistic for this lot. Adam will be a conscientious custodian and the colony, though small, looked good - but I've thought that before haven't I?


Thursday 23 August 2012

Worried from Elvaston......Update

Called over to Alison's house last night* and there was good and bad news. The good news is that the colony in the TBH are building up fantastically well; just like Mike & Monique's bees a few miles away they are fuelled by access to lots of Himalayan Balsam. The bad news is that the colony Alison was worried about, the swarm I collected from Rollerston-on-Dove, has obviously lost it's queen and has got laying workers. Sadly we decided between us that it is too late in the season to rectify and so they will dwindle away in a few weeks.

As all of this beekeeping lark is a learning experience for all of us I think I need to modify my methods of catching/transferring swarms. The 'shocking them into the box method' for both swarm into transfer box, and then transfer box into TBH, is far too destructive in terms of damaged/lost bees. It massively increases the likelihood of loss or damage to the one individual that the whole operation revolves around - the queen. To try and resolve the number of losses I intend to build several swarm catching boxes that are exact replicas of a 1ft. section of a TBH and try to 'walk' swarms in from underneath (not always possible/practical I know!). This should then lead to less damage/loss of bees and the resulting mini-colony can be more easily dropped straight into a larger full-size TBH. That's the theory anyway, whether it will work so easily in practise only time, and the bees, will tell.


*As did Lucky Dave who thought that it was the 1st Wednesday of the month and wondered why he was at the Shakespeare by himself - Doh!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Weston Bees and Himalayan Balsam


We have seen a lot more white bees going into the hive again this week , in fact the garden looks like it is snowing now just before the rain comes ! Perhaps this is a new weather prediction tool we can adopt , if it looks like snow at the bottom of the garden then it is going to rain.

Although we have always said we wont look regularly we were wondering if we needed to add any more bars . and its fair to say that we do .....
This is what the HB has fuelled I'm guessing and they have been very prolific in a week so more bars added as they had almost made it to the follower board. The bees have also made entrances at the bottom of the hive pushing their way past the plastic grill on the bottom , they can get out but can't get back in that way.

Anyway we hope to see you all in September

Loughborough 'Photo Bomb'

Considering I don't have any bees of my own I seem to be more involved with them than ever. Several weeks ago I had been contact by Steve in Loughborough asking if I'd left for Qatar yet as he had some bees he wanted a hand with.

He had built two bait hives, primed them with pheromone attractant, and left them at the bottom of his garden; one up a tree and the other on the shed roof. Much to his surprise he caught a swarm in each and was not entirely sure what to do with them. The situation was slightly exaggerated by him having to work abroad for several weeks and had no idea what they had been up to.

On his return last week I called over and we decided to take the box down from the tree and see what was inside. Rather than describe the whole process (and hence the time of this blog) I will use some of the many pictures that Steve, and his son Ben, took of the procedure:

Obviously far more bees than both of us had expected; the box was absolutely packed with comb and bees in every stage of their development. Stupidly, and I'll hopefully take it on the chin(s) as a learning experience, I had neglected to accustomise the bees to their new location (about a 100ft. from the tree) and the flying bees promptly flew back to the tree. This meant that over the next few days Steve had to reposition the box in the tree to capture and re-locate the flying bees - sorry!:

After re-positioning the bait box under the hive, and restricting their access to and from it by putting grass in the entrance, the flying bees seem to have got the idea that the TBH is their new home:

So now hopefully they will get some good weather over the next few weeks and build up their reserves to a point where they can survive the winter. The intention is to leave the other bait box alone until next year and then transfer them to another TBH. Steve is intending to come along to the next meeting in September so he can give us an update then.


Tuesday 21 August 2012

Worried from Elvaston....

Noticed a distinct lack of activity around my second hive (the climbing frame swarm) over the last few days, very low numbers going in & out, not an encouraging sign.  Was going to go out this evening for a look in, but since we're in the midst of a torrential downpour & thunderstorm, it will have to wait until tomorrow evening.  Thankfully, the other hive still appears to be thriving.  Will update again......

Thursday 16 August 2012

Belper Bees - In Decline

Well, it looks as though despite all Boyd's & Tim's sterling efforts to establish a TBH in Belper, the hive is dying out. There are probably only a couple of hundred left alive in stark contrast to Mike & Monique's Weston colony.

I took these photos today:

No sign of a Queen, no capped cells other than the odd drone.

There were some Queen cells in the combs provide by Tim and some obviously hatched. What became of them, who knows. 

There's always next year, ;-)


Wednesday 15 August 2012

Weston Bees update

Beeless Boyd came around last night and to take a look at what we are doing, give us some pointers (and get his bee fix). We're pleased as it looks as if things are going in the right direction and  the colony is settling into its routine and growing in our TBH.

We started with 2 combs and are now up to 16 bars full and bearding is starting on either end.
We took the opportunity to have a quick look at the end comb, which looks good to us as you can see.
The Bees do have a mad half hour when it is sunny around 3 - 4 pm and there are quite a number flying in front of the hive, but then it calms down. Boyd thinks that this may be orientation flights or similar, but as the bees still come back covered in balsam we don't think that they are planning anything else!

See you all in September


Tuesday 14 August 2012

Elvaston Bees

Hi all

Whilst Boyd moved my new bees into their permanent residence last week, we noticed large numbers in my now well established first colony coming back really quite white with a coating of pollen down their backs.  As ever, Boyd had the answer, they had been feeding well on Himalayan Balsam.  Since the Castle grounds, that are only across a field, are full of it in full bloom, thats not a surprise & good that they've found a plentiful food source, hope my new arrivals do the same.

I have attempted to take a few pictures, but unfortunately my camera not up to the job of very good close ups so not that clear to see.

Hope to see you all at the next meet.


Monday 13 August 2012

Bee-Friendly Zone Map

Saw this on Natural Beekeeping Network and thought it might be of interest.

Put your Bee-Friendly Zone on the map!

Wherever you are in the world, YOU can add your BFZ to this interactive world map. Show your support for Bee-Friendly gardening, growing and farming and show the pesticide pushers that we care more for bees than we do for their profits!



Saturday 11 August 2012

Bee Lovely Petition

Came across this link via Natural Beekeeping Network and thought that DaDBeeP 'members' might want to support a Petition againt the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides.


New lodgers

The failing colony that we started as a split has finally died off. Didn't take long for the new occupants to move in.

 On a more positive note the other two colonies (from natural swarms) are really active. Although I cant get a look inside the small hive in my garden as the combs (9) are stuck solid. I'm thinking about doing a cut out before they swarm next year and transfering them into a bigger more traditional shaped TBH. Any thoughts welcome though :-)

Sunday 5 August 2012

Weston Bee update

Hi all
We've just come back from our holls the bees have filled up the 2 slots we left them each end , we checked the bees again on  Friday and they were fine , they did have a mad half hour this afternoon ( then the thunderstorm came ) . We've noticed tonight that some have been coming back with a white stripe on their backs !
We have googled this and most sites say it is Himalayan Balsam that the bees have been feasting on , catching one bee to photo was a bit of a struggle (for me not the bee).
Anyone any other ideas?

Mike and Monique

Thursday 2 August 2012

Meeting 01.08.2012

Good to see a few of you last night; only five of us but I'm sure the holiday season has something to do with that. In amongst the general chat there was plenty of chat about bees, with most people having growing success. Sadly Pete Tong's colony, even after the intervention of adding extra bees from Tim, looks to be failing. Not entirely sure what is happening as there were three or four capped queen cells on the combs we transferred but bee numbers still seem to be dwindling. I know that there can be a three week lag in between the queen emerging and new brood appearing so I'm hoping that they might suddenly take off. Only time will tell!

Over the next week I will be helping Alison, now that she has some protective gear, to transfer the swarm I caught last month into her permanent hive. Also I've been in touch with a guy from Loughborough who needs help transferring bees from his bait hive into a TBH. So even without my own bees anymore I'm still keeping my hand in.

That's all for the moment.


Tuesday 17 July 2012

Sex, Drugs and Beekeeping.....

.....but mostly beekeeping. Who needs chemical enhancement when you can get such a rush collecting swarms? So after all the packing-up, selling-on and generally winding down my beekeeping activiety I get a phone call this evening asking if I could come and have a look at a "load of bees hanging under my kids swing". Almost burnt the carpet in the rush to get over to Rollerston-on-Dove (nr. Burton) once it was confirmed that it was a swarm and not a bumble bee nest. So having packed all the gear in the car I shot over to Rollerston and was duly presented with a huge swarm hanging from an old child's swing. A good couple of pounds of bees I would imagine.

Huge, Big, Massive!

What an impressive sight! It certainly is the biggest swarm I've seen; being a complete cone shape rather than a flatter, thinner, section. It was very calm and serene with all the bees on the outside lined-up head upwards in preparation for another nights camping out. I decided to position the mini TBH under them and shock them into it - simple. Er, no! I didn't realise that they had been there for at least five days and possibly longer as the householder had been on holiday prior to that. That would explain the four, glistening white, combs that came into view as all the bees sprang off - Merde! Not wanting to have yet another issue with a lost/damaged queen  I decided, for good or bad, that I would break the comb off and drop it in the box. With LOTS of bees in the air, and many thousands inside, I covered the top of the box with most of the bars and left one gap as an entrance. Hopefully when I return tomorrow to pick them up they will all be safely in the box ready for their relocation to Ian and Alison's* garden in Elvaston. To be continued........


* they must think I'm some sort of hymenoptera based stalker (sorry for being a pest!)

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Belper Bees - The Second Wave

Or perhaps that should be, "Sugar coated bees, anyone?"

So the original swarm was failing, there didn't seem to be a queen, a number of capped drone cells and the workers were slowly dying off. We'd had a lengthy discussion at the last meeting as to the best way forward which resulted in Boyd taking a look at the hive (and confirming the decline in numbers and lack of queen) and Tim very very kindly offering to supply another batch.

As there were still some bees from the old colony Boyd decided that the best way forward was to try and integrate the newcomers with the old by coating them in icing sugar. The theory being, if I understood it correctly, was that by doing so the bees own hive smells would be masked by the sugar and with mutual grooming the original bees would be subsumed into the new. We'll see ....

So today Boyd collected the new nuc from Tim and arrived early afternoon to transfer them into the TBH.

First thing then was to coat the old bees in icing sugar. Fine.

Then coat the newcomers with sugar too. Also fine. In fact everything went fine.

And then reassemble with the old combs (a bit like a Haynes manual).

Making sure that there was plenty of sugar on everything.

There were quite a lot of confused bees buzzing around whilst all this was going on but they were surprisingly good natured. Once the lid went back on it didn't take long for them to enter the hive and then start their orientation flights. At the time of writing this they seem to have settled in ok and appear to be foraging (but I don't know if they're the old bees or the new ones!).

We couldn't spot a queen on the new combs but there were at least four capped queen cells so I'll take a peek early next week to see if they've hatched and try and spot a laying queen. Let's hope this second wave will survive!

So, many, many thanks to Tim and Boyd for helping me out, I owe you both a pint or two (at least).


Sunday 8 July 2012

Relocation, relocation, relocation, hernia

Dropped off the first of the hives I've sold this morning. They were bought by a lady in Taddington (nr. Buxton) called Jewels, and as she knew nothing at all about bees I decided it might be a good idea to deliver them and impart a modicum of 'instruction'. Now we all know that TBHs are simple to construct, and relatively easy to use, their down side is they are difficult to transport. This hive (Hive 1) is completely full, save for two or three bars, and must have weighed well in excess of 50kg (just using a luggage scale on each end, with one set of legs still touching the ground, recorded 45kg). It really was a two-man job but didn't want to ask folks for help at an un-Godly hour on Sunday morning so being the brave soldier I heaved and hauled the thing from the bottom of the garden into the waiting hatchback. None of the entire process was easy but I think it didn't do too much harm to the bees save for a few that became trapped in between the the bottom mesh and the trusty duvet cover. The sixty minute, leisurely, drive up the A6 was rather nerve wracking as I wasn't entirely convinced that bees wouldn't suddenly fill the car; as it was not a single one escaped unit I unwrapped them at the new site. The location couldn't be better, a small secluded walled garden about 6m x 3m, soft fruit bushes on three sides and over hanging apple trees. On either side of the house there are two large areas of fallow pasture just bursting with wild flowers - an bee holiday park!

I was sad to see them go as they were my first colony nearly three years ago. They taught me a lot during the initial 'baptism of fire' and have always been a very placid colony to work with; here's hoping that any bees I get in Qatar, or more likely Australia, are half as good. If it does happen I think I'd try a Warre hive next time mainly for ease of movement as Gorilla beekeeping might be the order of the day - wink, wink!


Friday 6 July 2012

Whats going on ?

Hi bee bloggers,  the bees tonight are covering the entrances - does this mean that they would like a door fitting and some central heating?

With it being very wet today is this just safety mode to keep (s)warm ?

So our question is , is this unusual beehaviour or is this following a normal pattern?

We topped the feed up again tonight so hopefully they will be able to top up and  it'll be a bit drier tomorrow .

Mike and Monique ( well Mike really).

Thursday 5 July 2012

Meeting 4 July 2012

Thanks to everyone who made it last night: even the terrible weather hasn't dampend the level of enthusiasm. Given the amount of wet weather most people were reporting positive results, with plenty of hive activety as soon as the rain stops. Only Pete from Belper seemed to be unsure if his swarm has progressed very much over the last three or four weeks - he reported a lack of bees and no real comb building. Hopefully this might not be as bad as it appears but I am calling over this evening so we can check it out; Tim gratefully said he had spare bees if they were needed.

So "thanks again" and hopefully see you all at the next meeting:

Wednesday 1st August (usual venue)


Sunday 1 July 2012

On a Lighter Note - Weston Bees !

Hi all

We've left it 10 days before taking another peek into the hive to see what the bees have bee(n) upto.
With some trepidation despite a bit of training from Dave,  Monique chose  the camera option ( big lens and at a distance (( only kidding)). But this was totally unnecessary as our bees have been (I won't do any more puns after this) very busy .

Mike checked the hive for ants under direction from Monique ( you know she doesnt like ants) - and did you know that this is the most important thing you need to do ( see previous bloggs)  once removing the lid is to squish as many as he could before checking the feeder for drowned ants ( oh and topping it up) , then we (well Mike) removed the followers to have a look.
There are load more bees - where have they come from ? also there are  4 more combs 2 each side and the larger one, 2nd in has some golden stuff in it.

By the way I'm off to Asda to get some more bee keeping gloves tomorrow as I found out later these had a rip in them!

So the Weston Bees are now a colony we guess, and are very excited that this swarm has settled down and moved in and are very active harvesting pollen and nectar.
So what next ? We'll see you all shortly at the July meeting.

All the best
Monique and Mike

FOR SALE - sadly

Some of you may know that my wife and I intend to relocate to Qatar in the near future, before ulitmately joining our son in Australia.. Sadly the bees and the hives I've built for them won't, for obvious reasons, be coming with us and so with more than a tinge of sadness I would like to move them on sooner rather than later. Idealogically I would like to just give them to someone who is interested in their plight, but economically I need to re-coup some of the time and expense I've laid out for them.

So what I have is:
Hive 1   £55  
L 135 x W 55 x H 105 (85*)
Standard Chandler spec.TBH made from recycled wood (20mm thick), 17" bars, open mesh bottom, removeable legs, two follower boards (one with built in feeder), x3 middle & x2 end entrances**. Fully occupied by bees transfered from eight National frames two years ago; very good temperament.

Hive 1
Hive 2   £65
L 120 x W 60 x H 110 (95*)
Standard Chandler spec.TBH made from bought, overlapped, gravel boards (45mm thick), sturdy and very heavy, 17" bars, deep sided allowing 'hang-out' space below combs, sawdust in sump with detachable bottom, x1 end entrance**, two follower boards, removeable legs. Exterior painted, interior untreated. Bees are from a recent cut-out, occupying eight bars tied on with string and wire supports. Have inspected for progress but have not yet removed any bars. Bees very active and contented.

Hive 2
Hive 3   £35
L 120 x W 70 x H 110 (85*) 
Standard Chandler spec.TBH made from recycled decking (25mm thick), sturdy and heavy, 17" bars, deep sided allowing 'hang-out' space below combs, detachable bottom, x1 end entrance**, two follower boards, removeable legs. Exterior treated with linseed oil, interior untreated. Hive only NO bees!
Hive 3
I am open to offers and if you live fairly locally I can help with transportation; they should all hopefully fit inside my trusty duvet cover.

* height of the top bar 'deck' 
** all entances on sides not on ends betwen legs

If anyone is interested we can discuss at the next meeting or feel free to contact me.



Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Bee Inspector Cometh

Well it happened, it was always going to at some point since the people I did my training with registered me. So what is this event of such doom; you've probably guessed from the title, a visit from the bee inspector.

It all started with an e-mail informing me that a visit was to take place (they come regardless unfortunately they can gain access if required) with a time and a request for my assistance if possible. Since I was not at work I decided to stay around and try to limit the damage.

This was the Friday so I decided on Sunday to have a look myself and cut all the bracing comb to make it easier to inspect on the Monday. So off we go (Jonathan really wanted to help) and have a really good look thru all the hives.

Jonathan showing his bee keeping talents
Even Mummy gets to have a go
Practice Queen cell (it better bee)

Nothing to bad apart from the fact that all the hives had zero and I mean zero stores (honey) also the boys bees have started producing drone brood and are practising making queen cells (they better not be getting any idea's).

So the Monday morning arrived, thankfully quite warm as it was a 10am appointment. They (trainee in tow) arrived on time and we got straight down to the bee's. I explained that they were top bar hives before we got down there and asked them not to use smoke as they had already lit the smoker. They had no problem with that and said they would only use smoke if necessary.

Once down we went straight into the hives (I had already removed the roofs) and I have to say got a pleasant surprise, the combs where handled gently the bee's moved out of the way with a finger if a bar needed to be tipped it was supported. The only time smoke was used was to get the bars together and a very small amount at that.

So what did they find, basically three hives in good condition but all of them needing stores with the two smallest one's in desperate need, so much so the queen has stopped laying (no new eggs). What they didn't find (thankfully) was European Fool Brood (EFB) which is why the inspection took place.

EFB is not nice, but is not the end of world and has a fair chance of clearance with a few easy steps. For more information go to .

So first and hopefully only inspection over they were keen to get off, but I did manage to find out why he handled the combs so well. It appears he does a lot of teaching for the 'Bee's for life' project so is not totally top bar ignorant and is also interested to see how the hives over winter.

You never know I might even invite him back next time.


And yes I have fed them.

Saturday 23 June 2012

I was suprised to find my original colony of bees still active today. With the wax moth problem, general low numbers and constant rain since they were split from Boyds colony it seems to have been one long struggle for them. The numbers are still very low but there is brood hatching out and foraging bees coming and going.

In contrast to the swarm from lucky Dave.......

Thursday 21 June 2012

Just a quick pic of the hive in it's new location. Lots of activity yesterday but all quiet now with lots of rain forcast for today :-(   Thanks again Boyd.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Dale Abbey swarm (Pt. 2)

With a break in the weather Shane and myself decided to collect the swarm from Dale Abbey. The householder, Nicola, was very happy for us to collect them late in the evening and hopefully this would allow as many bees as possible to return to the colony. On arrival the colony was very calm with only a few bees loitering above the gap I'd left in between the bars. As the swarm had been hanging on a small tree for a few days I made sure to put a feeder on top of the box (it contained about 1lt. of syrup which was all taken). The feeder needed to be removed in order to allow the lid to fit properly which did cause a bit of disturbance with a few angry bees taking flight. After some manipulation I managed to get all the bars in place so the only way in was now using the front entrance hole. We put the box on top of a dustbin to a-line the previous gap with the new entrance and retired to the pub to allow the stragglers to go inside. Half an hour later every bee was inside the box, and it was a simple procedure to plug the hole, wrap in a dust sheet and drop the box into the back of Shane's van. They will now be permanently located in Shane's garden in Nottingham; hopefully to thrive and prosper.

Shane tames the savage beast(s)

Monday 18 June 2012

House Move!

Boyd v kindly came over this eve to move the bees Dave brought last week from Dave's planter hive into the wooden one. Took some pics on Boyd's phone which he's going to post. Don't appear to have started on any new comb, maybe because of poor weather, a few more warm sunny days wouldn't go amiss round about now!

Tutbury Bees (Now Weston Bees) update

Well ....

I had to see tonight if the new swarm had communicated with the Tutbury set , the comb was looking great but not a bee insight - I hope that this is a good thing and they have joined the throng making all the noise beeside them - showing them around the neighborhood , next doors summer house and how to make the lady run fast! The paper hadn't been touched over the follower board so hopefully they are all being well beehived together.
I swapped the follower board over and took this photo, the frame seems to have dropped but if they are happy (and staying) then so are we .
Its a simlar picture from the other side as I installed my feeder tonight with half measure to start with.The takeaway tray was empty and no dead bees in, so we had the stick ratio right,  but it did have a few ants (Monique hates ants ) .
A small piece of comb has dropped into the bottom , but I have moved the comb in from the Tutbury bee side and sealled the hole up - is this OK ? I'm going to leave them alone for a bit now and let them do what they like doing. I'll be able to top up the feeder without opening the bees up later in the week. Now to buy some sugar. (Monique was wondering can I make a feed that doesnt attract ants)

Mike and Monique