Thursday 31 May 2012

Fancy some honey cake?

Just back from a hard core bumble bee extraction. I’d already been to survey what was needed after a phone call on Tuesday evening and assumed (see the photos below) it was similar to the one I’d removed for Ali B earlier in the month. So armed with a suitable box and my protective gear I nipped over to Chaddesden.

The very placid colony was located under the insulation in the loft and weren’t troubled by my initial investigations. After tentatively lifting and cutting the 6" thick fibreglass insulation I was confronted with a labyrinth of tunnels going in lots of directions. I kept carefully searching until I was confronted with a nest that was twice the size of the box I’d brought - Merde! The nest had the appearance of some strange confectionary, a bit like Rocky Road, in that the surface was covered in loads of 10mm wax balls (they act as brood chambers) and small, open, wax buckets of honey. In my haste I forgot to take any pictures but it certainly isn’t anything like honey bee comb. Another thing was the smell – a very over powering sickly, musky tang, that had my face not been right above it might have been bearable. By now the bees had gone from ‘Green Alert’ – “what’s on the TV tonight, Queenie?” to ‘Amber Alert’ – “pass me the axe I hear burglars!”. Needless to say there were a good number of bees in the air. Weirdly, even in this agitated state, they were still not very aggressive compared to honey bees and seemed content to circle noisily around the light bulb. Thinking on my feet I reverted to Plan B: find another box and something to use as a lid without climbing back down the ladder. Luckily the loft was a treasure trove of bags, boxes and bits of board, and I settled upon a medium sized stacker box topped off with some laminate floor underlay – tasteful. Now came the interesting bit; I slid my hands under as much of the nest as possible and lifted it gingerly into the bigger box. It really was like a very loose cake mix and needed several attempts to get it all in. The bees were still quite agitated but still only at Amber; maybe that’s as bad as it gets! Once I’d got as much of the nest as I could I topped it off with several pieces of the holey insulation and the make-shift lid, leaving a small gap for the bees to get in. As the householders will now be on holiday for a week we decided to leave the box in situ and I will collect it, with as many attendant bees as possible, when they return. That will give me time to make a more suitable box and, more importantly, find a location to keep them – there is an embargo on any more bumble bees in my garden. Hopefully the final move will be less traumatic; I’ll let you know!

Bees in a pickle

Part 1 (Branston Swarm)
On Tuesday evening I got a call from Steve in Branston (hence the weak pun above) saying that he had a swarm of bees in his garden. I called over at about 19:30 to find the swarm clustered around the main stem of a small holly bush. Not being able to shake them into the waiting box I decided, after some deft topiary, to put the open bottomed box directly above them; as soon as it was in position they immediately started to move up into it. I said I would return to collect them the following evening.*

On the drive to Branston the following evening the weather had taken a turn for the worse, with light rain in Derby and what looked to have been a very heavy down pour in Branston. The rain may well have helped the situation as upon arrival I was delighted to find the swarm tightly balled up inside against the waxed bars that constituted the roof. Thankfully I had taken the precaution of securing the box within the branches of the holly as the now top heavy box was listing a far bit. The box then went straight into the trusty old duvet cover and into the back of the car - took about ten minutes in total. A quick call to Pete let him know we were on our way, and half an hour later the bees touch down in Belper.

Many thanks to Steve and his family for their support and patience in helping us 're-house' another colony of bees.

* as soon as I got back home I got another call regarding honey bees. Went over to a house in Chaddesden who, as it turned out, had a bumble bee nest in their loft. Going to retrieve next weekend -  see Bumble Bee Rescue IV 

Part 2 (Now Belper Bees)
Boyd arrived as promised latish-on yesterday evening bearing a duvet wrapped box full of bees. Hopefully the transfer would be straightforward - a "lift & shift" of a few bars directly from the transporter box to our TBH. We'd already had a discussion over the phone about the length of the bars and the inside measurement of the hive - should be no problems.

Well, guess what... there were no problems! The bars moved easily from the transport box to the hive with significant number of bees still attached.....

.... and they fitted pretty well into the TBH albeit a little thicker than those already in the hive.

We did wonder, though, whether the queen had been in the main body or whether she was still in the cardboard box. Looking inside it wasn't obvious, there didn't seem to be too many stranded but lifting one of the flaps revealed a second large cluster of bees.

Boyd decided to shake and shock the remainder into the hive. Most went in with only a few stragglers remaining.....

..... who slowly decided to follow the rest into their new home.

So let's hope they're still there and decide to stay!

(Edit Note: Pictures make it look like I did all the work but Pete was very 'hands-on')

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Bee Lucky

Dave and myself have been inundated with calls since we both registered as swarm collectors. He now has all three of his TBHs filled, with another in one of his bait hives (destined for Shane's Island). I have a swarm to collect tonight from Branston (hopefully going to Pete in Belper) and another bumble bee nest to remove from a loft space in Chaddesden. Just to keep us on our toes, this Saturday we are intending to remove an established colony from a large chimney pot being used as a garden ornament. This will be very involved, cutting-out and fixing a lot of comb to bars, and will take a few hours hard work; if all goes well they will be moved into my new TBH.

And it's only Tuesday!

If you are wanting bees for a TBH get in touch. If you haven't got aTBH hive get making one.

Monday 28 May 2012

Wandering Tutbury Bees

Hi all

We have been kept on our toes as they don't seem to like the desres we built!

As you can see they prefer the box to our hive - but stayed there then all flew off (via our neighbors summer house) then came back with box gone !
They now prefer the bush at the side of the hive , any way on closer inspection we found the queen was dead. We put her into the hive and guess what - they all went into the hive , now please bear in mid we are absolute novices here but the garden is a lot calmer and our neighbors are talking to us again!

For the next installment of our rollercoater time with bees keep watching the site

Mike and Monique

Unwanted visitors

I went to see my ailing colony on Saturday and found this critter crawling on the comb. Any ideas what it is?

Saturday 26 May 2012

Tutbury Bees (Part 2)

Boyd arrived with a box of bees for our hive and transfered them in using the shock technique !

A few were left in the box and so we left them in it under the hive overight. The next day we had had a transfer from the hive to a bush beside the hive and a swarm had built up . Again, Boyd came round and we put the box above the swarm . Boyd explained how to transfer them into the hive, and Monique was able to borrow a bee suit so that Mike could transfer them into the hive the next day.

Mike thought that was very brave of Monique to get the suit so made sure she was close enough to get a photo or two !

The Bees have now settled down and are purposefully flying over to the field beside us to make the most of what is left of the oil seed rape flowers , - we are finding them on the clover in our grass and on flowers around the garden . We have noticed that they are now comming back with pollen so hopefully this is a good sign .

We really have to say a huge thankyou to Boyd for his patenince , telephone support and enthusiasm.

Mike and Monique

Bumble Rescue III

On Friday evening I was supposed to move another swarm from Dave's bait hive in Moira to Pete's TBH in Belper, but the bees had other plans. They re-swarmed from the bait hive into one of Dave's nearby TBHs and, as they had made the decision unaided, we decided to leave them there. Pete was obviously disappointed but philosophical about the chain of events and is still first on the list for the next swarm. 

The evening was not entirely without bee activity as I'd received a call earlier in the day, from Steve and Valerie in Aston-on-Trent, regarding a small colony of bees that had taken up residence in a bird box. Their young dog had taken to eating any bees that came into his range and was stung in the mouth so thought it advisable to move them elsewhere. They were unsure whether they were honey or bumble bees, but from their description and the bird box location, I was almost certain that they were the latter. Being only ten minutes drive away I left the collection until till fairly late in order get as many of them as possible. The box itself was fixed about ten feet up on the trunk of a large tree but was easily accessed via the waiting ladder. In the fading light we waited for as many stragglers as possible to return and discussed the varied activities of the now confirmed bumble bees. Not being an expert of bumble bees I could only confirm that they were not Common Carders and the colony seemed to consist of several different types and sizes of bumble bee; ranging from large banded ones to small almost honey bee types. There was a lot of jockeying to go in and out of the box with several large ones seeming to hover around the entrance unsure whether to go in or not. I wondered if this was some sort of bumble bee boarding house where any stray/single bees could stop for the night. I suspect though that this is just me overlaying our experiences onto theirs and that they are all the same type just doing what bumble bees do before tucking-up for the night. Anyway, deciding we had all the bees we were going to get, I plugged the hole with sponge and twisted the box off its single fixing screw and tied it inside the waiting pillowcase.

After farewells it was a quick trip back home and a simple one screw fix on to another fence post in my garden. Throughout the bees were very calm and never once seemed over excited even when I was very close to the box entrance. I don't know if my small bee enclosure is reaching it maximum bee density, with three bumble bee boxes and two TBHs in fairly close proximity, but I'll keep a close eye on things and report back if hostilities should break out.

Friday 25 May 2012

Tutbury Swarm (Part 1)

Got a call from Dave Tuesday evening saying he had another contact regarding a swarm, this time in Tutbury. Tina, and her daughters Charlotte and Lydia, were very calm about having bees in their garden but they had settled right at the entrance to the chicken enclosure and couldn't really stay there. When we arrived we were both concerned about the appearance of the swarm as it didn't conform entirely to our expectations. There were plenty of calm bees, but they seemed to have formed several small groups and didn't appear to have made their minds up which one to join, with lots of bees in the air. We decided that they either lost or damaged their original queen, or that they were a secondary swarm that had several newly emerged queens; either way we placed a box over the majority and left them over night to cluster into the box - or not.

Tina took this brilliant picture of the swarm

The following evening I returned to collect them and found that they had indeed all decided to utilise the box - forming a football sized cluster. Without any major drama I parcelled them up into my old duvet cover and drove them about fifteen miles to Weston-on-Trent were Mike & Monique had a TBH waiting for them.

To be continued.........

Thursday 24 May 2012

Busy week

It's been a busy week in the bee swarm business. One swarm on Monday, interesting sort of swarm on Tuesday, bumble bee nest Wednesday and two swarms today one housed the other to go to a new home, Boyd collecting tomorrow.

The swarm that I placed in one of my hives today looked much smaller than the Monday swarm but when I tried to take my collection box top bars out to go back in the box got a very pleasant surprise, the girls had been busy(see below).

This is only after 4 hours

Think I'll have the weekend off swarms but if anyone else would like to collect one let me know and I'll pass on any calls

Cheers Dave

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Kegworth Bumble Bee Update

The Carder bumble bees I moved on Monday are now living here:

Sorry about the rubbish photo.
If you have a magnifying glass handy you
might just be able to spot them near the top of the post.

They are flying well and little sign of any aggression even though their accommodation is still cramped! I was thinking of making them a new box but they have had enough mucking about already so I'll leave as is.


Tuesday 22 May 2012

The one that got away

Had a missed opportunity today, a swarm settle on my bait hive but decided to leave before I had chance to get home.

Lovely primary swarm

And then they where gone

Having spoken to a few experienced bee keeps, it may have not taken to the hive because it was in full midday sun. So think I will re-site it into a tree.

Good news is the swarm from yesterday seem very busy(lots of chewing sounds which I believe is wax creation) and it looks like they have already built some new comb.

Here's to the next swarm.

Monday 21 May 2012

Ninja Beekeeping

Oh My God! I'm getting too old for this! Not really, hopefully all the excited running about and the occasional bit of bee string therapy will keep me young(ish)......... 

At 19:15 I had just got off the phone to Shane regarding the bees he was off to rescue detailed below when I noticed an e-mail from Dave (Lord Tedric) regarding a number of possible swarms.  Frantic phone calls to Dave revealed that he had already caught one of them near the McDonald's on the Derby ring road and was about to put it into one of his new top bar hives, so could I contact the other two to try and retrieve some bees. My first contact, in Kings Newton nr. Melbourne, told me they had already taken off, but he would keep an eye out for them and get back in touch. The second call was to a lovely couple, Martin & Penny, in Kegworth for what turned out to be another colony of Common Carder Bumble Bees ("I seem to be slowly acquiring the National Collection!"). I told them I was more than happy to move them and twenty minutes later I was at their house. In the gathering gloom I was presented with a lovely little bird box, in amongst some overgrown ivy, absolutely bursting with the unmistakably fawn and white Common Carders. Apparently they had been rather aggressive over the last few days; with the glowing Penny not only having giving birth four days earlier but also getting stung on the cheek as well - it's not easy being a Mum! I suspect that the close proximity to the back door, their cramped accommodation and the dire weather we've had for the last few weeks were all factors that caused this unusual  bumble bee behaviour.

Might once have been for birds, has definitely
seen mice (phew!) and is now home to bumble bees.

As there seemed to be quite a lot of bees in this nest I decided that full suit and gloves would be the order of the day and after waiting for as many bees to return I plugged the hole with a small piece of sponge. I then cut away some of the ivy to access the condition and fixings of the box, which was well entwined within the undergrowth; so-much-so that I needed the help of a claw hammer to begin prising it away from its post. Just as I was seconds away from lifting the whole box into my waiting pillowcase the thin plywood roof came away. Merde! Twenty or so bees made a bolt for it but I managed, using my knees, elbows and teeth, to hold the lid on and finally get the box off and into the bag. I'm not sure what fate will befall the escapees but I think I salvaged the majority of the colony.

Twenty minutes later, back at home and in near darkness, I'm ready to undertake a Ninja relocation. I decided to attach the bird box to a new fence post my neighbour had recently erected adjoining the bottom of our gardens. With all my kit ready - battery drill, screws, secateurs, string, hammer etc., I gingerly opened the string tied pillow case expecting lots of agitated bees to come flying out. But I was surprised that there were none; more by luck that judgement they seem to have all managed to get back inside the box. I took the opportunity to put a few stabilising screws into the weather beaten lid, added some string for good measure and attached it to the chosen post. Then 1-2-3 quickly pulled the sponge out of the hole and moved smartly back to the house; praying they wouldn't all chase me - which they didn't! Hopefully they haven't suffer too much from the ordeal and will settle into their new location during the next few days.

Now that they are all tucked-up in bed it's time for me to do the same.........



Bumble Rescue II

I was working with someone today who's friend needed a bees nest removing from his store. I went along after 1900ish armed with my bee suit, a box and the camera. It was all very undramatic. As I cleared the bits and pieces from around the nest about 20 bees emerged. They were very loud, but none tried to sting me. I gave them a misting with the water spray and they went straight into the box. A quick scoop with a spade had the nest in the box and the lid was taped in place. There were about five bees flying about afterward but all in all it seemed to go ok.

They are now re-housed in a quiet corner of my garden :-)

First swarm

First swarm collected today and it had to be the easiest one ever. 

Bee's on a pallet at chest height quick knock into a box, 30 mins later sealed and in car. 

Now sat on top of hive waiting for my little lad as he wants to help put them in. 

Will post pictures later. 

We need some phone contacts as I had 3 other calls while collecting.


Update  on girls. Now nicely in bed, hopefully that's where they will stay, always the risk they will abscond with it being a new hive.

A few photo's

Still in the travel box, on top of the hive, just separated the bars so they could get use to the area

Out they come, all bars lifted together
In they go

Last few stragglers persuaded to get in


All top bars back on

 Just need to put the lid on.

All photo's courtesy of Jo my wife(from a distance in the field)

I'll give them till the weekend an see how they are doing.


Thursday 17 May 2012


As the weather looked fairly decent this morning I made the decision to move the nuc hive out of my garden and transfer the bees into the 3' tbh. At 0745 the sock was stuffed into the entrance, the hive wrapped up in a dust sheet and placed in the van ready for their fifteen mile ride.

 Due to the heavy rain lately the track is too muddy to drive down which meant a 300m walk with the hive and gear down to the boat. I'm not sure if the cows were interested in me or the bees, but I hoped there were no bulls eyeing up my red cylinder tank jacked!

The recent flood had receded but the flotsam had been dumped directly on top of my jetty. I decided to clamber over the top of it all with the hive rather than try to move it and become lathered in mud before I started with the bees.

As I unwrapped the nuc hive and the unhappy bees made their escape I came across my first problem. Boyd's 17" top bars are about 20mm longer than my 17" top bars! I should have remembered this from when we did the split five weeks ago. Luckily I swapped onto the mark two tbh on which the lid fits a little more loosely :-) The process went quite well and the bees were in their new home within twenty minutes.

Here are some pictures of the comb. Any observations welcome!

I left them for about three hours while I did some other jobs. Afterwards they seemed quite calm and a handfull were buzzing around. I don't think they had worked out where the entrance was yet. My only concern was that the actual number of bees in the colony didn't seem that big, probably only high hundreds. I'm not sure if there is a critical mass that's needed for the colony to survive?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Scouting parties

Interesting turn of events for one of my bait hives, having just visited a possible swarm (sadly in a cavity so not able to retrieve) I placed the box on the patio table with the intention of putting it away later.

Next day when helping out in the bee tent get a text to say bees are going in and out of the bait box.

Later when I get home Jonathan insisted we suit up and go for a look. Nothing in there but hopefully they are happy with the accommodation.

Monday saw even more bees probably 50+ at times all around the hive, also doing what look like orientation flights.

Quick update bees in and out every day since Sunday could be only a matter of time I'll keep you informed.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Bait Hive #5

Having posted a request for anyone interested in beekeeping on my works intranet site I had another person contact me recently. Emma said that she already had bees, living in an air vent just below her roof, but was also keen to find out more about bees and what they might do. After a brief discussion she said she was more than willing to site a bait box in here garden in the hope of catching any swarms that might emanate from her colony. So this morning I popped around to deliver my modified, fifteen year old, compost bin/come bee hive. It was initially a decorative compost bin but now has an inner lid of twelve 17" waxed bars that will hopefully encourage any homeless bees to stop a while. It is located on a slightly raised area directly beneath a large apple tree at the bottom of her quiet garden, so along with the lemon grass oil, it should prove irresistible - let's hope so!

Compact and bijou residence available for free!
Please apply within.
Emma said she had some footage of the initial swarm arriving and will post it to me to add later. Apparently she thought it was a motorbike revving-up outside as it was so loud.  

I'm just off to see my neighbour, who also has a small orchard in her garden, to talk about sighting a similar bait box there. If we don't manage to catch any swarms this year at least it won't be for lack of trying.


Tuesday 8 May 2012

Mis-bee hiving?

So after successfully retrieving the bumble bees on Saturday evening, and installing them and their new bumble home in a prime spot in the garden, I watched and waited on Sunday - nothing! and watched and waited on Monday - nothing! On Monday evening I tentatively tapped the hive to see if there was any audible sign of them being there - nothing. I raised the lid and saw their scruffy ball of a nest, but still no bees. In desperation I gently poked the nest with a stick hoping for some sound or movement -again nothing. I therefore assumed that they must have departed at some point during the previous two days and were now hanging around, homeless, back to their original woodshed site.

From work this morning I called Ali B to check if there were any bees lurking in the woodshed; she said "Yes, but only a couple!". They could of course have been some that were originally left behind but she said she would call around and take the nest box back to her place to try and re-catch the wanderers. As I got back early, and whilst I waited for her to arrive, I thought I might as well get the nest box ready so that she doesn't need to hang about. Imagine my surprise, as I double-double checked that there were no bees inside, to find the little nest ball covered with about twenty bees. In my best Victor Meldrew impression "I couldn't believe it!" Ali and myself then stalled the re-move and discussed what must have been going on. We decided that they were inside all the time probably repairing any damage that inevitably occurred during the move and so not venturing outside a great deal. I also thought it could be a play dead strategy to ward off potential attackers - But what do I know? Anyway the upshot is that they are alive and well, and doing what bees generally do - flying in and out and getting on with bee based activities! 

This little window of warm weather has also brought the main hive to life. I thought they might be ready to swarm as there were so many bees in the air. But I think they were just making the most of some good air time to grab some groceries! And who can blame them?


Sunday 6 May 2012

Hive been busy......

Part 1
After many evenings cossetted in the garage I've finally finished my second TBH. 

The all singing, all dancing, superdooper, mega TBH hive!
I have strayed slightly from the Chandler original design and added several features that were discussed during a beek meeting I went to in Oxford a month or so ago. Having read widely about these 'additions' I feel they will make a good design better.The Chandler original was always promoted as a work-in-progress, with experimentation and individual interpretation actively encouraged, rather than a set-in-stone finished article. My additions are as follows, which as the season progresses I will report on*:  
  • the body of the hive is substantially thicker than my first effort. 50mm as opposed to 25mm hopefully helping to regulate the internal temperature in both summer and winter
  • I have done away with the mesh floor and gone for fixed bottom board. This should reduce fluctuations in the internal atmosphere.
  • it has a 'hanging-out space' at the bottom of the hive that allows bees to gather under the comb rather than hanging on the mesh outside. The combs hopefully won't be incorporate  into the 10mm bamboo canes - we'll see!
  • there is only one entrance hole - on the side at one end. I am still unsure whether to close this hole and replace it with a single hole in the end.
  • thanks to a generous donation of some thin perspex it sports an observation window. Not a new innovation but should make internal observations easier for myself and any visitors.
Hopefully you can see the extra wall thickness, the 'hanging-out space',
the single hole entrance and the observation window

Part 2
As Ali B mentioned she has found a bumble bee nest in her wood shed. Although very keen to keep them she felt that the combination of two small children, eager to use the wood shed as a den, co-existing harmoniously with what we think is a small colony of Common Carder bumble bees was not a good idea.  So using my new table saw - "Did I mention I've got a new table saw?" - I quickly fashioned a new pied-√†-terre for the little family and whisked them away my urban garden. My newest bees are quite small, and being brown/beige in colour, can easily be mistaken for a honey bee. The give away is the rather scruffy little nest made of moss, grass etc. that probably only contains about a hundred bees - they do make honey but only in very small quantities and not in capped cells but in wax buckets that could easily have been spilt when moving them - "Will I need to fashion a mini mop!" As it's a Bank Holiday tomorrow I will no doubt, weather permitting, be sat watching them for a few hours. Will report back soon.

Common Carber Bee Bombus pascuorum
It will be interesting to note if they return to the woodshed as it is only about a mile and a half away from where they  are this evening. If they do decide to go back I will re-relocate the nest box, hopefully collecting them all again and then move it further field. "Well at least it gets me out of the house!"

* assuming I can get some more bees to populate it  

Wednesday 2 May 2012

DaDBeeP Meeting 2 May 2012

What a brilliant turnout! Thanks very much to everyone that made it such an interesting evening. I hope that the informal approach didn't alienate any new comers as the last thing we want, I feel, is anything too organised or dogmatic. Hopefully as we get to know each other better we can maybe introduce guest speakers or meet at other venues for specific events or workshops. If you have something to share or suggestions for topics/venues please shout out. 

As suggested I have added a "Bees Wanted" page. Hopefully this will become a useful resource for DaDBeep folk wanting to acquire bees via swarms or splits (artificial swarms). It would be useful if people could indicate type/size of hive, location, experience etc. in order that you can get the best positive result and assistance. If you acquire bees make sure to remove your name to give others a chance. Until I've worked out how to keep things "a bit more private" please don't broadcast your e-mail address or mobile numbers. I'm sure there must be a secure way to do this using a Private Message but I haven't found it yet; I will advise as soon as it's resolved.

Tim pointed out that I should, as I did at the meeting in Elvaston, have got people to write their e-mail addresses down so that I could add them to the DaDBeeP mailing list. If you want to be added to the list please mail me at: boyd_brooks(at)hotmail(dot)com  Using your e-mail address I can also give you posting rights to the blog - just let me know (it's not mandatory!). 

The confirmed date for the next meeting (to avoid half term) is:

Wednesday 13 June
The Shakespeare Inn,
DE72 2GP
19:00 - 21:00

Thanks again.

Bumble bee nest in the woodstore

Hi everyone
Just thought I'd post some pictures of a small bumble bee nest we have in our woodstore in the garden.  Boyd thinks Common Carder Bees.  We inadvertently disturbed the nest when getting some wood & they appear to have been working hard fixing any damage since!
Sorry cant join you all tonight, hope to see everyone next time.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Ready to go

All the hives in place may need a shuffle and levelling a little
That's it, me and the boys are ready to go, the hives where installed yesterday. Been down to check tonight and would you believe it no bee's, I'm going to have to resort to a big pointy arrow. Since I had no bee's to look at spent early evening waxing more top bars ready to go in.

DIY wax melter great for coating topbars, wife not convinced its a good use of the hot plate.

Looking forward to seeing folks in the Shakespeare pub tomorrow.

Cheers Dave