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

Sunday 17 June 2012

To feed or not to feed - Weston update

We have seen a lot more activity today and were worried that they'll pack their bags and flit but we think that we have some good signs
This was taken half an hour ago - they are coming back with pollen .

So my time this afternoon making a mikmon design feeder may have been a bit unessessary for today - is this the sort of thing that you have all made?
I've made it so that I can top it up from the non bee side and the bees have an entrance at the top of a follower board bee side so to speak.

And this is the side from the non bee side -
The little black bits in the feeder are drowned ANTS - we want to put ant powder down at the base of the hive but think that this may not be good for the bees - any ideas?

We are going to swap this over with the takeaway tray  tomorrow as we dont want to disturb them any more unless Dave phones or bloggs and tells me to feed them now !
All the best

Mike and Monique

Thursday 14 June 2012

Dale Abbey swarm

Just got back from housing a swarm in Dale Abbey, a few miles north-east of Derby. Apparently they had been there for four days with the warm spell on Sunday being the trigger. I was surprised to find them still there. As I arrived it was getting dark, the wind was getting up and it was starting to rain so I didn't want to faff about. I used a recently made weighty18"x18" bait box and, as they had been out in the open for so long, added a top feeder with two litres of 50/50 syrup for good measure. If the weather over the next few days is a bad as predicted at least they can power-up and made a start on building their new home. They were as good-as-gold and the whole procedure, including the round trip to get there, took less than forty minutes. If they stay I will go back and collect them over the weekend (and take some pictures which I forgot in my haste due to the rain). All I need to do if find somewhere for them be permanently sited - Any ideas? 

Had three more calls regarding bumble bee nests but was able to persuade them all that they don't constitute any real threat and will die-out come winter. I think I need  a pre-recorded message on my mobile as I seem to have made this little speech many time over the last few weeks. "For swarms press one, for bumblebees press two, for....."  Hopefully it gives me some confidence when I do my bit volunteering for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust during Gardeners' World LIVE this weekend. The weather doesn't look too good for the next few days so a lot bee related chat and some retail therapy might be just the ticket.


Weston on Trent update

Hi all

We have moved our old bees along a bit and put a sheet of paper over some holes as we didnt fancy getting the icing sugar out as Monique has got some baking to do for the weston scarecrow trail this weekend!  We moved our old bees along.
Then we attached the comb from each of Daves bars using a cable tie as suggested last night , I had  a bit of a job with the bit of frame but with some help it became detached from the old bar and its now in our TBH.
I'm not sure if it'll stay on the new bar but it was covered in bees and they were very well beehived as we transfered them into their new home. Hopefully they will settle down and we've put some feed out for them .
Many thanks to Dave for dropping the Swarm off last night , we promise to try and keep this one !

BFN Mike and Monique

Meeting (13 June 2012)

Thanks to everyone that turned up last evening. Although we were fewer in number I think the level of conversation, now that most people have had direct experience with their own bees, covered a far wider range of topics. It is obvious that even with limited exposure to bees the levels of knowledge are growing very quickly.

Good Luck to those installing swarms over the next few days; don't forget to take plenty of picture and report back here. On the way back from the meeting I got a call regarding a swarm near Ilkeston, which I am collecting this evening (anyone still wanting bees get in touch).

Hopefully see you all next month.


Tuesday 12 June 2012

Bottomless beekeeping - a rebellion too far?

Some of you may be wondering about my passion for 'bottomless' beehives and why I am experimenting with bottomless top bar hives. Well the best description of what it's about comes from at this link:

I'd be interested in your thoughts so post your comments below .....

Tutbury Bees update

Hi all , we've been away for a week and thought we'd better have a peek in the TBH to see whats going on or not . As you can see they have built some comb but there are not may bees left - either they've all gone out or we may be in need of some more.

So we look forward to catching up with everyone tomorrow to see how everyone else is bearing up . I'm not one fopr waxing lyrical so TTFN

Mike and Monique

First Inspection

Having been able to hold out for slightly longer than Pete, I decided that 3 weeks was long enough and needed to do a quick check for queen rightness(is she around) and to make sure they where building up.

The first hive inspected was the one the boys have adopted and also the first swarm I acquired. Upon removing the follower board all looked good, fresh comb visible and a few spare bars.

View into boys hive 9 bars with fresh comb.

 All the bars including the follower had been well and truly stuck in place and this was the same for the rest of the hive. The first 3 combs had just uncapped honey with a spattering of pollen, the next was the edge of the growing brood nest, a nice clump of capped brood with pollen and honey surrounding it, real text book stuff.

All the family helped, the boys had great fun, photo's courtesy of Jo(Mrs Dave)
Start of brood nest, small area of brood in middle

The further in, the more capped brood, plus uncapped brood in various development stages. Tried looking for eggs but not easy on new comb. Satisfied that the queen was in put the hive back together adding one extra bar.

Well into brood area this was the last bar out having found out all I needed to know.

Second hive. Immediately noticed that this hive had less fresh comb, even though it's only 3 days behind the other, that said it all looked good with a similar but smaller version of the first hive. 

View into second hive less comb but still a good build up
Good shot showing capped brood and larvae if you look carefully
Closed it up actually removing a few bars to help them maintain more heat.

Her Majesty
Third and final hive. Again less comb built, however these bee's moved into a hive with some old comb and have repaired and are using this, saving them building time. Did get a pleasant surprise, spotted the queen on the last bar to be inspected, she's quite a big girl especially as these bees are smaller than the other hives(and darker).

All in all a successful inspection, with the whole thing only taking up 30-40 mins total, also no need to even spray them, the only time they buzzed up was when I dropped a top bar about 1/8 inch when replacing.

It was quite the family affair looking forward to the next inspection.


Sunday 10 June 2012

Belper Bees +10 Days

First look in the hive.

So having restrained myself I decided to take a quick look in the hive to see how the hive was progressing. The bees have been to'ing and fro'ing but the weather hasn't been particularly good, wet and quite cool, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised to see that they'd apparently stopped working on the comb on the bar that had come from the bait box. Pristine but with no bees working in it.

They were working solely on the bars that had old comb on them. Bizarrely though it seems they'd detached old comb, it can be seen in the bottom of the hive - just the bigger piece the smaller already being detached. Is that normal behaviour?


Looking quickly at the individual bars there was lots of activity but I couldn't spot the queen. No sign of any of the cells with anything in them yet - Should there be?

I shall take another look before Wednesday's meeting if the weather stays reasonably good, see you all then.


That's gotta hurt!

Tim Lowe sent me the following as a reply to a recent e-mail. I thought I'd share it with you all to highlight the hardcore nature of our gentle looking pursuit:

Bit of an update.

Split my older hive Thursday into two boxes and then put them both into an older hive here at home. That makes 3 hives on the go.

Got a call friday evening from my uncle who hosts one of my hives in his orchard. He says a pile of bees have been under a tree for most of the day. Aunt has only just told him about them!! Wizzed over and collected the bees, and the bulk of the swarm at chest height in the apple tree above them that they had completely failed to notice!! Checked under the hive (it is open bottomed after all) and saw a couple of swarm cells. So opened up the hive and took out two combs each with swarm cells on them. Also took out a couple of brood comb, put them into a box and high tailed it to where I keep my hive in the village at home. But god they were stroppy. Found my suit leaks bees at the throat and have got at least six stings there. I'm going to look funny for the rest of the weekend. Couple of stings at the temple as well, on a wrist and back of leg too. Not a good session.

Back in the village I split the queen called comb between two 5 comb boxes, broke into the large hive for a couple of comb of stores to top them up over this bad weather and left them there with the main swarm to keep them company. Hope they drown!! No really hope that I don't have to requeen them because of their temper. Hoping it is a combination of swarming, wind, rain, queens hatching, and being unable to fly when they need to. We'll see. More stings at the throat.

Any way, I now have to quickly make 3 hives to fit them into. So, I've got 2 more flowerpot boxes for swarms (currently out as bait boxes) that I could use if we need to. Then that's it at the moment. Let me know if you need me.

I'll certainly see you on Wednesday, if I can see over my throat!!

All the best,


Thursday 7 June 2012

More call outs

Made three visits yesterday morning - all for bumble bees.  Firstly there was a lovely old couple in Ilkeston who, having exhausted their options with the local council and pest controllers, found my number via a swarm collection website. Their initial concern was that they had a swarm of unidentified bees living in their roof space that could cause long term problems for them and their neighbours. Even from the ground I could see they were bumble bees and after a chat they were more than happy to leave them alone; hoping that one of their grandchildren would volunteer to clean the old nest out come the winter.

The second place I went to generated the third. As soon as I stepped into the small yard and started pointing out the bumble bees 'toing-and-frowing' the next door neighbour called to say she too had a problem with bees from the same roof vent. Again they were both unsure of what they were dealing with but I confirmed they were definitely bumble bees. The original caller seemed overly concerned that the bees were "Out to get me!" and even my initial  chat about how docile they were didn't seem to calm the situation. It then turned out that she had been given advise from a pest controller who told her that "they would grow into a massive problem colony" and "target anyone who showed fear" - What tosh! Thankfully she didn't have the £85 he was charging for removal and decided to shop around until she found my free option. Once I'd told them the facts about bumble bees both households were reassured enough to leave them alone and sort out the issue during the winter. 

In the evening I went to The Shakespeare Inn just to make sure there wasn't anyone waiting expectantly for the monthly meeting that had been changed to next Wednesday. After about twenty minutes I felt that it was safe to go and the landlord, who already knew of the date change, said he would inform any late comers - hopefully there weren't any.

On the way back I dropped off a hive to Ali B in Elvaston as a stand-by in case I get a swarm call-out from Lucky Dave or via the swarm collection hot line. For the same reason Tim has offered to re-jig his apiary to create some free hives as at the moment I think we are almost at full capacity hive wise. This current  wet weather will obviously dampen down the swarming instinct but as soon as we get a dry spell they could be off again. So if you, or someone you know, is looking for bees to put into a TBH please get in touch.  


Monday 4 June 2012

Smoke Stake Lighten-ing Strike (Part Four)

More ninja style beekeeping this morning. At what seemed like the crack of dawn I packed the car with all my beekeeping stuff, a mountain of bungee straps and a large wooden lid, then drove the twenty miles to Swepstone. I had,the previous evening, sent a text to John and Judie saying I would arrive at 08:00 but actually got there at about 07:30, and being a Bank Holiday there surprisingly wasn't anyone about. The TBH we'd left was easily accessible so I decided not to wake anyone and got on with parcelling the hive ready to transport back. Thankfully Dave and I have stuck fairly rigidly to the measurements for TBH hives so the lid I brought with me fitted snugly, stopping the bars from moving and the bees getting out. After securing the roof with bungee cords it was a simple manoeuvre to lift the whole lot into the waiting duvet cover and then into the car.

There it was........

(The stone on the chair is what the
combs were hanging from)
Within forty minutes of leaving Swepstone the bees were installed in my Super Deluxe TBH. As we had done previously, when lifting swarms already established on bars, I just slid two bars under the ends of the bars containing the sown-on comb and lifted the whole lot straight in. It went so quickly and smoothly that even the flying bees, who were probably having a lie-in after yesterdays excitement, didn't get much of a chance to react. After shaking in some loose bees, I put in a few extra bars, pushed up the follower board, and put the lid on - job done! 

Thanks again to John and Judie (hope I didn't wake you?)


Next meeting

The next meeting is on Wednesday 13 June NOT Wednesday 6 June (avoiding the school half-term holiday)

Same location:
The Shakespeare Inn
DE72 2GP

19:00 - 21:00

Saturday 2 June 2012

Smoke Stack Lighten-ing (sorry)

Part One (by Dave Hill)
Having had a few days off swarm collecting I received a call from a couple in Swepstone who claimed to have a bee's nest in a chimney pot they were using as a plant pot. Instantly this seemed a bit strange but they assured me they were honey bee's and not bumbles so I agreed to take a look that night. When I arrived John and Judie pointed out the chimney and sure enough honey bee's where going in and out. A little investigation found that only the top third was planted up with a slab to prevent the soil dropping thru. So what you end up with is a 12" diameter tube about 3 foot high with a top entrance via the chimney vents, in other words a perfect bee hive.

Once the soil and a few stones where removed you could see straight down onto the slab with tantalising views of comb around the edges. I realised at this point help would be require so placed a box on top to keep out the impending rain and promised to come back with more troops.

Ready for the troops
Once home a quick phone call to Boyd and we agreed that Saturday afternoon was the time for operation flowerpot....t.b.c
Part Two (by Boyd Brooks) 
When I got the call from Lucky Dave he also told me that he had a swarm in one of his bait hives to give to Shane; another quick call and he was roped into the Saturday afternoon adventure as well. At 15:30 we met at Dave’s house, and after a brief tour around his growing apiary, we drove the few miles to Swepstone.

Everything was as Dave had left it, with no bees taking up residence in the top box. The next move (and this really is a Top Tip from Dave) was to move the chimney pot hive about twenty feet away from its original position and replace it with a bait hive in roughly the same position. All the flying bees then left the chimney pot hive and gathered around the bait hive. This left only a few flying bees plus the non-flying, non-stinging, house bees and the queen inside the chimney pot. The repositioned chimney pot hive was now a ‘sea of tranquillity’ whilst the bait box was covered with bees. Dave quickly got to work accessing which end of the chimney pot would be the easiest to extract the comb from and we turned it over to get access from the bottom. With ferret-like efficiency Dave was straight in and removing large pieces of comb (Pic #1). Shane was assigned the role of photographer/assistant, and I was frame builder/comb stitcher. In an idle moment I had made some bars with thin wire frames extending below that would hopefully support the loose comb whilst it was stitched on. Thankfully they seemed to help and slowly the combs were taken out, stitched to the top bars and then re-hung in a small TBH that would be used to transport them away (Pics. #2 & #3). Thanks to Dave’s Top Tip the whole operation was remarkably easy and calm, and not the bee maelstrom that would have ensued had it been left to me. Once all the retrievable comb was re-housed it was then just a case of shaking in any loose bees and then swapping the small TBH for the bait hive; allowing all the flying bees to combine with their original nest.
It had been my intention to immediately relocate the bees back to my own garden but I decided to call back the next day in order to collect as many of the flying bees as possible (will write-up Part Four later).


So big THANK YOU to John and Judie, for letting us muck about with bees in their garden, and Dave and Shane, for their time and enthusiasm.
Part Three
Now all that was left to do was for Shane and myself to pick the bait box swarm from Dave’s house, transport it over to Barrow-on-Soar, and install it into a waiting TBH on his island.

Once on the island, lifting the bars as one, the swarm went in very easily; with the short boat trip over being the most eventful part of the proceedings.  We also had a quick look at the other TBH containing the bees from the split we did last month. There were still quite a few bees in evidence so, against all the predictions, they may struggle on  for a while yet - only time will tell. 
Quick and easy swarm install
Two more jobs well done, even if I say so myself!