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I am fine, I can do this!

I have a plan, all I need to do is execute it but be on my toes in case the bees do something to scupper my plan!

I was now sitting in front of the Poppy hive – I ran through Phil Chandler’s comments in my mind to reinforce my process.

What to do first?  Okay, let’s move the left hand side follower board to the right and move at least 5 frames of brood, stores and bees across to the left and this will become the first nuc.  Done – now I move the final topbar across – the one with some of the queen cups (now well and truly sealed and waiting to hatch).

I add in another follower board to create a sealed nuc and seal the entrance with a cork.

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Next…

I choose my topbars carefully and move 4 of them full of bees, brood and stores into a box so that I can carry them across the garden to Travis hive.

I fill in the gaps with empty topbars, take some photo’s to show the new layout and seal her up with the lid (no mean feat in a wheelchair let me tell you!)

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I head off to Travis with the new hive members.  A quick check and they are still in a ball.  I open the hive by moving some of the topbars out of the way, making sure I don’t disturb the ball too much for now.  The new frames are inserted and some of the empty bars are removed to reduce the size of the hive.  I fill up the sugar syrup containers, seal the entrances with corks and collapse back in my chair.

Job done – now to wait and see what happens.

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As luck would have it, it poured with rain the next day and so I didn’t bother to open the nuc or Travis because it was pointless.

Next day (today) – oh, happy days!  The ball of bees have moved – they are now all on the comb and combined with the other bees.  I remove the cork but not much is going on as the weather is still a bit cool.  I refill the jars of food and leave them to it while I go and check on the new nuc.

The new nuc (nicknamed Barnaby – all the hives are named after our grandchildren) – which is in the same topbar hive as Poppy, but separated by boards is now checked on.  They are still all present and accounted for.  I open the corked up entrance and wait….and wait….and wait.  Eventually after ages a couple of bees appear and start to fly.  A quick peep under the other topbars confirms they are all okay, just a bit sluggish.  I feed them too.

I reduce the size of the nuc as it is still 9 frames big – NOT nuc size.

By this time the sun has started to shine and with a bit of extra food the activity level goes up and I leave them to get adjusted to the nuc.

I head inside for a much needed cup of coffee and lunch.  I bring it outside into the now glorious sunshine and while I am enjoying myself, the activity levels sky rocket.  All 4 of the hives and the nuc are incredibly active and I breathe a sigh of relief because this is a good sign.

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I will give them a few days and check them all through the windows without disturbing them.

Hopefully in a few weeks we will have 4 thriving colonies to get ready for winter.

No gloves, new veil, 0 stings – 🙌 

 

 

 

 

 

I was just sitting amongst the bees enjoying the gorgeous sunshine when…..

A lot of bees during my observation had come out of the box and started to orient themselves to the new location…this is something new bees do to find their way home again, and also when any changes happen outside the hive – perhaps a fallen tree or something blocking their flight path.  No big surprises there, but suddenly there appeared more than normal until a steady stream of bees emerged.  My heart sank when I realised that they were swarming – exactly the reason we had carried out this whole exercise to begin with.

​New beekeeper panic moment!

Stay calm, stay calm, stay calmer….

How bad could it be? I had seen swarms on videos before.  However, nothing quite prepares you for that moment when you’re sitting next to the box and the air is literally buzzing with thousands of bees.  I observed them for a while and noted that they were staying just above the garden and mainly directly above the hive.  I think this is when the queen would normally get shoved out the hive to follow them to a nearby spot to wait for scouts to find a new home.

Luckily for us we hadn’t yet released the queen from the queen cage because when some of them realised what was happening a LOT of mad fanning stared around the box entrance.  This was the signal they had been waiting for, and they promptly started to swarm back to the board and into the box again.  What a relief, but what to do now, because clearly their instinct to swarm was still in full swing and what if they tried again.

We decided that we wouldn’t wait any longer but rather dump them straight into the new hive so they would perhaps think they had swarmed.

The Travis hive was positioned in a suitable location and some of the topbars added leaving a nice gap to dump them into the hive.  Hubby did the honours as the box was rather heavy, and within no time we had them all contained in the new hive.  The queen was released and we left them to settle in.

Our colour coding system of pins – Green for new/empty comb, Yellow for honey/stores, Blue for brood and when we spot the queen we place a clear pin on the bar she was last seen.  Each time we do an inspection they are updated and a photo is taken for printing and putting into our inspection records….

 

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The next day – nothing – no activity, just a big ball of bees clinging to the topbars as if they had swarmed and were waiting for news of their new home from the scouts who were clearly the only ones coming and going from the hive. Arrrggg….now what?

Looking through the observation window…..

 Just a big ball of bees!


I know, I know a man who might be able to help – The Barefoot Beekeeper, Phil Chandler over at http://biobees.com/index.php​​​​​​​​​​.  We had met Phil a couple of years before during a weekend about Natural Beekeeping in Brinscall Hall.  I dropped him a note on Facebook and in no time at all he came back to me with this response….

They may have already decided to swarm as we did the artificial swarm so that could be why they weren’t settling into the new home – their instinct wasn’t yet appeased.

Possible solution – take some more bees from the other hive and dump them into the new hive with a few more topbars of brood and stores (honey and nectar).  Take out some empty spaces so they don’t have too much work to keep warm.  Seal them up for at least a day.

At the same time, it may be worth our while to take the topbars with queen cups and split them into smaller nucs and let them each raise a queen in case any one of our hives failed, and perhaps if we have any left over we could sell them on.

Brilliant – thank you Phil.

By now hubby was well and truly out of the country and I was dealing with this all on my own!  Luckily I have a ‘can do; never die’ attitude and the next day took a deep breath and headed out to the apiary again.

To be continued…..

0 sting day – bonus 😁🐝

What an incredibly busy and fruitful week it has been in the apiary.

With hubby away, it was quite a job to do all the work on my own, and then it poured with rain and my path to the hives was no longer firm enough to keep my wheelchair from sinking – oh the joys of wheelchair beekeeping!

We started out by inspecting our Poppy hive on Sunday and were very surprised to see that they were raising at least 10 new queens – a definite sign that they were about to swarm, and the only reason they hadn’t yet left was the bad weather – lucky for us because last year we lost half of our only hive due to swarming in October because of lack of food.  In our inexperience we didn’t realise that there was a problem until the Bee Unit informed us, but the email was one day late 😦

With good weather predicted for the next day, it was essential we act immediately.  Getting up at 5am to finish off a topbar hive isn’t our idea of fun, but it was necessary for us to move the bees into.  Luckily it was 90% complete already and hubby and I only had to add legs, the glass observation window and a few latches.  The paint will have to wait for another day.

Here we have Travis hive….another hive made entirely from the timber reclaimed for the grandsons bunk bed which was replaced recently.

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Topbars had to be cut and rebated to fit, and then a string soaked in wax was applied to give the bees a guide – and therefore, hopefully, straight comb….img_8728

Because we installed the glass observation window with silicone, I didn’t want to put the bees directly into the hive.  We had a box prepared and set up near the Poppy hive. Hubby found the queen and put her into a queen cage and placed her safely into the box.  He then selected the combs with lots of bees so that a good mix of bee ages was moved across.  This is essential if you want to have enough bees to look after the queen and to forage for food for the hive.  These were dumped onto a board leading up to the entrance of the box….

A few photo’s of the bees during the move into the box…..

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This little lady is fanning, this is when the bees release a pheromone and fan their wings madly to let the other bees know where to go….. This is slow motion so imagine how fast those wings are moving!

I always get a few bees landing on me for a quick rest – or possibly a photo opportunity….

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After about an hour all the bees had safely move into the box and I sat outside watching them – because watching bees is extremely therapeutic and I wanted to keep an eye on them.

What happened next was a total surprise and a definite first for me as a new beekeeper.

Find out what happened in the next episode of bees in Hesketh House’s backyard by Life’s An Apple.

 

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Bee awareness.

I love our honeybees, I could go so far as to say I absolutely adore our bees, but they are not the only pollinators so we shouldn’t just concentrate on saving them.

These little ladies with the remarkable ability to cut so precisely may be in your garden.

Have you ever noticed little semicircles or circles cut out of your leaves? Then you possibly have Leafcutter bees.

Until we moved into Hesketh House, which is a wildlife magnet, I had never even heard of them – but apparently they are 10 times better pollinators than honeybees which is why they’re so important.

They are one of dozens of species of solitary bees meaning they live on their own and make little individual nests. As their name suggests, they cut out leaves and roll them up into tubes inside a tiny tunnel burrowed into wood – and in our case, an old beer barrel hoist on the front of the house with an extremely well used timber beam (seen above to the left of the front door).

They’ve come back for the last three years which is a huge thrill for us.

This is my new wisteria planted very recently to grow up the front of the house and is providing them with an easy source of nesting material – they obviously like it even more than the roses.

The sacrifice of a few holes in the leaves is well worth it for these industrious little pollinators, and I hope they continue to use our house for many years to come.

In fact, our roofer completed his restoration and had the scaffolding removed just as the Leafcutter’s returned for their new season…..a good thing too, because one of those posts was right against the wooden section they use!


#heskethhouseapiary #heskethhouse #BackyardBeekeeping #saveourpollinators #savetheleafcutterbee #leafcutterbees #solitarybees

Wow, what a day for us in the apiary.

Building new hives was first and now one was done and the second almost completed.   Time to turn our attention to Poppy hive because we know she is really crowded.

To split or not to split? – and how?

What if we can’t find the queen?

Which top bars should we move?

How many should we move?

So many questions and so many different answers.

1st decision –  we are doing a split and will make sure both hives have enough brood and stores to allow either one of them to raise a new queen – a walk-away split.

Here is the very active Poppy hive…

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And a beautiful worker getting to know me up close…

Going through each top bar we were very happy to find the queen and keep her cosy in a little cage until the split was complete – we then returned her to Poppy.

Six frames with a good mix of very young eggs, brood and stores were selected and taken across to Ethan hive. The workers need eggs to raise a new queen – they feed them royal jelly and presto she is a queen instead of a worker – amazing!

Here they are all ensconced in their new home….

Keeping a watchful eye through the window of Ethan hive – please like your new home and thrive.

We were very successful in building a couple of new hives without spending any money on timber. The hives cost us the grand total of £4 each for the glass viewing panes – a great result.

Even our building site did not have sufficient timber of the right quality to build a decent hive that would last outdoors in the weather. Luckily our children were redecorating the boy’s bedroom. This included a new bunk bed which meant that the wooden bed we built them 8 years ago was no longer needed and it was made of really good timber and a perfect opportunity to upcycle it into the new hives.

This went better than either of us expected and making more than one at a time saved a lot of time and effort.

All four sides were made from the two bunkbed mattress slats.  They were glued together to create larger sheets and then cut to size.  A great plan for a topbar hive can be found at Biobees.com; this is Phil Chandlers website and he has great advice and help for topbar beekeepers.

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Unlike our first hive ‘Poppy’, these ones were made with a full width viewing window because the one thing we really miss on that hive is being able to see all along the entire hive. 

The inside view with the glass still to be fitted, but with the inspection door installed.  The mesh bottom of this hive is also different from Poppy, because we had trouble finding a decent small mess without spending a fortune.  In this case, we used the plastic tapestry or cross-stitch fabric which I had in my sewing room.  A few joined together and cut to size is perfect….

A view of one of the topbars.  These have a small rebate at each end to prevent the topbar slipping off either end of the hive.  In addition, we are testing out a way to create a bee-highway.  The only thing on hand were these cable clips which were nailed to the centre of the topbars and this will hopefully be left open by the bees to give them a quick way to travel between combs without having to go all the way down or round; we will see how/if it works…..

Each topbar was going to have a piece of tongue cut off a tongue & groove board to create a guide for the combs.  Instead we changed this by using string dipped in wax and stapled to the combs – another test…..

Here are all the exterior parts of the hive being painted with a marine varnish to hopefully give us the longest wearing hive we can.  The legs were cut from the 4 main bunkbed legs and were a great size for a very secure hive stand…..

Our favourite part of the hives?  The stickers and writing.  Over eight year our two grandsons had done a fine job of ‘decorating and personalising’ their bunkbed with stickers of all sorts and quite a bit of writing – names too!  We varnished over all of this to retain them and to add character to this hive…..

Three holes drilled into the side for the bee entrances – and a beautiful early picture by Ethan – I hope the bees appreciate the artistic workmanship…..

A view inside the hive with the inspection door open and the retaining chain in view – this will prevent the door opening too much and snapping off the hinges…..

Legs all varnished and ready for assembly.  This hive certainly has character…..

This new hive has been named ‘Ethan’, in honour of grandson number 2 who autographed it when he started school last year.  We used this piece of timber especially at the hive entrance for a landing board so that the bees knew the name of their new home 🙂

All the topbars ready for installation – here you can see the string with wax which we pressed to the surface of the topbars and stapled at the ends…..

Installing the glass viewing pane….

A quick feeder in case the weather turns on us again this year.  It may not be pretty, but it does the job admirably until I sort out my new idea for an external feeder…..

And here is Ethan ready for the great outdoors – and some bees!

One of the brass catches holds the inspection door closed and the other will latch the roof of the beehive securely against high winds…..

Here is Ethan set up and waiting for his new occupants.  Poppy has been left in the corner with her entrance facing the garden fence, and Ethan has its entrance facing the opposite direction (the grey on the sides are insulation sheets which we will take off as soon as the temperature gets above about 12 degrees…..

Lid installed with hinges and a safety chain.  All the topbars in place as well…..

It’s all done for Ethan and we have just the varnishing and window to install on ‘Travis’ – hive number 3.  Now all we need is more bees please…..

It is a relaxing Monday evening in Hesketh House and hubby and I are chatting over a lovely cup of tea after work.  As with so many of our chats they start with anything interesting we may have heard or seen recently and like a greyhound out of the starters gate, take off at high-speed all over the place….you never know where these conversations will find you and what they will pick up along the way.

Today we started out with the simple topic of the Persimmon, or Kaki, an apple size fruit with a lovely shiny yellow skin – we bought one at the store to give it a try.  Not simply being happy that we now knew its other names and varieties found all over the world e.g. Sharon fruit is a variety from Israel, we also learned of its many health benefits, drinks uses, timber used etc, etc.  However, like most things, the over consumption can have some negative effects as well.  In the case of the humble Persimmon, you can apparently, if rarely, get a Bezoar (sounds like bee-zore); a build up of various indigestible substances that create an almost stone-like ball in the stomach – yuck!

For anyone with long hair a few years ago, you may have been told by someone older and apparently wiser than you, that if you chew your hair it would create a hard ball in your stomach which could kill you.  Well my 10-year-old self may have occasionally played with my hair in such a manner (again – yuck), but thought ‘oh, how ridiculous, an adult trying to scare me – again’.  WELL, who knew that this supposed old wives tale has an edge of truth to it because Bezoars can be formed from hair too.

 

Since medieval times, it was believed that Bezoars could cure you of almost any deadly poisons as it was meant to absorb the poison from your body and therefore cure you.  This was disproved by  a ‘scientist’ who fed one to a chef that was given poison as his sentence for theft.  Sadly he died a very long and painful death – I am sure that his original sentence of death by strangulation would have been preferable.

Bezoars are sometimes carved and buffed to a high shine for jewellery – yuck, yuck, yuck! Go online if you don’t believe me and see some images for yourself.

Naturally leading on from stones in the stomach hubby wondered if the nice smelly stuff in a whales stomach was also a form of Bezoar.  Alas no, this is ambergris or grey amber, a substance produced to protect the whales stomach from the hard and sharp beaks of squid.  Ambigris can be burned or used in perfume.  It is almost as valuable as gold.  Occasionally someone makes their fortune finding it in a whale carcass, but I presume much is found as part of the madness that is whale hunting.

If you’re expecting to find a dead whale on the beach with a few kilograms of ambergris, you may want to consider another pension option, as this happens very rarely and fights have broken out amongst Ambigris hunters for less.

By now, the time has been steadily ticking by and from starting our tea at 5.30pm, we realise that it is 7.30pm and the dinner is waiting downstairs.

I could tell you that chasing stories and information down a rabbit hole is a rare thing for our family, but that would be a vast exaggeration because we all spend many happy hours hunting, investigating and churning up weird and wonderful facts and information of no particular use other than to broaden our general knowledge.

Therefore, the question that I always posed to our children as they were growing up was “Do you want the long or the short answer?”  If they wanted a quick succinct answer they came to me; if they wanted the thesis and the rabbit hole, then they went to Daddy.

Nothing has changed to this day – and that is how you get from Persimmons to Ambergris.

Happy trails everyone!

 

 

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