update: It's three months since we got our bees and they are doing very well
still. They have enough honey for the winter but we're going to continue feeding
them so that they have more than enough.
update: The bees have almost filled the super with capped honey and they have
plenty of nectar and pollen stored in the brood box. There is still pollen and
nectar being brought into the hive and if that goes on for only a little bit
longer then they will have made enough honey to get through the winter. To make
sure we are feeding them with thick syrup and patties made of pollen and sugar.
We also got a really good view of our queen in the midst of her royal court on
top of one of the frames.
Aug 8th 2020
The bees have settled right in and have been working harder and harder as the
season has gone on. The queen has been laying at a fast pace and new bees have
been born every day. A month after we put them in the hive they had drawn out
all the frames in the brood chamber with comb and they had filled that with baby
bees, pollen and nectar. They needed more room to live, breed and store food in,
so we put another shallower box of frames (called a super) on top of the brood chamber.
Between the brood and super is a mesh called the queen excluder which acts as a
barrier to the queen and so no eggs are laid in there. Instead the bees use the
frames in the super to store honey in for the winter.
After just another 3 weeks they had drawn over half of the frames in the super out with comb and they had
filled that with nectar. They had even converted some of it into honey and were
covering it over with a layer of wax to keep it fresh. We have to make sure the bees have about 14kg of stored honey to get them
through the winter, as well as a store of pollen, nectar and a source of water. Any surplus
honey over ~14kg is ours for the taking.
In the first year it is very unlikely that there will be any surplus for us, the bees
haven't had a full season at full strength despite this being a warm sunny year.
Next year we hope they will
be strong from the beginning of spring and capable of bringing in a harvest for
A family member died just before the lockdown and left us a small inheritance. In
order to create something positive out of the tragedy we spent a good portion of it
on everything we needed to become beekeepers, as looking after 60,000 insects, who
in turn take care of the pollination of our food plants, is one long celebration
of life and a fitting epitaph.
We had already been interested in bees and all other insects all our lives and
beekeeping had always been an ambition, so we did have some knowledge about them
already. However, you need to do some good research and reading before jumping
in. You also need to become a member of a local beekeeping club with the
accompanying insurance and very helpful lessons with hands-on experience. All lessons were
cancelled of course due to the plague, so we replaced them with hundreds of
YouTube videos. The Central Sussex Bee Keeping Association (CSBKA) very kindly
appointed us a mentor and we were able to have several sessions with his bees
before our bees arrived.
We decided on a Cedar
wood hive because they last so much better outside than other wood and when it
is treated with boiled linseed oil (it's safe for bees) it looks beautiful. The
type of hive is a 'National' and we chose that style because it is the
most common type in the UK and the parts are universally available.
The bees were delivered on
June 5th as a small nucleus colony, know in 'beeker' circles as a nuc. This little
package contained about 12,000 bees along with a store of honey and lots of
brood in different stages of growth. Everything they needed in fact, to set up a new home
We moved them into our hive the same day without any problems.
They were very quiet and docile and were probably wondering what the hell was
going on. The next day they remained very quiet with a few coming out, doing
small circular flights around the hive and then bumping around trying to find
the way back in. The next day more of them were coming out but they were still
having trouble finding the door when they returned from their recce flights of
the surrounding 20m. There were also a few dead bees under the landing stage of
the hive and we have seen undertaker bees dragging corpses out of the hive. Even more macabre is seeing a bee come slowly out of the hive, cross to the
edge of the landing stage and then jump off the 8" cliff to the paving slab floor
below. They kick their little legs for a minute or two and then die. They must
know they are dying and take themselves outdoors to do it, with their last
selfless act helping to keep their hive clean and healthy. Unbelievable!
After 5 days they had
completely settled in and when it was hot and sunny hundreds would come out,
walk up the front of the hive and tentatively take off on their first foraging
flights. It's really hard to see which direction they go in as they fly so fast,
but they seem to be fanning out in all directions.
Now, most people would
probably agree that having thousands of bees surrounding you while you smash
into the inner recesses of their nest must be a very tense, fretful, even
frightening experience. Well all those people would be very wrong. Being around
the bees has an almost hypnotic effect. All stresses just
vaporise as you watch them. Opening the hive is blissfully relaxing for the
beekeeper and something that we now look forward to excitedly during the week.
Our bees are so docile and happy, it feels like they know we are there to look
after them. They don't attack you or fly at your face, they just go about their
business. Even with the hive opened up, they still continue going in and out of
the entrance as if nothing has happened.
Take the time to read
countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.