Simon's beekeeping blog

In June 2017, my friend Rick invited me to go and visit him in Yorkshire to attend an intensive introductory weekend course at Leeds Beekeepers' Association. The next summer, when I had moved to London, I started going along to the nearby Walworth Garden apiary after another course there to learn and volunteer. In those six months, I learned a lot from the apiary manager Tristram Sutton and the other volunteers.

When I moved back to Somerset in January 2019, I became interested in keeping my own bees. I joined the local beekeepers' association and have been going along to their meetings. My nephew B, as well my friend Dave (pictured left) and D, his daughter, are all joining in too. Here I try to document in the form of a blog with photos how we're getting on with setting up our nascent apiary, with the successes and the mistakes. This blog is mainly a learning exercise for me as a beginner beekeeper so comments, corrections and opinions from anyone out there reading this are always welcome.

The most recent updates follow in reverse chronological order. Older updates are archived for the year 2019. Comments are welcome via email.

Every inspection seems to be a case of expecting one thing and getting something completely different. I usually spend a couple of minutes looking at my notes from the previous week to put the next inspection into context and something completely new jumps out at me and makes them irrelevant.

Today I was unable to see the queen again, despite seeing retinue-like clusters of bees and a lot of both worker and drone brood and week-old grubs on the comb. We couldn't see many eggs — between the drone brood and the stores, it's hard to imagine where they would be laid.

The crazy thing was that we counted maybe ten supersedure cells, of which at least seven were fully-formed and dangling off the comb. My limited reading around the topic suggests that this many are likely to include swarm cells, even though the ones we saw were in two or three clusters on the face of the comb, and not at its edge. Other writers suggest there's less cause for alarm, that the presence of ten cells is an insurance policy, or even that a supersedure cell or two is good fortune. We removed one at the edge of the comb and there was a developed larvae in there. We left the others, as I understand you should, and all I can hope for now is a new queen will emerge.

There's now the possibility that the colony will swarm — given the number of bees I don't think this has already happened. The advice seems to be to either do an artificial swarm or to destroy all but a couple of queen cups, the ones that we perceive to be the strongest. Perhaps I should have destroyed the unfinished cups in any case. For either remedy it feels like time isn't on my side, but I will do some reading and head down there on Monday if it looks like I it's sensible to do anything. In any case, I'll take Dave's lead in starting to feed them now. Swarming usually happens when there's insufficient room in the hive, and Dave suggested shifting the frames around to give them more room — there are six completely unused frames at the southern end of the brood box.

On the other hand, as several wise beekeepers have told me, if they are going to swarm, they will swarm. I suppose there's something to be said for letting nature do its thing, especially at this late stage. The bees are better at managing their colony than me, I'm sure, and despite how I call them 'our bees', we don't own them.

Other than this, we have a fairly docile, healthy colony over the same 4½ frames. There are about two framefuls of stores, a strong ring of muddy yellow pollen surrounding a core of biscuity brood.

Great news from Dave's colony! We saw the queen today, and although we couldn't see many eggs, we could see larvae and pupae from about 7 days at all stages, including hatching. Things are looking good there, not a sign of a queen cell, and Dave seemed visibly relieved. He took us out for lunch after the inspection and we had a nice wander around Burnham.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C110✔ 0e2l90022°C ☀

I was at the apiary today with a couple of hours without anything to do so I sharpened an old pair of shears and tidied up the grass, something we'd both been meaning to do for a little while. I didn't have my bee suit so I just kept back from the bees, and all went well. We'd noticed earlier in the day that the bees were bringing back a lot of either dark grey or bright orange pollen. I thought it would be nice to get a photo, but one of the guard bees had clearly had enough of all this nonsense and gave me a sting on my upper cheek. This is my first sting as a beekeeper and I thoroughly deserved it. And all this after suggesting to Dave not to use a strimmer near the hives in case the vibrations disturb the bees and make them want to attack.

I deserved this partly because I spent longer around them than I needed to, but mostly because I wasn't wearing a veil. If attacked or seriously disturbed, bees will go for sensitive areas around the head of their attackers, guided in part by their exhaled carbon dioxide. When a bee stings anything larger than an insect, her stinger — drones don't have stingers — is drawn into the victim by two barbed slides either side of a stylus. As one barbed slide catches and retracts, the stylus and the other barbed slide is pulled into the wound. This process tears the stinger from the bee's body and kills her. Her last moments are spent flying around the head of the victim, distracting them, as though to sting again. It's pretty convincing.

What remains in the wound is a venom sac on the end of a long stinger. Once these are inside the victim it pumps out more melittin-rich apitoxin as well as releasing alarm pheromones signalling to the other bees to attack. Weirdly, in Africanised honey bees, which are much more defensive than our European bees, chasing people up to 400m and killing horses, these pheromones smell like bananas. The pheromone is hard to get off the attacker, and won't wash off easily.

As for the stinger, it's generally recommended to scrape it out of the wound, with a knife or credit card, for example, or even a fingernail if nothing else is available. However, a study in The Lancet suggested that the amount of venom delivered is the same whether the sting is scraped or pinched if done within two seconds, and the main thing is to just get it out quickly. My dad scraped with surgical precision with a Stanley knife he had to hand and as a result there's barely any reaction now. So, no real pain and no harm done, apart from to the bee, regrettably...

It could have been much worse than one sting to the face, of course, but it's enough for me to learn my lesson to wear at least a veil and not to take our bees' docile nature for granted.

Dave and I spent an hour inspecting this morning. It is idyllic — just us and the bees, the sun in the sky, the smoke wafting out of the smoker, with horses walking by, interrupted only by the occasional falconry drone. It's very easy to get in the zone when inspecting, kind of a mixture of being relaxed and also very focussed on the comb.

So, the status report from Colony One, still operating on 4½ frames with lots of tidy comb. My focus this time was on checking on the forming queen cells I'd seen, and wondering if my colony were going to get a new queen. The raised cell that we thought was a supersedure cell is no longer there. Maybe it was the beginnings of a queen cup that was later abandoned. It couldn't have held any egg at that point, anyway. There were no signs of chalk brook or bald brood this time. The varroa seems to be low in this colony too. The bees look healthy and were pretty relaxed (until we shook them off the frames).

There is brood of both types, flat worker and raised drone, and big plump white pupae all over the place, in the familiar pattern, nicely tight and compact. I did see some eggs, but not as many as I'd like. Over in Dave's colony, we tried hard for several minutes to find either the queen or some eggs, but to no avail. In both cases, and especially in Dave's, the central brood area is jam-packed with capped brood and grubs over maybe two or three frames in each case, and perhaps there's simply no room for the new eggs. Definitely something to look for in the next inspection, and ask some more experience beekeepers about.

We were both concerned about the lack of eggs and having not seen a queen. The other concern was the quantity of winter stores. Dave remarked at how from the weight of the frame, the quantity of stores and perhaps the general population felt as though it had reduced since the last inspection. When he'd lifted them out, we didn't see more than perhaps a frameful, along with a general reduction in the amount of comb being built. Dave had brought along some Candipolline Gold and left 500g of it to help with the stores. My bees have a bit more but I think I'll be starting feeding earlier and throughout September, just as Thomas had advised.

I continue to love looking at pollen. The bee bread in my colony is a dull grey but in Dave's there's some beautifully bright orange stuff in the familiar rings around the brood, as well as on the bees' corbiculae (pollen baskets). Apparently some people cook with bee bread. Anyway, we also saw a couple of times bees with their proboscises together, transferring food to each other (trophallaxis).

We both said we need to get better at finding the queen, though I suspect we see her retinue often and don't think to look for the queen among them. Maybe there's an online practice site we can visit or even create — I've found an online photo album and even a book so far. Maybe we should just mark her the next time we see her, but since she's from a swarm, I wonder which year's colour she'd need to be marked with.

I've realised that I need to make a couple of changes with my record-keeping, specifically recording the number of frames on which I saw brood and recording stores by summing up both the total stores on all frames. The fact that I've seen 4½ frames all along on which there were some stores, is useless in situations like today when I want to know whether the total quantity of stores is going up or down. So from now on, I'll report the sum of the stores, and use the letter 's' to mean the number of frames used solely for stores, for example in a super.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 20e2l80019°C ☀

Today's inspection was rained off, but we still went to take a look. Instead of opening up the hives, D and I had a look at the bottom boards while Dave cut back the long grass and brambles around the apiary, giving us much more room. We talked about how my hive is low to the ground, and how to avoid damp over the winter. Dave suggested using paving slabs in the short term, and for the longer term he offered to make another double stand on which my hive could sit. You can see the difference between the stands in the post about the trail camera. We must all have felt as though beekeeping is something we'd like to keep doing for some time, because with the talk of this new stand came talk of a possible expansion to four colonies next year.

Anyway, it looks like tomorrow will be sunny, so we're going to do the inspection then.

Local beekeepers' association meetings can be an essential source of advice, being full of very experienced beekeepeers. I went to yesterday's apiary meeting of Burnham Beekeepers with a bunch of questions, mostly from Thursday's inspection.

Firstly, some cool backstory about the second colony. They were found in an old sofa, covered in wax, on a farm near Berrow. Thomas said they refused to go in the hive at first for an hour but the next day they'd set up home. The second colony were the last swarm he collected of the season, so we have been very lucky.

On the other hand, after talking about some of the things we'd seen, it became clear that we're dealing with two possibly weak and definitely small colonies. They are going to need special care if we're going to have them around in the spring. This means doing a few things. Firstly, as the foraging sources deplete from September onwards — or maybe earlier depending on the weather — they'll need to start being fed more sugar syrup. Not just every week, but checks every other day to make sure they are topped up. Without enough food they would begin to go robbing other hives. The availability or otherwise of winter stores is the colonies' biggest threat at the moment. Secondly, we may need to be more assertive with Varroa management, even if we don't see much evidence of it. An icing sugar shaker isn't going to cut it, and some people said that method can damage grubs. A dose of Apiguard in September was recommended, irrespective of the low varroa levels now, with a midwinter oxalic acid treatment. I've done this before during my time at Walworth Garden, where we treated with sublimation. Some people consider sublimation a more effective method, and you don't need to open up the hive and disturb the bees in the middle of December. Treatments are usually done in winter so that they don't affect the honey taken the next year, but we have the particularly important need to keep our colonies as strong as possible. Finally, over winter, it's said that not the cold that kills bees, it's the damp, and we'll just need to keep an eye on that, not that I think we have a big issue with that at the moment.

What about the things we saw on Thursday? The few cells of chalkbrood is likely a sign of stress rather than damp, and doesn't demand much action. The raised, cratered cell is likely to be drone brood hatching in its own time. My pessimistic diagnosis of bald brood turned out to be wrong — it's just be new bees hatching and nature doing its thing. Most interesting of all, the extruded cell in the centre of the central frame is indeed likely to be a supersedure cell, and there may be more. It seems that the queen is about to be replaced, drone brood is around to help with that, and we can only hope the attempt is successful.

All this useful advice and the lines of questioning that led to it goes to show something about experience in general — that people who really know their stuff work not by ticking off a checklist, but by being able to tell when something is different or unusual. At the moment our inspections feel a bit overwhelming to do within the ten minutes the bees give us, as we try to remember all there is to do. Hopefully as we get into beekeeping, we'll be able to just scan the frames, see what's out of place, and gain a deeper understanding of the colony. It's been fun so far.

D and Dave have a cool camouflaged motion-activated trail camera that they use to capture photos and video of wildlife. They set the camera up for a week or two and if it sees any motion, it records images or video onto a micro SD card, using night vision if it's dark. The results are usually pretty good. We've seen plenty of deer, foxes and rabbits, for example.

Here we can see a nice view of our two hives in the rather long grass, taken on Tuesday morning at half-past seven. Two birds are perched on the gate and another one is just coming in to join them. Of course, there's not a bee to be seen.

We're now into August, and we're over most of the swarming season and into the time of year when most beekeepers begin to think about harvesting honey. For those of us looking after new colonies, we're thinking of the sufficiency of food stores as the nectar supply dries up and pest control such Varroa treatments. Although my colony has a few potential problems (see later), the drop on the bottom tray is low and the colony comes from a swarm, which is considered to be a lower risk for varroa. Originally the place was to treat them with a thymol-based treatment, but we've decided to hold off for a few weeks if things continue to look good, on the basis that it's best to leave them alone if we can get away with it. We can consider other options if things suddenly get bad later.

Welshie on IRC noted the burr comb on the bottom of the frame in the picture for the last entry, and advised removing it to stop the development of brace comb. Brace comb spans gaps to give rigidity, but makes inspection difficult and may end up containing valuable stuff like brood or honey. Given my bees' propensity to build irregular comb, I'm going to have to be more diligent in scraping it off with my hive tool than usual. Since last week, another two clumps of it had been built. Dave remove it and put it on top of the frames for the bees to recover the wax and any nectar from. You can also fix it inside an empty frame with rubber bands, or just take it away in a container with a lid, but don't just leave it behind, because that can attract predators.

Anyway, we had the third inspection today, with B and D both in attendance with plenty of enthusiasm. As ever, things looked good, but with a few surprises. And as ever, the list of things to look out for was longer than a reasonable time limit would allow, so we didn't much queen spotting, but instead looked more carefully at the comb. We saw the queen last week, and I could make out some eggs too, if in fewer numbers. Eggs are hard for me to make out on the comb on even a bright but cloudy day. Next time I'm going to bring my glasses and a head torch to see whether that makes it easier.

Now, those surprises. There were three. Firstly, there was the beginning of one extruded cell on the comb. Although it didn't appear to hang down, this could be the beginning of a single supersedure cell, signalling the colony's intention to replace the existing queen. As is often the case with beekeeping, the advice is to leave well alone and hope for a successful outcome. If it is a supersedure cell, we can hope the supersedure is successful and we end up with a new queen — one which can lay and has enough sperm not to just lay drones. Maybe, rather than my eyesight, the reason why I couldn't see many eggs was that the queen isn't up to the job. Secondly, possible signs of disease. I saw a couple of cells with dead white brood in them. This larval 'mummification' is a sign of chalkbrood, not usually a serious matter in a healthy colony but more of a potential problem in smaller, stressed colonies. Interestingly, the National Bee Unit advise that avoiding damp apiary sites will help to minimise chalkbrood, and we may well have an issue with that, as I've noted before. I might need to get my hive up on the higher and stronger stand that Dave made (incidentally, here's how to make one). Thirdly, about five or ten raised, cratered, open-topped cells could be seen, with possibly the two eyes of a bee ready to emerge within. It reminded me of the cell shape in the signs of bald brood, but there's no white larvae inside, and no lines of cells or clumping from the underlying tunnelling wax moth larvae. However, bald brood is the premature uncapping of pupae. Sometimes that's genetic and re-queening usually solves it. So, again, I'm not worried very much, particularly as it's only a few cells. Maybe they are just fully-matured but dead, or maybe the bee is waiting for some reason before emerging. I'll ask at the next local association apiary meeting in a couple of days.

Otherwise, I'm generally happy — a recognisably good brood pattern on the same 4½ (northmost) frames if a little holey, a nice circle of dusty grey-brown pollen had grown since last time, lots of winter stores building up, lots of nice larvae and capped brood in the cells and a nice docile colony. Dave and D's colony looked great, building out the comb, no queen seen but laying abundantly and generally looking active and happy. Afterwards, we went home, talked about what we'd seen, and played Tantrix and chess mini-games.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBrood# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 50e✔ CB? BB?l90022°C ☁

A seventeenth-century saying goes "a swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly."

Well, you could have fooled us. Today's inspection, at half past eight on a nice sunny morning, was the first time I'd inspected hives with Dave. We're pretty happy with what we saw. The queen was seen on both of the colonies, as well as lots of honey stores being built up, and no obvious signs of pests or disease. Dave and D's colony has all the signs of a good start — eggs, stores and a bit of pollen. There are more bees in this newer colony and Dave remarked that the frames felt heavy.

Seeing the (unmarked) queen on the colony I'm looking after is a relief, though last week I saw a hundred or so eggs so I wasn't too concerned. Since then those eggs have developed, and there is now a lot of biscuity capped brood, surrounded by pollen, surrounded by a lot of pale honey stores in the familiar pattern. I could also see quite a few larvae developing.

Last week I noticed that the bees had decided to build to one side of the hive. Dave's hive is the same configuration as mine — cold way — and his bees are starting from the north side of the hive too. The other weird thing last week was the irregular comb. They've built this out even further in the past week, almost appearing like it's a bit overloaded, appearing to bridge a little between frames occasionally. However, there's a good corridor of bee space between each, so I'm sure they know what they're doing. I noticed quite a lot of propolis too, and had to use the hive tool for the first time to crack apart sections of the hive. Another look at the bottom board, mostly covered in wax flakes and a few dead bees, doesn't suggest (yet) that there's a big Varroa problem in either colony.

D has a theory that her colony have more natural, wilder, foraging behaviour, having left their sugar syrup alone and seen feeding on the nearby hedgerows. We'd left a total of 1350ml of sugar syrup for mine, but the hivewarming present is over now and so I removed the feeder. Time will tell whether they go out foraging on the hedge, but the muddy yellow blackberry pollen here and there on the comb suggests they have been out a bit already.

After we'd put out the smoker and talked about all we'd seen, we all headed off to spend the day exploring the area around Wills Neck on the Quantocks, which reminded me why I love living in Somerset.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBrood# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10l80019°C ☀

Well, first of all I'm happy to report that the bees are still there after the 35°C heat we had on Thursday. I was up in Yorkshire and kept thinking about how they'd built their comb on the north side of the hive, and how that might mean they were looking for a cool corner of the hive even before all these record-breaking temperatures.

While up visiting friends, I've signed up for the National Bee Unit's BeeBase, so I can be up to date on any local disease and pest outbreaks and I can arrange for a bee inspector to visit, should any serious problems come along. I explored the site a bit more and found some useful disease inspection maps and stats. Among all there is to read there, their advisory publications are available to download along with photos depicting signs of common diseases and pests. Both of these were useful in going over what I'd learned on courses about spotting signs of trouble early, though of course there are many other guides to bee diseases with clear pictures out there.

Related to this, I'm told by friends visiting the Isle of Man that there's no Varroa mite on the Island, nor do they need to treat for the majority of bee diseases. This suprising fact is in part due to the strict controls on the import of bees, bee products or hive equipment.

Thomas brought a second swarm to the apiary tonight and put them in Dave and D's hive. We're really pleased — we now have two distinct colonies, each of which will develop in their own way, and therefore twice the opportunity to learn.

B and I performed the first hive inspection today, with B operating the smoker and me checking through each of the frames. Broadly speaking, after ten days, the colony looked pretty good to me. The structure of the hive looked good — a good weight of capped pale sugar/honey around the top, with the occasional pollen here and there in the middle. Roughly central to the four-and-a-half frames they'd been working on, beneath the honey on the frame, were a stripe of only about a hundred tiny eggs, not quite at the ten-day stage, but eggs nevertheless. This was good, because neither me nor B could spot the queen this time, and the increasing buzzing of a usually very docile colony reminded us that the clock was ticking before we had to replace the roof.

I was really pleased to see no clear signs of disease. I was sort of expecting some disease in a collected swarm somehow, so I think we've been lucky, though of course it doesn't mean no disease is present. I had a look at the varroa board and although there's a lot of light-coloured debris on there, I don't think there is much sign of a varroa problem. For the next inspection I'll make sure I know how to read the varroa board a bit better, though. The other thing I was pleased with was the temper of the colony — they seemed to get only barely agitated at this first, significant, invasion of their home. This is especially good because B is having his first experience of beekeeping with these inspections.

A few surprises, too. Rather than starting in the middle, the bees appear to be working on the comb from the one side of the hive to the other. They're starting from the north side, but we saw quite a few bees doing not much besides buzzing around on the south side too. Maybe it's something to do with the temperature or ventilation in the hive, or the 'cold way' orientation of the frames (i.e. they are perpendicular to the entrance). They are drawing out almost white, irregular comb, some of it hanging off the bottom of the frame, some bulging out here and there, but there's a fairly regular bee space left between the combs, which is the main thing.

They'd left the supermarket fondant alone, so that was removed. However, they had finished up the 650ml of sugar syrup I'd left for them a week ago, so B and I came back later and he topped up their rapid feeder with another 700ml. We think there's plenty of food for them in the environment outside their hive, though, so maybe it's just a nice housewarming present that we've left for them rather than an absolute necessity. In any case, my sister has no sugar left in her cupboard now with all the syrup we've been making.

I now realise why beekeepers say it's good to have a goal in mind for the inspection, because I suppose until you learn to 'read' the frames, it feels like a lot to remember if you aim to do it all, and you get torn between being aware of the need to get it done quickly but also trying to look for everything possible too. So, inspection goals. Next time, the plan is to try to find the queen again and to look for the continued development of the brood.

I enjoy playing around with data, so I'm planning to keep quite detailed hive records, using the BBKA's system as a starting point. For what it's worth, I've extended my blogging software to handle weekly data as rows of a virtual inspection logbook, to appear along with the blog entry. This data can be combined to form the record for the year. In the data, 'C1' just means colony 1. This week's row is...

Queen seen?Queen cellsBrood# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C103✔ 100e?9700ml 1:1025°C ☀

Earlier this week, the presence of European Foul Brood in Bristol (35km away) was reported on the BBC's Farming Today. This came along with a request from the government for beekeepers to sign up to the National Bee Unit's Beebase to assist them in tracking outbreaks and to receive outbreak alerts. The BBKA added that collected swarms should be isolated, fed, and left to go through one cycle of brood, so that it can be checked for infection. Having been involved in destroying two infected colonies in the past — definitely not the happier side of beekeeping — I'm very keen to be able to say that the colony is free of disease.

Balancing this with the need to leave them alone, I've decided to aim for next Wednesday for my first proper inspection of the hive. Of course, I want to check they're still there, so I've been down to the hive a couple of times this week. I've replaced their mountain of supermarket fondant with some 1:1 syrup in a rapid feeder. I've also put up some willow screening along one side of the apiary to both shield the bees from the wind and to obscure the view from the nearby road. Amazingly, beehive theft is a thing, and it's increasingly becoming a thing.

Finally, I've started following the work of OpenBeeLab, a free and open-source research programme based around bees, via their IRC channel #openbeelab. OpenBeeLab run projects like OpenHiveManager, a tool to manage and monitor beehives, and art projects which produce 'data, sculptures, exhibitions and sound'. Of most interest to me, though, was the OpenHiveScale (with an introductory video in French). It seems very nicely engineered. With this you can remotely track the production of honey, the strength of the colony, and check for signs of swarming or theft. The scale reports its data over GSM, LoRa, Sigfox, or plain old wifi, with 3 AA batteries lasting up to five years. The first production run is now sold out, but the scale is all open source and can be made (and repaired) at home from the supplied plans, with maybe a bit of help from your local hackspace. Other DIY remote beehive monitoring projects also specify construction details, for example BeeMonitor, Beep and Hiveeyes. There are many more out there, however, and the Hiveeyes project collects a long list of open source and DIY projects to look into.

The swarm are still in the hive, and there are still bees holding their waggling abdomens aloft at the entrance, and, as far as I can tell, eating some of the mountain of fondant we left for them. Assuming they decide to stay, they now have a busy time ahead as they set up home in the new hive. Of course, I'm fighting a huge temptation to go and fuss over them, check their food, take off the crown board and peek into the hive, and so on, but they must be left alone until they're fully settled and comfortable. That means that for the time being, all I can do in the way of 'inspecting' the bees is to do what the cattle neighbouring the apiary do — stand back and watch them flying in and out of the hive.

I've been wondering for the last week or so whether we had left things too late this year, and mentally preparing myself to start beekeeping next May instead. However, this morning Thomas O'Neill from Burnham Beekeepers rang me up to tell me he had collected a small swarm from a tree in Cossington, about 12km away on the other side of the Levels. Ten minutes later, he turned up at my house in his big van. Inside the van was a small cardboard box draped in an old blanket, buzzing much less than I thought it would. We headed off to the apiary site, tipping the box over the brood box and brushing the stragglers in. Within minutes they were fanning by the entrance, sending out the Nosonov pheromone to signal 'come on in' to the others.

I'm really pleased at all this, but the next few days are rather critical. They might stay, or they might go. I'm going to be leaving them well alone for a week to settle in. However, they are likely to be pretty hungry at this point, so Jamie and I went to the local supermarket to get a block of fondant for them in case they they don't get enough food quickly enough from their new environment. Jamie is visiting this weekend and has been co-opted into beekeeping. His first experience of it was just after he'd put on his bee suit — a man driving by shouted at us that 'it's not Hallowe'en yet!'. Nice.

Anyway, the new hivemates seemed pretty happy four hours later when we put the fondant in, still fanning away. That, together with all the blackberry blossom and other food sources around the apiary site that Thomas noticed earlier, should provide them with enough. Fingers crossed they decide to stick around.

Older updates for June 2019 and before are archived. Indices are available for the year 2019.