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.

Some evenings, I climb the hill near my house to see if the sunset is going to be pretty or not. On my way back, I met Dave. He told me two interesting things.

Firstly, I showed him my stung hand, which was so pudgy that it looked like I no longer had knuckles. I am beginning to worry that I have some kind of sensitivity to bee stings — I wonder whether that kind of sensitivity gets worse or better with repeated stings... Anyway, Dave told me that plaintain, or fleawort, is considered a treatment for bee stings. If you don't have a pestle handy, you can make a poultice of it by just chewing it up and spitting it onto the sting. It's a weed and grows all over the place, including in my front garden, where it looks like some kind of extraterrestrial plant. It's too late for the sting I got on Tuesday, but I'll give this a go next time.

We also talked about the idea of a hive scale — Dave's been looking at Bee Hive Monitoring. He was telling me about a plot on their site showing their bees' response to fireworks on New Year's Eve 2017. The temperature of the hive drops rapidly, by a whole degree Centigrade. We were talking about that and whether it was a response to loud noises or something else. We're both really tempted by the idea of hive telemetry, if only to know a bit more about what's going on in the hives over winter, and it reminded me to try to hang out on OpenBeeLab's IRC channel a bit more.

Well, the forecast worked well today, with sunny, warm conditions for a marathon two-hour inspection with three generations of the Rawles family — my dad, my sister, and B. It turned out the lighter I bought from the garage wasn't particularly suitable for beekeeping, but luckily Dad had a blowtorch. It gave the smoker a volume of smoke we'd not encountered before, but B managed to keep the smoke puffing away gently, as well as holding frames and applying treatments. His confidence is really improving. This was the first inspection at which I'd ask him what he could see on the comb, and he impressively knows exactly what he's looking at. He later said that seeing new bees emerging from capped brood was amazing. Later we confirmed what he'd seen by looking at Wikipedia's nice series of photos illustrating the honey bee life cycle.

The first colony — the one B and I have been concentrating on — looked reassuringly normal, with nothing major to report. I'm always pretty bad at counting framefuls of brood and stores, but there were perhaps five frames of stores and two frames of brood in all stages. We even saw the eggs, and the brood pattern seemed somehow more normal this time, though the eggs were at the edge of a central frame. The colony now occupies seven frames, with nearly all of it being drawn out and used. The bees are building a bit of brace comb on the eighth frame, but no actual construction work is taking place.

The weather had dictated that a Tuesday afternoon would be the only opportunity for an inspection this week. Dave and D weren't available, and so B and I had two hives to inspect. Their hive was, as usual, a delight, with its docile, productive inhabitants. About seven or eight frames were in use, with the space with lots of nice healthy brood. Their bees had taken full advantage of the improvement in the weather, with a large queue of bees carrying lots of bright yellow pollen forming around the entrance, ready to store the results of their foraging.

This week a couple of ekes came, and we used them to treat with Apiguard directly on the brood frames, as I believe you should. The cartons from our last treatment were above the crown board and were only half-touched. I didn't have time to stain the ekes, but we shouldn't need them for longer than a week or two. I'd also ordered some longer, thicker nitrile gloves. The ones I used before were just the cheapest nitrile gloves at Proper Job, but no bee would ever sting through them. Within a couple of minutes of putting on the new gloves, a bee had stung me on the hand, at the time of writing rather red and puffed-up. I had to borrow dad's thick latex gloves, with which I could barely manipulate the frames. I don't know why bees don't sting through nitrile, but based on this experience, maybe it's only some gloves that provide the mysterious protection.

We've now finished with sugar syrup. Dave and D got a load of Fondabee. Their bees have already started on a 1kg bag, but ours got their first pack today. I think the plan is to continue giving them fondant throughout the winter. Though we're happy with the stores they've built up, more food upstairs can't hurt.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed givenTreatment given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 2f? e5f?4L71kg FondabeeApiguard015°C ☁

It's now unmistakably autumn. A few weeks ago, we were inspecting on a sunny afternoon with the thermometer reading 24°C. Now, every day brings with it hours of rain. Inspecting is no longer a matter of turning up at the apiary when it happens to be convenient, but instead timing things so that the conditions are right. It seems as though the bees have no trouble with detecting when they should be out or in the hive, but we humans need to make use of weather forecasts.

Over the weekend, some friends from Bristol were thinking of coming to help me out with an inspection. Never one to pass up the opportunity to get friends hooked on beekeeping, I spent most of Sunday regularly looking at the sky, hoping that conditions would improve enough to open up the hives. Until about 2pm, it was tipping it down. Once the rain was over, the wind was up around 30km/h for the rest of the day. For a long time it was unclear whether the inspection could go ahead, and we eventually all agreed that it was best for the bees to be left alone.

Later that evening, I bashed up the code for a beekeeping forecast — an hour-by-hour forecast of the conditions affecting the suitability of an inspection over the following forty-eight hours, powered by Dark Sky's API. An inspection should only take place if it's sufficiently warm, dry, still, and of course during daylight hours, preferably when they are out foraging. Some beekeepers claim that a very cloudy day doesn't go down well with the bees, too, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, the forecast tests each of these conditions against desirable criteria, giving them traffic light colours depending on whether the conditions rule things out (red), look iffy (yellow) or are ideal (green). If all the criteria are met, the forecast assigns a score of one to five bees to rate the suitability of that hour-long slot. Of course, it's all reliant on the underlying forecast being accurate — the weather on the Somerset Levels has a tendency to deviate a bit from most forecasts — but it should be interesting to see if it works.

I am happy to set up a customised page for any other beekeeper who'd like one, for free. The customised forecast can specify your own conditions and criteria. Just drop me a line and let me know you'd like one.

I've been away for the weekend and come back to an almost relentlessly wet Somerset. My trip away meant that an inspection was a little overdue. Ralf (pictured) is visiting for a few days and I needed someone to help me. Ralf's initial concerns about being stung were tempered only by the desire to take a teaspoonful of honey. We weren't sure if the latter would lead to the former, but in the end neither happened. He did a great job helping with the smoker — including actually keeping it going — adding the syrup to the feeder, and videoing the whole inspection to look at later.

Despite the 30kph wind and the temperature being slightly too cold (14°C), things went very well. As well as that, we're in a period of almost consistent rainy weather for a week or two, and we had to wait for a gap in the rain, with our first trip to the apiary rained off. In the second trip, not long before sunset, we met a colony of surprisingly docile, perhaps even sleepy, bees. Docile, that is, considering the windy weather we were subjecting them to. We tried to do things at a fair pace, so no stopping for long to look for the queen, but we think we saw some eggs, meaning there was brood in all stages in the hive. There was also capped worker brood in fairly healthy numbers.

To make room for the queen to lay, last time I had inserted a new frame into the centre of those that were already there, for a total of seven frames. This (frame 4) is now being drawn out, though brood, including fat larvae, can now be found on even the original frames (e.g. frame 2) which formerly contained stores, as well as the new frames which were inserted. On these frames there were a fair amount of empty, dark, cells from which bees have recently emerged. This leaves a rather odd pattern over the structure of the colony as a whole, but that's probably to be expected given all the frame-shuffling. However, the bees are doing expansion of their own — they are expanding the other side of the the last frame, frame 7, drawing out the foundation for stores.

Talking of stores, perhaps there were slightly fewer this week, due to the rainy weather. Ralf gave them another top-up of 1.3l of 2:1 syrup (pictured, complete with embarrassingly mouldy feeder) to make up for the difficulties they'd have in foraging in all this wet weather. Strictly speaking, feeding should be completed by now in order to give the bees a chance to drive off all the excess water, so perhaps this should be the last feed. In any case, they still have a decent amount put away, as well as clear bands of pollen on even the new frames, so things look generally good.

We'd both enjoyed the inspection and headed home for dinner. When I opened my equipment bag we realised that by not checking our suits for bees, we'd picked up a hitchhiker who was now buzzing around my kitchen. More careful post-inspection checks in future, then.

Especially with the wet and rather cooler weather stretching out into the middle of next week, it's unclear when the next inspection will be, but we still have a few jobs to do on the hives for winter such as fitting mouse guards, but these can wait for the next sunny day.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 1¼f e4L91.3l 2:1014°C ☁ windy

I won't be going to visit the hives for a day or two, so I thought maybe some bee folklore would be interesting. In the nineteenth century in rural Britain, when there was a death in the family, particularly of the beekeeper, somebody would have to go out and inform the bees of the loss. This was usually done by draping the hive with black crêpe or some other 'shred of black', knocking once, and delivering the solemn news to the bees. If this wasn't done, the bees may swarm, get ill, or even die themselves.

The practice, or rather those of New England families who brought them over to the USA, is described more fully in a recent JSTOR Daily article. It speculates that the origin of the practice may be 'in Celtic mythology, where the presence of a bee after a death signified the soul leaving the body'. It cites Telling the Bees, a 1858 poem in which the tradition is depicted, by John Greenleaf Whittier:

And the song she was singing ever since / In my ear sounds on:— / "Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence! / Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"

Well, I think that must have been the best inspection so far. It's been raining for a few days, but this evening we had a reasonable temperature for an inspection, and no rain, but a fairly strong wind. We also had a lovely autumn sunset, and even the smoker worked reliably.

The hive had been superglued together with propolis, but when I did crack it apart and get inside, I could see that they'd hardly touched the syrup. In fact, the mouldy green tinge on it suggested that it needed to be taken away soon. Under the crownboard, we could see that Dave's plan to insert a new frame in the centre of the five they'd previously occupied had worked — there was comb drawn out there. When the inspection got to that frame and the one before it, we were delighted to see two sides of biscuity capped worker brood, so there must have been tiny eggs last week. The colony will need more than one frame of brood, though, so we decided to insert another frame into the centre. If all goes well, next week we'll have the classic colony structure, now with seven full frames. Beekeepers seem to do this relatively rarely, but our colonies are from late swarms and have no supers. Ordinarily the bees would make a more chimney-shaped colony, using the room in the supers, even though they may not be able to maintain it over winter.

So, we have a laying emergency queen, which Thomas said would likely be booted out next spring when there's time and resources for a proper one to take over. But she was mated and started laying remarkably quickly, and with that brood we at least know that there are new worker bees to support the colony over the coming winter. As well as this, there are the five heavy frames of stores, with the bees building burr comb wherever they could to store even more. By now it was all full of sticky nectar, and when Dave broke it off to leave elsewhere in the hive, the syrup oozed all over the place.

Dave and D had a great inspection of their hive too, with larvae emerging from the abundant brood, a lot of the fondant gone, a possible sighting of the queen. They seem like a generally happy and productive colony, and all of us are really pleased to see things goes so well. We really are learning a lot.

We treated for Varroa today with Apiguard, not using an eke, but by putting the open pack on the crownboard of each colony. I guess we should use an eke for the second treatment. We haven't seen much of a varroa problem at all this year, but we're following a varroa treatment plan anyway. But no mouseguards yet — the diameter of the holes is such that they can scrape the pollen from bees carrying it back to the hive. Also, given the reduction in feeding, the rapid feeder will be coming out and we'll be switching to fondant for winter. Dave and D have been using fondant containing pollen but they'll be switching to plain old fondant soon, so I'll be going the same way. I still have about ten kilograms of sugar in my cupboard, but that'll keep until next year!

Finally, if the coming week is rainy and you're stuck inside, you can watch a five-minute archive film to see how beekeeping was done in 1928 in Pinner (Greater London). The film is silent and features a beekeeping instructor who takes a rather cavalier attitude to things like veils — they are 'deemed unnecessary if a few simple rules are observed'. These do appear to be very chilled-out bees — the instructor can stick his naked arm into the hive and have them sit happily on his arm. He also doesn't use a smoker. Maybe the cigarette dangling from his mouth when he's showing how to manipulate the frames works just as well. The film is from the British Film Institute, who have about half a dozen more short films about beekeeping in their archive.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed givenTreatment given# supers addedWeather
C10✔ 155L80Apiguard016°C ☀ windy

I dropped by to give the bees a top-up of syrup. My uncle Richard and my dad have commented on how there seem to be far fewer bees going in and out of the hive compared to Dave and D's, though I guess a few litres of sugar syrup in the roof is motivation enough to cancel foraging flights, especially on gloomy, rainy days.

Feed givenWeather
C11l 2:117°C ☁

Well, I wanted a mild autumn, and if today's weather lasts, oh, I don't know, another month, I should think we'll be all right. With bee suits made from polycotton, today's 24°C heat felt a bit much for some, but it turned out to be another surprising inspection.

Firstly, B saw the queen, right there on the central frame again. I might be imagining it, but she's a bit bigger this week. There are no signs of eggs, but that would be expecting a bit much this week, I think. There are no signs of queen cells either.

The bees had consumed very little of the feed from yesterday, and looking into the hive, the reason was clear. Every nook and every cranny is filled with sugar, nectar or honey. Of course, the warm weather may have brought more forage, but, like all that syrup in the rapid feeder, there's just nowhere to put that either. Frames have been extended to make room for yet more, so there's burr and brace come all over the place, often just dripping with the stuff. The smoker wasn't staying lit for very long, and I had no way to disperse the bees, so, like a coward, I put the frames back. I didn't like how some of the bees were sitting on my hands menacingly. I'll probably regret this next week as I tear apart that beautiful comb by pulling it out. But the lack of smoker wasn't too big of a deal generally. We just took our time and did it methodically.

Usually during these inspections I'm off in my own thoughts, so it was good that Dave made the suggestion of making a bit more room by putting one of the unused frames between the full-up five we have now. An empty frame was put between frames 3 and 4. I hope in the week before the next inspection, some of the workers will at least draw out some of that comb to use for laying. I know this place has its opponents, usually arguing that the bees — especially in a small colony like this one — need to keep their brood space compact and in line with what they can physically do, and they know what they're doing. But there is simply no room left for anything — stores or brood — so I went ahead and did it. If any beekeepers are reading this, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts, even — especially — if I'm doing it wrong.

An inspection of Dave and D's hive brought the happy news that drones aren't being evicted just yet, and the queen has a dating pool. Brood is in all stages of development in that colony, and the bees had only the slightest touch of grumpiness today.

Next week, with a bit of smoke and a bit of courage, I'll try to remove that brace comb. D suggested fitting mouse guards and we all agreed its probably time for the Apiguard. I'm also already very keen to know what they did with that empty fourth frame.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C1✔ fairly sure056L80024°C ☀

The bees are taking less and less syrup. Today's feed was a top-up of the feeder, leaving some syrup left over in the jar. Tomorrow's inspection should be enlightening.

Fans of bees and other Fluginsekten should check out Insektenflug, full of great photos of flying insects, including a few of mostly pollen-covered honey bees.

Feed givenWeather
C1800ml 2:118°C ☀

Another sunset feed, with perhaps 250ml of syrup still in the feeder, a possible slow-down in feeding. And even with a stinking cold, I noticed my habit of using packaging materials in the smoker is giving the smoke an unpleasant, acrid smell. If I don't like it, I can't imagine the bees are very keen either. Maybe it's not just paper or cardboard in those materials, so I'm going to try to find a better alternative for next time.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:116°C ☀

Today's inspection was the first I've ever done entirely by myself. Far from B being someone who watches what we're doing, I realised today that he's a truly helpful assistant, because I found the whole process much harder without him. The smoker went out several times (there are plenty of good guides out there to help with this common problem). Because of that I'd have to wait for the bees to get out of the way in order not to crush any of them. I don't think I did. In any case, they were rather bad-tempered, with a few dive-bombing my face, or buzzing loudly around me, or otherwise trying to get me to shove off.

Anyway. First things first. I think I saw a new virgin queen, as well as one vacated queen cell. One of the bees was 20-30% longer, though no wider than the workers, with a blacker but still yellow-striped abdomen and a larger, shield-like back. There was no band of workers around her — she just moseyed around the central frame, passing among the workers. She looked very much like the queen appearing in this picture by Stephen Boulton, and a lot like most of the other pictures that appear when you do a search. All this is encouraging, but there were no eggs, nor brood nor drawn-out foundation for them to go in. Therefore, I think if she was a queen, she's yet to mate. Drones are a rarer sight now we're coming into autumn, but she may yet find that special someone.

The degree to which the bees are storing all that syrup was striking. Cells of all sorts — capped honey, uncapped honey, even some drips of nectar — covered all five frames, making them so heavy that my thumb joints were aching at the end of the inspection. I mentioned there were no eggs. There's also no room for any eggs with the wall-to-wall winter stores. The bees are forming brace comb on the sixth frame, which I tidied up to their mild annoyance, but drawing nothing out.

All in all, I'm feeling rather positive, but hoping that there are still drones nearby. In the best of circumstances, the hatch-to-lay process of the honeybee mating game is believed to take two to three weeks. Not only must her body harden and her pheromones develop, the weather must be right for the trip to the drone congregation area where she goes to fill her oviducts, perhaps more than once. Around autumn, drones are kicked out of the hive and their re-entry barred, so let's hope there's enough of them still around.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C1✔ fairly sure06L71.3l 2:1018°C ☀

With the abundance of updates about feeding getting a bit samey, I've adopted a bit of a newsroom slant for September.

With this in mind, there's another bit of news that I'm over a week late in reporting. That is, Germany is to ban glyphosate weedkiller by 2023, when the EU's approval period for it expires. A first phase will ban its use in parks and private gardens from next year. This follows a petition in Bavaria urging for the promotion of species diversity, which ten percent of the state's voters signed, prompting the local government to pass the law without the referendum it demanded. It's not just Germany banning it either — individual use is, or will be, prohibited in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and elsewhere.

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup. It is the world's most used agricultural chemical, so the change is going to be unpopular among farmers, even if bees' pollination is vital to three-quarters of food crops. Glyphosate was thought to be less harmful to bees than the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides since they target an enzyme only found in plants and bacteria. However, recent research suggests that glyphosate harms larval growth, impedes navigation and perturbs the bees' gut microbiota, since most bees' guts have the enzyme that glyphosate targets.

On a much more local level, I can report that given all these discoveries and what appears to be a growing fondness for the bees, my dad has decided to forgo the use of Roundup on the big area adjacent to the apiary, instead using the old-fashioned spade and less old-fashioned mower.

And about the feeding, this was the first day that I noticed any syrup left in the feeder. In forty hours only a litre of syrup had been taken, leaving about 300ml, suggesting that topping them up every other day is about right.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:119°C ☁

We met this visitor to our apiary this morning calmly sitting on the gate. It looked bigger than the honey bees, and, not knowing much about insects, I thought it might be a hornet. Checking a few pictures, I was unsure whether it was an Asian or boring old European hornet. I would have been wrong in both cases. Consulting a friendly expert — probably needlessly — I'm told the visitor was a hoverfly, 'many of which are extremely good wasp and bee mimics'.

Specifically, this looks like a Hornet (mimic) hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), which resemble worker hornets. But, being flies, they only have one pair of wings (hornets and wasps have two pairs). They also have more yellow stripes, rather than one fine yellow band, and much darker legs than the Asian hornet, which is also called the yellow-legged hornet, arguably a more useful name for those, like me, who don't know a hornet from a fly.

On the walk back from the apiary, I realised that I'm a day late in reporting, gentle reader (no, I only have one reader), that it's Asian Hornet Week. This non-native species is bad news not only for bees, but for other pollinators, and the BBKA are keen that everyone keeps an eye out for it, even suggesting that we put aside an hour each day to watch for hornets going for nectar. This is particularly important because not only was there a sighting near Tamworth, about 200km from us, on the second of September, but also one yesterday in Ashford, about 300km. There may have been more by the time you read this. DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency maintain an page of UK sightings which will provide rolling updates on the situation.

There's a push on to stop the Asian hornet establishing itself in the UK, and people are being encouraged to learn what they look like and report sightings. BeeBase has a page on the Asian hornet with details of its biology and useful documents to help identify them — an identification sheet (in English or Welsh), poster (in English or Welsh) and postcard (in English or Welsh). The Asian hornet is now widespread in France and the National Inventory of Natural Heritage of the French National Museum of Natural History have produced an informative factsheet explaining the difference between similar insects.

If you see an Asian hornet, you should report them via email to the Non-native Species Secretariat on, or via apps for iPhone or Android, or by filling out the online report form. Nests should be left well alone.

Beekeepers — with the requisite protective equipment such as a bee suit — who see Asian hornets can assist by attempting to collect a sample with a net, tennis racket or fly swatter. The less intrepid can also try to take a photograph. As well as this, beekeepers are encouraged to set out monitoring traps in their apiaries using the provided instructions and a YouTube video, and then update the National Bee Unit records via BeeBase to record that they've been set. The traps are made out of a two-litre pop bottle, some garden wire, some epoxy-coated floor mesh, some black plastic sheeting, and a bit of cardboard. It sounds like a good weekend project for us all if we can get together in the next few days to do it. It's simpler than one Tegwyn Twmffat's solution — a laser-equipped sentry gun controlled by a neural network.

Otherwise, another splendid sunset providing the backdrop to another visit to top up the empty feeder. The only unusual thing I saw was a cluster of woodlice in the roof. I'll have to check the whole hive for more during this weekend's inspection.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:117°C ☀ windy

It's beginning to get autumnal now, with a distinct bite in the air. Conditions were very pleasant for a meeting of all four of us — me, Dave, D and B — in a new, more relaxed and tranquil inspection approach. It really is a pleasantly unique way to spend an hour outdoors, and I always come back in a more contented frame of mind.

Anyway, avid readers of this blog will recall that just over a week ago the comb in Colony One was covered in queen cells, later understood to be emergency cells. Well, perhaps now the emergency is over, because all but one of the cells was as though it was never there, and that cell has been vacated. There's no sign of any queen as far as I could tell, but Dave told me that until she's mated she only appears marginally, perhaps unnoticably, longer than any other bees. For this and other reasons, she's harder to spot, and might be hanging out by the wall or corner of the hive. I think I saw a larger bee on the fourth frame of four and a half, so there's hope. What I don't remember seeing are were the big eyes and cigar-shaped bodies of any drones, even though there's been no queen and plenty of food so far. I wonder if they've been evicted already. I suppose it's not in the hive we need the drones, but some other colony which hasn't yet evicted them.

What we saw a lot of was stores. All that syrup we've been putting 'upstairs' has ended up where the brood cells used to be a few weeks ago when the queen was around. Old comb is now filled with shimmering nectar ready for winter, but not an egg, nor larva, nor capped pupa in sight. What this means if and when the new queen takes charge is anyone's guess, but there are six or so frames unused which could be used. I wonder — if the virgin queen mated and established new, late brood in the first couple of unused frames and stores in the rest then there would be an eleven-frame winter-ready colony. As ever, we'll have to watch and learn.

B got really stuck into the inspection process today, operating the smoker, filling the feeder, looking at the central frame, taking photos and filling out the checklist. He remarked on the propolis, on the honey capping, and the reticules. He was calm in spite of how bad-tempered the bees seemed to be today — he didn't flinch and was unbothered about being stung. I suppose the colony have been through a lot, so perhaps there's good reasons for them to be grumpy. There was still little sign of Varroa, so we held off on applying Apiguard for another week.

In Dave and D's hive everything looked great. Lots of brood, lots of storage, a docile colony, and a sighting of the queen.

Queen seen?Queen cellsBroodframefuls of stores# available frames for broodHealthEstimated mitesTemper / docilityFeed given# supers addedWeather
C1✘ unsure14L71.3l 2:1018°C ☀

Another evening visit to feed the bees with B and C, another empty feeder. B carefully tipped in the syrup and we spent five minutes before going looking at the pollen on the bees' corbiculae. The bees are going bananas for the syrup, and we're wondering whether to go every day for a bit to take advantage of that.

Talking of bananas, Julian forwarded a link to me which explains why bees hate bananas.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:118°C ☀ windy

Some more 2:1 syrup for the bees. The feeder was again empty, so it looks like we're going to feed them every other day at least. B poured the syrup in very carefully so as not to drown the bees that happened to be in the cup, with his sister C looking on. We had to go late in the day, but there was a great sunset.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:117°C ☁ windy

I went to the hive this evening to top up the feeder, and it was bone dry. I'd made up just over a litre of 2:1 syrup for them. As I poured it slowly into the feeder, twenty or so bees suddenly appeared in the cup to eat more. They're hungry.

In more dramatic news, two experienced beekeepers have told me that the cells in Friday's inspection that appeared to be half in a brood cell and half hanging off at almost right angles are in fact emergency queen cells. These are produced when some catastrophe has befallen the queen and the workers make a new queen from an existing brood cell. I haven't yet decided what, if anything, I'll do about this. There are several options, but I'll write more about all this in a few days.

Feed givenWeather
C11.3l 2:117°C ☁

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