Entries from 2019

Tuesday, 21st May 2019: Starting out
We've decided on a site for the beehives after a walkabout two weeks ago. There will be two hives there, one looked after by me and my nephew B and one looked after by Dave and D. After obtaining permission, we need to fence off a small bit of the field and then install the hives there. …
Monday, 3rd June 2019: The hive arrived
Someone from Federal Express came this morning to bring my new Thorne budget hive in a battered and torn cardboard box. I asked him to mark the delivery unchecked. 'It's because it contains wood', he opaquely explained. …
Wednesday, 5th June 2019: Hive-building progress
Earlier this week I opened up the box that my first hive came in. The contents turned out to be not only intact but also a really good kit. To experience this unboxing for yourself, watch Gruffydd Rees of Mêl Gwenyn Gruffydd in an unboxing video, one of many he's made. …
Wednesday, 12th June 2019: Some beekeeping podcasts
I'm a fan of podcasting; I get through at least a few hours of podcasts per day. So I thought I'd note down a few pointers to a few of the beekeeping podcasts that I've stumbled across. …
Thursday, 13th June 2019: Sore thumbs
The frames for the brood box and supers were what essentially remained of the hive building task list by Wednesday of last week. Making these was more fiddly work than the stages before, so I treated myself to a smaller hammer and decided to do it from the comfort of my kitchen. …
Thursday, 20th June 2019: Mae'n bwrw glaw
'You know the forecast is generated through expensive dice?', Dave asked me when we saw the forecast of rain. DarkSky, a forecasting site in which I admit that I have unrealistically blind faith, turned out to be right this time. …
Saturday, 22nd June 2019: Mae'n heulog eto
Well, we've had a few days of sunny weather and the ground has dried out. So, this morning Dave and I went out to the apiary site to put up a fence around where the hives will be. …
Saturday, 13th July 2019: My first bees
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. …
Sunday, 14th July 2019: Leave well alone
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. …
Saturday, 20th July 2019: Infection, inspection and remote detection
Earlier this week, the presence of European Foul Brood in Bristol (35km away) was reported on the BBC's Farming Today. …
Wednesday, 24th July 2019: A first look inside the hive
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. …
Thursday, 25th July 2019: New neighbours
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.
Tuesday, 30th July 2019: BeeBase
Well, first of all I'm happy to report that the bees are still there after the 35°C heat we had on Thursday. …
Lughnasadh 2019: Meeting the neighbours
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. …
Thursday, 8th August 2019: Signs on the comb and leaving alone
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. …
Saturday, 10th August 2019: The birds and the bees
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. …
Sunday, 11th August 2019: August's apiary meeting
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. …
Friday, 16th August 2019
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. …
Saturday, 17th August 2019: Stocking up for winter
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. …
Tuesday, 20th August 2019: Asking to get stung
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. …
Friday, 23rd August 2019: The form of a swarm, or the supersedure procedure?
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. …
Friday, 30th August 2019: An interim republic
The colony was fairly active today — lots of bees at the entrance and clusters of bees hanging off the frames and transferring food to each other. The inspection confirmed a lot of what we saw last week. …
Saturday, 31st August 2019: Honey extraction and honeydew
The local beekeepers' association runs a practical course, and today's session was on honey extraction. There was an extractor and strainer set up and we practiced uncapping frames of honey with the tool, and knives (heated and unheated). The smell and the general gooiness of the honey was great. …
Monday, 2nd September 2019
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. …
Wednesday, 4th September 2019
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. …
Friday, 6th September 2019
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. …
Sunday, 8th September 2019: The all clear?
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. …
Tuesday, 10th September 2019: Asian Hornet Week
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. …
Wednesday, 11th September 2019: Caught out by a mimic
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. …
Thursday, 12th September 2019: Germany bans glyphosate
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. …
Sunday, 15th September 2019: Like a virgin
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. …
Tuesday, 17th September 2019
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. …
Friday, 20th September 2019
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. …
Saturday, 21st September 2019: Wall-to-wall sugar haul
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. …
Thursday, 26th September 2019
I dropped by to give the bees a top-up of syrup. …
Sunday, 29th September 2019: Long live the queen!
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. …
Thursday, 3rd October 2019: Telling the bees
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. …
Tuesday, 8th October 2019: Ralf meets the bees
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. …
Monday, 14th October 2019: The Bee Forecast
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. …
Tuesday, 15th October 2019: Three generations of novice beekeepers
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. …
Thursday, 17th October 2019: Bumping into Dave
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. …