I don’t know now the weather has been where you are, but here in North Somerset the first week in October has been remarkable. Hardly a drop of rain, what cloud there has been has quickly disappeared as soon as the sun has reared her head and the bees have been quick to take advantage. The tell-tale grey smudges on their backs evidence of the presence of Himalayan Balsam close by and their appreciation of the nectar it yields, a real bonus at this time of year. The bright yellow pollen they’re collecting bares testament to their liking for Ivy, another valuable source of energy at this time, great for feeding brood but not so good for storing. As we all know, Ivy honey is very quick to granulate and once in that state, is of very little use to our bees as they are unable, during the cold of Winter, to liquefy and so make use of it. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that Ivy honey is probably a leading contributor to Winter starvation. The reason is that, unless we’ve have been keeping a careful watch on our bees  and  observing their activities, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that a heavy colony must equate to a full larder and therefore, no additional feeding is required when sadly, the reality is, they will very soon be starving. I have once in the past, fallen into this trap and it is one that I don’t care to repeat. A quick heft of a hive during January or February suggests that all is well within, when in fact, this is very far from the truth. Sadly, a fact that will be verified when at your first inspection you are confronted by a hive full of dead bees, still with combs full of stores and weighing much the same as they did in October. I find the best answer to the question as to whether the honey that the bees are storing is going to be suitable to meet their needs, is to remove a comb which has been capped and score it with your hive tool. If after a moment the honey starts to run when the comb is gently shaken then the chances are that it will be ok. If on the other hand, it refuses to budge, the chances are that it is Ivy honey and will be of little or no use to your bees.

Well into the second week now and with the Winter feeding and Varroa treatment finished, time to reflect on the season just gone and plan for the next. It hasn’t been a brilliant year for us here at Mendip, with our queen rearing not going exactly as planned, nor our honey crop, it has to be said, but, we’ve come through it. We are finishing the season with eleven of our twelve hives populated, all, with the exception of one, with this year’s queens, and I’m already licking my lips at the prospect of next season’s harvest. It came as no surprise that we had little or no honey this year as we have pretty much confined our efforts to producing new stocks and I’m pleased with the way that we’ve finished up.

We have continued to be blessed with the good weather that accompanied the start of the month and as of yesterday, the bees were still going hell for leather harvesting what is left of this year’s bounty. Thankfully the wasp activity has begun to subside although, there are still one or two in evidence. I re-charged the traps at the weekend so hopefully, that should take care of them. There are always little jobs to be done around the apiary and this next couple of weeks will, if the weather holds, see most of them done. There are a couple of my older supers which need a little attention where the side panels have warped a little. If this is left unchecked, the gaps very soon become wide enough for unwelcome visitors to take advantage of, so, they will be first on my list. Normally, it’s just a matter of replacing the fixing nails with decent size screws. I always give the joints a liberal dose of Uni-bond before re-assembly and from memory, I haven’t had a single box which has required attention more than the once. A quick scorching with the blowlamp followed by a coat or two of Cuprinol and they’ll be back on the stock pile. I have noticed wasps paying particular attention to the floor joint on one of the Adams feeders.

wasps and bees on leaking feeder 003


Although invisible to the naked eye, there must be some seepage through the joint which is attracting their attention. You can see how, in their desperation to get at the contents, wasps have even had a go at nibbling the woodwork. There is still syrup in the feeder at the moment so I won’t remove it immediately, instead, I have marked the area of the leak to remind me that this one requires re-caulking as and when the feeders are removed. As I said earlier, there are always little jobs to be done and for me, this is part of the fun of being a bee-keeper. I always get a sense of satisfaction when I tick off the last item on my “to do” list. I can then stand back and look at my little apiary, knowing they are all “Ship shape and Bristol fashion” and ready for whatever the Winter throws at them.


Just back from a short break so yesterday was the first opportunity to visit the bees. Silly I know, but I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them, not individually you understand, but you never know what to expect when you’ve spent some time away, do you. So it’s always a feeling of relief when even from a distance, I first catch sight of my little apiaries. A quick count tells me all are present and looking much the same as when I last saw them. I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to return to find your apiary has been vandalised or that some of your hives are missing. This happened to a friend of mine fairly recently and he tells me that he still has nightmares about it and I can fully understand why.

Taking this late break meant leaving before my bees had taken down all the syrup I’d given them which in turn has meant that it is only now that they can receive their Apiguard. So, my first visit yesterday was to Mendip “C”. From the car park I could see plenty of activity around the hive entrances, always a good sign. While I was suiting up Bob appeared pushing a barrow of cooking apples, needless to say I didn’t need much persuading to accept a bag-full. “Bees are in a good mood, I was able to mow all around the hives the other evening, not one came anywhere near me”. Just the sort of news I’ve been waiting to hear. “Must see me as one of the family at last”, his parting words as he made off for more apples.

So, suit on and apples safely in the car, I made my way up to the bees. Bob was right, the bees were exceptionally good humoured, it may have been because they’d missed me and were glad to see me back, but I doubt it. The activity around the hive entrances suggested there was some sort of flow on, I’ve no idea, but there was certainly copious amounts of pollen going in. So, to hive one, roof and crown board off to reveal Adams feeder full of bees busily licking off the last gleanings of sugar syrup. Just a case of removing the feeder, shaking off the bees and laying a tray of Apiguard above the frames in the brood box. The feeder, now inverted and doubling as an eke then goes back on. Block the access hole, replace the roof, then, apart from fitting the floor slides, it’s job done. Exactly the same with the other two hives, total time, less than twenty minutes.

When the feeding and Varroa treatment is finished, the feeders will be left on the hives, right way up, with a little square of mesh covering the access holes, where they will double as crown boards. I have done this ever since I have had enough feeders for all the hives and apart from not having to mess about with ekes and different methods of feeding, there are, to my way of thinking, other benefits. For a start, the feeders are already on the hives if you need to give a Spring feed, and also, it is my firm belief that the bees benefit from the volume of still air trapped between the feeder and the roof, both in helping maintain the cluster temperature and reducing condensation. I first tried this when I only had a couple of Adams feeders and, convinced of the benefits, I have, over time, made more feeders so that I am now at the stage where I can treat all of my hives in a similar fashion. When the Winter has sufficiently receded and it’s time for the supers to go on the feeders will come off for re-painting and whatever other TLC is required before going into store until they’re needed again.

And on to the meadow where glad to say, the story was much the same. With the exception of hive one, which houses one of my this year’s nuc’s, the same frenetic activity. Even with all the entrances reduced, especially the new hives and nuc’s which are reduced to one bee-space, the wasps, being born opportunists, have been quick to detect the most vulnerable and in this case, it looks as though hive one has borne the brunt of their attentions. From their appearance when I lifted the roof, they were still quite strong in bees and I left them with a tray of fondant to help them out. I’ll have a good look at them later in the week. I had intended to give all of the hives their Apiguard but with the weather closing in, I decided to put that off for another day. The forecast for the rest of the week looks promising so fingers crossed. I did however, take a quick look below each roof, a look which told me that all of the syrup they had been left with had been taken down. No need for a smoker as, because, as another benefit of the Adams feeder is that they allow checking without disturbing the bees, they were totally unaware of my presence.

The activity around the two colonies which were left in the process of uniting, made it difficult to distinguish them from the others, so it looks as though that exercise went to plan. That then is now the other job planned for this week, to get them each on to one brood box.

A couple of days on and back at the meadow things are still looking good with the possible exception of the mating nuc. One side has gone from strength to strength while the other looked to be really struggling. A quick look confirmed why. No brood and very few bees, certainly a lot fewer than the last time I’d looked. The queen which had been a bit on the small side was nowhere to be seen. I decided the best course of action was to unite the two sides and this I did by closing the entrance on the poor side and removing the dividing board. I watched as the bees mingled to see whether there would be any signs of aggression but all seemed peaceful enough. I imagine the reason for this is because, with only a thin dividing board between the two colonies, the odour of both must be very similar, anyway, as I said, they all seemed happy enough with the new situation so I left them to it. I’m certain that the stronger side will feel the benefit of having more space as they had completely filled their five frames with brood and stores. Following on from that, one thing that has been really noticeable, and this appears to be the case with all of the colonies, is that there has been no noticeable reduction in brood production, or of drones for that matter. All of the queens seem to be going flat out in fact it’s as though they’ve building up for this moment. Maybe it’s my imagination but the colonies appear stronger now than at any time this season. As I said, probably my imagination but it will be interesting to see how the next month pans out.

One of the two colonies which we united is now on one brood chamber while, the other, I’ve left on brood and a half, their original state.The reason being that there was an abundance of brood in both boxes, too much to cram into one. Both queens have been laying well with a good proportion of unsealed brood in both hives. I’m sure in my mind that neither colony will have any problems over-wintering and I’m really pleased that I took the decision to unite

Into the last week of September now and things are continuing to look good. The wasps show little signs of abating so I’ve been keeping the traps topped up, I’ve still got all the entrances reduced and the bees seem to be coping ok. The weather hasn’t been brilliant these last few days but with the promise of patchy sunshine this afternoon, I’m hopeful of giving them all their final top-up of syrup. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, that will be the last time the roofs come off until they get their oxalic acid after Christmas.


August has all but come and gone. I’ve left it until now to update the blog as it’s been another month of mixed fortunes and I didn’t want to bore you with more of the same. The weather, in it’s somewhat erratic form has continued to dictate largely what we’ve been able to do and the mood of the bees seems to have followed suit. I’m pleased to report that all three colonies at “C” are now behaving impeccably, I’ve hived the nuc. which now seems to be going from strength to strength.

nuc hived at Camely 001


I visited the site yesterday to check on the stores situation and was told by Bob, the owner that for the first time he’d been able to strim right up to the hives without feeling threatened in fact, the bees took no notice of him whatsoever. He told me that the one bee which did accidently bump into him, apologised profusely before returning to it’s business. So, for what was probably the first time, I left feeling that at last “C” was about to fulfil it’s potential.

I’ve continued with my regular visits to both sites throughout the Month and happy to report, although the weather hasn’t always been kind, with the exception of the one colony which I was given earlier in the year, both the hives and the nuc’s have begun to live up to my expectations. I have united two of my nuc’s. to colonies that looked as though they would benefit from re-queening, hived another two and transferred the two remaining into one of my mating nuc’s.





Placing the frames containing brood either side of the dividing board encourages the bees to cluster against the board which means that they then share their warmth. I’ve also adapted a couple of Adams feeders enabling both nuc’s. to be fed from the same feeder.

feeders 008


Plastic cups placed over each access post allows bees from either nuc. to feed from the same feeder without coming into contact.

nuc.feeder 004


Perforations in one cup allows bees from one nuc. up into the feeder as it empties to clean up, again, without coming into contact with the other. Removing the cup finally allows bees to find their way out of the feeder more easily.

nuc. feeder in operation 004


I mentioned that last month I had made use of a few off cuts left over from my nuc. making efforts to knock up a couple of floors. Well, carrying on in the same vein I’ve now got a couple of spare floors made from all the thin strips which were left. I bought the two perforated sheets which from memory cost about five pounds each. The frames were made by gluing and pinning strips of 12mm ply together and the floor slides made use of the remaining 5mm ply.

New Floors 010


painted floors 001


Cutting thin pieces on a saw bench does take a little care as the fact that I now have one thumb shorter than the other will testify but, I still feel it was well worth the effort and all of this, seven nuc’s.,two roofs and two new floors from just two sheets of ply, courtesy of my local B & Q.

The month finished with a visit by my bee keeping friends to my Mendip Apiary. As usual the guest speaker was excellent, the weather was kind to us and, afterwards we all enjoyed a friendly chat over a sandwich and a well deserved cuppa. A brilliant end to August.