The Apiguard is now on the meadow hives and next week will see the three at the new site receive their’s. Hive one at the meadow seemed to have far fewer bees than any of the others, their weakness being highlighted by the number of wasps in attendance. It must be nature’s way, but they always seem able without fail to seek out the weakest colony and take full advantage of them. Of course, this further agravates what is already a delicate situation. Hive three at the other site, this was the one which had received the queen from Liz, also appeared to be lacking behind one and two in numbers so I took the decision, rather than risk losing one or both of them, to unite them. The problem, which queen to keep. Of the two, the queen that Liz had given me looked if far better condition than the Ged Marshall queen in the meadow hive but, after much deliberation, and I have to say, against my gut feelings, I decided to stay with my bought in queen. There’s a lot riding on these new queens, not least, my next year’s queen rearing, so I hope I’ve made the right decision. Provided the uniting has gone off successfuly, and my visit to Mendip C later today should establish that, we shall go into Winter and hopefully emerge next Spring, with our three ”bought in” queens all at the same site, all with colonies of similar strength and housed in new 14″x12″ brood chambers. They will have been fed and had their Varroa treatment at the same time and in the same way. I have really high hopes that all of this lives up to my expectations and allows the new site to realise it’s potential, but if nothing else, it will allow me to draw an accurate comparison between the two sites, and accurately evaluate the benefits of bought in queens.

Entering week two now and not much to report. The sunny weather of the last couple of days has brought the bees out in numbers which has been good to see. The uniting of one of the meadow hives to hive three at the new site hasn’t gone in quite the way I had envisaged. A couple of days after the uniting I took a quick look between the boxes and seeing that they had only just started nibbling at the paper I decided to leave them to it for another couple of days. I did make a few slits in the paper hopefully to encourage them to get on with it and remember thinking at the time that this was the first time I had needed to do this. Every other time I have united using the newspaper method, the paper has been completely demolished within two days, anyway, yesterday saw me back on site,gently removing the top box and placing it on the upturned roof. Again I was confronted with a sheet of newspaper almost entirely intact. There were a couple of holes about the size of golf balls through which the bees appeared to be happily coming and going but still no attempt to fully unite. Before going any further, I again went carefully through the bottom box, as much as anything, to see if there was anything I had missed earlier which might be persuading the inhabitants to stay put, but there was nothing obvious. The bees appeared quite happy and took little notice of me even though, after removing the paper, I went through them twice. So, on to the top box, I knew that the queen must still be up there and sure enough, there she was in the centre of the third frame. I had removed the empty frames from the bottom box planning to replace them from the top one and imagined that would see the job done. With all the bees in the bottom box I could get on with the feeding and bring them up to speed with the other two hives, but as usual, the bees had other ideas. The moment I began lowering the frame with the queen on into the box, she was immediately set upon. Fortunately I saw all this before I let go the frame and was able to remove the frame and extricate the queen before she sustained any apparent damage. No choice now but to push on with manually uniting the two colonies as the bulk of the bees were by now intermingling and impossible to separate. I left site with one brood box containing the empty frames and the other in it’s original position containing all the bees and the queen in a Butler cage.

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Before leaving I gave them a gallon of syrup in an Adams feeder reasoning that with full stomachs they might moderate their aggressive behaviour and feel more accommodating towards their new queen. I shall know in a couple of days when I next visit when once again, it’ll be with fingers firmly crossed.

Two days on and time to visit Mendip C again. A lovely morning, the sun shining which always helps I feel, especially when you’re not sure what you are going to be confronted with. The first thing that I noticed as I approached my little apiary was how good natured the bees seemed, even hive three, the one with the new queen. I had my veil on but I’m sure I needn’t have bothered. I knelt down about eighteen inches in front of hive three to take a pic and the bees totally ignored me.

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                                            THE BEES TOTALLY IGNORED ME

Could this be because they now had a queen that they were happy with. The next step, gently remove the roof and crown board, plenty of activity in the Adams feeder,

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Always a relief to see bees feeding as sometimes they are reluctant to enter the Adams feeder. I always dribble a drop of syrup down through the access hole to coax them up but it doesn’t always work for some reason. So, another good sign, happy bees at the hive entrance and even more inside attacking the syrup. Just one more hurdle to cross. Removing the feeder and placing it on the upturned roof revealed the butler cage still firmly wedged between two of the frames. Had it all gone to plan this time, nothing for it but to gently prise the frames apart and remove the cage, and there it was, empty.

Camely3 new queen 009

                                           AND THERE IT WAS,EMPTY

I didn’t bother to look any further, the mood of the bees told me all I needed to know. I’ll give them a few days to settle before I give them a proper examination. With the signs suggesting that hive three is finally where it needs to be, and with the other two looking equally promising, I am at last cautiously optomistic that the new site is going to live up to my expectations.

Three or four days on and time to take another look. The Ashforth feeders of syrup that I had previously given one and two were now empty so they now are enjoying their first application of Apiguard. Three hadn’t quite finished their syrup so they will get their’s in a couple of days. I didn’t bother searching for the queen preferring to leave them to get on with the syrup undisturbed. It make life far simpler if all the colonies in an apiary are treated in the same way and at the same time as, apart, from the obvious time saving, it makes comparisons so much easier. Glad to say, this we have been able to do at the meadow. Unfortunately, the time taken sorting out three’s queen problems, has meant they are now a couple of days behind the other two so I’ll probably delay removing the Apiguard from one and two to allow three to catch up.

So, I did just that and three days on saw all three hives at the new site, receiving their Winter feed. All three seem really contented now which is really good to see especially after such a shakey start. The meadow bees are also looking pretty good and are taking their syrup down at an alarming rate. They’ve already had one re-fill and I shall be making up another batch later this morning. Thankfully the wasps are less of a problem at the meadow now although they seem to have suddenly appeared at the new site, probably as a result of me feeding them. I shall install a couple of traps later this morning before they become a real nuisance. An interesting visitor to one of the traps in the meadow, I think it might be a Red Admiral but I’m probably wrong. But still, a pretty little creature.

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 As is usual around this time, the bees have managed to find a source of Himalayan Balsam, self evident by the tell tail grey “thumb print” on the backs of the returning bees. I know it is regarded as a weed in some parts but it does provide a welcome source of forage at this time.

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For the first time, we now have some at the bottom of the meadow and I now realise why by many, it is percieved as a menace. In the space of a few weeks it has gone from a single shoot about eighteen inches tall to quite a large shrub measuring some four feet or so in height.

balsam 007


I noticed yesterday that there are now several more springing up in the vacinity, so, one to keep an eye on, but, for the moment the bees are taking full advantage of this new source of nectar conveniently placed at their doorstep.

Two days on and after a shakey start to the day, by eleven o’clock the low cloud had been replaced by glorious sunshine. Still fresh at this time of the morning as is to be expected in late September but showing all the signs of a nice day ahead. So, first stop Mendip C. At my last visit, you may recall, I had installed a couple of wasp traps so concerned was I at the wasp’s sudden appearance and their focused attentions on hive one. Knowing how quickly a concerted wasp attack can seriously debilitate a colony, I was quite concerned as to what I would find. But, having entrances reduced to one bee space and traps in place, there is very little else one can do. It then becomes a case of leave them to it and hope they will be strong enough to see off the intruders, it just always seems to me, such an uneven contest. Apart from wasps being larger and naturally more aggressive than honeybees, they are so good at what they do. I’ve watched as a couple of wasps will entice the guard bees away from the entrance while their mates dash in to effect their dastardly deeds, seemingly unopposed. Although it is obviously nature’s way, it seems grossly unfair after all the effort these tiny creatures put in to ensure their colony survival, that these pin-striped villains should so easily take advantage of them. Anyway, I needn’t have worried, today, barely a wasp in sight and also, none in the traps which was strange. The few still in evidence were being easily repelled and none if any were finding their way past the guards. Another promising sight was that hive one appeared to have regained it’s former strength and was now, if anything, the strongest colony. As the song goes,”What a difference a day makes”. At least walking away scratching my head makes a difference from having my fingers crossed. 

On to the meadow where I was greeted with a similar sight, thousands of happy honeybees busily going about their honeybee business. I left feeling a lot happier than

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I could remember feeling for a long time. 

A week on and the meadow hives have had their last feed and tomorrow they’ll receive their second application of Apiguard. This last week, the final week of September, has been the best, weather wise, for a very long time. Due, according to the weather man, to a large area of high pressure sitting on top of us and promising to see us into the first week of October, so, something to look forward to there. The new site is continuing to live up to it’s promise, or so it appears from all the activity arround the hives, and the occupants have been busilly attacking the syrup that they’ve received. At my last visit to top up the feeders, and seeing that they were all three empty, I decided to open them up and take a look inside. I haven’t bothered them much since they received their new queens. Once I had satisfied myself that the queens had been accepted and were running around, I’d decided to leave them to it for a bit, or at least until they had settled in. So, today I decided, was the day to have a look at them. First stop, hive one, plenty of bees and very well behaved, lots of stores and some brood and there amongst the brood, one of my new queens. Pleased with what I’d seen I boxed them up, re-filled the feeder and moved on to the next hive. Again, plenty of bees, quite good humoured but this time, no sign of a queen, instead, right in the centre of the brood nest, a sealed supersedure cell. I went twice back through the frames but still no signs of her. Deciding there was little point in going back through them again I boxed them back up, refilled the feeder and moved on to three where glad to say, queen in residence and all doing well. Sitting here writing this, some three days on, I still can’t quite understand why things are proving so difficult at the new site. As I said before, it really is a lovely place, sited between an orchard on one side and a wild meadow of about an acre on the other.

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There sit my three new colonies each with their new bought in queens. There’s nothing or no-one to disturb them. There’s not another apiary for miles so they’ve got the whole area to themselves so I just don’t know. I plan to return today to top up their feeders and I’ll be having another good look at two, hopefully this time I’ll find my queen, I do hope so.