End of June

So tonight we inspected our super quickly – they’ve started filling the new top one with nectar and made a lot of brace comb now that the other three are totally full!

Last week we didn’t make up a new box, and just borrowed an empty one instead. Our tutor explained that the reason she’d asked us to make up 12 frames was not only so that we’d get the practice, but so the bees had something to do. She was expecting crap weather this week and so having foundation to draw out would have kept them busy, whereas what we gave them of empty drawn comb would just make them bored. But in a bit of good luck the weather was pretty good this week, so it worked out ok!

We only inspected the top brood box today, but actually saw everything: eggs, larvae, capped brood and a Queen!

We also practiced picking up bees, which we will have to do in the exam. Ten bees! Tonight I got five, and none of them stung me so I think that’s a success. Apparently the key is to be confident and we might even get away with picking up less than ten on the day, but we’ll see.

This post brought to you by my waiting to be picked up from the station on account of my being a moron getting on the wrong train. It’s now a very long wait unless a lovely human comes to get me, which luckily, one is.

Written Friday 30th June


Stacking up supers

Hive Notes

Last Friday our little group was without a tutor, and so we had a list of instructions – although it’s really nice to have a tutor with us, by the end of the evening we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves for managing a good inspection of our allocated hive, and managing to do everything on the list! So it was beneficial to get to us to sort things out on our own in the end.

The first thing on our list was to make up a new super and 12 frames to go in it. We did slightly cheat on this one, as there was a super of frames going at the apiary already and so we pinched this one to put on the hive. This is good, but also a little annoying as I could actually do with as much practice making frames as possible before the Basic Assessment in August! But with only 5 of us in the group last week it was probably a good thing that we could spend more time with the hive.

Last week we left our hive with 3 supers, one (and a half maybe) of which were looking like they were turning into lovely capped honey frames. We left our hive this week with 3 super totally stuffed full of capped honey frames, and one brand new empty super for them to enjoy. The weather this week has been crazy for the UK – around 34 degrees C – and it’s the middle of June (the solstice was Wednesday), and the bees have been totally making the most of it. We checked only the middle frames of these supers, and it definitely took two of us to carry each one away so that we could get to the brood boxes beneath.

As an aside, I’m planning on being a solo beekeeper, with my partner as an assistant some of the time. I’m a pretty unfit, 5’3” woman – how the hell am I going to lift supers of honey?! I need some tips from seasons beekeepers. Or a stool.

We got into our brood boxes, and saw a lovely pattern of capped brood in the top brood box, although no eggs or larvae really. I think that this in line with the honey flow at this time of year, as they’ve so much time and light to collect all the nectar that the bees have probably slowed down the egg-laying in the hive – but I’m happy to be corrected on this. We did see the Queen in this box, though, so that was nice. Although I put the box back together at the end and a little voice in my head said ‘better not crush the Queen!’ and now I’m a little paranoid…

In the bottom brood box we have all sort going on. I think this is their older box that they overwintered with, so as well as brood it has a couple of frames that seem to just be pollen on both sides. They also have a mixture of stores and brood on each frame – although we did see some pretty nice new brood on one side of the box – those pollen-only frames seem to be in the middle – can they be moved mid-season. And yes, we saw eggs! One member of the group wasn’t sure, and another didn’t have her glasses with her, but I took an executive decision: those were eggs.

So in the end we put everything back together with the new super, and it was a really lovely evening. The bees were pretty chilled out, we didn’t use that much smoke, and we worked really nicely together as a team.

Basic Update

I also paid my fee to take the Basic Exam this year – the exam date is in August, so I really should get revising soon! Things that I need to swot up on:

  • how long everything is an egg, larvae etc for
  • stages of worker bee jobs
  • what’s in flower! I am terrible at this, although it should be the easiest thing in the world.

Wish me luck!


Back with the bees

So my last post was over a month ago – and since then I have been back to the apiary on a couple of Fridays to continue with Basic learning, and heard back from the Council.

I have been away in Pembrokeshire for a week (we stayed on Skomer Island for a night, and saw puffins, owls, seals, and all sorts of great things), so I have missed another week at the apiary since my last post. But before that we had opened up the hive, spotted the Queen – and passed her onto one of the more experienced beekeepers to clip her wings. I’ve not seen this done before, and it was done very matter-of-factly – I’m not sure I would be that calm if I were doing that for fear of dropping her! I also learned in the roundup at the end of the evening that there is some disagreement among beekeepers as to whether it’s a good idea to clip Queens. Obviously, once she is clipped so can’t fly away, but if there is some argument that if she was previously laying well and doing a good job once she’s clipped her attendants might consider her damaged and on her way out, and decide to raise a new Queen to take over from her.

Typically, I missed a week after that, so I’ll find out this Friday how she did! It looked as though she had been laying beautifully up until now, although she is a couple of years old, so it would be interesting if it all went pear-shaped now!

Other than that, it was lovely to get back into the hive, as it’s been a while since I have seen any bees. We did a routine inspection, saw that there was a good amount of brood and space for brood in the double brood boxes, and decided that it may be worth adding another super to the two already on the top as the flow appeared to be really good and they were bringing back a lot of nectar. The final thing that we did was a drone sacrifice – a wonderfully gory varroa-control measure.

What is a drone sacrifice?

Frames in a brood box are ‘deep’, 305mm, and super frames are ‘shallow’, only 140mm. By putting a shallow frame into a brood box, you create an area of space in the hive. Bees hate extra space, and will fill up anything that’s too big with comb of some sort until it’s comfortable for them. On a frame such as this, they will make brood cells, and the largest cells are drone (male bee) cells – so they’re the ones that bees will use to fill up the space quickly. The Queen then lays in these larger cells, and drones are created. Varroa mites like to sit in drone cells, as they are sealed for longer than worker bee cells, and so the mites have plenty of time to multiply. Once the drone cells are sealed, the beekeeper can come in, slice off the drone cells from the bottom of the shallow frame in a big chunk and them use a large fork to lift the cappings off the cells and see the drones and mites within. It’s a really gory process, as the royal jelly, larvae and baby drones ooze and sometimes wriggle out. But this also removes mites from the hive entirely, thereby acting as a varroa control measure.

Back to Twickenham this Friday – so I’m looking forward to finding out how it’s going.

Sunday 11th September

Clear to sunny, 16 – 18C

Reigate beekeepers secondary apiary x6 hives, plus 1 hive of J’s


  • Checked weight and hefted all hives – double brood hives had around 40lb (18kg), and single brood between 20 – 30lb. Hives need around 40lb to make it through the winter (Williams 2010) and so lower weight hives were topped up – although for some single brood hives it was easier to take a visual inspection as a guide to stores vs brood in the hive.
  • Removed/refilled feeders
  • Checked brood – should be reducing at this time of year – looked for eggs, larvae and the Queen
    • Saw the Queen in all hives but one, which was very quiet – instead found one charged queen cup with larva, did not see the Queen or any eggs in this hive
  • One hive was low on brood but Queen was seen, so added 2 frames of capped brood from another hive
  • Ivy flow still to come and brood to decrease, so there should be enough space for the winter
  • Added Apiguard to each hive, will require second dose in 2 weeks time (28th September)
  • J’s hive: replaced 2 frames from the observation hive (with Queen), Jack to feed and add Apiguard next week


Williams, John. (2010) ‘Starting Out With Bees’ Kenilworth: Bee Craft Ltd.

Sunday 4th September 2016

Polesden Laceyimg_1981

Cloudy, 16C

Moved National 14×12 frames into WBC hive – new brood box in WBC box, placed frames during inspection.

6x frames brood (Queen sighting)
3x frames stores

Varroa Treatment

Added first dose of Apiguard onto frames.


Placed rapid feeder with sugar syrup above small eke (this prevents the bees from making too much honey using a large eke – when feeding and giving varroa treatment, bees will make wax)


Queen excluder (storage)
Rapid feeder
Brood box

To do

Check in 2 weeks

  • how much syrup has been taken down?
  • 2nd dose of Apiguard
  • Attach ring to hive stand to attach scales and weigh hive.

Sunday 28th August 2016

Polesden Laceyimg_1982

Cloudy, drizzle, sunshine. 20C

Hive 1:
– National 14×12
– 9 frames, 1 dummy board
– warm arrangement (frames parallel with the entrance)

5 frames brood, front to middle, at least one frame of eggs
5 frames stores – some capped

Queen on frame 1 (unmarked)


Queen excluded
Brood box

Things to remember:

  • Ivy flow still to come
  • Sufficient room for overwintering
  • Varroa treatment to be done next week