Early April inspection update (2017)

Spring has sprung, the weather has started to become reliably warmer and it seems as if we’re free of frosts in Southern England for 2017.  You never can tell, of course, but we’ve already had temperatures of 20C+ and the nights are comfortably 5C+.

My update on the troublesome ‘brood in the wrong place’ hive is here, and to log the rest of the hives we’ll run through them here.

The Flow Hive in my garden apiary is starting to come to life. Bees are hatching, brood is growing and now comfortably on 4 frames. They’re not yet touching the super that I placed there as a brood and 1/2 setup, so I’ve fed with sugar syrup to kick start them a little. They seem really well behaved and calm – certainly my calmest colony and if I can get them to build up some more I’ll be looking to use these guys as a queen rearing colony in future. That, of course, depends on them being able to build fast and show me they can perform. They have competition now as at least two of my out apiary colonies are massively outperforming them.

In the Windlesham apiary, N3 now has brood on 7 frames, and N4 on 6. These guys are building rapidly and already have two supers on them! N3 is filling the second super and N4 looks about to start!  These hives are so busy at the moment that I’ve still not had sight of the queens. No need to worry though as they are definitely both queen right – fantastic brood patterns and visible eggs in both hives. Big thumbs up to Q4 and Q5 !

I’ve added an eke to N4 to convert them to 14 x 12 ( bigger brood box for a larger colony).  As with N1 in the Garden apiary, about half of the frames (in this case, everything without brood on it) has been replaced with 14 x 12 frames giving them plenty of space to build and fresh foundation to work with.  They’re a little aggressive, but it was starting to cool and most of the flyers were home so it may just be a consequence of that. (Wait and see again – no reason to worry too much).

N2, however is looking slow to get moving. Q3 has expanded from 3 to 4 frames of brood, but barely.  I have been able to mark her though.  Not knowing the exact ages of these queens I’ll be marking them all green for now with the intent of replacing them before green gets confusing in 2019.  For now, green just identifies them as queens purchased with colonies in 2017  (I  know it’s not best practice, but I can’t see it causing challenges at the moment).  I’m a little worried about these guys to be honest, but there are no obvious issues other than slower build up so I’ll just keep an eye for now.

I’ve put a bait hive in Windlesham as well, with some slumgum from melting down old comb as swarm attractant. Who knows, I may be able to expand by picking up feral swarms.  Fingers crossed.


In the beginning

P1150092In the beginning, there was Flow.

By Flow I mean the Flow Hive. Like many others I saw the videos advertising the Flow Hive and was entranced by it’s message. Honey on tap. Amazing! Bees. Amazing! and bees are on the decline so it’d be good if I helped, and I’m a gardener, so pollination and all that. The button had been pressed an I’d ordered a full Flow Hive.

Knowing it was going to be a while before it was delivered, I told a few people and started looking forward to it. In fact I was looking forward so much I’d almost forgotten about it by the time Christmas came around and I was gifted a beginners beekeeping course by my girlfriend.    That course was fascinating. Every week I went along and learned that there was more to learn and that I really didn’t know anything. Not just about bees, but about how much they do and how their societies reflect a somewhat idealistic (in some ways), nihilistic (in other ways), and communistic (in many ways) version of our own.

The Surrey Beekeeping Society also gave me an opportunity to purchase my first bee colony. (Before that I had no clue how bees were even acquired and had visions of a package being posted through my letterbox by a terrified postman.) It was only when my bees were ready (around May) and my hive was populated with a nucleus of bees at the club apiary, that I realised how much anti Flow Hive sentiment was to shape my early beekeeping activities.  Beginners were interested, and often fascinated. Longtime beekeepers were generally extremely sceptical, very opinionated and very vocal about how their new way would never work. Sometimes so much so that the Flow Hives would not only not work, but they might actually bring about beemageddon itself. The Dark Bee (or Bee Who Shall Not Bee Named) would arrive and destroy all the honey, making breakfast everywhere a bleak and hopeless meal.

I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by that much. The strong and very vocal opinions  that the internet makes so easy to shout about seemed to be getting into the real world, leaving me with only one option… Take my bees home.

So my bees arrived in my back garden and have remained there ever since. It saves me a 45 minute drive to the training apiary, but also means that I have to work a lot of stuff out myself so I read a lot, online and in print, and do my best to understand rather than just taking an answer as gospel.

The old adage of ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers doesn’t really apply to beekeepers. Often you only have to ask one beekeeper to get ten different answers.


Naming hives, apiaries and queens

At the beginning of 2017 I have five hives.  Two in the garden, and three at an out apiary at a local golf club. A naming convention is required so I can keep records effectively and know what’s going on with each hive. To keep it simple (at least at the beginning), it will start off with the apiaries being ‘Garden’ and ‘Windlesham’, respectively. The Flow hives will be Flow 1 and Flow 2.  The National hives will be National 1, 2, 3. The queens should probably also be tracked so good performing lineage can be taken advantage of, so from now I’ll have Q1,2,3 etc.  The current queens are in hives, but the naming will not be linked to hives.   That leaves us with.

Garden – Flow 1 – Q1

Garden – National 1 – Q2

Windlesham – National 2 – Q3

Windlesham – National 3 – Q4

Windlesham – National 4 – Q5

For expansion requirements I have an additional Langstroth hive which will become Flow 2, and an additional National hive. All of the National hives will be used with traditional supers, of which I have about 10. The Langstroth hives will be flow supered for the main harvest, but for anything near Oil Seed Rape (OSR) (none of mine right now), or heather (all of mine right now), the Flow supers will be replaced with regular supers to avoid complications with thick set honey.

Hive records will be kept with each hive, and additional notes will be made here.