The bees have been here for a month, and our latest hobby is sitting nearby watching them buzz in and out of the hive. We got them from Applebee Orchard and Apiary in Norfolk, whom I would highly recommend (we are enjoying their tasty jam and honey and the children loved looking around the farm, especially at the chickens!). They told us their bees are very docile and this has been proved true – we can watch them comfortably from very close up and they simply ignore us.
Bertie loves donning his suit and always has a captive (in more ways than one…) audience watching closely whilst shut up safely in the summerhouse. It is best not to disturb the bees too often, one reason being that the temperature drops when the hive is opened so they concentrate their efforts on raising it again, so he only does so when necessary and in fine weather.
Bertie built his hive from a DIY budget kit courtesy of Thornes, who appear to be the number one company for all things bees. This is the full thing below, but all that we have had the bees in since they arrived is the bottom half section, known as the brood box, with the silver lid on. (Up to the yellow line, if you can see that!)
Here is a picture of the empty brood box and one of the eleven frames that go in it. These have a wax foundation that the bees build their comb on, before letting loose their queen to lay, lay and lay (up to 3000 eggs in a day!!). Our bees came on six frames that they had already started building on, and Bertie slotted his five unused frames in between these as the bees prefer building on the middle ones.
Bertie’s first close up encounter was to move the bees into their hive, and my sister took some beautiful pictures of this event which you can see at her blog, Got Passion. It was incredible seeing close up the frames literally dripping with bees!
A week later, Bertie checked on them and fed them a solution made of a kilo of sugar and a litre of water, repeating this after a further week. The recommendation is don’t add on the section of the hive known as the “super” (where the honey is stored) until at least nine of the eleven frames have been “drawn”, which just means the comb has been built on them. It is also important that we don’t feed them when they are making honey, or else it may be mixed with sugar. For those selling their honey, this is illegal.
Last Monday Bertie took advantage of the unexpectedly fine weather to inspect how they were getting on. He was pleased to see they had been working hard and at least nine frames were covered. Time to add the first super! You can see it on the top of the hive in this photo, it is roughly half the depth of the brood box and also has eleven frames with foundation wax.
On Sunday, and with all the care of a new father, Bertie began worrying that all was not well with the bees, so he had another look inside. Far from it! Here is a frame from the super last Monday…
…and here is one today that in six days they have managed to half fill with honey!! Go bees!
Bertie did have an anxious moment where he couldn’t find his queen, but he discovered that she had crept into the super and started laying eggs there, naughty girl! So in order to keep her in her place, he has slipped the yellow plastic queen excluder in between the brood box (underneath) and the super (here are his two empty ones). Worker bees are small enough to go through, but not the queen or her drones.
And finally, docile as they are, still no point taking any risks! Not only does Bertie cover up in his scary suit and boots, here is his handy tool for calming those bees – a smoker, full of dried grass!