New home for the bees

I'm being pretty useless at blogging about my beekeeping adventures at the moment (and it has been quite adventurous of late). Turns out it's tricky juggling motherhood, work and beekeeping, on little sleep I may add - if anyone has top tips on how to get a toddler to sleep past 5:30am I'd LOVE to hear it!

So, to summarise and bring you up to speed - the hives were in a lady's garden literally round the corner from my son's nursery in Hatton in the lovely Warwickshire countryside. The situation didn't quite work out as bees aren't always as mellow as you'd like them to be - circumstances in the hives and weather can play a part but also if they have to defend themselves. Wasps are a big problem (as you'll discover later) but so are 'robber' bees. These are literally bees from another colony that steal honey from another hive. This was happening in Hatton and the bees were being super defensive and my beehive landlady was stung twice in the face. Most people have a pretty bad reaction when stung on the face  - who can forget what happened to me when that happened! She had a terrible reaction - blisters and extreme swelling - which made her pretty anxious and consequently she didn't want the bees in her garden anymore. Fair enough. 

In the meantime, Mike (a lovely beek from my branch, who I have mentioned numerous times before) found a spot for the bees next to a paddock on Steve's, who is a  retired beekeeper's, property in Norton Lindsey, which is about 3 miles from where the bees currently are and actually closer to my house. He had stopped beekeeping because his eyesight was poor but was willing for another beekeeper to have hives on his property. 

So, last Tuesday Mike came over in his Land Rover and we waited for the bees to stop flying (about 9pm), closed up the entrances of the two polystyrene hives and moved them. So far so good until we got to their new home and found the gate locked (later I discovered that Steve had an emergency and was away from home for a few days). This meant that Mike and I had to balance the hives on the gate while one of us held the hive as the other climbed over. No easy task because if the hive had to fall, we'd have 20,000 angry bees on the loose! But we managed it and got them into position. Not a vey elegant solution at the moment (essentially two pallet boxes) but I'll address this in the winter months and perhaps even build something (i.e. get my husband to build something). Before we opened up the entrances, we placed a branch at the entrance (as above). The reason for this is that when the bees fly out in the morning, they realise that they're in a new place. The general rule with bees is that you can move them less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles. As this wasn't quite 3 miles (as the crow flies) the worry was that they'd all fly back to the previous hive site. Turns out this isn't happen - thank god.

Anyway, we placed the branch and then Mike opened up the entrances. He didn't have his veil on and the bees came pouring out and he got three stings to the face! I felt terrible!! I think they had been jiggled all about and wondered what the bloody hell was happening and then when they were eventually let out there was a a big mug in their face. (sorry Mike). I did take him chocolates and wine the next day. 

Ok, we're pretty much up to speed. The next day, I went to check that all was alright. And the bees seemed ok - doing big circles above the hives but this is normal behaviour as they are orientating themselves. The hives are in a new location so they need to get their bearings before flying off. 

The advice is to leave them bee (sorry) for at least seven days after moving them before inspecting. And in August you can inspect them less anyway as there is less chance of swarming now. I've also discovered from previous years, that inspecting in August and September isn't all that fun as the bees are super feisty because there are wasps and robber bees about. And this was my experience today. And, by way of photos, this is what happened ...

Now, I knew that the bees would not be the only residents in the paddock but I didn't think that when I came in the gate, the other residents would come towards me. But no, all four of them including a mini horse (a pony of some description) trotted over towards me. Now, I don't hate horses but I was thrown off one when I was about 11 and I have to admit I'm not their biggest fans. After some stern words with myself (surely horses don't bite!), I tried to relax and tried not to make eye contact as I skirted round them.

I watched at the entrances for a bit before going in and noticed that a wasp was attacking a bee on the landing board. It's absolutely normal for wasps to be around at this time of year and they can obviously smell the honey in the hives but you don't want a load of them near the hives because they can destroy a weak colony. But I've reduced the entrances so they can better defend themselves and I brought some wasp traps with me (basic jars with holes speared in the lids with a bit of jam, a touch of vinegar and water). Although I don't want the wasps attacking my bees, I didn't feel too bad about this one as it's a male bee (drone), which the ladies kick out at this time of year anyway. Essentially, the drones are lazy - they don't nurse new bees, forage, collect nectar or guard the hive - their sole purpose in life is to mate with the queen and when the mating season is over the females simply eject them from the hive. Life is harsh in bee land if you're a man. 

So, after lots of smoking, I lifted the lid of the first hive. It was properly glued down with propolis and took a bit of effort to get off. The bees weren't that happy to see me - I knew this,as they were pinging off my head. 

Decided I'd better be quick and just check that the queen was laying and general health 
of the hive ok. All looked great, so put the lid back on.

Then onto hive two - they seemed calmer actually. 

And I actually had the opportunity to look at the frames a bit more closely although didn't spot the queen.

But I did spot a lot of honey. Go bees!

I then closed up and made sure all was secure before leaving. Above is view of the hives and then if I turn around 180 degrees, this is the view of the paddock. It makes me feel pleased - I think the bees will be happy here and I'm going to be happy visiting them.

I have a few tasks this week. Going to get the clearer boards on this weekend - essentially this clears the bees out of the supers so that I can take them away to extract the honey. Now, because of the swarming activity we had earlier in the season, the super's aren't full but I reckon we have about 4 or more frames of honey. Yay! My local branch has an extraction facility that members can hire and I'm booked in for Wednesday evening. It's going to be a sticky night! And then, I'm going to get the varroa mite treatment into the hives later on in the week. This year I'm going back to Apiguard as opposed to MAQs. Will let you know how I get on...


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