Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

The new apiary at Rosybee

Over the last couple of weeks we (mainly my husband Paul) have been getting our new apiary ready. Our bees currently reside in a field near our house owned by a local farmer but now that we have our own site and will be filling with masses of bee-food (flowers) we want to migrate them. Its fantastic to be able to put the hives wherever we want and create the ideal conditions:

  • South-east facing so the hives get the morning sun and encourage the bees out when the flowers have maximum nectar
  • Sheltered by mature trees to the north and west to give shelter
  • On the edge of our new orchard corner to provide some light shade when the (heritage) apple trees grow
  • A nice level area for us to work in and manage
We have laid down some membrane, with paving stones to provide a solid footing for each hive and wood chips on top to keep the grass down. This should produce a practical and low maintenance area.

We will have up to 6 hives - we dont really want more than that as we dont have time with all the other aspects of the business to run - and will initially stock some new hives with artificial swarms. Then at some stage we will be brave and move the original colonies.

With the new hives we have chosen to go for commercial brood boxes as this should reduce future swarming tendencies. They are cedar too; lovely and clean and posh bought from Paynes Bee Farm

A 'queen cup' in March!

This weekend it was 13 degrees and sunny so we took the opportunity to open the hives and have the first full check of the season. Here is what we found:Hive 1 - both the remaining super and the brood boxes were really full of bees. Since we checked thier food stores last month they have eaten about half of the remaining set honey. This is good news as we want them to empty these frames to make room for the fresh new honey. I caught a glimpse of the queen but I was too slow to catch and mark her. There are about 4 frames of brood in all stages of development. Happy hive.

Hive 2 - a lot fewer bees here. During the winter we had worried about this one but they seem to have made it. They had a full super of honey left; the lesser number of bees havnt consumed as much as the other hive. The exciting thing in this hive was the brood box; some capped brood and lavae but about 4 frames just of nice tidy laid eggs.

But also, a queen cup, tucked in the middle of one frames face with no other signs of laying around it; wierd. The current queen is obviously healthy and they are not short of space so we have no idea why they have created this. Its empty at present so we decided to just leave it and monitor regularly. It might be that we have the type of colony that just naturally and calmly replaces the queen each year. If so, great, as it will save re-queening.

We will let you know what happens.

Beehives in winter

We shut the hives up for the last time in mid October packed with fondant and still very busy.

For me, it has felt really strange not visiting them once a week to check their progress.   Its a feeling of seperation that I had not anticipated with insects.

But there are still a few bee activities to keep us engaged; a few weeks ago, on  rare sunny mild day we noticed that only one of our two hives had any signs of life.   We opened both hives up very briefly to check food supplies and were pleased to find that the quiet hive did have bees but dramatically reduced in numbers compared to the other hive. We are not sure what the problem is, or even if there is a problem.   We read all the obvious sources to no avail so decided the only thing to do was to give them some extra winter weather protection to help keep them snug; insulated hive coats.

We fitted thier coats yesterday.  Layers of fine insulation with a shining silver waterproof outer layer.  Very smart (and hopefully effective). We have been careful not to cover the ventilation as we read that damp is as much a danger as cold.

Overnight the temperature in our garden dropped to a record -14 degrees so it looks like our labours were timely.