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


Roses are a good source of pollen and nectar - not a top 10 source - but its nice to be able to have some 'showy' plants in the bee-plot that are good for the human soul too. The critical thing is the type of rose; they must have an open flower (like this one in the picture) where the bees can easily get into the centre.  The ones with the highest amounts of nectar tend to be species roses like Rosa acicularis which is the indigenous European rose or the more commonly found hedgerow plant Rosa canina or dog rose. These are available from most places that sell hedging plants.

David Austen sells a good range  of nice species roses but avoid anything with a double flower.


July update from the hives

So far July has been yet another round of trying to avoid the bees swarming, and failing. The first hive that showed signs of swarming produced 107 queen cells in a single week; we squashed every cell we could find and took an artificial swarm but the probably too late and the queen went.  They have a few remaining queen cells which have now hatched but still no sign of a new queen or laying. We have now added eggs to test if they have a queen or will build another.

The same goes for the new artificial swarm - still no laying so have donated a frame of eggs to focus thier minds.

The other two hives have needed bigger brood spaces; one we have been culling for the eggs in queenless hives and giving them back sheets of foundation to draw up; the other we have raised the queen excluder above the first super and have sacrificed some space was half full of their winter honey stores.

Checking two brood boxes is tedious so I think we will invest in the bigger size national brood boxes for next season.

We have also been feeding some limited amounts of sugar syrup to whatever hives needed to draw up new wax quickly (limited to when I remember to get out there).

As July draws to a close we dont seem to have very much honey laid down and the amount of flower available is rapidly beginning to look autumnal.  The season has been very disrupted by two rounds of swarming after the initial spring honey flow and now I think the priority is ensuring that we have robust colonies to prepare for winter.

If the queenless hives dont recover and have laying queens within the next week I think we will need to recombine. However, the other two hives are currently very full so i am really not sure.

This is only our second season as beekeepers but I suspect these dilemmas are standard part of the job; all advise welcome



107 queen cells in one hive!

Last week I wrote my June hive update stating that all was now calm following the swarming madness of April.  Well, that was clearly tempting fate and only a week later it has all changed again. The good news is that all three of our hives are now laying down honey again.

The bad news is that in one hive, where last week we squashed a few queen cells, this week we found one capped on (we must have missed one) and 107 new queen cells.  Most were just empty cups but quite a few had larvae in.

More worryingly, we couldn't find any eggs - but we did see some very small, 3-day larvae so we are just hoping the queen hasn't vamoosed.

Anyway, even though its now July, we decided to split the hive and force an artificial swarm. There were so many bees that we think the colony can stand it and still settle before winter.

We have both parts of the split colony sugar syrup to help them draw up more wax we will check them again at the weekend so we can see if we have one, two or any queens.


Bramble blossom - summer bee-food

This year (2011) the brambles have bloomed earlier than normal - as have most flowering plants - after the warm dry spring. They normally flower in July and August but the bees are very happy to have had the benefit of extra food during the slim pickings of June.

Brambles provide both nectar and pollen; the latter is a pale grey-buff colour and when you see it in the hives it can appear as if the comb is going mouldy.

Right now the hedgerows in our area are full of bramble flowers flowing outwards on their out-stretched arching branches.   In our new field (fingers crossed) one of the boundaries is a wall of bramble rising up about 10 feet.  I think this is a indicator that the bees will be very at home here.