How to attend?
DUE TO COVID-19 THE APIARY IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. WE LOOK FORWARD TO RE-OPENING AS SOON AS IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
Members are welcome to attend the Association Apiary meetings as advertised. If you would like to go along, please check timings and remember to take clean gloves and boots. There are always plenty of suits available to borrow from the apiary.
Remember that the weather can lead to last minute changes … a quick phone call could save a wasted journey!
Latest reports from the Apiary Management Committee:
There have been a few surprises and a puzzle at the Apiary this month. The Apiary Management Committee have continued to check and manage the colonies weekly in alternating teams of two.
At the start of June we had six queenright colonies and one hive in which we were still waiting for the new queen to start laying.
Two of the colonies have not shown any sign of making preparations to swarm so we have been checking those carefully each week. We had been easing up on the inspections of the new queens in colonies still building up and also the older queens that we thought had got their swarming over and done with earlier in the year. However it seems that we still need to be vigilant with all our colonies.
On the 20th of June we found queen cells in one hive that had produced a new queen and built up following a split just a month previously, so that colony has had to be split again. We then found queen cells in a colony headed by a 2018 queen which had been split after making queen cells in April. We couldn’t find the queen and we were not sure if they were superseding or making another attempt to swarm so we divided the queen cells between two further splits. It appears that some queens who swarmed or tried to swarm early, and some new 2020 queens, are making swarm preparations again having built back up in the hot weather.
Hive 8 should have had a new queen after a swarm manipulation in early May. The bees don’t appear to be queenless. We have been unable to find a queen but we have observed queen cells with eggs in them. However no eggs have been seen in any worker cells and there has been no other brood. Some of the queen cells have progressed and we are waiting to see what happens. We can’t explain why there are only eggs in queen cells in this hive.
We are planning to do a shook swarm for varroa control in early July on the two hives that have not had a brood break this year. This will give them clean comb for the winter and a good start to rearing winter bees by reducing the varroa load.
Kindly by Carole Astbury
Apiary Management Committee has continued to check the Apiary bees in two teams of two “socially distanced” beekeepers. It has been a busy month in which we started with five queen-right colonies and ended with four of the original queens, three new queens and over 100lb of honey.
Three of the colonies have still not shown any sign of making swarm preparations. The other two produced queen cells in April and from these we now have three new laying queens and one hive in which we are still waiting to see eggs.
One colony, number 4 has always been more reactive than the others and last year every time she was checked with students we were surrounded by clouds of bees. This year we decided to cull the queen as they were becoming progressively more unpleasant to inspect. We are considering whether to let this colony produce daughter queens or whether to combine it with one of the weaker splits from another colony.
The vertical swarm manipulation on Colony 8 appears to have been successful and we now have a new queen and a potential new queen in two separate hives. No more need for stepladders!
Colony 2 has been particularly prolific and had reached the limit of five supers which could be safely lifted. Over the last two weeks of May we have taken off a total of six supers of honey from all the hives, with more to come as the bees seem to be slow to cap their stores this year. Carole Brown has again kindly done all the extraction for us in her conservatory.
What a difference a month has made. At the beginning of April we shook out the two colonies with failed queens leaving five to go forward for 2020. By the end of the month several of the colonies had their fourth super and two had started to make queen cells so have been split.
Colony 2 had a new queen following a swarm manipulation last year. She was marked green and was taken to Melplash for one of the observation hives. She had not been spotted since and in the middle of April an unmarked queen was found so presumably she was superseded in September.
We have had to remove many frames of stores which were not used over the winter and were taking up space in the brood nest leaving nowhere for the queen to lay.
The current colony count is as follows:
Colony 2. 14×12 Poly hive
2019 queen from late supersedure of Exmoor bees queen daughter. Very active and on their fourth super.
Colony 3. 14×12 Wood hive
2018 Exmoor bees queen. Multiple queen cells at the end of April. The queen is now in a nuc and there are queen cells in another nuc and in the original hive. This colony has dropped a lot of varroa and required a spring treatment with Varromed.
Colony 4. National Brood and half
2019 queen – daughter of Chedington black bees. This hive has been slow to build up as was her mother. We have had to remove stores frames to give the queen space. She still only has one super.
Colony 5. National Brood and half
2019 queen, daughter of Beaminster swarm. Now have two supers.
Colony 8. National Brood and half
These bees have not been very good-tempered and the queen has been putting eggs in queen cups all month. Eventually we did a vertical split of the brood nest with the queen at the bottom in the deep brood and the half brood with all the queen cells on top with a side entrance. We hadn’t realised how tall it would end up with all the supers included so will need to take a step ladder next time we check them!
It has been fascinating to see how differently the bees from different colonies have performed and behaved in the same Apiary. The new cabins have made working at the Apiary so much easier and will be a great asset when we can eventually start our meetings there again.
Becoming a member of West Dorset Beekeeping Association puts you in touch with a network of experienced Beekeepers. We enjoy our hobby and love to share our enthusiasm for our craft. See the list of benefits on the Membership page. A monthly newsletter keeps everyone involved and up to date with events and activities throughout the year.
Meeting other members and comparing colonies in the Association Apiary helps to develop practical experience and knowledge.
Yes! We would always encourage anyone who might be thinking about starting to keep bees to access some training. The WDBKA annual course for beginners is a good introduction and gives access to ongoing training with attendance at the Association Apiary throughout the season.
The time commitment varies through the year. During the active season each colony needs regular weekly inspections. Depending on the manipulations required this can take over an hour … or a matter of minutes! It is likely that your Beekeeping will absorb as much time as you are able to spend … once you catch the Beekeeping bug it seems to grow.
A good bee suit can cost up to £100. A hive and basic equipment will be around £300. A small nucleus colony will be about £200. Sometimes local swarms are offered to members for a donation to club funds.
The amount of surplus honey each colony produces will vary from one year to the next. A good beekeeper will always be sure to leave plenty of stores for their bees to use during the winter.
A strong, well established colony could give around 50lbs if the forage and weather are favourable … but there are always a lot of variables to consider.
The Association has close links to Kevin Pope, our local Seasonal Bee Inspector. He is always available to give advice and will visit your Apiary to check your bees.
Timely reminders are shared through the Association newsletter to guide members in good practice and to encourage close monitoring of Bee stocks.
All Beekeepers should register with the National Bee Unit. Their website contains a wealth of valuable information. They will also send direct email alerts to raise awareness of potential issues to Beekeepers e.g. reported sightings of Asian Hornets, how to identify diseases etc..