Thursday, 19 January 2017

Log for 2017

Sat July 22nd
Removed some cleaned up frames from #2, gave them some cappings. They seem to have removed the RSO, hope it doesn't pop up again in their new honey.
Removed wax remains from cappings in #3, gave them some more!
Weather cool and wet so they probably appreciate these treats - not that it shows!


Sun July 16th
Cleaned up super removed from #2, gave them another wet one - has a lot of RSO so not sure what to do with it afterwards.
Cleaned up super removed from #3, gave them a plate of capings to clean.
Now have two supers of clean, drawn frames.

Thur July 13th
Put a wet super on top of #3.  (Weight increased by 6Kg.)


Wed July 12th
Spent two hours going through the frames of #4 looking for the queen (with a view to taking her out and combining #4 with #3). But to no avail. Need a plan B!
Extracted about 20Kg of honey & bottled it - 5 hrs work.
Put a wet super on top of #2.  (Weight increased by 6Kg.)

July 10th
First super taken off hive #3. Registered hive weight droppd 12Kg. If we allow 3Kg for an empty supper that's 9Kg honey.

July 7th 
Decided to put a new super on #2, to reduce the swarm risk and also to give them enough space through the coming weeks when I'm away. Took the opportunity to remove the 1st super, and put the new one in its place just above the queen excluder. Had a peek into the brood super and it's pretty fully utilised. Resultant weight loss as a result of swapping out the super was 11Kg.


July 5th - check on space only
#4 now occupies 9 out of the 10 frames so added a super. Good brood/food patterns.
#2 top super not capped but getting there. Ok for a week or so.
#3 top super still has plenty of space.

Jun 27th
Just a quick check on space. I'm taking a gambol on them not preparing to swarm!

#4 (ex nuc) now has brood/eggs/larvae on 6 frames and stores on the rest. Plenty of space for a few weeks.
#2 Checked top (3rd) super and there's plenty of honey forming but no capping.  About  50% full.
#3 Top (3rd) super only about 10% utilised.

Jun 18th
Hive #3 inspected, at 8am to beat the heat, unfortunately also with a beehive full of bees, and what a lot of bees. This is a brood and a half and in the 10 days since I made it that way there is plenty of capped brood on the 'half' chamber already. Hopefully the queen goes down before I lift it off to inspect the full size chamber. Plenty of brood and no queen cells, which is what I was interested in. So boxed them up, added a 3rd super and hopefully they can get on with it now for some weeks. They were not at all agressive, more bemused than anything.

Jun 17th
Hive #4 - Progessing well. Now has brood over 5 frames, stores in two frames, 3 frames yet to be drawn.

Hive #3 - Removed the 6 frames I had left for cleaning, but I left them on too long and they are strting to store honey in them. This now has two supers, may add another before long as they are pulling in loads all of a sudden.

Hive #2 - Again they have started to store honey in the cleaned up frames, so added some of those taken off hive #3 to make a full super. This now has three supers. Will keep them going for the rest of the summer hopefully.

Jun 7th
Hive #2 - after thinking about it, I decided to convert this to brood and a half, so added a super of empty drawn frames below the excluder.  Should reduce the urge to swarm.

Hive #3 - Inspection of brood chamber showed good brood/larvae. Only 5 frames in use so lots of room for expansion. Added a 2nd super.  Removed the super of cleaned frames and replaced it with a super of 6 frames for cleaning. 1st super heavy but not quite ready for removing. This colony is a lot less agressive than it has been, possibly because it is a viable colony again.

Post-inspection photo off my webcam facility

June 6th - Inspection Day
Hive #4 (was nuc swarm) - brood on 3 frames, about 5 frames unused. They had cleaned up the cappings so gave them some more. Not overly agressive. Still a small colony but poised to grow. Need to keep giving them food I think.

Hive #2 - 1st super almost full but needs capping, they are just starting work on the 2nd super. 3rd super had frames for cleaning, which they have done, so gave them another half dozen plus some cappings. The brood chamber seems very congested, brood on all but one frame and didn't notice any stores. In retrospect should have given super 1 a better check to ensure queen wasn't up there. Next time! Good news is that there is no sign of any queen cells.  No weight gain on this colony over the last week, possibly the June Gap is biting but the weather has been mixed also.

Two new supers arrived today - and I have enough frames to fill them.
Don't really want 3 colonies but will keep them for now as insurance. Will decide what to combine with what later in the year.


May 30th - Inspection Day
Hive #4 (was nuc swarm): Good brood on first frame so things look good. Boxed them up again without disturbing them further. They had not taken the syrup I'd left them so removed it and gave them a dish of cappings to clean up. Not too aggressive.

Hive #2: This colony has been pulling in loads of honey the last week so I went in looking for queen cells. Didn't find any! Loads of bees and the super is about half full now. Put a crown board on and a super of spun frames for them to clean up. Still a fairly placid colony.

Hive #3:  This is the 'queenless' colony that I added a frame of eggs to. 9 days ago. Sadly I didn't mark the frame so I'm baffled by what I found - which was a frame of brood and a frame of eggs! One explanation is that there was a virgin queen in there two weeks ago when it swarmed. Another is that I inadvertently moved the queen in with the frame of eggs - but I was really careful so I think that's unlikely. I didn't think to check #2 for eggs as I was looking for queen cells. There's a lesson there. I added a crown board and a super of spun frames to clean up. The one super is getting near full so has to come off when I have a cleaned up super for them. This colony is still agressive but not half as bad as they were. I can live with how they are.

Resumé : I seem to have three laying colonies and no queen cells. No quite sure how but I'm very happy with it all..

May 25th
Nuc: Moved swarm in nuc into a standard brood box, mainly so I can give them some supers to clean when the weather deteriorates. Plenty of eggs on two frames but still no larvae which is surprising. Hmm. Not a strong colony, but quite docile. I had thought of merging with #3 but they are far too weak for that. Gave them a feed of syrup and some honeywater left over from yesterday's extraction. They ae now in box #4.

May24th
Extracted 3 supers os frames from various sources, some from the colony that died in December and two supers off the queenless colony #3. They are just staying indoors eating it! They had uncapped most one super that was almost fully capped a week a go. Left them one super. Ended up with 25 1lb jars of very nicely flavoured honey. And a litre of  honey & water from 3 frames that burst when extracting with our new 4 frame spinner. Won't use that machine again.

May 21 - Inspection Day
Nuc: This is the collected swarm of a week ago. Some cross-comb makes it a bit difficult, but on one frame there were eggs. I can't understand that - too good to be true. Boxed it up again and gave them a feed. Very aggressive and difficult to get rid of the followers. A few stayed near the house to ambush me when I came out again. Although it is possible the aggression is from colony #3 bees.

Hive #2: this is the split of 3 weeks ago and the half with the queen and brood. Plenty of brood/larvae/eggs and the good news is - no queen cells. They are storing honey in the super and there's 95% spece remaining. Not overly agressive. Fitted a new temperature probe in the brood chamber and boxed them up.

Hive #3: This the half of the split that swarmed. One queen cell - just as last week, I suspect it's empty but left it. Not much of anything in the brood chamber. Put a clearer board under the top super, just to see if it works really. Fitted new temperature probe and boxed them up. Very aggressive and difficult to get rid of the followers. Spotted a wasp's nest in the outhouse so dislodged it with a garden hoe while I had my gear on. Now I have wasps after my blood as well. Retreated into the house for  a lie down in a dark room.


A plan emerges. From what I've discovered today, I think I'll gradually move the nuc in front of hive #3 and in a 4/5 days move the nuc colony into a standard brood box. I'll then put #3 on top to combine them. So all the naughty bees and the naughty queen will be together and I can then bump her off and get a new, hopefully better tempered, queen.

Plan B emerges On reflection the original plan isn't so good, because hive #3 has been without a queen for 23 days. So it's only a few days off  being irrecoverable. So I went back in tonight and gave them a frame of eggs and brood from #2.  If there are no queen cells in a week that's the end of the road for #3.


May 15
On reflection decided that leaving two queen cells may have been a mistake so went back in and took out one of them. Opened it up later but nothing inside. So is there anything inside the one I left?!
The bees have been very aggressive today, maybe because the swarmed hive knows it is destined to remain queenless - time will tell. But I'm now thinking buying in some Buckfast queens in order to resolve the aggression. 

May 14
 While on holiday in Cornwall I was able to see a 1kg drop at 4pm on 13th on hive #3. Decided to come back a day eary and on getting back immediately went down the garden, and there they were. Droped them into a nuc and closed them up in a cool place. Gave them a feed in th evening and moved them to their position in the 'apiary'. Opened up the front with the excluder option. However by closing them up I may have caused my neighbour to get stung. Apparantly at around 4 and 6pm she was stung while on the patio at the top end of the garden, a good 100ft from the colony. I think it may have been returning scouts not being able to get in the nuc and getting angry. Just a theory but it fits.

A swarm!

Having captured the swarm I checked colony #2 and was surprised to find eggs, larvae and loads of brood. As it was split only 15 days ago it seems I must have put the queen in there by mistake. All the frames looked good and no queen cells. So added an excluder and a super. I'm expecting a significant weight increase when we get fine weather.

Checked colony #3 and they had not progressed at all with the empty frames I had added. Loads of queen cells. The three supers were about 70% full and I removed a few of the capped frames. Took out all but two queen cells. The mystery is why the colony swarmed as they didn't have a mated queen. But the swarm should have a queen, albeit a virgin.

May 3
Away for a few weeks so decided to adda super to hive #3. They are pulling in a kg a day typically, wouldn't want them to run out of space. If I can remove the impetus to swarm they are well placed to provide a bumper crop at peak flow.
Hive #2 looking very busy and they've taken down a litre of syrop. Brood chamber temperature drop a lot during the day, which I can't understand, but they are taking in pollen so may be things are ok. I'll know in a few weeks.

Apr 28
Intended splitting the hive today but when I checked them at 12:30 the from was covered with bees, there waere loads in the air and when I checked the weight it had just dropped by 0.6Kg. It's very possible they had just swarmed.
However I couldn't find the swarm - it's usually local. Opened them up and while there were half a dozen queen cells in the acorn stage there were no capped ones. Very odd, they usually cap a few before swarming. Went through but couldn't find the queen - not that that means a lot. So decided to follow the Ron Brown method on splitting, move about 60% of the brood out into a new hive. Going through selecting frames I still didn't spot the queen and was careful to check she wasn't on any frame I added into the new hive. So I may have two queenless colonies or I may have a very much weakened prime colony plus a second colony that I hope can make a queen. I'll know in a few weeks time! At least they are most unlikely to swarm while I'm away for two weeks. Hive #3 has the two supers still so that can be their food if they need any. I gave the new colony in hive #2 a sugar feed.
Looking at the hive entrances a few hours later hive #4 is just as busy as before while there's no outside activity at all from hive #2.

Good weight gain on the hot weekend of 22/23 then steady loss during the following cold spell

 

Apr 11
Inspection on hive #4:
About 6 frames with brood, some almost entirely. about 4 frames of space. Didn't spot the queen or eggs but I forgot my glasses. Plenty of space in super but I added another anyway, may as well be on the hive as in my shed. The extra super added 1.5Kg. All fondant has been eaten. Inspection was at 3pm but there were still a lot of bees in there. From the curve below, the hive seems to have taken off on the 6th.

 
 A second Raspberry Pi monitor was added to hive #2 and calibrated. All I need is some bees.

Mar26
Hive #4 - first inspection. About 5 frames with brood, some food, food in super, fondant available above super. Good number of bees. All looking good. Three frames replaced by undrawn foundation, one (no. 3 from RHS) with a third missing to encourage drone cells for a varroa trap.

Jan 18
Hive #4 given some fondant.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Log for 2016

 Log for  2016



View Realtime data on Hive #4 - https://thingspeak.com/channels/18130
View Realtime data on Hive #2 - https://thingspeak.com/channels/24288


27th Dec
Stripped down hive #2 today to see if I could find out why the colony collapsed. Good quantity of honey in super, although not as much as I'd expected to find, and very little in the brood chamber. The bees were all in the brood chamber head down in the comb cells, looking for food. What was apparant was than much of the honey was solid white, which the bees seem to have been gnawing, and other cells had a darker solid honey. No sign of larvae. They seem to have starved even though there was food, for some reason they didn't go up for it. And my big mistake was in assuming that the honey I'd left them was the right sort to get them through the winter. I vacuumed out the dead colony, cleaned up the hive and put it all together again in the same spot in the garden but in a bin bag. No room anywhere else for it. 

Now concerned that I've misjudged the supplies in the other hive so gave them some syrup in a feeder, they may not take it with the temperature being so low but nothing lost. 

my starved colony
 

26th Dec 
Checked hive #4 by taking the top off and could see plenty of bees crawling on top of the super frames, even though the outside temp was around zero. Gave them some solid food via the hole in the crown board..

25th Dec
No sign of bees around hive #2 for some time so investigated with a torch and could see a pile of dead bees on the hive floor. A collapsed colony. Seems to have died on 18th Dec from the charts.

17th Dec 
Hive #4 treated with oxalic acid

16th Dec
Hive #2 treated with oxalic acid

31st Oct
Both hives treated with oxalic acid fumes.

29th Sept
Pre-winter inspection on hive #4
Super very full. one centre capped frame removed, others moved up and an empty frame put in at the end. Brood box also full, plenty of stores and brood and I saw a few larvae so put it together. Excluder removed. This is the first time I've been in since combining the two colonies and what I encountered was dozens of rear end bee shells. I guess these were the drones that couldn't get through the excluder, looks like they had their heads chewed off.

This is the most aggressive reception I've ever had so I did the bare minimum. A very unpleasant experience made all the worse by four bees getting into my hood. Subsequent inspection has revealed a parting in a seam. At least I can fix that and hopefully stop it happening again. in the event they stung me three times (through the suit!) on my arm and once on my neck. It could have been a lot worse.
The weight with the super off shows 8.5Kg which has to be wrong. If I take hive #2 figure of 17.5Kg then there is an error of 9Kg. The super weight is 18Kg, down to 17 Kg with one frame removed. So I reckon they have about 25Kg stores. I really should take out half a dozen capped frames but am loath to go in there again for a while.

I've been concerned about wasps getting in. With such a strong aggressive colony pity the poor wasp that ventures near.

28th Sept
Pre-winter Inspection on hive #2
Super end frames have plenty of space for more forage should they need it. Excluder removed. Good stores on first two frames in brood chamber, brood and larvae on 3rd frame, left it at that and boxed them up. Drop board inserted. Looking at the weight trace, the brood alone with the super removed was 17.5 Kg so some 10Kg of stores in there. The super weighs 12.5Kg so about 10Kg there also. They seem well set for the winter and are  pulling in forage again now that the ivy is in flower .

I was watching the insects on the ivy, there are bees, wasps and bumbles feeding on it. And feeding on these are a plague of hornets. They simply pounce on a feeding bee and chew it up in situ. Hopefully they are chewing up wasps too. It would be interesting to know how many one hornet gets through per day. 

22nd Sept
Three cleaned up frames taken off hive #3, two more frames added for cleanup.
Wasps are really harassing hive #2, video below from this morning. Both entrances down to two bee widths.




18th Sept
Trying to slim #3 down to a brood plus super, so removed the 2nd super. However they'd capped the centre 6 frames so I moved two of the down to the end positions in super 1, uncapped two others and left them to hopefully take down, and took two other away, possibly to feed back to them later. Super #1 seems seems to have about 8 capped frames. Weight now down to 25Kg.

17th Sept
Hive #2 given a syrup feed and Beebug moved in to empty top super. 
Top super with cleaned up frames removed from hive #3 - bee population noticeably smaller now.
Need to consolidate both hives for winter at 30Kg, both a bit low at 27Kg.

16th sept
Varroa drop one day after 3rd treatment is approx 20 for #3 and 40 for #2.
2nd super, that had frames for cleaning, taken off #2. 
Mysteriously, Hive #3 dropped sharply by 2Kg at 10am today - was it a swarm? Must check for larvae in a few weeks time.

15th Sept
Both hives given 3rd oxalic acid treatment.

11th Sept
Hive #2 given a tub of cappings & honey, 3 cleaned up frames removed. Decidedly unfriendly!
Drop boards removed, count seems to be about 80 on each.

10th Sept
Second oxalic acid treatment on both colonies. Drop boards inserted.

7th Sept
Hive #3 given a margarine container of cappings to clean up. Very unappreciative - stung me through my gloves!

 5th Sept
Removed the drop boards after about 20hrs because the brood temp was getting a bit high on hive #3. Drop 
count was about 20 for #3 and 60 for #2. Had previously seen bees from #2 carrying DWV victims some 10ft away and unceremoniously dumping them. Then the wasps finish them off - nothing wasted in nature. But no bees crawling around the hives with DWV as I witnessed a year ago.

4th Sept
Did my first oxailic acid vaporisation treatment. A bit nervous after reading about how lethal the fumes were but 
the bin bag contained the fumes and I made sure I didn't breath in when removing them. From previous trials 2.5 minutes is enough to vaporise the crystals and then a further 5 minutes for let the vapor circulate. Added drop boards.Took the brood chamber off the top of #3 and put on a super with frames to be cleaned up.


Home made vaporiser using 12v diesel heater plug
31st Aug
Brood box at top of Hive #4 taken off and placed near hive for a cleanout. Rest of hive moved on to weighing system and brood probe inserted. Later in day the brood temp reached 38Cand there were loads of bees on the front - possibly overcrowding, so brood box put back on again. I'll give it a few days to see if they take down the honey then gradually take out the frames. Need to get the hive down to brood + super for the Winter. 


Overheating problem with hive #3
26th Aug
Hive #3 - Changed end two frames (undrawn) for old drawn frames. Checked for eggs and soon found some on the 4th frame so all looks good. Queen excluder added in readiness for merge with hive #4.
Hive #4 - a super removed ready for extraction.Weight drop from 42Kg to 28Kg.
Hive #2 - first super removed ready for extraction. weight drop from 48Kg to 23Kg (something very odd here). Checked brood chamber and larvae on 3rd frame so I boxed them up.


7pm - hive #4 placed above hive #3 with two layers of newspaper. Crown board placed above 1st super to encourage bees to take down the honey. I'll either end up with a very strong colony or no colony at all. I think this is why beekeeping is so addictive - it's all an educated gambol but ultimately the bees call the tune.

25th Aug
Back from holiday and checked hive #4, sadly no queen (no eggs/larvae or brood) so will merge into nuc #1, a few supers at a time so as not to overwhelm them. I'll call nuc #1 hive #3 from now on, as it's now a standard Beebox unit.

10th Aug
Checked nuc #1 and there are loads of brood cells, they need a bigger home so I will move to a standard Beebox. Then decide if I need to combine hive #4 into it in a few weeks time.


Nuc now moved into a Beebox


9th Aug
I think (looking at weight curve) that hive #4 swarmed on Saturday 6th - while I was away of course, they always wait for me to go away. So I went in expecting to have to remove all but two of the many queen cells that I saw a week ago. Went through super #1 and saw lots of larvae so the queen was there recently, There were also two queen cells which I knocked down. When I went throught the brood box there were no queen cells, they had taken them all down! So I cleverly removed the only two - feeling very annoyed with myself about that. So I don't know if there is a queen or not and they may not have the means of making one as I saw no eggs in either the brood or super #1. So all very unsatisfactory, and once again I should have just left them alone. 

4th Aug
Re-organised hive #2 to remove a super with about 10 cleaned up frames. A container of wax cappings was added to the top super (above the crownboard) for them to clean up. Temperature probe inserted at 1st super.
Hive #2 now comprises brood chamber, excluder, 1st super (probably fully capped), 2nd super with plenty of space, crown board, top super with scraps. 



2nd Aug
Re-organised hive #4 to move the wooden super above the crown borad and remove a super's worth of cleaned up frames. Also gave then a dish of wax cappings to clean up. 
Hive #4 now comprises a brood and a half, excluder, two supers (1st of which is about 80% capped), crown board, empty wooden super containing just the cappings.

30th July
Inspection of hive #4.
The 1st super had loads of brood, plus eggs and larvae. Couldn't see the queen but she's obviously been around. The brood chamber had brood but no eggs or larvae, and plenty of queen cells, which I left. So looks like she went up and can't get down again. Decided to move the excluder up above the 1st super to create a 'brood and a half' colony. Moved the temp sensor up to the 1st super. If the queen goes down again they may take down the queen cells. If they swarm so be it, overcrowded anyway, and that's without the large brood about to emerge in the 1st super.. The temp in the 1st super was up to 37C mid-afternoon and they were bearding again.


Too hot inside - bees move out to reduce temperature
Checked nuc #1 but no larvae yet, plenty of eggs. A little surprising as there were eggs there 4 days ago.

29th July
Honey Extraction Day.
Extracted the two supers taken off yesterday, then put a wet super on each hive and took off the second super on each hive. Major snag with #4 is that on the second super there were a load of brood (no larvae or eggs) on 4 frames. I put these to one side for the bees to rob out and spun the rest. I'll have to inspect properly to find out where the queen is, or are there two queens? - one above and one below the excluder. After extracting the second super the wet frames were put on top, so they now have two wet supers each. The first super is still untouched but I've had enough extracting for a while. Net crop about 33Kg. Doen't seem much for all the hard work. 


Summer honey crop
Hive #4 was bearding at 5pm when I went down and the brood temp had been up to 38C. Coming down again now. Just too many bees in there I think.

28th July
The 3rd super was removed off each hive in readiness for extracting. Weight loss on #2 was 17Kg, on #4 it was 15Kg. Super and frames (empty) would be about 3Kg. Colony #2 very aggressive, #4 not so bad. Decided to take one super only at a time so as not to overcrowd the colony. One clever bee managed to get inside my beesuit, it's not nice having a bee on your face inside a suit. In the event it went for maximum damage and stung me on the eye. It swelled up a lot and hurt too. I think she got in where the two zips overlap for the hood. I've added extra velcro in the gap between the zips to try to prevent it happening a second time. A serious design fault.
And Nuc #2 has gone to a new home in Wolverley today.



26th July
Checkup on Nuc #1 revealed eggs and actually saw the large light coloured queen. Checked on nuc #2 and saw the queen again, this time darker. reached for my marker pen but she'd disappeared and I couldn't find her again. Lots of brood coming on, too much for the nuc so need to sell this colony. Checked honey situation in the two main hives. Top super on hive #4 about a third full and super 3 was almost too heavy to lift. Load cell trace shows 6Kg for super 4 and 12Kg for super 3, ie. about 9Kg of honey. 
Top super on hive #2 only lightly filled but super 3 almost too heavy to lift again..
So need to pull off 2 or 3 supers worth from each colony, about 20/30Kg of honey.

20th July
Hives checked for space. 4th super on #2 hardly touched. 3rd super of #4 getting full so added a 4th, which is a non-matching wooden super but it is only temporary so it will have to do. It added 5.8Kg (empty of course). So it looks like I can leave them to it for a good few weeks now.

19th July
Temperature up to 35C today so assembled a solar wax extractor. Simply a set of odd bits from the garage:-  plywood backing, a sheet of insulation, a metal tray, and a piece of glass on top. Angle for optimum solar energy, add comb and wait.


Simple solar wax extractor
Hive #2 beat all records for foraging today, weight up by 2.8Kg in 24 hours.Hive #4 only pulled 0.8Kg, I need to check if it's full.

18th July
Nuc #1 swarmed at 10:30. I collected them straight into a nuc and then transfered the frames into my observation hive. I've been waiting for a swarm for this. Left a gap at the bottom for the many strays to enter by. Went back two hours later to box them up and they were gone! Will I never learn, this is the 3rd time that's happened this year. Searched for them in vain. Anyway, inspected nuc #1 and removed all but one queen cell. the one I left actually had the queen chewing the cap off so I know it's a good cell. Just hope I haven't missed another one or there'll be another swarm.

Both main hives are still pulling well, I suspect it's Himalayan Balsam, must go for a walk tomorrow to see if I can spot them foraging. Hive #2 had 2Kg of bees out at mid-day, and managed to bring back  over 2Kg.

Hive #2 - bringing home the bacon




16th July
Acquired more super frames off another beekeeper and planned to remove 2 supers for extraction off each hive. However having taken a few frames off #2 I don't think they are ready, not yet capped. So added a super of undrawn frames on #4. 

Weight of base only was 20Kg, the new super with frames adds 3Kg. The three almost full supers weigh in at 12Kg each, so that's 9Kg of honey, about 20 jars per super.

15th July
Checked the nucs to see where the queen is - she's in #2 which has brood, larvae and eggs.
Nuc #1 still has a lot of brood but no larvae or eggs, and there are plenty of queen cells so boxed it up and hopefully they'll produce a queen.
Had a quick look into the two main hives as they are pulling in loads of food and I'm concerned about space. Hive #4 still has plenty of room on the 3rd super, but super 3 on hive #2 is looking pretty full. Need to source more supers.

7th July
Both #2 and #4 pulling in about 3Kg a day between them. Below is the weight curve for hive #4, other much the same.



6th July
Checked out the two nucs 5 days after the split. All a bit inconclusive as I couldn't see the queen and there didn't seem to be eggs in either nuc. Both nucs had plenty of capped brood and plenty of larvae. Both have plenty of stores.
Nuc #1 seemed to have some very small larvae and was making loads of queen cells - which I left alone, as I don't have a plan it's best to let them do what a bee's gotta do. And nuc #1 has about 4 times the number of bees that #2 has.
From the ouside #1 has a lot of activity whereas with nuc #2 the bees hardly ever venture out. 
By the time I return from holiday in 10 days time all will be clear.


The Apiary

5th July
The recombining exercise seems to have gone well and I've now removed the top brood chamber. The frames have been cleaned up and looking at them I now realise they have loads of drone cells in a pattern indicative of laying worker(s). I found a comment on a bee website to the effect that combining such a colony with a good colony may work, but there is a risk that the laying worker(s) can kill the good queen. So far hive #2 is still looking good but I'll have to get inside and have a look when I get back from holiday in 10 days or so. Just as well I have a spare colony in nuc #1. I'm pretty sure there's a queen in nuc #1 as there is lots of activity, hardly sign of life on the outside of nuc #2 - hopefully they are preparing a queen cell. I've been feeding them both and #1 takes it all but #2 is not that interested.
Colony #2 and #4 have taken off these last few days, pulling in 1.5Kg a day so I'll leave them to it.


Drones cells - probably from worker(s)


1st July
Hives #2, #4 both loosing weight this week - just not enough forage I suspect. So decided to check nuc #1 as it doesn't have stores. Just as well, loads of brood and eggs but little food. Actually saw the queen too - waved but she ignored me. One fully developed queen cell, in centre of frame, plus a few in work at the bottom so they are probably preparing to swarm. This colony is really strong but needs more space. Gave them a litre of syrup.
LATER: I initially decided to pass the nuc colony on to someone on the KBKA waiting list but then read that once a colony gets the swarm idea it's almost impossible to stop it. So it seems unfair to pass on a colony in this state. For this reason I've now split the colony and it's in two nucs. Sadly I couldn't find the queen - for some reason I was sure I would. So each colony has eggs, brood and some food and I'm giving them both syrup. Hopefully they will sort out my poor attempt at a split.

Checked hive #3 - no capped brood, no eggs, not a great deal in the way of stores apart from the super which is about half full. The queen cell I noted 3 days ago has not been vacated and there's now a second one. Decided to recombine with hive #2. Put newspaper above the second super, put the super from hive #3 on top, followed by the brood chamber. Removed two undrawn frames and put another frame that had some nectar on it the grass to be robbed out.  

29h June
Hive #3 - This hive now has loads of queen cells in the making, all over the hive, a few ready to release a queen. Still can't see any eggs and but there is frame of capped brood, a few of which I broke into and yes there are live bees in there. Looks to me like there is a poor queen and they are making superceedure cells. The problem is that I really don't want this 4th colony so I should combine it into hive #2. I moved the hive nearer to #2 for this reason but will ponder it some more before doing it. 

19th June
Hive #3 - took advice on this hive at yesterday's local beekeepers 'out day' and went back in today looking for multiple eggs. In the event I could find no eggs at all. But there is one frame now with a good pattern of capped brood. Lots of queen cells in the making too, most of which I removed, but not all. Maybe they are planning to supercede the queen. With good reason - there are larvae scattered all over the place. Plenty of bees and the super is filling, so this colony certainly has potential. Will not be back in for over a week now, by which time things may be a lot clearer..
Hive #4 - had a quick look to see how they were getting on, 1st frame full of stores, 2nd frame with loads of eggs - obviously doing well so boxed it up again. The 1st super is getting pretty full and the second super being worked on so I added a 3rd super. Loads of bees in there, I predict a population explosion!

* The 4 brood frames I'd placed on the lawn for cleaning a few days ago were picked clean. Bees certainly appreciate free, ie effort free,  food. So I now know how to deal with excess brood frames after combining colonies.  
* I am amazed at how successful bees are at creating laying queens. Out of the 5 queenless colonies of 3 weeks ago 4 are now laying. And the 5th colony was probably rendered queenless by my interventions. Makes me think I should worry less about their swarming, simply put the effort into preventing multiple casts.

17th June
Nuc #1 - two frames not drawn out yet. I gave them a feed yesterday as it had been so wet all week and it had been taken down. Larvae and eggs visible, good lay pattern. Boxed it up and can forget it for a few weeks now.
Hive #2 - still three undrawn frames, eggs & larvae and good brood cells. 1st super about half full, second fairly light. Plenty of space so can forget these too for a few weeks.
Hive #3 - larvae visible in a random pattern over several frames, no sensible brood patter. Looks like laying workers so need to think what to do about that. But no point combining with another hive.
Hive #4 - removed the large frames from on top and placed them a few yards away, they can be robbed out by whoever is interested. Didn't check the brood chamber as I thought I'd disturbed them enough. Need to go back in in a few days but monitoring weight & brood temp should give some indication of what's happening. Beebug repaired, it had taken in water and there were dead bees inside. Dried and cleaned it and it's back on line.

10th Jun
Hive #4 - paper has been chewed through and no dead bodies so combination assumed successful. Re-organised things to try to get rid of top brood frames. Build is now brood/excluder/super 1/super 2/ crownboard/twosupers with three brood frames for cleanup (hopefully). The other brood frames have been spread around and a few old ones will be melted down.

Hive #2 - eggs discovered on the third frame in so I boxed them up again and hopefully they will develop into a good colony. Brood chamber filled up as it was 3 frames short and there are now two fully framed supers. 

Hive #3 - not looking good, no brood/larvae or eggs and no purposful pattern to brood cells. Could not find the queen cell that was there two weeks ago, taken down for some reason. There could of course be an unmated queen in there but I doubt it. Give it another week then combine with #2 if still no eggs.

Nuc #1 now at rear right of apiary having been walked there at 3 feet a day over the last week. 





7th Jun
Completed the combining of Hive #4 into Nuc #1 in the early evening while it was quiet. So both colonies are now in Hive #4. Realised I should NOT have fitted an excluder as the drones can't get through so added a roof extender with a gap in it so they can get out. Two layers of newspaper should slow them down a bit.

6th Jun
Did some preparation work for recombining hive #4 with Nuc #1.
Hive #4 moved off the measuring system plinth and onto a standard plinth. An embpy BeeBox hive was then placed on the measuring plinth and the frames from the nuc transferred across. Has a quick look at them and there are loads of eggs and some young larvae too. Added 4 empty frames to make up the hive brood chamber so they have a lot of room now. Added an excluder but no super. Will leave them a day or so to settle before combining.
Had a quick look at Nuc #2, the one with the waring queens and there are eggs on the second frame already, so boxed them up again. So that's about 10 days from emergence to laying eggs - pretty good. What I do with these will depend on how hives #2 and #3 come on with laying queens. But as things look I have two out of five hives with new queens and two hives with the potential to come good. The weight build up on hive #2 is encouraging, they could well  have a mated queen in there. But I'll leave it a week before diving in.

3rd Jun
Hive #4 loosing weight rapidly over last few days so went in to explore. The queen cell I noted on 26th May is still there so looks like a dud . There is no larvae or brood and can't see eggs - looks like a doomed colony. Took off two supers to reclaim the boxes for possible recombination use. 
Nuc #1 - lots of eggs on second frame (didn't look any further) and loads of stores, so looking good. But very congested, they need a new home and I don't have a brood box spare. So decided to shift hive #4 into two supers on a false floor and take their brood box. They were not pleased. Taking everything off the load cell platform for a minute gave me a chance to check the zero offset, which showed on the ThingSpeak weight trace as 0.9Kg - pretty good! Next stage is to move nuc #1 into the brood box, then combine the two colonies.  
Hive #3 Thought I'd check to see what was going on. I had the thought that the lost swarm of last week could have returned to the hive. Howeveer the evidence doesn't support that idea.The queen cell I left a week ago has been vacated, and there are no others. There is plenty of old capped brood but no other sign of young. So hopefully the new queen will start laying in the next few weeks. 

2nd Jun
Hive #3, checked progress on cleaning the extracted super - they've done a lot of repair work so I moved it down (now above the brood box) for them to use for storage.

28th May
Nuc #1
This has the swarm of  22nd May. Really heavy with bees. Didn't disturb the frames but they are all being worked on - new wax everywhere. Too soon for eggs so boxed them up, need to check in a week.

Nuc #2
This is the multiple queen cell nuc and at least a dozen cells have been vacated and a half dozen still unbroken - but the queens could have been stung. Plenty of busy bees in there, plenty of stores & some brood. Boxed them up, need to check for eggs in a week.

Hive #1
I couldn't see any queen cells yesterday after it had issued a swarm so had another look - and found one, and only one which is good news. So expect a swarm if I missed one or a mating flight during next week perhaps if I didn't. Four foundation frames in the brood chamber so no congestion pressure, and I gave them a super of extracted frames to clean up last night which is keeping them very busy. 

A lot of high level zapping around from hive #4 today, could be a mating flight in progress. Need more warm, still weather to get all the queens mated.


27th May
Went to collect the honey spinner and when I arrived back at mid-day the air was full of bees - hive #3 had swarmed. They settled in a nearby bush and I went in for a coffee to let them consolodate, but when I went down to collect them - all of 20 minutes later - they had gone! Spent an hour in various gardens looking for them but to no avail. So there goes my last queen. I now have 5 colonies and not a single mated queen. When I went in to check hive #3 for queen cells I couldn't find a single one. I suspect they were overcrowded and desperate to swarm, hopefully there are some eggs for them to play with. When I transferred the nuc to the brood box I didn't add a super - a mistake I now think. Honey extraction completed at 1am!
Did a bit of filtering on an audio file I recorded yesterday of quacking queens. Below is a 'video' that incorporates the sound. It shows the microphone lead into the hive and there seem to be three distinct sounds (?)



26th May
Checked hive #4 and couldn't see where a swarm queen could have emerged, however did find a big queen cell that looks ready to pop, in the centre of the frame so could be a supercedure cell. Anyway, boxed them up again and hope to see a mating flight in the next week or so.
Then checked hive #2 and couldn't see any larvae so looks like the queen could actually next door in what is now hive #3. Found a ripe queen cell in the centre then on the last frame found a dozen or more. What's more there was a lot of very audible quacking and piping coming off it. decided to box it up and ask advice - feeling out of my depth. Managed to get Ken Beddoe who advised removing the frame of queen cells to a nuc and just leaving the one queen cell. The queens can then fight it out in the nuc, I just have to let nature run it's course. While I had it stripped down a second time I pulled out 18 super frames for spinning. Bee mayhem. But the really good news is that I've captured loads of nice queen noise on my Raspberry Pi internet mic. I've now moved it to the nuc and set the software to take 30 second sound clips every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. I'll then know when the battle is over. I also gave the nuc a litre of syrup for good look. A very exciting two hours.

25th May
Back off holiday and decided to see how the Nuc was doing. On opening it up I was surprised at how many bees there were - far more than last time I looked. They seem to have demolished the capped queen cell I put in on 16th May. And there are a lot of young grubs on at least two frames, which I think means either the queen is in there (I was sure she wasn't) or some workers have started laying drones. Anyway I moved the colony into more spacious accommodation in a spare BeeBox unit. They are now colony #3 as that's the number on the brood box. Will check further in a few days. Tomorrow I'll look for evidence of the queen in colony #2. Maybe she'a a quantum queen, capable of being in two places at once, but I suspect the answer is more prosaic. Gave them a feed as it's quite cold.

22nd May
Here's a weight plot from hive #4 showing a second swarm (1st was 9th May). It was quite early at 10:30am - a bit one too, at 2Kg. I was sure there was only one queen cell in there so can't understand it. As I'm in a caravan in Norfolk there's not much I can do. However I contacted a beekeeper neighbour who captured them on 23rd and put them in a nuc for me. Remote beekeeping!




16th May
Following on from advice at yesterday's KBKA apiary visit, I checked out hive #2 for queen cells. Found about 4 uncapped and three capped. None of them really long so I wonder if they are swarm cells or emergency cells? Without finding the queen it's anyone's guess. I destroyed the non capped cells and moved the capped ones into the nuc which is showing no signs of making their own.  So as usual, I take recommended action but am left wondering if I've done more harm than good. I think the only way forward here is to get my queens marked. If indeed I have any!

13th May
Some external observations. Hive #2 looking normal and active from the outside and they are putting on weight, so I think there's a good chance the queen is in there. Unike the nuc which has very little activity - no flying bees of course, but if the queen had been in there a lot of flying bees would have returned to it. So looks like I might have got it right. Gave the nuc a second litre of syrop, first had gone. Internal brood temp holding up.

12th May
A hot day forecast and I have a feeling that today hive #2 will swarm! Decided to do s split, but rather than take out the queen I took out the brood and NOT the queen. Net result is the same as Pagden method if I get it right and I do't have to swap hives around. Spotted a capped queen cell which I removed and two uncapped, so I left just one. In the remaining colony I didn't spot any queen cells and just left them one frame of brood. So all the flying bees should carry on as before - pulling in the forage but there will have to be a lot of work expended building up the comb on the six undrawn frames I put in. I noticed a few bees on the original landing platform in bims up mode so hopefully the queen is in there. The six brood frames are in a nuc with loads of nurse bees. Gave them a 1 litre feed. 

10th May
Decided to check the nuc this morning, no queen, I think even I could have spotted her. Lots of drones I noticed. So my gamble didn't pay off, and I've put the nuc frames back in the main hive. I also added a super (6Kg for the record)  of empty frames as the hive is so productive. My strategy now is to let it swarm, then hopefully get the swarm. The colony is so strong, hopefully it will soon recover.

9th May
Warm weather at last and both hives have been pulling in lots of food these last 5 days, upto 2.5Kg a day, so I'd planned an inspection for tomorrow. However, as usual they are ahead of me. Hive #4 swarmed at 12:30, classic time. I caught them in next door's garden, boxed them and left them to settle while I sorted out the original colony. I destroyed two capped queen cells and left several uncapped. I need to go back in after 6 days according to my book, check there is a capped cell ready to hatch. I then prepared a new hive for the swarm and collected the box from next door, tipped it up but nothing came out - they'd absconded! Spent a hour patrolling the neighbourhood but to no avail, they could have gone quite a distance second time round. Let that be a lesson to me, box them up straight away!
I decided to inspect  hive #2 and as expected there were plenty of uncapped queen cells. The two supers had significant stores I noticed. Anyway I decided to pre-emp a swarm by splitting. As I can never find the queen I worked in from both ends and hoped that the queen was in the two remaining in the middle. I put these together with two food frames and two raw foundation frames in a nuc. I have read that you can tell which hive has the queen from the activity at the entrance. Nothing obvious to my eyes however. I'm hoping it won't matter, either hive hopefully has the wherewithall to make a queen. We'll see.


28lh April
Hive #4 - extra super added to allow feeding again in view of ongoing cold weather. A litre of syrup given.

20th April
A second super with a mix of drawn/undrawn frames added to each hive. An extra 3.2 Kg on the weight chart.

19th April
Both hives checked before going away for a week. Same report for each.
Plenty of bees pulling in pollen, but a lot of DWV too. Bees very calm. BeeBug moved below hive and top super removed together with crownboard. Water ingress around crownboard needs to be addressed. Feeder removed, all feed and fondant taken. No significant stores in super, but wax being drawn. Didn't see any point in checking brood chamber. Ventilation gap introduced below top. Weight from Beebug not increasing yet.
So very different from last year when the weight was going up from early April and I had swarm problems at just this date in April. Can't see them swarming this year for at least a month.

16th April
Both hives have had three feeds of 1kg of syrup over the last two weeks. Much needed in view of the cold weather. Ignoring the feeds, the hive weights are still on the down, in spite of the bees pulling in loads of pollen. Presumably not enough foragers/not enough nectar about. These two curves show the picture, the three feeds can be seen at the right.


Hive 2

Hive 4

8th April
Hive #2 inspection has been delayed by cold weather but managed it today.
Small amount of food in the super and they are starting to draw out some foundation.  The brood chamber itself had lots of capped brood (over some 5 frames) and visible larvae. Good store of pollen and both capped and uncapped honey. No obvious signs of disease apart from possible problem with brood with high dome on the 2nd frame. Must look that up, A dozen or so bees on the ground with DWV. All the Apigurad I gave them on 12th March had gone. Changed two frames for a undrawn new ones. No sign of wax moth. Plenty of bees and they were very tolerant of my intrusion, only used the smoker to drive them down. Gave them a good dusting of icing sugar, may help dislodge a few mites. Didn't see the queen. Put the excluder back on, then the near empty super.
Gave a litre of syrup to both hives.. 

3rd April
Hive #4
Outside temp up to 14C so carried out first inspection since 23rd September last year - over 6 months ago!
First surprise was total absence of food in the super, so about 10Kg had all been taken down, all frames well cleaned out. The brood chamber itself had lots of capped brood (over some 6 frames) and visible larvae. Good store of pollen and both capped and uncapped honey. No obvious signs of disease apart from a few bees with DWV. All the Apigurad I gave them on 12th March had gone. Removed 3 slugs and changed one frame for an undrawn new one. No sign of wax moth. Plenty of bees and they were very tolerant of my intrusion, only used the smoker to drive them down before replacing the super. Didn't see the queen. 
Put the excluder back on, then the empty super. Gave them a 1litre of heavy syrup mix to get them started on drawing out comb.

12th Mar
A calm day with air temperature up to 12C so decided to check the supers to see if the queen had been up there laying. For both hives there was no evidence of brood, quite a bit of uncapped honey, several frames with capped honey, and plenty of bees. I added 3 undrawn frames to the centre of each super to fill them ready for the honey flow. So that's 3x175gm onto the weight). 

Decided not to put the excluder back yet in case we have a spell of bad weather that forces the cluster up into the super. No idea how much food there is the the brood chamber so better be safe and leave it until I can see the weight climbing. Results from BeeBug for today are:

Hive #2 weight 26Kg (baseload = 15 so 11Kg food left)   -2.5Kg/month    BroodTemp 33C 
Hive #4 weight 21Kg (baseload = 12 so 9Kg food left)     -4.5Kg/month    BroodTemp 34C

I had noticed a half dozen or so bees on the ground with DWV so there must be a lot of Varroa in there. So I've put an Apiguard treatment above each super. Only had one tray left so split it between the two. The DWV is concerning but on the plus side it tells me that there are new bees being produced. Difficult to say which hive the deformed bees are from but I think it's #2.

24th Jan
After two weeks of real winter we have a warm spell and the bees are flying from both hives. There is even a small amount of pollen going into each and the temperature probe in the brood chamber is showing 32C for hive #2 and 28C for hive #4. Last week hive #4 was showing only 6C so I was very concerned about it. The change-around in a few days has been amazing. I gave them both a treat today - a blob of honey, which went within 20 minutes! So, All good news.
Honey-guzzling bees (on right)
4th Jan 2016
On 1st Jan both hives moved a few feet and re-oriented to allow better access and future addition of hives for swarm control. Both colonies are looking good, sitting out the remarkably mild winter. Brood temperatures below are not that significant as it depends where the bee cluster is relative to the temperature probe.

Hive #2 weight 31Kg (baseload = 15 so 16Kg food left)   -2.0Kg/month    BroodTemp 14C 
Hive #4 weight 30Kg (baseload = 12 so 18Kg food left)   -1.5Kg/month    BroodTemp 20C