Things don’t always go to plan!

In the unseasonally warm weather the last few days, the bees have been working as if mid-summer and I took the opportunity to open a few that I hadn’t checked recently. The first was on my allotment. That’s a disaster! Somehow the queen got above the excluder and established a brood nest up there. Despite swapping boxes around, the bees steadfastly ignored the brood box. One of the supers is of the ‘economy’ type which has just one frame and 9 (or is it 10?) top bars designed for the production of comb honey. They drew comb alright but it’s full of brood. I didn’t tear them apart too much but I could see plenty of sealed brood. They seem to be ok for stores and I left a super above the QE just in case of getting a surplus from the ivy, which seems to be popular.
On to Frogmore where I have a hive in a beautiful position on an organic farm. The views of the valley and woodland are superb and I can understand why people go there to use the holiday homes on the farm. It is about half a mile outside the village of Toller Porcorum. I’m a bit wary of the nearby badger sett as it’s big enough to lose half a class of school children. I’ve had a hive badgered before, on the other side of the valley. It was overturned and I could see a trail a combs scattered along the badger track.
The bees in this hive were the stroppiest swarm I’ve ever caught, but they were very close to an electricity sub station and I assume that they were upset by the electro magnetism. They’re as nice as pie now; too nice, maybe, as they have been severely attacked by wasps. The attack seems to be over now and the bees have adequate stores. I saw some good patches of apparently healthy sealed brood and spotted the queen, a large black beauty! I got my queen marking ‘crown of thorns’ cage from my belt and also the marking pen, but in the few seconds that took, she hid and I couldn’t find her again so I closed up and went on my way to Kingcombe.
At Kingcombe, my apiary is tucked behind the roadside hedge in the corner of a field that has changed hands several times and is now a nature reserve, rightly so as, in the couple of decades or so that I’ve known it, there has always been a good display of orchids as well as other wild flowers.
My 2 hives that I had there, empty at the time, were stolen earlier this year so I have replaced them with my original top bar hive and made a stand from fence poles. It is instantly identifiable and would be difficult to move so I hope the thief doesn’t strike again.
The bees here came originally from the same hive, then at Litton Cheney, in the form of a queenless nucleus taken to Marshwood, hopefully to provide a queen for a friend whose Warre hive was in need of one. They produced 4 queen cells, half of which were transferred to my friend’s hive and half left to re-queen the nuc. After a couple of months I removed the nuc and put the combs back in the TBH which had been repaired and re-located.
They seem healthy enough and have brood but are on only 4 combs and aren’t over-endowed with stores. Again I saw the queen but was too ham fisted and slow to mark her. I decided they I should feed them. Normally I don’t feed bees as it only helps to select for those that need feeding and can’t fend for themselves, but these had been mucked around and it wasn’t their fault so I made an exception.
How do you feed a top bar hive? I took a plastic container from my bin. It had held supermarket mushrooms. I checked for volume by filling an empty plastic 2 litre milk bottle with water and found it was just right. I had sugar (for home brewing) and so almost filled the milk bottle while the kettle was boiling. Boiling water and a good shake turned the sugar into syrup. I found fir cones and rotten wood from my smoker fuel stock to act as rafts to prevent bees drowning in the syrup.
Back to Kingcombe, without precautions of smoke or veil, gently I opened the hive from the rear and poured in the syrup, which the bees found almost at once. I found that some of the sugar was still not dissolved so I left the milk bottle there as well. I must remember to retrieve them before they are encased in comb!


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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