Every second Saturday of the month, Ealing’s beekeepers have a workshop at the scout hut. While the apiary is free of visitors, Emily and I can do some secret beekeeping.
At this time of year we need to check that our hives have enough stores. One hive needs about 35lb of honey for winter. When I hefted our hives a few weeks ago they felt a little light, so I have been feeding both colonies syrup twice a week and it has made a real difference. Emily has written a great post about feeding bees for winter: Some good advice.
We got our lavender-scented smoker roaring with flames, although we only need a few puffs for our ladies. Rosemary’s hive was very busy as usual. Bees were frantically flying in and out overloaded with bright golden and orange pollen, trying to make the most of the last days of sunshine.
It took both our hive tools to get the crown board off Rosemary’s hive. This is why…
Our ladies were so busy chewing and sticking propolis to the top bars of the frames that they barely glanced up to say hello. Propolis is a resin that bees collect from trees to seal up the hive for winter. You can buy it in health-food stores as a supplement to boost the immune system because of its anti-microbial properties. We don’t harvest the propolis from our hives as London bees have a tendency to collect resin from road tar and roofs. Not very healthy!
I lifted out the dummy board to find that a foil lid from an Apiguard tray had been stuck down with propolis. Our bees are like Wombles, they investigate everything that they find inside the hive!
Rosemary’s hive has about five frames of honey and six frames of worker brood (they have stopped making drone). I think this colony will be strong and healthy going into winter. We say plenty of forager bees waddling on the frames. They look funny trying to walk with heavy baskets of pollen, and I noticed that they elbow other bees out of the way looking for a cell to unload their shopping.
Bees use pollen as a source of protein and not just for making beautiful patterns for us to admire…
Emily spotted Rosemary running across a frame, alive and well, but her blue dot is hard to spot. Here she is…
We took the honey off this hive at the beginning of August, but left a space between the brood and the super to encourage our bees to take the remaining honey into the brood. They mostly cooperated, but there was one frame that still had a patch of precious honey.
I used my hive tool to scoop out the honeycomb and placed it on the top bars of the brood. It didn’t take long for our ladies to start chowing down. We left Rosemary’s hive happily munching on fresh comb oozing with golden-amber honey. Mmmm.
A little wasp was spotted loitering, so we were careful that she didn’t sneak inside as we closed the hive.
We opened Lavender’s hive to find the bees had taken all the syrup that I gave them on Thursday (only two days ago) and were desperately poking their tongues through the feeder trying to get the last sugary drops.
Last week Emily and I wondered if Lavender had mated with Albert’s New Zealand drones, because our ladies looked lighter and more golden in colour. Here is the proof…
We opened the hive to find that our bees have built a conservatory in the roof – identical to the little hang-out that Albert’s bees have built in their hive! Sadly we had to remove their play area as we don’t want them to store honeycomb in the roof for winter. Emily observed that our bees seem to enjoy making their own comb. I suggested that we experiment next year by alternating frames with and without foundation – we’ll have a 50:50 chance of either practice working.
Lavender seems to have taken after her mother and sister. She is a hard-working queen who has produced quite a lot of brood in the past few weeks and who continues to give us gentle-natured bees.
The honeycomb in the last frame was flat and hard on one side. ‘This is the dance floor,’ said Emily. ‘The bees sometimes store propolis in the last comb to make a flat, hard surface for the waggle dances to be heard throughout the hive.’ Bees are so clever!
On the other side of the frame we saw foragers head-butting pollen of many varieties tightly into cells.
We put a mouse guard on this hive last week to help our smaller colony defend itself against would-be intruders, such as wasps, robber bees and mice. There was quite a lot of activity around the entrance showing that this hive is growing from strength to strength.
We closed the hive and topped up the feeder to keep our ladies happy and busy till next week.
Finally, I apologise in advance to my hive partner for the next photo…
Every autumn I am intrigued by these pretty-patterned spiders with enormous webs. What are they? I much prefer this spider to the big hairy sort that rampage like a lunatic around your house in September. This fellow wasn’t at all bothered when I poked a bright pink camera in his face.
This weekend we will be feeding our bees fumidil with their syrup – if I can just do the maths! I hope our ladies will still be hungry!