Autumn is coming


Last post Emily and I were in the thick of it. We had to abandon combining two hives as angry bees got the better of us.

So the following Tuesday evening we met at the apiary and pulled on bee suits over smart work dresses and heeled shoes. Emily was wearing a beekeeping jacket that left her legs perilously bare – but it was the mosquitoes, not the bees, who feasted.

Rose’s colony was more bad tempered than ever and, although we couldn’t find the queen, we were almost certain the colony was queenless. The bees have been trying to supercede Rose since spring and our artificial swarms only delayed their efforts to overthrow the reigning monarchy.

We laid a sheet of newspaper over the brood box of Chamomile’s colony and moved over Rose’s colony, then left the apiary hoping for the best. Emily revisited the following week and removed the newspaper, which was mostly chewed away by the bees. All seemed well. In the time the bees had eaten through the newspaper they had gotten used to each others’ smell and were one happy colony. This was also an indication that Rose had gone as the two colonies were more likely to fight if two queens had been present.


A Saturday went by as we shopped for wedding and bridesmaid dresses for Emily. Today was the second Saturday of the August and the apiary was lovely and peaceful as the association held its monthly scout hut meeting. However, we had both forgotten to bring a smoker and the noise of irritated bees soon filled the air.

Myrtle’s colony was well behaved and, as we’ve never smoked these bees, we were able to check both brood boxes and spot our shy queen. I’m rather proud of Myrtle. She is in her second year of being a queen and is still making nice, well-behaved bees.


Chili’s and Chamomile’s colonies were much feistier. They are the daughters of Rose, the queen of the colony we bought from Charles. We managed to check a few frames before they let us know that we should have brought a smoker. All seemed well inside the colonies though. We have three strong hives and apparently enough honey stores for winter. Myrtle, Chili and Chamomile are our autumn queens – an interesting blend of essential oils, I might try it!

At this time of year the bees start to prepare for winter. The queen lays less and the workers bring home propolis to insulate the hive. They are more protective of their honey and on guard for robber bees, wasps and other pests who might want to steal their precious stores. This can make them less tolerant of beekeepers too.

Emily spotted drones being pushed out of the entrance by workers and a few wasps were buzzing around the roofs and floors.

Autumn is coming.

Useful links

A useful strategy for dealing with autumn wasps entering hives via @DrBeekeeper on Twitter: The Battle of Wasps attacking Bees 


29 thoughts on “Autumn is coming

  1. I discovered last week that one of my new queens has died/gone. Fortunately, I still have two queen right colonies, even though the queens are still very young.
    Hopefully, the first colony have raised a new queen and she has time to mate well… if not, I’m merging colonies as well….

  2. I just merged my colonies with the newspaper method. I opened it up after just a few hours and they had already made inroads on the paper. They work fast! The colony is doing well now and it is full of bees.

    • After a season spent guzzling honey, doing B&B in neighbouring hives, and no work, it’s a undignified end for drones to be pulled, pushed and bitten out of the hive by their aunts and sisters. Although they provide a feast for hungry spiders and wasps.

  3. Wedding dresses, eh? When is the big day…or is that hush-hush? Is fiancé okay with sharing Emily with the bees? Does fiancé meet with EST’s approval? 🙂

    • The bees are so demanding!

      It’s awful – all this sunshine and bees increasing has meant little time to spend sitting, drinking tea and eating cake(s). Although I have a strong feeling there will be cake next Saturday.

      And, of course, with Emily’s wedding there will be LOTS of cake next year!

  4. Do you ever get not terrified of mucking it all up? I’m on tenterhooks, trying to anticipate their mood, needs, etc. I’m only in my second summer, and without another experienced beekeeper for guidance this year. Which I like. But it’s nerve wracking!

    • I am always terrified of mucking it all up, which is why it is so lovely to have a hive partner and to have kept hives within a supportive apiary environment. Although now in my fourth year, I do sometimes think I’m a better beekeeper when beekeeping on my own or with Emily.

  5. HI Emma. I’ve had a lot of wasps hanging around too. Might make a wasp trap over the weekend. In the meantime, I have launched some of Talking With Bees honey in Bristol! Tastes delicious.

  6. Those angry bees, such rude girls! We re-queened one of our hives 2 weeks ago for angry behavior, but they had a queen – a very nice laying queen – who quite possibly was africanized. So we had to do away with her and introduce a new queen. Now it will take about a month to tell if they settle down until all the brood she laid cycles out.

    And congrats to Emily! Weddings are such fun, especially when you are in them. 🙂

  7. I never realised bee-keeping was so fascinating or so complicated. I must say Emma if that’s the bridal veil in your picture it could do with some improvement before passing it on to Emily. And to Emily , Huge Congratulations. Much happiness to you both.
    xxx Hugs xxx

  8. Emma, I am so glad to hear from you. I thought there was a problem of sorts since I have not heard from you or Emily in a long time. I love, love, love your bee photos. I know how hard it is to get them too! Sad the bees are testy. It is not like there is all the other bad bee stuff going on around them. Emily getting married? Congrats to her.

    I have a post coming up where I got 2 inches from a bee and that is tough for me to do being allergic. I hope you get a chance to see it next week. Have a great week.

    • Ah no, all is fine but lots sunshine and booming bees has left little time for blogging weekends 🙂

      I’ll pass on your congrats to Emily – I’m so excited to be her bridesmaid, can’t wait till next year!

      I’m allergic to bees too so sympathise and looking forward to your close-up bee post! 🙂

  9. Pingback: The wheel turns | Miss Apis Mellifera

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