Nature magic: twilight for the bees and a mystery object at the apiary

00 Dreamy hives

I arrived at dusk at the apiary after the last bee had floated home. It was my regular mid-week visit to bring sugar syrup since shook swarming the hives. Strangely, the apiary takes on a life of its own in the twilight hours. The place is silent of beekeepers clamouring over tea and cake and beginners enquiringly asking questions, and the air is empty of humming honeybees. The hives sit quietly in rows, nettles and bluebells sway gently in the soft glow, and trees secretly rustle. I think this is a time for nature magic.

01 Overgrown apiary

As you can see the path to the apiary is now overgrown – nature has taken over and the bluebells have arrived early. There are lots of wildflowers for the neighbouring shrill carder bees who have been frequent visitors. However, something else was waiting inside that gave me a start. What is this mystery object standing in the gloom in the middle of the apiary? What have the elder beekeepers been up to now?

02 Mystery object mating nuc

I took a picture and tweeted it. Replies soon came back suggesting it was a mating nuc or bait hive, or perhaps bumblebee nesting box. Whatever it is, I may now have to wait till after Easter to find out.

The daylight was fading fast so I lifted the roof from Myrtle’s hive and saw half the syrup in the feeder had been taken down. This is our nicest, and slowest, colony, so I was pleased. I emptied out the remaining syrup – homemade sugar syrup grows mould – and cleaned the feeder – because I’m an obsessive cleaner – placing it back on the crownboard filled with ambrosia. Ambrosia is a special mix of syrup that lasts longer and contains other nutrients for the hive. The bees love it, and the hive raised its hum as workers rushed up to drink.

03 Ambrosia bees

There is plenty of nectar and pollen about, of course, and our bees are probably strong enough to forage to feed themselves. I like to keep feeding, particularly after a comb change, until the hive has fully built up again. The feeders filled with sugar syrup in the roof are for a rainy day – if our girls don’t want it then they won’t take it.

04 Ambrosia bees close up

I fed Chili’s and Chamomile’s hives next. These colonies had taken down all the syrup and were hungrily licking their tongues around the bottom of the feeder for more. I’ve been worried about Chamomile’s hive since her colony tested positive for nosema and we found unhealthy looking larvae in there on Saturday. Cold weather at the weekend delayed the comb change, and though we’re eager to get this hive onto clean frames, Chamomile has had to wait.

Beekeeping done, at the end of my evening visits I enjoy walking around the apiary to check all is well with the other hives and to Instagram pictures of the other residents. Flowers looks so pretty at dusk.

05 Apiary white flowers

06 Bluebells

07 Cherry blossom

A small mouse peeked out from between the flowers and looked up curiously, but I wasn’t quick enough to take a picture before she ran away. The bees were tucked up and well fed for Easter, and it was time to leave.

Happy Easter to humans and Hymenopterans alike!

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32 thoughts on “Nature magic: twilight for the bees and a mystery object at the apiary

  1. Visiting the apiary without the lure of cake? That’s dedication 😉 Beautiful photos at a beautiful time of day to be alone with nature. I’m curious about the feeders you are using. They look similar to some a friend built but not quite. What are they?

      • Cool! I’ve never seen commercially available feeders like that here. The ones my friend made were cut down plastic pails with a large hole drilled in the middle and a plastic tube cemented on. This was covered with a screen cap with room around it for the bees and screen ladders that went down into the tube. I’m currently using a low, open pan with a bunch of wine corks

      • Some beekeepers at the apiary make theirs too including plastic food bags with clever slits and reused glass jars with mesh caps so the bees can suck out the liquid. Sounds like beekeepers are inventive all over the globe! I shall have to tell them about your feeders.

  2. Lovely post Emma very much like the first photo of the hives it has very nice light to it. The odd looking box is a bait hive someone has set up in the apiary to hope and catch us the beekeepers asleep regarding swarm control and then presumably claim the bees as his. Bait hives are great fun and I love setting them each year, but they need to be set up just right for the bees as they will only choose the best home available for them within a given area from the swarming colony. I would say that bait hive has more chance of a bird nesting in it than bees taking up residence. We already have a bird nesting in a bird box in the apiary on the vacated stand with approx half a dozen eggs. Rather appropriate for easter.

  3. I was guessing a bait hive myself, but who knows. It could be a nuc as well, though they are a bit bigger on this side of the pond typically. I’m jealous of your apiary. It looks beautiful with the flowers and overgrown trails.
    My apiary is a barren wasteland in comparison. 🙂

    • Do you get as much rain as our apiary though? Suspect I would be more jealous of all the sunshine your bees might get! 🙂 Yes, it seems to be a bait hive in case we don’t make it to the apiary to catch a swarm!

      • That’s true. We only get a rainy day a month or so. Maybe twice. Luckily we are urban-ish, so we get lots of ornamental flowers and fruit trees for the bees.

        My wife’s dream vacation is the UK, so one of these days I’m hopeful we’ll get to sneak into the apiary and see it in real life. It seems like such a fun group!

    • it is a bait hive, made by one of our elder, but newer and very enthusiastic members … if it gets birds nesting it it that is a result for the birds, if it gets a swarm it is a result for the bees and the beekeeper. whatever, it will be a learning experience.

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