Season Update: ‘Zombees’ and Adventures in the Yard

So we’ve got a slightly funny story to tell you about bees coming back from the dead, which Sian has coined as ‘zombeegate’. When checking our nuc’s feed Sian had noticed a nuc where the bees were dead (but were actually in a state of suspended animation as a we later found out). Upon close inspection she could see through our clear plastic crown board, the bees weren’t moving and had their proboscis stuck out – an indication of starvation. Removing the fondant revealed that unfortunately it wasn’t placed on correctly, meaning the bees didn’t have access to the fondant at all. With a heavy heart and a few tears, she carried the lone nuc back to the yard.

Now, ordinarily when we are clearing our boxes of our losses, they normally go into a box, later to be thrown away but we had a very unique situation on our hands. An artist from London had contacted us asking for a tub of dead bees, definitely not a request we have very often! Knowing this, Sian decided to gently remove the dead bees with a brush, she even found the curled up queen, which she cleaned up a bit. But, as we were worried about the damp state they were in encouraging mould growth, she spread them over cardboard and left in the work room to dry as we had the heater on to help dry the painted honey room floor. Well, I came in the very next day and it took me a while to realise that some of the bees had come back alive, INCLUDING THE CURLED UP QUEEN!

Zombee Queen

It was impossible to sift through the horde of dead bees to identify the slowly moving live bees so I had to place them all in a box with syrup and fondant. As soon as we could, Sian and Rob popped them into a small mating nuc with drawn comb as they had separated into a cluster. Honestly, we were shocked and wonder how many cases have occurred before, after all the bodies normally go straight into a box.

We’re doing our best to nurse the little cluster, which was honestly less than a handful of bees. But we’d hate to lose it. Sian spoke about it with an old employer who aptly told her ‘bees are only dead when they’re warm and dead!’ So even us beefarmers get it wrong but if Sian had not noticed they were dying, they most certainly would all be dead within a few days, so please do check your bees have proper access to their feed even if you know how resilient they can be!

Sian feeling a bit ‘warm and dead’ now

Aside from that extraordinary moment, we’re being rather positive by describing our work at the yard as ‘adventures’, honestly it is quite good to finally get things organised. We had been wracking our brains trying to figure out a way to stop the double handling of our equipment at the lean to, this is because we are so busy during the height of the season we store equipment that is cleaned but not filled and then when it comes to winter and we start filling boxes that get stacked in front of the unfilled and basically it just causes a lot of confusion. Even just writing that was laborious!

Nice and neat lean to

Gabe and I went to the lean to and moved all the commercial and 14 x 12 boxes to the front of the yard, then we went through every National brood box, with chalk and we marked an ‘F’ to indicate that it was a filled box, and ‘FD’ to indicate boxes with filled and drawn frames. It is looking extremely organised, however the empty poly boxes easily get blown over in the wind, we’re hoping that once the boxes are filled with frames they’ll be a little more stable.

We’re hoping that most of this equipment will actually have bees in them over the winter, meaning we’ll actually have plenty of space next season. However, because we’re trying to reduce the amount of nucs we manage, we’re going to need a lot of space for our empty nuc boxes, so I guess you can say that it swings in roundabouts.

Even in the yard we’re starting to be able to move our extraction kit slowly back into our honey room, that’s given us enough space to manoeuvre our pallet of flatpack correx boxes upstairs so that we can get more made up before the overwintered nuc rush!

Gabe and Rob moving our pallet of flatpack correx boxes

As you can tell by now, our Gabe is back home from a fantastic time in New Zealand! He really enjoyed the fast-paced and strenuous honey farm that he was palmed off too (as well as being able to use the amazing natural spa facilities at nearby Hanmer Springs). He was able to learn a few different techniques that we’re hoping to utilise this year as well, although we do not have the capacity to have nearly 1000 hives like his boss in NZ, one can certainly dream though.

But just as soon as he is back in the fold, he’ll soon be off to his block training for a week so we’re getting him to help us as much as possible with the amazing amount of frames left still to make as it’s the only thing we have left to do for our spring preparation. He made one super frame in just 29 seconds! However, Chris Manton of @ElmTreeBees decided he’d be disqualified due to misaligned bottom bars (I agree!! – Sian).

29 seconds to make 1 frame!

Things were looking pretty positive weather wise, but then obviously with all the storms we had a bit of a disaster, and now we’ve been having some snow too! Despite this, our customers seem to be getting excited with orders coming in for nucs, queens and equipment. We love it when it starts buzzing here, unless it’s ZOMBEES!

Take a moment to adore a set of twins, lambing season almost over for Rob!

P.S We also have a lovely new sign outside of our office!

Hand painted with a shaky hand

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