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Winter is on its way

October is here and winter preps are almost completed.  With so many colonies now the varroa treatments took a little longer. We used Api-Bioxal as a trickle method on our 460 nucs and we will use Api-Bioxal with a the Gas-Vap for the main hives next week.

So a quick update on whats been happening with us.  I am really pleased to say that Sian is staying with us full time to work directly with the bees and head up our queen rearing next year.  With so many nucs to look after Sian is going to have her work cut out for her…  We are currently looking for a new apprentice, its a 3 year scheme, the frame work is fantastic and includes a trip to New Zealand for a 12 week placement 🙂

We have taken the plunge and brought a new truck, this is now my everyday run around!

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You certainly see me coming in this!

We have a new site with the most gorgeous views and are hopeful it will do well for honey next year.

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The time has come to look at your roofs, if you have shallow roofs on your colonies it may be wise to change them to deep roofs, not only does it mean you can feed fondant without an eke, they are also heavier so less likely to be blown off in the winter winds.  Before thinking about fondant make sure you feed syrup, again a deep roof means no need for an eke.  The bees are actively bringing in lots of ivy the moment, made obvious by the bright yellow pollen donning entrances, this does look quite orange once stored in cells. However we are trying to discourage this as they find it harder to break down the ivy honey in the spring and this in turn can unknowingly cause starvation as when you heft you may be tricked into thinking they still have plenty of edible stores!

Last little check, if you are leaving a super of honey for your bees remember to remove the queen excluder. We always put our supers under the brood box and then in the spring we move them back ontop at the same time as putting the queen excluder back on. This way the queen won’t lay in the super!

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What a season

Hello!  I am sorry its been so long since I wrote anything but we have been so so busy.   My latest phrase is “I work all the hours god gave me” and Robs’ favourite phrase is “I am flying without wings” or “I am like a windmill!”

My last blog was back in April, which seems like months ago; it was months ago… The season kicked off well and just hasn’t stopped.  Today is the first day that I have actually been able to stop and think about what else needs doing, hence me having a moment to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  Its quite unnerving actually as the phone is normally ringing none stop but today its been quite quiet, I have even managed to drink a hot cup of tea!!

So, what have we all been up to I hear you ask.  Well, Sian, Rob and Gabe have been busy nurturing customer nucs, we have packed and sent out over 300 families of bees this years which is a massive number for a small business like us.  I am so proud of the team and the feedback from our customers is great – makes it all worthwhile.

I have been just as busy as them but I have been busy in the office dealing with all our queen orders and stock orders.  I have pack and sent out 2000+ mated queens so far this season, Buckfast seem to be the most popular followed closely by Carniolan (my favourite bee)

I want to say that the guys have finished all the hard graft now. In the last couple of weeks they have made up over 400 splits in preparation for overwintered nucs, which has seen Sian starting work at 6am some mornings due to the heat.  But, they do still have plenty to do with bees.  There are many many supers to come off in the next few weeks and they all need extracting.  We also have bees to prepare to take to the New Forest for the heather. This year we are taking just 25 families of bees but still that is a quite a lot to prepare.  I have my fingers crossed for a better harvest than last year.

We were really lucky this year, a fellow bee farmer gave up a site not far from us that grows Borage and he very kindly offered it to us.   For years Rob has been looking for a site on a farm that grows Borage so he is now one very happy beekeeper!  I even managed to sneak out of the office last week and I went down with Rob to check how the bees were doing. I was pleasantly surprised and we had to put more supers on some of them.  Most of this honey will be kept on the comb but some we will extract.

It really does feel like the pressure is off now.  Many of our fellow bee farmers don’t do nuc production for that reason, its very demanding and really hard work.  So it really does feel like we have more time now.  We can relax just a little and enjoy the rest of the season working with the bees under less pressure. I certainly plan on getting out of the office more and donning a bee-suit.  I am off to Southampton on Thursday to check the bees out on the Raspberries on our pollination contact.

I hope the season is so far going well for you all.

1st Queens

We had our first lot of mated queens last week but we only received 25% of our order due to poor seasonal weather.  This obviously caused a lot of problems for us and for our customers but the excitement when they arrived was great.  I do love this time of the year.

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Our bees are working hard and we are doing our best to keep up with the nucs at the at the moment.  The shortage on queens is proving to be a real problem as we are running out of nuc brood boxes to put on top of the nucs to give them more space!

The honey production colonies are doing equally well but I don’t know what the crop from the oil seed rape will be like this year for us as some of the sites were out in full flower last week but the weather was so poor. What a contrast to today and yesterday though, I was in a vest top yesterday it was so warm.

Watch out for those swarms, even though all ours have been given room we have lost a few already.  Rob called in the first one a couple of days ago; he managed to hive it OK so at least we’ve not lost the bees.  That was from one of our over wintered langstroths that we had not had a chance to check because the temperatures had been too low!!!

Sians Breeder queens arrived yesterday as well. She is getting really excited (we all are) to get started with her grafting, we still have much to do and we need to make sure we don’t rush things and most importantly we need to ensure the breeder queens are accepted into there nuc boxes as it would be a nightmare if they are rejected!

Happy Easter to you all, Becky and the team.

 

 

 

What a week

I have had a super week. It’s been busy and a struggle at times with the phone ringing none stop but to me it’s the start of many weeks to come as the beekeeping season is finally here.

Our apprentice sprained his ankle badly last weekend and was unable to bear weight which meant beekeeping was out of the question for  him. I was therefore dragged out of the office, believe me if didn’t take too much dragging, to help. It was lovely, I was in my element!

The weather was great, and working with the bees was wonderful; working with a hive of bees is like nothing else I have ever enjoyed so much. You get lost in your own world and when you stop and look around at where you are it’s amazing, there are bees flying, birds, other insects and wild animals and it’s just so relaxing and rewarding.

How lucky and I to have a job that I love so much. The thing with bees is you can’t rush them and all colonies are different.

So, if you haven’t been able to get into your bees yet make the time whilst the weather is good.  Don’t guess that if one hive is OK the others will be too.  On the site Rob and I we were at on Friday we had some colonies that were worrying light on food and others that were packed so full the queens hardly had any room to lay.

The good news is that there was a good flow on at that site. We did lose a few colonies but overall they have wintered well.  We put on extra brood boxes where needed and as we saw drones already in some of the colonies we put a few bait hives out.  All unmarked queens were marked or re-marked if the marking was coming off.

Check your bees have space, but not too much.  If you are double brooded and the bees are only on a few frames reduce down to one brood box so that the bees have less volume area to keep warm.  If they are on single brood and packed out put a super above.  If you’re not sure if they are ready for a super a good tip is to put one on but put a sheet of newspaper between.  If they want access to the super they will nibble their way through.

If you find you have a colony that appears to be queenless and has possibly come through the winter queen less think long and hard about what you are going to do.  How old are the bees in the colony. Before you spend good money on a mated queen think about whether your bees have enough life left in them to rear brood. Winter bees live longer but how old are they already?  A new queen may come in to lay in a day or two of introduction but the brood needs to be looked after for 21 days and then when the brood does hatch out the young bees need to mature.  Will your winter bees really be up to the job or will they just ignore a new queen?

The other option is to boost your colony by adding frames of emerging brood and young bees from another colony.  This may work but how many frames do you need to add to make it viable and what impact will this have on your other colonies.  Would you be better to let your other colonies build up more and then buy a new queen in a few weeks time and make your own splits.  Some times robbing from Peter to pay Paul is counter productive and you end up compromising both colonies.

Remember to clean your floors if they need it.  You will inevitably have a few dead bees and other detritus on the floor and if you colony is still quite small they may not have enough house bees to do this job so this is one way you can help them 🙂

Forgot to mention that we did a honey tasting at Rosebourne Garden Center last week.  Our Cinnamon honey was very popular and I took baby Gabriel with me (the bear in the beesuit)

Happy Spring Equinox

Hi to all, the dandelions are out, it’s officially Spring and I want to be in a bee suit!  Today we, or me, had been hoping the weather was going to be warm enough today for us to check some bees but its just not happened 😦   I know its warmer elsewhere as I have spoken with some of my bee farmer friends and they are out there now all suited up checking their bees for winter losses and making sure all is well.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring some warmer weather to Hampshire so we can do the same.

I am bit late posting about BeeTradex which was the weekend before last. We went up the day before to set up and we stayed at the Woodside Hotel with other members of the BFA (Bee Farmers Assoc.).  It’s always a fun evening with plenty of drinks, laughs and stories to be told!  The actual trade show on the Saturday went really well.  I’m not sure of the overall footfall but Rob and I didn’t stop all day.  I went off for the BFA meeting for a few hours and poor old Rob was run ragged by the time I got back!

This week has been quite quiet so Sian and I have taken the opportunity to re-stock our store here.   A job well done, we only have a few more bits to sort out and we are ready for the onslaught of orders.

So, if its quiet in the office you may well ask what we have been doing??  Well, Sian has been running me through the new queen rearing schedule she has drawn up.  We have been talking through the pros and cons of the new plan.  I eventually got my head around it all, thankfully Sian has plenty of patience…  It has made us (me) very excited and we are just champing at the bit to get out there.  Roll on the warm weather is what I say.

Gabe is on his apprenticeship block training this week in Surrey, we miss you Gabe, and Rob is busy lambing so we’ve not seen much of him either (Beckys Bees has lambs too, names “Sian’s Sheeps”.  Thankfully we have Roxy to keep us company and she even helped us with the re-stocking!!