Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

Filtering by Category: Disc Hive

Mini-update on the Disc Hive

I've been visiting the Disc Hive at the farm from time to time. I'm pleased to report that it has not been knocked over by wildebeest. However, Queen Irene's colony are a defensive bunch. The eldest bees in this colony will pre-date Queen Irene, as they will be daughters of the previous queen, Queen Honey. It may be that it is these elder bees who are the defensive ones, in which case the mood of the colony may change over the next few weeks as these workers die off and are replaced by Queen Irene's daughters, if those bees have a mellower temperament. But my hopes are not high. I fear Queen Irene's daughters will be little better.

I have taken honey from the Disc Hive, and it was similar to the honeys from the hives at the home apiary - unsurprising since most of it would have been made by the bees in their previous location before the move. It will be interesting to see how the honey they are now working on, which will be made from nectar they collect from the surrounding fields, compares with the honey from the hives at home.

As you may be able to see from the photographs above, I have written on the super "CuBA 1". This is done by burning the wood with a pyrography pen. The numbering of the supers is to help me track which super was put on which hive and when, as I can make a note of the super number in my records. It may also be a useful security feature, akin to marking valuables with a post code, as a deterrent to theft and/or to assist recovery. Though the Disc Hive occupants seem quite capable of deterring potential thieves by themselves, with their host of determined guard bees.

Disc Hive goes to the Farm

The Disc Hive bees have been having big adventures this year.

Headed by Queen Honey, they surged into growth this spring, and I only just split them in time to stop a mid-April swarm. After that, I split the top colony again, by transferring Queen Honey and half the brood into a nucleus box, leaving the remainder to raise a new queen. But despite my interventions, they swarmed. I think I left too many queen cells in the lower colony, so they produced more than one new queen, and had enough flying bees for one of those queens to leave with a swarm.

Sadly, despite marching theatrically into a new hive as you can see in the Gallery video, that swarm has ended up being queenless. Perhaps the swarm queen and her swarm parted ways. Perhaps she didn't mate successfully. Perhaps she was injured during my inexpert swarm collecting. Whatever, the swarm are unhappily living out the rest of their days as laying workers.

Meanwhile, back in the Disc Hive, Queen Irene has ascended to the throne. I discovered her presence by surprise, when I was preparing to re-introduce Queen Honey to that hive after the Bee Inspector had reported it to be queenless. Queen Irene is the daughter of Queen Honey, and probably a younger sister or half-sister of the queen who left with the swarm. Although perhaps there's an outside chance she actually is the queen who left with the swarm, who somehow sneaked back home again!

Anyway, I do hope Queen Irene is a brave but gentle queen, because at this tender young age she has already gone on a big adventure. Yesterday, in the early morning, we took the Disc Hive to a new home in the Cambridgeshire countryside. A local farmer has welcomed the bees on to his land, where hopefully they will make themselves useful pollinating field beans. I'm not sure yet whether I worry more about them now they are there (are they ok? has the hive been knocked over by wildebeest? when can I visit?) or when they were here (are they causing a nuisance? is there a bee caught in my hair again?). But, at any rate, it's a big move - we now have apiary number two!

Four Happy Hives

Today's statistics:

  • Beehives opened: 4
  • Brood frames inspected: 44
  • Gloves worn: 0
  • Stings received: 0
  • Surprises: 2

I've been in the habit of wearing those disposable thin latex gloves when I'm working in the beehives. They are easy to change between hives and they keep the propolis off your fingers. But the box ran out the other day without my having noticed we were getting low, so I'm gloveless now. It went fine today inspecting the hives without gloves. When you get bees all over your hands it does tickle! But it's also a little easier to feel when there's a bee in the way when picking something up or putting it down, so it could be an improvement.

Cedar Hive

These bees are a lovely colony. They smell like a summer meadow. And they do not seem inclined to swarm, so they are the sole single-storey hive left in the apiary.

In this hive came my first surprise - a pollen forager carrying blue pollen. Blue. A light, greeny blue. That's not a shade I could find on my pollen chart. Maybe I should've got the full pollen reference book instead of the handy little flip card version, like they tried to persuade me to at the book stall.

Disc Hive

A new queen should be emerging very soon in the bottom box of the Disc Hive. Meanwhile, all seems well in the top box. I think I did indeed get there in the nick of time when I split them last weekend, causing them to cancel their swarming plans at the last minute.

Copper Hive

This hive is so tall that I had to stand on a chair to access the top brood box! There are sealed queen cells, from which new queens should be ready to emerge next weekend. Meanwhile I hope Queen Dawn is building up a new brood nest in the bottom box. There's no easy way to have a look, but there's no particular reason to either, so I shall leave her to get on with it.

Pond Hive

The Pond Hive contained the second surprise. You remember that I thought this colony must have swarmed on Easter Sunday, because on Easter Monday I found it packed with sealed queen cells. Well, there hasn't been enough time for the hive to have a new laying queen already, and yet there were eggs and young larvae in the top brood box. The explanation? Queen Felicity! It seems she hadn't yet swarmed after all. She must have been on the point of departure when I split them, just like the Disc Hive.

So I think I can add to my statistics:

  • Swarms issued so far this year: 0

Thank you, my wonderful, agreeable bees!


Writings, images and sound recordings are by the beekeeper unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Logo artwork © 2015-2019 Susan Harnicar Jackson. All rights reserved.