Copper Bee Apiary

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

Filtering by Category: Pond Hive

Roar of the Bees

We had a good spring for honey, but it seems to be a poor summer. The supers are light - very little honey in them. And the colonies are relatively small. It used to be that the bees would overflow when I opened a hive - not so any more. Now I can lift out frames without even having to nudge many bees out of the way.

With autumn on the way, the colonies are shrinking fast. You can tell this by looking at the brood frames even at a single point in time. A brood nest full of eggs and young larvae indicates an expanding colony, whereas a nest that has more capped brood than young larvae indicates that the queen's rate of egg laying is decreasing. In the Pond Hive brood box, almost all the brood is capped - I had to search hard to find eggs and larvae. The current capped brood will emerge as new adult bees that will become autumn foragers, but there will be fewer and fewer young bees coming through after that.

Varroa mites - and the viruses they transmit - may be reducing the strength of the colonies. In the Pond Hive I saw evidence of deformed wing virus, manifested by flightless bees with shrivelled white wings. So, despite the misfortune that befell the Cedar Hive when I last used this treatment, I applied MAQS to both the Pond Hive and the Copper Hive, as an anti-varroa measure.

The formic acid fumes from the MAQS are supposed to be able to get through brood cell cappings and damage mites within the cells as well as those loose in the hive. If you've not smelt formic acid, the closest thing would be to put your nose into a bag of salt 'n' vinegar crips and inhale sharply - it produces the same sort of nasal sting! And the bees clearly hate it. They react as soon as you take the MAQS out of the packet. After I put the MAQS on the Pond Hive brood box and closed up the hive, a loud roar could be heard from the brood box. The sound was probably caused by the workers fanning their wings to try to drive out the fumes - they had turned up their hive air conditioning to maximum.

I took this sound recording, holding the microphone near the hive:

(As usual, whenever I do a sound recording, someone flies an aircraft overhead.)

Then - brace your ears - I put the microphone under the mesh floor of the hive to hear the bees more clearly:

Not much chance of hearing aircraft over that.

I hope the treatment does the colonies more good than harm, but I'm sure it doesn't feel that way to them at the moment.

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.