West End apiary

Denise and grandson Atlas

Our apiary and meadow at West End is doing better now. Progress earlier in the season was hampered by the wet May and June; a story sadly reflected in the beekeeping of many this year. The colonies were inspected on Wednesday (28 July) by Denise and Richard, ably assisted by one of our younger beekeepers, Denise and Phil’s grandson Atlas and then again on 4 August. Here is an update from Richard.

28 July

The previous inspection of Hive 3 revealed a couple of charged queen cups and by yesterday, one of them had been sealed. Judging by the timings, Denise and Richard expect she’ll hatch on Thursday.   

They believe the cells are a supercedure situation; anyway, the bees have plenty of space, so they weren’t concerned about swarming.

The resident queen is marked red, so the next inspection will reveal if the supercedure theory is correct.

The bees have also added plenty of stores during the recently-improved weather.

Hive 2 wasn’t opened. It’s developing well and was recently moved from a nuc into a standard National. It was decided not to disturb the bees to let them build up.

One benefit of all that wet weather; the meadow is still coming on nicely! All that hard work in April seems to have paid off!

4 August

Denise, Zara and Richard attended West End Apiary on Tuesday to inspect the remaining two hives.

The first to be inspected was Hive 2, recently transferred from a nuc into a standard National Hive. The queen (cell) was donated to the association by the extremely generous and good looking Richard Skinner (his words, not mine) from his Italian Queen Ashley.

The colony is expanding well and at a surprising rate; they were only transferred just under two weeks ago from the nuc and are now covering 8/9 frames. 

The bees have started their winter preparation, backfilling the brood box with stores instead of brood. A super had already been added which and is showing some signs of being used but not to the maximum as yet. It was decided however to leave it on as there is still plenty of blackberry and other forage available. It was noted that the bees were bringing pollen identified as Ragwort. There is certainly plenty of that around the apiary.

Ragwort
Denise and Zara checking hive 3
Not sure how to caption this one. Perhaps you might like to study it reflectively for a moment?

Hive 3

Unfortunately, Hive 3 isn’t doing so well. It appears that the second of the donated queens (again, introduced as a cell) was either killed by the original queen (marked red and previously believed not to be present) or the new queen didn’t mate well. The laying pattern is sporadic and the colony is not thriving. The bees seem to be taking matters into their own hands and have produced two nice-looking, sealed queen cells. It was decided to leave alone and monitor the hive closely over the next couple of weeks. There was no concern around swarming due to the low colony population and the queen cells are believed to be supercedure in nature. The cells are expected to hatch soon.

Denise; not too happy with what she found!

It’s hoped now that the red queen will be replaced by a white queen (War of the Roses?) and she will successfully mate.

The other thing to report on with this hive, is that for the past four weeks there has been signs of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) which may indicate a high level of Varroa, (Varroa, an overview) which has highlighted to us the importance of note-taking for comparison from week on week. A Varroa monitoring board has been inserted and if necessary, the super will be removed and the hive treated. A high Varroa population could be a factor in the hive’s reluctance to expand.

This is definitely my favourite photo!

Wednesday 11 August

New hive 1

After making a split on 3 August, George’s hive (number 5) at Swanmore produced multiple queen cells which by Monday 10th August were all sealed.

Making up a nuc using resources from Hive 5 at Swanmore, Monday 10 August.

The nuc was created using five frames, including one of stores, one brood (which included most of the queen cells) and a frame of drawn comb.

Transferring the nuc to West End.

This nuc was transferred to West End apiary with the aim of increasing the number of association teaching colonies there.

As it’s late in the season, it’s unlikely we’ll transfer this colony to a full size hive this year. It will be better over-wintering in a nuc as that means less space for the bees to keep warm.

However, as this nuc does not accommodate a super, we’ll transfer the colony into one that does in the next couple of days. Hopefully that will allow the bees to add some winter stores.

Monday 16 August 2021

The meadow continues to surprise! Here’s some pictures from today.


Denise took out the inspection tray from Hive 3 today. It was previously reported the colony was showing signs of Deformed Wing Virus which usually points to a high varroa load. Denise counted over 109 varroa on this board today (which is indeed very high) and has started a second Apivar treatment as a result. If you are able to enlarge this image, you can clearly see the dark, crab-like varroa. Note how Denise draws a grid onto the monitoring board to make counting easier. We’ll keep you posted on how the colony responds.

Louise went to West End this morning to remove a queen cell from the nuc we transferred from Swanmore last week; see note above. As she was doing it, a queen hatched out in her hand, which Louise skilfully managed to contain!

The new queen is bound for the hive belonging to new member Ritchie as the swarm we collected for him earlier in the season had gone queenless. The virgin Louise installed in Ritchie’s hive today is our last-ditch attempt to get his colony on track this year! Let’s hope for fine weather and a successful mating.

Denise also added a super containing drawn comb to the nuc as planned. Drawn comb was needed as it probably too late in the season for the bees to draw out comb. We plan to over-winter the bees in the nuc and a super with drawn comb should allow them to add some winter stores. No queen in the nuc yet.

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