Apiary meeting report, Swanmore – Saturday 11 September

Zara, Phil, Catherine, Louise, Richard, Dawn, Colin, Nicky, Simon, Robin, Tom, Ceri (front row) Tim, George, Rachel, Denise (and Howard behind the camera); the attendees of Meridian’s last apiary meeting of 2021 at Swanmore on Saturday 11 September.

Here’s a short film from our last apiary meeting of the season (Saturday 11 September). Although overcast, it was a warm, dry day and the bees were very calm! Thanks to them for being on their best behaviour and thank you to Denise, Robin and Louise for leading the inspections and to Zara, Tom and Richard for taking notes. As always, our gratitude goes to the Hammond family for letting us use their meadow and putting-up with us all!

The meeting was well attended and enjoyable and we encountered a few interesting situations too. Don’t worry if you missed it, we still have the apiary tidy on Saturday 25 September when we’ll be getting the bees ready for winter as well as cleaning, repairing and building equipment. This event is always good fun and provides the perfect opportunity to get together at the end of summer to have a chat and ask questions.

The colonies inspected on Saturday were generally light on nectar and honey but seemed to be bringing-in and storing an impressive amount of pollen. We can only speculate as to the reasons, but either they’re busy raising winter bees or are confused by the late warm weather. Certainly, all that rain means that summer flowers are still going strong, providing good levels of late forage. We noticed too, that a few of the colonies were raising an impressive amount of brood and still had plenty of drones in evidence.

Louise’s group did varroa counts and found mite levels to be low. This is something many Meridian members have reported this year and Louise outlines possible explanations for this good news in the video.

Robin’s group found hive 1 has built-up strongly since it was created by splitting George’s hive (hive 5) on 2 August. Of all the colonies seen on Saturday, this had the greatest quantity of honey and nectar, with a fair amount in one of the supers. We will keep an eye on this though, as a change in weather could mean these stores are quickly depleted.

These bees, inspected by Denise’s group, are noticeably dark and small in nature, characteristics it’s said, of our native British bee. Notice the shiny lump of tree resin (collected to make propolis) on one of the bees’ legs

A couple of colonies were moved from West End recently to protect them from robbing and the video shows Denise inspecting one of these. The colony has built up strongly since it was transferred from a nuc a few weeks ago but it’s light on stores. Denise decided to move it back to West End to merge it with a queenless colony there. The queenless colony happens to have good reserves of honey and nectar and merging should create one strong colony and make feeding easier.

This is a piece of natural comb spotted in the bushes between the hives and the lane. Either swarming bees had decided to build a nest here and changed their minds (it’s very exposed) or the swarm remained in situ for a such a prolonged period that the bees started to build comb. I suspect the latter, I’ve noticed when I leave a swarm in cardboard box for a few hours, there’s often signs of wax building.

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