Some basic articles to help if you are interested in getting started with beekeeping

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Taking off the supers – Honey Yield Down

I took the supers off today ready for extracting in a week or so. At this stage I have 12 supers but quite a few are only about half full. I find it quite difficult to estimate how much honey I will finally get – normally I’m a bit too optimistic. So my guess would be around 200lbs. Last year I was a bit careless in bottling honey that had a water content of around 23% and it started to ferment within about 3 months. So this year I will be a bit more rigorous and ensure that I’m at 19% – 20% to avoid post bottling issues.

I removed the supers using either Porter type escapes or my clearer board with some “Bee-Quick” sprayed on it. The clearer board works really well if it’s reasonably warm but as is often the case in the UK the temperature isn’t hot enough and the bees are still evident in the supers.

Overall I would say the honey yield is about 50% of what I would have expected from the colonies I have been managing. Talking to other beekeepers it appears my experience is typical. I notice that the BBC is also saying honey yields across the UK are at about 50% of the average.

This year I will also produce some cut comb and have taken off 1 super of unwired combs. Fortunately I marked the frames so know which ones to use the comb cutter on.

Collecting Swarms

I had 2 swarm calls on the same day this week – I guess as the weather had turned nice the bees decided to take off. Both of them were within 600m of each other so I thought that there were likely castes from the same colony. How wrong; both full size swarms – one with amber coloured bees and the other very dark. The first one was very easy to get to – only about 1.6m off the ground in a small conifer. Shook them into a cardboard box and dumped them into my nuc box, which was on the ground. Within 5 minutes the remaining bees found the entrance and were using it. A bit of a panic with the second swarm as I didn’t have a box ready, but made up some frames and went off to collect the second swarm a few hours later. It was in the grounds of Woodlands Park Hotel near my River Mole apiary site. Again very easy to get to, about 2m off the ground in a small tree. Repeated the process of shaking the bees into a cardboard box and tipped into the hive. Came back in the evening and collected both and fed them when I put them onto stands in my home apiary.

Next day bees were flying from both and within a day were bring back pollen.

Decided to inspect today which is 4 days after collecting them. The first swarm had drawn 3 of the 4 frames in the nuc and there were eggs in 2 of the frames and a nice looking queen. Quite a bit of pollen had been collected. The second swarm had drawn 5 of the 6 frames in the full size box and I spotted the queen. It looked as though she had been out on a mating flight as there was the orange coloured remains of the “mating sign”. This is the first time I have seen this and wished I had my camera with me. Anyway no eggs yet but beautifully amber coloured bees.

Swarming and Prevention with Clipped Queen

I inspected one of my colonies on Saturday late afternoon and found a number of queen cells – 2 sealed, 4 unsealed and 5 with eggs in them. The queen cells had been raised in the 5 day period since my last inspection. The queen was still present and there were 3 frames of brood with quite a few eggs. A bit of a surprise as this was a nucleus colony set up a few weeks ago when the parent colony showed signs of swarming. I had hoped that by setting up a nuc with the old queen they would stop wanting to swarm. The queen is 2 years old, but the number of queen cells doesn’t indicate it would be a supersedure process.

Swarm over the front of hive

Getting Ready To Leave

With the queen still present and being unprepared I decided to leave for a day and go back in on Sunday to take out the queen and bank her.

Well the bees decided not to wait and had tried to swarm. The front of the hive was covered with bees and quite a few were on the floor. But fortunately for me I now clip all my queens and so the swarm was without a flying queen and didn’t take off. The clipped queen was on the floor surrounded by a few bees, so I picked her up and put into a Butler cage and banked her on top of one of the other colonies.

Clipped Queen on Floor

Clipped and marked queen on floor in front of hive

The bees gave up on the swarming activity, well at least for now, and within half an hour had gone back into the hive.

I will need to go back in a couple of days and reduce to just one queen cell.