Paula's Weekly Bee Update

Published on April 10th 2019
A close up of a bee on a flower

April 1st - April 8th 2019

As cold and overcast weather continues, we are hoping that the bees can survive until the sunshine and warmth return.


Really pleased to see this colony busy flying in all weathers. As the current colony moved in last May, we think that, with half the comb already made, they were able to concentrate on collecting forage rather than creating comb. This has given the bees plenty of food to get them through the winter months.
Quiet again, so we needed to add some food, to prevent further losses. We placed this colony amongst Arbutus trees, and we were hoping to find some honey stored this spring with the distinctive flavour of these late flowering trees. They were alive but tightly clustered. We're hoping that the food will keep them going.


Winifred, A.B & S.B
As the warmest apiary on the site, it’s rare not to find these bees flying. During this week they were all busy, but we had some new finds. ‘Alison’ had small white pupae deposited on the landing board that the bees had cleared out. Linda took them to check under the microscope. They were healthy bees at various stages of development, which suggests a chilled brood rather than a disease. During the colder temperatures, the cluster has to move around the hive to its honey stores. This will sometimes mean leaving an open brood away from the cluster. With the warmer weather, the bees tidy up by removing this brood, leaving space for the queen to lay eggs.
A bird sitting on a wooden surface
Chilled Brood
The larger colony, Sylvia, was showing signs of mould above the crown board. Joe added honey to feed them. As this is a very large colony, they eagerly took it up.
A close up of a tree
Winifred's baseboard with wax moth larvae


Even in the colder temperatures, these bees were busy flying and growing. We could see through the observation windows that they had started to investigate the new empty box placed above last week.
A statue on top of a grass covered field
Emily Standing proud with busy bees
Bee colony
Inside comb attached to the viewing window
This colony has a real personality. Like Freda, they can be seen flying in colder temperatures, and are in quite a chilly spot, despite being amongst trees. When they know we’re around or not; they come out to say hello, bustling by the entrance.
A person sitting on the ground
Using a stethescope to listen to the bees
Coming out to say hello
Between Gore and Gristway orchard, there is a lovely copse. During the heavy winds, Joe and Linda noticed it may be a great place to position hives to protect them from the worst of the winter weather. This week, following a dream that I had, we placed an empty Warre hive in the copse. In my dream, bees moved in and we called them Miriam. We need to raise the height using blocks which we’ll do next week. Interesting to see what happens now we’ve placed the hive there!
A wooden bench sitting in the middle of a forest
Home for 'Miriam'

Gristway orchard:

Still an active colony, we spotted dandelion pollen going in along with paler cream and yellows. Rapeseed is flowering within flight distance which could be attracting the bees.
We left Compass hive with the dead bees in to observe what happens in nature. The Wax moths, which are often found in hives, burst into life when there are dead bees and wax to clean up. Wax moth are also a favourite food source of pseudoscorpions, which is why we are now encouraging solid floors in our hives and leaving more ‘crud’ for them to be attracted to.
Oak wild bees
So reassuring to spot these bees flying, again even in cold and damp weather.
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Lime Tree Wild Bees
We’ve visited on sunnier days, hoping to catch them flying but haven’t seen them now for a few weeks. This tree has, seemingly, been occupied by bees for as long as anyone can remember (some arborists have known this tree for several years). Last year they weren’t seen in March or April, and again this year. However, each May the hive is fully occupied well into the following February. Could it be that the hollow in the tree isn’t large enough for bees to have adequate stores for a long, damp and mild winter? When they then try and forage in February, there may not be enough pollen and nectar available to sustain them until the Spring flow of Blackthorn, cherry and dandelions.
In 2018 our winter losses were in March and April, just when beekeepers should be sighing in relief that the winter months have passed. It highlights the importance of sufficient forage through winter (and very early Spring) to sustain both wild and kept colonies. Losing wild colonies, who have not had their honey taken, is more of a concern than managed hives. When managed, we can at least take the blame, and learn how to prevent further losses.
I have been delighted to see so many wild cherry and blackthorn hedgerows in blossom this week. This year's Spring appears to have been gradual, rather than 2018's sudden blooming.
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