A Week With the Bees

Published on June 26th 2019
A close up of a bee in a flower
Paula Carnell is a global beekeeping consultant, writer and speaker from Somerset. Previously an artist, Paula became interested in bees in 2008 after falling ill with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Her book about the next seven years ‘From Artist to Bees’, is available from her website.
She is currently looking after and helping to establish bee colonies on an 800-acre estate in the South-West of England. Here is the latest update...

Week beginning June 17th

There were enough dry and warm spells this week for us to get outside and see how the colonies are coping. Due to the stress inflicted on bees, we restrict opening hives. We also don’t smoke the bees unless necessary and only at times when the majority of the colony will be out on foraging flights. Supposedly, it takes ten days for a colony to restore its temperature after the opening of a hive.
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Bait Hives. (6 in use)

Bakery - We emptied the dead bees and re-primed the bait hive ready for any future swarms.
Druid Tree - Very busily flying and now surrounded by blossoming brambles - an excellent source of nectar.
We added an empty Flowhive on the roof of the Farm shop, an excellent spot to catch swarms with a fantastic view over the gardens!
A birdhouse on a dirt road


Sylvia - We found eight frames of honey in her first super. The second super was empty, and the colony had been attaching wax comb between the two supers. We didn’t check the brood.
Grace - We split this colony in April, and when we checked this week, the brood box was full. She had begun to move into the super box and draw out comb. We found black blobs on the observation board which Linda later identified as poppy pollen.
A person holding a section of a a bee hive
bees on honeycomb
Grace frames of honey
Alison - We’d been concerned about these girls as they had been quieter than usual. But when we opened up, we were glad to see that the queen was laying. We also noticed that the brood comb was in the superframes as during the colder weather the cluster had moved to where the stores were. This was confirmation that our decision not to use queen excluders this year and allow free movement around the hive was correct. If we had used a queen excluder, the colony may have starved as the queen could not have moved into the honey supers. We have also decided that all our colonies will be overwintered with a ‘brood and a half’, which means their brood box and a full super of honey. Supposedly, a brood box alone would be enough to sustain a colony over winter. However, WBC and National hives are smaller than the widely used Langstroth hives, where a brood box may contain enough stores.
A close up of bees on slats
A close up of bees on honeycomb
A person getting bees out of a hive
Alison's busy brood box and drone brood (dome capped cells) in the super
A close up of honeycomb
Alison eggs and larvae in cells, like tiny white grains of rice
Winifred She was quite feisty on the day we inspected so we left the brood box alone. The first super was full of honey, and the second super is now ready to be filled with collected nectar.
Joy - Quieter than the other colonies as she was recently a swarm. But they have already begun to build comb.


Freda - We’ve noticed that this colony get more active when she knows we are there. Talking appears to encourage more of the bees to come outside and see who is around. This is a robust and healthy colony.
A close up of a tree trunk with a bee hive on
Freda saying hello
Bees in a hive
Druid's fresh white comb
A person extracting bees from a hive
Adding new frames for Druid to expand
Druid - Happy to report that this colony is doing well. The feed of honey has given them a boost, and we saw a vast variety of pollen going into the hive on the sunny days.
We also observed as a bee carried out a drone. There was no obvious sign of illness or disability, but after the bee dropped him, we took a closer look and spotted a single varroa mite on his back. These bees show hygienic behaviour, which is an excellent indicator of their adaptation to disease.
A bee resting on a gloved hand
A bee on a hand in a white glove
Expelled drone from Druid.
Freedom Hive ‘Deana’ - Seen flying but not as busy as some of the other hives.
Caterpillar walk; ‘Amber’ - This is a really strong colony who always appear to be flying.
Marl Pit Skep hive, Holly -. Great to see Holly on a warmer day and flying well. Some samplings are sprouting in front of the hive which we plan to cut back to make viewing easier and allow more light in.

Gore Orchard

Emily - Flying well and still no sign of having swarmed.
Flowhive swarm: Petra - Still in the hive and now flying in and out with pollen, so we’re hoping that they’ve decided to stay.


Cuppa On opening up to add new frames, we were surprised to see that this colony weren’t as full as Compass. This could be due to swarming, or that when we split the two earlier in the Spring, the old queen ended up in Compass. We counted eight drawn out frames. Both colonies were relaxed and good-tempered.
Bees coming out of a bee hive
Warre hive. Last week’s feed also helped this colony who are now flying. Their cluster inside the hive has widened, suggesting some comb building has begun.
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