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Propolis taken from a honey bee hive

Propolis or Bee Glue

This year, the bees seemed to have produced a large amounts of propolis, which has made working the hives quite difficult.

Bees use this to seal up small holes and gaps in the hive. Quite often the small gap between the frames are glued together making inspection a bit harder as the frames have to be unstuck and the propolis scrapped off.

Proplis is a product of bee saliva, wax and tree resins. It is meant to have anti-bacterial and fungal properties and can be found in the use of health and healing products.

This picture was taken on a warm day when the propolis was really sticky and flexible. When colder it can become quite brittle. The picture shows the propolis after I had scrapped it off the top of a frame. The frame was stuck to the crown board (a board that covers the top of the frames).

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Honey bees emerging from a capped brood cell

New Bees for the Winter

As we move toward the winter months, the hive is beginning to prepare for the colder weather. Having gathered their honey as winter food to keep them going until the first spring flowers, the winter bees are beginning to emerge.

If you look closely, you can see some bees just poking their heads out of their cell. They are removing the capping from the cell where the egg was laid and they have transformed into a bee. Once emerging they will join the rest of the colony.

These new bees are potentially the bees that will take the colony through the winter until early spring. Winter bees tend to live for 5 months, whereas the bees hatched out in spring and summer live for about 6 weeks!

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Marking a Queen Honeybee 2019 is green

Marking the Queen Bee

As the season draws to a close, it gives me a chance to undertake some final checks on the colony and perform some house keeping.

Today was a chance to mark some of this year’s queens. The queen bee is larger than the workers, but is often difficult to find amongst all her daughters. Being able to easily see her speeds up the hive inspection.

Queens are colour coded depending on the year, this helps you remember their age. For 2019 the colour is green.

2019 Marked Queen bee (Green is the colour for 2019) amongst worker bees
2019 Marked Queen bee (Green is the colour for 2019) amongst worker bees
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Honey Bee on New Zealand Flax Flower in the UK

Bees are all over our New Zealand Flax Flowers

This year, in our garden (North Devon, UK), the New Zealand Flax’s have sent up some beautiful long flower spikes with small tubular flowers delicately displaying in reds and oranges.

The anthers protrude from the top of the tubular flower. Here the high protein orange coloured pollen can be collected by the bee.

But where the bees seem to spend mot of their time is climbing right into the flower to collect the nectar.

Tail of a Honey Bee poking out of a New Zealand Flax Flower
Tail of a Honey Bee poking out of a New Zealand Flax Flower
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Recently housed swarm of honey bees

The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm continues to grow

A very quick inspection the other evening, showed that the swarm collected a month ago has a queen that appears to be laying well.

Since the swarm was collected, they have been creating comb to store honey and pollen in as well as provide the queen a place to lay eggs for the next generation of bees.

I have been regularly checking the new colony to ensure that they are healthy and have no visible signs of disease. There is always the chance, when collecting a swarm of bees, that they bring back a disease to the quarantine apiary such as EFB (European Foul Brood) or AFB (American Foul Brood), both of which are contagious, and notifiable to DEFRA.

The new colony is looking very healthy and the queen seems to be laying healthily producing eggs and brood (bee larvae)

Inside the #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm hive.  Newly capped brood can be clearly seen
Inside the #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm hive. Newly capped brood can be clearly seen
The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm continue to draw out new comb
The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm continue to draw out new comb
The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm are still quite active on a mild summer June evening
The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm are still quite active on a mild summer June evening
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Honey Bee on at Rose RHS Rosemoor

Bees are enjoying the roses at RHS Rosemoor Rose Festival

The RHS Rosemoor Rose Festival was glorious. The roses were all out in bloom and their sweet scent wafted through the warm summer air.

Even though the blowsy colourful blooms thickly clustered with petals looked magnificent, it wass the simple open single rose flowers that attracted the attention of the bees.

This is always the way, the double blooms may look glorious to us, but simplicity is beauty to the bees.

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Newly mated honey bee queen just returned from mating flight

The Queen is Laying!

The #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm, collected from Bideford in Devon, has settled into its new hive nicely.

With the poor weather, I have continued to feed the bees, which has enabled them to build comb quite rapidly.

I inspected the bees last Sunday to discover a whole frame (both sides) full of sealed brood (bee larvae) and a large Healthy Queen bee walking around. This is a very positive sign!

I often get asked “What does the Queen look like?”. In this picture, in the middle, you can see a Queen Bee that has just returned from a mating flight.

Surrounded by attentive workers, she will soon get slightly bigger to the extent that she is unable to fly. At her peak she could be laying in the region of 1,000 eggs a day!

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Honey Bees feeding on sugar syrup from a top feeder

Feed Me, Feed Me Now!

The third installment of the #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm.

On day three of collecting the swarm from Bideford, the bees have bee put into a new hive, and are now being fed with sugar syrup. At this point I would typically medicate the bees against the Varoa mite, but haven’t had the chance to do this yet.

In the picture, you can see the bees coming up from the hive below into a feeder.

The feeder is essentially a dish with a lid, that I fill with sugar syrup. The feeder sits on top of the hive in a box that I cover with the roof, so its normally in the dark inside the hive.

The sugar syrup is 1 part sugar to 1 part water and is typically fed to the bees during spring and summer to encourage the queen to lay.

In this instance I have given it to the bees to encourage them to build out comb in the hive, but also at this time of year (May/June) there may not be too much forage (flowers) around for the bees as we are on the cusp of the summer flowers coming out.

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Collected Honey Bee Swarm located in Isolation Apiary

Collected Swarm Settled In to the Quarantine Apiary

The second part of #BidefordHoneyBeeSwarm. A couple of days ago, I collected a swarm of honey bees from Bideford.

The small colony of bees collected from the plum tree have been put into a small hive (Nuc) and placed in the quarantine apiary. Here they will be treated for disease and on day 3 fed a light sugar syrup to help them build in size.

Currently I have placed the Nuc next to the hive where they will be housed.

The bees have started leaving the Nuc and familiarising themselves with the surrounding area. You can see this by their behavior. When the Nuc was first positioned and the bees let out, they would emerge from the Nuc and fly in ever increasing circles up into the sky.

This is to allow them to spot landmarks and orientate in relation to their new home.

The next step will be to feed and medicate the new colony.

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