Latest from the beehives

Two hives, one swarm colony and one full overwintered colony.

The latter has now filled up its first super so I had to make up another and put that on top.  So that means they've built out their entire brood box and 12 frames of honey on top of that and are now setting about 12 more.  It's complete chaos in there. Never seen so many bees. Must be getting on for 50,000 in that hive. Huge and quite feisty. I opened them on Saturday and they went a bit ballistic with me and didn't take well to being disturbed.  As if a giant lent down and took the roof off an arms factory to the disappointment of all inside. One of them tried to sting my arm on the canvas of the glove, so didn't get through but once she'd started and they all smelled the pheromone, many started piling on. So I quickly closed up and let them settle down, brushing bees off my arms and body. Hurrah for a decent suit.

The other one is a worry. Quiet and small and the queen is not producing much at all. There are six out of 12 frames of brood made up and they have not worked up the super at all yet. They are feeding and coming and going but they need to get a move on.

My prediction is that the big hive will swarm soon. I will have to separate the colony and hope for the best. That is sub ideal as a small brood is less likely to make it through the winter than a big one so I hope it doesn't swarm and stays large and productive. Hopefully not quite so cross though. 

I think the small brood may fail and not make it through winter unless it gets a move on.


Oh and the big one has started to cap its honey in the first super so I think we are in for a large crop.

I am disappointed that you have not titled this thread or indeed yourself Voice of the Beehive

When they swarm, you find where they have swarmed to and you will find a football sized bundle of bees on a branch or gatepost etc. They are protecting the queen. She is the newly hatched queen. Unless they have killed the other, then there will be one left in the hive with a small colony. So now you have two.  You find a box or temporary poly hive (I have the latter) and you put in one or two frames of foundation wax in there with some food.  You then put the box proximate to the ball of bees. Ideally you snip off the branch and then with one movement shaking down and quickly up, you release all the bees from the branch into the box and, if you got that right, a good number of bees including the queen will be in the box. If not in the box then they will find her and the ball will be reconstituted. If she is in the box then the rest of the community will gradually make their way in. it takes about an hour and can be made easier by placing a sheet or wooden plank between where the remainder are and where the queen is. They always walk up a gradient, not down, so if you put the queen box 1 foot up above the remainder of the bees they will wander up. 

Eventually the ones flying around in the air will settle on the wax with the queen. When they're all in you close the box and seal it up with gaffer tape. Then you take the box and put it at the entrance to the new hive. You open the box and take out the frames on which the queen and workers and drones will be sitting. Very carefully you place those frames in a brood box in your new hive so you have 10 frames of brood foundation with them sitting in the middle. Then you set the hive up, close the lid and shake the remaining bees out of the box and let them fly around and work out where the queen is. They then go inside. Job's a good 'un.


This is all fine unless you cannot get the queen off the place she's sitting where the swarm has landed.  Worst case is you need to brush them in (bee brush is a v soft brush designed to move them without damage) and hope you get the queen and don't kill her or leave her behind. 


noted wang


I should say that I am watching the brood cells in the big hive with care to find out if they are producing any queen cells.  These are larger brood cells than normal and they look a bit like peanut cases bulging off the wax. This contains a new queen and is a sign of imminent swarming.  Some keepers pinch the queen cell and kill the pupae. I do not, as usually this is a response to overcrowding or a weak queen and therefore they need to swarm, so don't mess with nature, just manage it. 

All this means that in a season you can find you start with a single strong colony and end up hastily building hives and you hit September with 3 or 4.

question from my intrepid 6 year old the other day when we were watching bees on a bberry bush - there were i think honey bees, those orangey ones (masons or solitary?) and bumblers at least.

she asked if only honey bees make honey.  i'd no idea.  assume the others are collecting the pollen to eat or to feed broods.  particularly bumbles they pack their holsters so full they look like dirty harry

Thanks Muttley that is very interesting. Are they quite easy to find when they swarm then?

Yes, easy to find, generally.

They are usually not that far from where they started. They start in the hive and then the queen flies out and does a spiralling corkscrew flight up and away from the hive emitting a "follow me" pheromone and the drones follow her and the workers (or at least some) go with her to protect her. This spiral flight lasts a few minutes and is where you get that cartoon bee swarm cloud stereotype from. But very quickly she tires and lands and at that point they all cluster round her.  Around that cluster is a very energised load of bees. And around that is usually a very energised load of humans shrieking and worrying and generally making matters much worse. But even without the humans, they will be visible unless they've gone off into the woods and you didn't know it had happened..


Honey bees are the only ones which make honey in this volume but there are a few stingless bees in Asia, Australia and South America (not wasps, still bee species) that make it but not in significant volume and then bumble bees that do store food but as they nest in solitary or low numbers they only produce small amounts of stores, plus solitary bumble bees use a fungus to degrade plant material which produces a sticky honey dew from broken down cellulose and they store that. That is not honey but is their food along with modest amounts of nectar honey.

Honey bees are farmed/kept because they are social colony bees and thus can produce volume.  

mutters, when you are managing the hive move, either preemptive or after a swarm, what hapoens if other insects get in as well, do they just get killed/absorbed?

good luck doing this move before its too late!

Sir you surely mean wasps are either in family or genus (or even order) i will not have bees tainted with accusations of speciesism with bees.  (nor indeed the bumble with the honey)...


The sentence including explanatory insert in sq brackets

"there are a few stingless bees in Asia, Australia and South America (not wasps, still bee species [though described as "stingless"])





Other insects?

This is tens of thousands of bees. If you were another insect you'd fuck the fuck off asap.

Mostly insects give bee colonies a wide berth. Anything that could be seen as invasive gets its head bitten off by a guard bee.  There is plenty of "other insect" detritus to be found on the bottom of a hive including wasps that have raided the hive for wax, honey or grubs and been got for it.

Every so often an earwig or spider finds a small corner of the hive to hide in and keep warm but generally stays away given the downside risk.

Wax moths do enter the hive and eat wax. You have to spot them and their chrysalises and kill them.


In the winter, field mice get in and help themselves to wax and honey and seem absolutely intent on this despite the fact that between them and the comb is several tens of thousands of stinging bees.  Hard as nails. Quite often they chomp back a section and make a nest in there and coexist for a few months.

They don't tend to do this in the summer when the hive is active as they would get killed as they entered. They sneak in when the bees are dormant in the cold months.

The solution is a mouse guard over the front entrance in the winter which has holes big enough to let a bee come and go but not a mouse.  You can't keep these going in the summer as bees need to exit and enter quickly and in large numbers.


I spent quite a while last night checking both colonies at dusk. there is much to report.

The nectar flow is in full mid summer flight now but only a few more weeks to go. The bee colonies are busy from dawn to dusk and the big colony has produced a full 10 frame super of honey and is well into the second super now.   There is a slow start but once the colony grows its ability to grow further increases exponentially as they bring in more food, more workers are born and tend the colony and make honey, the queen lays more eggs, there are more emergent workers etc.  It all just goes mad. 

In the productive hive the first super is so heavy it must be about 20-30lbs in weight at least which, if you think it is made up of ten frames of lightweight wood, some thin wax and a wooden box enclosing that, makes you realise how much liquid honey is in there. The bees themselves are not much of a weight.  The second super of 10 frames has only been on for a few days and is already being built out and has honey in half of the frames. Within a fortnight in current conditions they will have completed that one too. They know what time of year it is and that this is peak and the industry levels are extraordinary. You take the top off the hive and there is a cloud of hot air. As you take each super off the whole thing drips honey and there are globs of "bridge" wax between the supers which they've built to allow them to run up and down the hive from frame to frame. They are so productive that they are even using the bridge wax as storage and it's full of honey too.

The swarm control nuc is still very slow and I think the queen is a bit weedy.  It will probably not make it through the winter unless we get a very mild one.  It is too late in the season to start thinking about re-queening as even if a new queen got going there'd be limited weeks for colony growth. When you re-queen you introduce a new queen in a queen cage into the brood, pegged to the wax frame, and let them get used to her, check her out and feed her and decide to accept her. If you put her straight into play they will kill her.  When things are calm and there is a good number around the queen cage you dispose of the other one (squish) and then the next day you let the new one into the colony and hope for the best. I have to stick with this one that's in there and hope she gets a move on. She is obviously laying - there  is some capped brood and emerging young workers - but just not quickly enough such that the rate of mortality (7 weeks for a worker) is not being outpaced by the birth rate fast enough.  In the other one we are at risk of overcrowding because she produces like a machine gun, producing probably 10-20,000 new bees each fortnight, whereas in this there are, say 50-100 cells per frame producing new bees.

I am now trying to work out what to do with these entirely inconsistent arrangements. Glut in one, famine in the other. You will say "why not feed honey from one to the other" but that's a sure fire way to kill the second one off, as it infects the hive with all sorts of things which the colonies producing the honey have developed immunity to.

Have you got Asian hornets around where you live? They've been wiping out a lot of the bee colonies here.


AHs are notifiable. We would get a notice from Defra if so. We have a local Defra inspector who is v good at giving the heads up and if you are registered on Beebase (which is the national database for keepers) then you get a warning.


well I am in W Sussex so the fuquers are no doubt lurking in the woods, in their Panzer tanks, waiting to bombard my hives.

Asian hornets:

  • have a dark brown or black velvety body
  • have a yellow or orange band on fourth segment of abdomen
  • have yellow tipped legs
  • are smaller than the native European hornet
  • are not active at night


Hmm. Right. Find the nest at night and light it up with some napalm.

Which Rofette is this?

  • have a dark brown or black velvety body
  • have a yellow or orange band on fourth segment of abdomen
  • have yellow tipped legs
  • are smaller than the native European hornet
  • are not active at night