29 May 2010

Going Up!

The existing colony has finally started to increase in numbers, and is drawing out fresh new brood comb. The plan had been (and still is) to replace the current brood box with an all-new deep box.

Replacing the current brood box with the deeper version adds about four inches (about 0.1016m, which shows you how useless SI units are for the real world) to the stack height. This being a WBC hive, to allow for the increase, I need one more lift.

Guess who forgot to bring the extra lift? See blog title for a clue.

Ground floor: perfumery
stationery and leather goods
wigs and haberdashery
kitchenware and food. Going up!

First floor: telephones
gents ready-made suits
shirts, socks, ties, hats
underwear and shoes. Going up!

Second floor: carpets
travel goods and bedding
material, soft furnishings,
restaurant and teas. Going down!

When to add supers...

The new swarm colony is going great guns. Clearly there are no new bees yet, so in theory the numbers are declining, but it doesn't look that way!

I put the swarm into a hive with a deep brood box and two supers. Naturally, after the event I discovered that you should not add supers until the brood box is fully drawn and filled with brood, honey and pollen. This ensures that the bees actually keep the stores below the excluder, where they will need them for winter.


See blog title for further information.

28 May 2010

Bill Turnbull: the bad beekeeper - Times Online

And I understand he has written a book, "The Bad Beekeepers' Club."
'Bad' is a strong word; how about 'naughty' or - let's say it - 'incompetent'?

22 May 2010

Jus' checkin'

Looked in on the new swarm today. The good news is that they have settled into their new home, rather than simply buggered off.

These new bees are *very* busy, and *very* aggressive. The slightest shake or knock, and a great swirl of bees pours up at me! Right now, they are building up the comb in the brood box, and already storing honey and pollen in half-built cells.

The first brood will be due to emerge in 24 days. I will check again on or around 12 June, which allows a few extra days for the comb to be completed.

By the look of them, these are Carnolian rather than black bees.

20 May 2010


Phil kindly gave me a *huge* swarm he captured last night. At a rough guess, at least 1kg, which means around 10,000 bees.

The swarm is now in a WBC hive with deep brood box, and one super (drawn) above the queen excluder. I fed them with one litre of 1:1 syrup.

19 May 2010

Marie Celeste

Page 184, Guide to Bees and Honey, 1997, by Ted Hooper...

"Often, this [robbing] will go on until the robbed colony is devoid of all stores, when they will starve or possibly all go home to the robbers' hive. I always think that this must be the way in which 'Marie Celeste' hives are produced - a hive in which a hive is completely empty of bees, stores and brood, but in which every cell is cleaned up and in perfect condition."

You heard it here last, naturally.

14 May 2010

Q&A - bees in the birdbath

I was asked:

"[We] have a birdbath, large water-filled patio tubs and small saucer of water on our patio. Last year, and now this, we have found lots of bees trying to drink from these places, but have found a significant number drowning. We try to keep the water levels high, and have tried floating things in the water to help them get out if they fall in, but are concerned about the numbers drowning. We have lots of bees drinking on warm days and it can be a bit hard to get into the garden – and we don’t want to disturb them.

What can we do to help more bees survive?"

I answered:

"The best thing to stop bees drowning is to provide what I might best describe as a shallow ramp down into the water, like a very gentle beach. The bees will then walk forwards and drink from the damp edge, without drowning. Floaty things generally don't work.

If they are honey bees in your garden, they should not really bother you, but if there is a large colony (wild or kept) near-by, I can understand how it might be a bit of a pain. To stop the bees arriving, I suggest that from time to time you leave the bird bath dry for a while; the bees will soon (give it three days) learn to go elsewhere. You can then refill the birdbath, and repeat the trick if the bees rediscover it."

Any good?

Best bad bee pun (-ish)

Readers' hives


11 May 2010

Why are bees stripey?

I was asked this by some schoolchildren. Here's my best shot.

The gene that expresses stripeyness in tigers is the same gene that expresses spottiness in leopards. All big cats carry very similar gene pools, and the individual genes are expressed differently in each species. (In the case of stripeyness in the big cats, it is governed by the genes controlling the size of the animal.)

If the same applies to hymenoptera, then hornets, wasps, bees, hoverflies etc will all (?) carry the stripeyness gene, expressed differently in each species. For example, apis and bombis express very different degrees of stripeyness.

Honeybees are mildly stripey because there is some mild survival value to carrying and mildly expressing the gene. Hornets are very stripey because there is big survival value to strongly expressing the gene. That's why bees are stripey - a bit obvious, really.

Is that right?

How and why did the gene arise, and what did it originally code?

05 May 2010

Los zánganos en la colmena

Norman Chapman (one of our Wimbledon beekeepers) has, with his daughter Valerie Rhenius and granddaughter Nina Asquith-Rhenius, published an elegant little book: Inside a Beehive.

Thirty-six pages are adorned with excellent photographs show every aspect of a hive. The text is in English, French and Spanish.


ISBN 978-1-907092-04-6.

PS The Spanish for "drones" is "los zánganos."