Honeybees on the Veg Patch – Portion History to 28th June 2014.

We bought our first bee colony in the summer of 2012, sadly our queen died in the late autumn and the colony died out over the winter.

In the spring of 2013 we were kindly offered a local swarm which we gathered in and hived. This turned out to be a secondary swarm with a virgin queen, which meant the queen needed time to mate and that delayed colony growth by a few weeks. The colony did expand, and late in the summer it gave us our first, albeit small, harvest of honey.

By late winter 2014 we could see by the number of flying bees returning to the hive with hazel pollen that our new colony had survived. Our swarm queen had started laying in earnest. By April we had five frames of brood waiting to hatch and, thought the beekeeper, “its all going well“.     “Not so”, thought the bees, “we need a new queen”.  So they made up viable supercedure cells, big fat ones, and in six weeks the colony was again full of hatching brood. Well done new queen, well done bees. In fact the hive was so full that we added extra space in the form of a super. This is slowly filling with honey, but we still need good weather for bees and plants to get a good harvest.

Its all life and death drama, this beekeeping lark. If you are not part of it and wish to understand all this beekeeping jargon and the fascinating lifestyles of bees, join the portion and take an active part. We have spare bee suits, and “on the hive” training provided.

Three weeks ago we purchased a nucleus of bees headed by a “Buckfast Queen”. A nucleus is a small colony. The expectation is that the “nuc” will expand into a full size colony by the end of the summer with a surplus of honey and pollen. These stores will help the colony to survive the winter and be ready for 2015.  More on Buckfast bees in a later blog.

Our third colony along with its wooden hive was donated to us a few weeks ago by a local beekeeper. It is not yet on the veg patch, it will be moved in during the winter. This time of year the foraging bees have a map in their tiny brains that allows them to fly back to the nest after collecting nectar. Move home and they will be lost and the hive will be short of bees  and short of food. Next spring they will remap.bottom hive bees