Life of the Bees Day 1

I went to visit the hive several times today to see what the bees are up to.

First thing (well about 9am) there were only a few bees around, however the hive was in the shade and the bees probably hadn’t have the morning sunshine to let them know it was time to forage.


At lunchtime it was a very different picture. There were a lot of bees around and flying in and out of the hive.



The Arrival of the bees

Today I went to collect my nuc of bees from Local Honey Man in Walthamstow

After a journey home (where i tried to drive as smoothly as possible) we put the bees down for a rest. We finished setting up the area and then after about an hour I started the process of transferring them to my brand new hive.

I kitted myself up with my jacket and gloves and then lit the smoker, took a deep breath and opened up the box. I puffed some smoke into the box to help calm them down and gradually opened the box further.

26913354052_be513dea09_o 26403933223_68a6b91898_o 26733925070_7f8d8b0763_o

As they calmed down I then took the brave step of picking up the frames. The first frame mainly had honey in the cells and the following frames included capped brood. The bees were happy sitting on the frames. I smoked them a bit as i went along to make sure they remained calm.

27007939365_3bc27dd10c_o 26402012434_eb562e6d69_o 26939473891_f8dbc4e734_o 26402211574_6055837d16_o 26913517062_a08edcbe28_o 26404084303_08f6b1bb6e_o 27007798415_0754d202ef_o 26403842673_b594050494_o

The queen had been transported in a box to make sure she was safe.  I took the step of opening the box and encouraging her onto a frame. She had a blue spot on her back which means she was born in 2015.


I then banged the box gently to get the bees left in the box into a cluster and poured them onto the frames.

And finally it was done – well i thought – but realised that i needed the spaces from my spare frames. Having collected the spaces from the spare frames in the garage I had to reopen the hive to insert the spaces. Well the bees were not happy. Having been realised that I had gone they were not impressed . They became annoyed and were buzzing very loudly. I inserted the spaces as quickly as possible and then put the queen excluder and crownboard back.

I had prepared a jar of sugar syrup to put on top of the crownboard over the whole to allow the bees to have some food whilst adjusting to their new location. I put an empty spacer box over this and then the roof.

Phew all done.


Hive Building

Today was the first day associated with this new hobby that I have been dreading -I built my hive. It’s a British National.

I went to a session with CBKA who guided me through the steps in building the hive. OMG this was hard. After 5 hours of woodwork i had managed to build the brood box, 2 supers, a roof and 2 frames. Andrew who was helping me in building the hive was fabulous – he was patient with me and helped me when needed. Despite being slower than everyone and clearly not able to hit a nail straight – he took it at my pace and helped rectify any mistakes that I  made.

So we then had 29 more frames to make – Adrian took the lead and was clearly more skilled than me at this.  What felt complicated to me was obvious to him. After a Saturday evening (what fun!) and a Sunday morning they were all done. Zoey helped at times and was intrigued by what we were doing.

Thank you Andrew and Adrian…..despite wanting and trying to prove my skills i have to accept these really isn’t by forte.

Finding Bees

My biggest challenge was where to get bees for my hive. Everywhere says that bees are available from April depending on the climate. You can either buy a nuc of bees or wait for someone who needs to split a colony or have a swarm.

I decided to buy a small nuc so that at least i would give is a go this year. The next challenge was where to get them from. There are website of companies that sell them but none of them were very local so hard to collect.

I joined a google group – buybees – this group is managed by Patrick Laslett and he publishes bee colony’s that are available via local people or businesses. It covers the whole country but you can easily see by location. I cam across a small nuc for sale in Essex and decided to take the plunge. Turns out it if with a company – HoneyMan ( who promptly got in touch to register my details  and give me details of when they would be available. They are about an hour away  and confirmed it would be May when they are ready for collection. Just need to build the hive now and be patient…..

Course Notes – Week 5 – Pests & Disease

Week 5 – Pests & Disease

How to recognise a healthy brood.

  • Eggs – 1 to a cell and in a pattern and blocks (not random).
  • Larvae – pearly white (glistening), curled in a ‘c’ shape, moist and segmented (like an orange).
  • Sealed Brood – honey coloured, doomed caps, no holes/gaps and dry.

Pathogens – these spread horizontally via sharing food between bee to bee. If a bee dies in the hive, they will carry the bee out of the hive. Vertically is where spread from the queen but this is very rare.

Notifiable Disease – if you find these you must notify the National Bee Unit. These include American Fouldbrood, European Fouldbrood, Small Hive Beetle & Tropaelaps (these last 2 are not in the UK).

American Fouldbrood

European Fouldbrood

  • This is bacteria
  • It affects the larvae pre capping
  • Larvae is a yellowish brown and appears melted and they lie in a unnatural position
  • The bacteria is growing in the cell and feeding on the food.
  • Larvae can grow into an adult bee if sufficient food.
  • Inform Bee Inspector who tests for EFB.
  • If early states then they may suggest antibiotics or take the bees off the frames.
  • If far gone – will have to destroy everything. EFB

Frequency – very rare.

  • AFB – 2013 was the last incident
  • EFB – 2014 – 1 and 2015 – 2.
  • A bottling plant in Histon imports honey from China and China doesn’t destroy AFB. Bees will eat the honey in the empty crates and carry it outside of the plant.

How prevent –

  • clean kit
  • wash gloves in between inspections.
  • Look for diseases specifically at beginning and end of season
  • Don’t swap frames and boxes
  • Don’t feed honey from another hive
  • Wary of second hand equipment
  • Be wary if swarms from unknown origin

What to do

  • Rope test – The “rope” test is where you put a matchstick in the sealed cell and the contents comes out as a “rope”. I find that just putting it in and removing it doesn’t always work, you need to twist or stir it a bit.
  • Ask experienced bee keeper
  • Don’t take them to another bee keeper
  • Don’t move


  • this is no longer a notifiable disease and you will end up with it in the colony.
  • Parasite mites
  • Bite into the cuticle and feed off the equivalent of the bee brood.
  • Breed in capped calls (preference drone cells)
  • Doubles in population every month – especially in active season
  • Lives 2-3 months and population grows quicker than the colony
  • Not easily visible.
  • When varroa population is high – it can lead to a colony collapse.
  • Aim is to keep the population as low as possible.

How manage

  • chemical and bio technical
  • open mesh floor – put tray underneath and this will collect the dead mites.
  • Page 34 – Managing Varroa Booklet
  • Apiguard – don’t use when got honey supers as honey will smell. Put on as soon as honey taken off (end of July/early august). Its effective when warm.
  • Alt – Mike Away Quick Strips. Very new so best to wait and see how successful.
  • Varroa doesn’t kills bees but they spread virus. There are currently 18 identified. All similar strands. Nothing able to do – just more stressed skills are more affected.

How know if effected –

  • deformed wings (appear melted)
  • trembling flightless bees
  • deformed ‘k’ kings – wing not tucked in when wandering
  • Shiny/hairless bees
  • bloated abdomens.


CBKA Beginners Course – Hive Inspection


Course Notes – Week 4 – Swarming & Feeding

Week 4 – Swarming & Feeding

Swarming – 

Why – creates a new entity and colonies.

Looks like – huge cloud of bees and make lots of noise – constant hum. The will initially settle near the hive and then a few hours later they will find a permanent home.

Prime Swarm – this is the original queen with new bees. Usually April – July and it’s when a new queen cell has been capped.

Caste Swarm – a new queen and has left the hive with some bees. Usually after the prime swarm.

Triggers – overcrowding with lack of space, ventilation, too many nurse bees or too many wax (means they are bored) or lack of queen pheromone.

Important to recognise 3 types of queen cells.

Emergency queen cells – if there is no queen then the worker bees have 4 days to convert a cell into an emergency queen cell (queen cell on front of comb). DO NOT KILL OR DESTROY. Close up the hive and leave for 3 weeks. Note – there can be lots of these.

Old Queen – supercede the queen as she is not working as well. The comb will have been eaten around it. Leave it to get on with it.

Good Young Queen – queen cups develop. See them hanging down. These are done for swarming and will be at the bottom of the comb. It caught early enough them destroy. If there are no spare cells in the frames then there is a risk of swarming.

Prevent –

inspect 7 day intervals in swarming season and aim to find queen cells before they are capped.

There will be an increase in drones.

Put a spare super on to give more space (or 2nd brood box).

Ventilation – not necessary in mesh floors.


Catch them in a cardboard box. Shame the swarm or spray with water and they fall towards the cardboard box. Make sure there is a cloth over the box for them to fall into.

Leave them on the cloth until dusk. Tie sheet around the box and take to the hive.

Put sheet in front of hive and then bees walk up sheet to the hive.

Food & Feeding

Forages bring in pollen, nectar, water and resin to the hive.

Nectar – combination of sucrose and water (can be 80% water). It is converted into honey. It is passed to worker bees and put into cells. The water content needs to be reduced to 17-19%.

Bees prefer high sugar content and will ignore apples trees for oilseed rape.

Colony need 50kg of honey p year so need to up 200kg. Each bee will collect 20-100mg of nectar per flight).

Need to leave 17kg of honey to get them through the winter. They produce 27-68kg surplus honey.

Pollen – it has protein including fats and vitamins. they used the pollen to feed the larvae and creates brood food. Pollen is stored around the brood areas. If there is lots of pollen then it is a good sign of a healthy queen and hive. Need 25kg pollen each year.

Resin – use resin to make propolysis (bee glue). It blocks gaps in have and is mildly antiseptic.

Water – used to dilute honey to make it usable. Need water supply near the hive.

To feed –  get a bucket and put sugar in. Mark the bucket on outside and keep gradually adding water until it reaches the mark on the bucket.


Course Notes – Week 3 – Where & Manipulation

Week 3 – Where & Manipulation

  • Where to put the hive:
  • It needs to be a semi permanent place as if it needs moving it can move less that 3ft or more than 3 miles. If it is moved more than 3ft then there is a risk that they won’t find the hive. You can move the greater distance but gradually with 3ft intervals.
  • Weight – 30lb initially but will end up being 150lb.
  • Base- Stable base that won’t sink into the ground. Ideal is paving slab. Height so that the top of the brood box is the same height as clenched fist when standing up straight. Pallets, milk crates. Advisable to have base for 2 hives so use the space to put brood boxes/supers down when working on the hive. You will work on the hive from the back. The front needs to point in the direction of where you want the bees to fly out to forage. Pointing East is ideal
  • Needs to be bright and light – queen start to play earlier in the season.
  • Need to have access from a wheelbarrow.
  • In an area where food is available – variety of types of flowers,
  • Water source – ditch, dirty stagnant puddles
  • Don’t point front of hive in direct of where lots of people will be. Bees needs to get above people. Screen – around sides and front – 3ft away – can help them fly up.
  • Wind direction – so now blow into the hive.
  • Avoid frost pockets (bottom of hills near trees).
  • Not underneath trees – tree roots will be under hive so roots will move the hive slightly and bees end up using more propolis. Also tress will drip on the hive.
  • Not under high voltage electric cables – bees will pick up electric signals/field and makes them angry. They can pick up underground cables as well. Need a distance of 100 yards. Phone cables – not idea but not as bad.
  • Animals – very few attack hives. Badges are the only possibility. Deer – will rub their horns on the hive. Chickens – not running around the hive as will peck at the hive and the bees. Most home pets are not an issue.
  • Flooding – avoid such areas as bees die during floods.
  • Footpaths – you have a duty not the cause a nuisance.
  • Distance from home – 10ft is the closest but point away from the house.
  • Mowing lawn – likely to attract bees but wear veil if mowing close (less than 10ft)
  • Wind – need different orientation of hives if have several in a row. Wind will cause a little bit of drifting and may cause bees to go to a different hive.
  • Frames direction – front to back is the cold way. side to side is the warm way. Doesn’t matter – just whatever is more comfortable.
  • In windy conditions – put a risk or stone on top.


  • Best to do on warm calm day – not on a windy and cold day
  • Put veil on after smoker lit.
  • Have more than one way to light a smoker.
  • keep puffing smoker so they don’t get out. Puff smoke in entrance and wait.
  • At The Hive Entrance book – useful and free to download.
  • Roof off – if bees are coming through the hole on crownboard then smoke them.
  • Put smoke in super .
  • Once super off – drift smoke across queen excluder. Take off excluder – check queen not in it, Do this over the brood camber. Place excluder leaning against the hive front. If bees coming out of brood box then drift smoke over.
  • Look for – queen, eggs, swarming (queen cells) enough store of honey and pollen, enough space in brood box for laying eggs and nectar, disease. Look on both sides of frames. Must put frames exactly the same way and order. Keep a hive record of what seen.

First inspection

Installing a Nuc