At the Apiary

Saturday sessions at the Apiary (latest news first):

2016 Season

28 August 2016

 Sorry there haven’t been more posts on here this summer. It’s just been too busy. Everything is quietening down now though so here’s an update from yesterday’s apiary session.

 Yesterday our hives had a health inspection from our local seasonal bee inspector, David Burns. David is a member of our association and is on our committee. It was his turn to be leader at the teaching apiary so he took the opportunity to check all the hives and talk us all through what he found.

 Generally our bees are doing fine. We saw a couple of instances of Sac Brood, one of Chalk Brood and one hive with Varroosis. None of these are notifiable and they weren’t serious but the session was interesting for those of us who hadn’t seen such things before.

 We are treating our hives with Apistan this year. This is a recognised pyrethroid-based varroacide that is put into the brood area of the hive for six weeks. It does have some resistance issues so we haven’t used it for many years and we’re waiting to see what the knockdown is.

 We probably won’t have a detailed look through the hives again now, except to check for winter food stores. The bees are sealing all their hive’s cracks and gaps with propolis so it seems mean to keep breaking this down. We will start feeding soon.



7 May 2016

 Well, that was an exciting session!

We welcomed lots of new potential beekeepers to the teaching apiary and split into five groups to look through the hives.

 We added supers where necessary and checked the Pagden-style artificial swarm that we’d done last weekend and has worked nicely. We also created a mating nuc from a nice queen cell from the same parent hive.

 Then we all gathered together (must have been about 20 of us) to look through a hive where we had done a Demaree swarm control/queen rearing split last week. At first we thought it hadn’t worked and there were no queen cells but on closer inspection we found one lovely sealed cell and created a mating nuc with it. David explained how the Demaree system works and put another frame of eggs in the top box to raise more queen cells for next week. If they all work we should have some nucs to sell in the forthcoming weeks.

Then we had a look at the bait hive we set up last week.

Thanks to those members who had taken some frames home to make up. It means we are all ready for the swarming and queen-rearing season.

 Despite the slow start to the season the bees have caught up amazingly well due to the gorgeous weather this last week.


Apiary update

26 and 31 March 2016


We had a lovely day for our apiary tidy up session last weekend 26th, sunny but cold so the bees didn’t come out to bother us.


Checking and cleaning

 We cut the hedge and burned the cuttings, cleaned all the stored boxes and checked all the stored combs, we scraped the queen excluders, smokers etc., and tidied out the shed. Generally everyone got dirty and smelled of smoke but we had a good couple of hours and got home before the rain and wind.

Cleaning the smokers 






Then today, 31st, it was warm enough to do a quick first inspection of the bees. I just opened the hives for a few minutes to make sure they all have laying queens and enough food to see them through the next few days. And they all do!

 Looking forward to the new season now.

 Penny Robertson. Secretary L&DBKA

2015 Season

End of season at the apiary

 Well, better late than never, here’s a quick note of what happened at the teaching apiary to end the season. We closed up in early October and won’t open the hives again until mid-winter, around the shortest day, when we do an Oxalic treatment against Varroa.

All the hives were heavy with stores but still had space for the ivy and any other late forage to come in. We put a super of drawn comb and stores under the brood box of the Nationals but not the 14x12s or the commercial. We put chicken wire round a few hives and plastic bags round the others to protect the woodwork and bees from Green Woodpeckers.

We checked that all the roofs on the hives had insulation in and then left them to it. We didn’t put mouse guards on as all our floors have entrance blocks in place with fairly small entrances.

All queen excluders and mesh floor inserts were taken away to store in the shed and will be cleaned in the spring. We checked all the previously stored equipment for wax moth and sprayed all the drawn comb with Certan, which will hopefully prevent it getting destroyed by the larvae and their webs.

And there we are. Another bee year has passed and we’ve done well. The bees are in good heart and we got almost 100lbs of honey which is good considering that is not our main purpose at the teaching apiary.

We’ve had lots of new members who hopefully have felt inspired and supported by their visits and will come back next year, and there are plenty of improvers who hopefully will feel inclined to take their BBKA Basic next year (you know who you are!).

Bye for now.

Penny Robertson


Apiary update 2 May 2015

 Good session with the bees yesterday. The weather was warm and calm and the bees were too. There was a good turn out with a range of skill and experience, including two completely new people and a new member who has just moved to this area and has kept bees for 70 years!

 Before anything else, we looked at the insert trays from the mesh floors that had been under the hives for a week. As expected, the hives that had been treated with Apiguard and Oxalic last autumn/winter showed virtually no drop at all but the MAQS treated hives had lots of mites. One hive had 200, another 140 and another 120.

 Using the varroa calculator from the National Bee Unit ( these numbers show these three hives “need treating as soon as practically possible”. We have ordered some more MAQS strips as they can be used while there is brood and the supers are on. Not sure that we’ll use it as an autumn/winter treatment again though. We have been treating with Hive Clean all season so far but it doesn’t seem to be enough to control such bad infestations.

Otherwise, Linda worked with a few beginner beekeepers on two National hives and the Beehaus. They all got to have a go at holding and examining a frame and saw queens, workers and drones.

 Penny worked on the Commercial and 14x12 hives and demonstrated the use of a Butler cage for introducing a queen and united two hives using the newspaper method.

 Several queen cells were broken down so we may have to do Artificial Swarms next week.


Apiary Update 1 April 2015

 Well, despite a very cold morning, the sun came out and the temperature rose and we managed a quick first inspection of the apiary bees.
All six hives have come through the winter and have laying queens. And all six hives still have some food stores left. Pollen is coming in too so looks like the colonies will be building up nicely in time for the Oilseed Rape, which is coming into flower.
Looks like next Saturday will be warm so we should be able to do a full inspection and health check on each hive. Also see if they need supers on yet.

2014 Season

Apiary update 14 June 2014

Well the queen-rearing attempt didn’t go to plan….so far.

None of the eggs were drawn into queen cells so Peter is trying again this week. We are going to use the same queen, the one from the Beehaus, and put the queenless hive above a super in case it was too close to the queen-right brood box underneath. As usual in beekeeping we learn from our mistakes!


Just about to use the scissors

Just about to use the scissors

Other than that we had a good time practising clipping wings on drones in preparation for doing it on queens. We know not everyone wants to clip their queens but for those that do it’s good to have a steady hand and to have had plenty of practice before picking up your precious queen.







Clipping a queen

Clipping a queen

The most important thing is not to hold her by the abdomen and to try not to cut a leg off at the same time. She will often lift a leg when you are just about to snip.

We have some great queen clipping mini snips in stock. Only £4. They are very sharp and accurate, and easy to keep hold of due to the loop design.






Apiary update 10 June 2014

It’s a long time since we had any news from the apiary and that’s mostly because it’s been rather uneventful until now.

Most of the hives have been ticking along nicely. We’ve done several artificial swarms and had a very good crop of honey. In fact I think it’s been one of the best early seasons for years.

We have a good group of new and improving members who come along regularly and are doing well. The early years of becoming a beekeeper can be very confusing as there are lots of different ways of doing things and many strongly held opinions to navigate through. Hopefully we don’t add to this too much.

One exciting new development is the start of deliberate queen rearing, rather than just responding to the bees. Thanks to Brian Fisher, one of our committee members who has recently done a queen-rearing course, we have now used a Cupkit and are hoping to have some good queen cells when we go next Saturday 14th. Brian explained the basics of queen rearing and we decided to give it a go.

We chose a hive with a good temperament and made the queen lay in the Cupkit frame. The cups with eggs in were then fixed onto another special frame and put into a queenless hive where the bees should make them into queen cells.

Thanks to Sally Shave for the photographs. [Click on 'Queen rearing' on the left margin to see them.]



The first session at the apiary

5 April 2014


It was a beautiful day for the start the bee season and all six of our hives were flying strongly and doing well.

A lot of new people arrived for the first time along with some regulars who are growing in confidence, and several experienced members keen to share their knowledge.

 We split into groups and went through all the hives. They bees were so chilled with the gorgeous weather that we hardly needed to use any smoke.

Linda found one queen in the super and she had been laying in there. Ooops! Good for beginners to see but a bit of a nuisance. She found the queen and put her down in the brood box under the queen excluder and left the super above for the brood to hatch. The queen had run out of room to lay so she should go great guns now she’s back in the brood nest.

We put supers on all those that didn’t have them, in two cases putting brood boxes on as supers so that the bees draw the wax and we have some lovely fresh comb for making up nuclei or replacing frames in the brood nest. National brood frames will fit in our spinner so we will get the honey out before using them for brood rearing.



Good news from the apiary March 6

As the weather has been so warm and sunny Peter and I went up to the apiary today to have a very quick look at the bees. The good news is that all five hives have made it through the winter and have laying queens and between three and eight seams of bees.

 They all still have stores left too which is great news, although they are also enjoying the pollen patties we put on last week. Two of the hives have eaten a whole 1/2kg pack in a week. 

We top-and-tailed the Nationals and put queen excluders back under the supers. These winter supers are the ones that we will leave on for the bees. We also took off the woodpecker protection.

If you are planning on coming to the Apiary Tidy Up on 29 March be prepared to get dirty! We have lots of frames to clean and re-wax and are going to repair, clean, flame and paint all the brood boxes and supers. More details will follow nearer the time.



The Oxalic Acid session Jan 4

 We treated the bees with Oxalic Acid on 4 January and gave them a lump of candy as well. A good number of members turned up to watch the demonstration and to collect some Oxalic solution to treat their own bees.

We used the ‘trickle method’ whereby you fill a large syringe with 50ml of the oxalic solution, take the roof and crown board off the hive, quickly count how many seams of bees there are and trickle 5ml of oxalic solution onto each seam.  We put no more than 50ml on each hive and in most cases quite a bit less. Most of the hives had between 4 and 7 seams of bees.

 We then put a lump of candy over the feed hole on the crown board, squashed it flat and put the roof back on. We then made sure each hive had its varroa floor insert tray in place (having made sure it was clean) and replaced the woodpecker protection.

A week later Linda went up to check the insert trays to see what the mite drop was like. The bigger colonies had as many as 150 dead mites on their inserts and the smaller ones had more like 80. This shows how effective Oxalic Acid is at killing mites during the mid-winter when the hive is broodless.

 It’s probably too late now to treat your bees with Oxalic but it is definitely the time to put some candy on. If you only have one or two hives and would like to order some from the association please get in touch.


2013 Season

Last Apiary Session of the Year

All the feeding is now finished and the bees have enough stores for the winter. The hives are all queen-right and we have protected them from woodpeckers and mice. Now all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope all the colonies make it through the winter.

 It has been a terrible year for wax moth at the apiary so we decided we needed to do something before all the stored frames got eaten. We’ve already had to destroy a whole brood box full of drawn comb as it was heaving with wax moth larvae so last week we sprayed the rest of the frames and boxes, brood and super, with Certan ( Haven’t used that before so hope it works.

We will be treating the hives with Oxalic Acid in December and popping up to heft them for stores and to make sure the wind hasn’t blown them over and the entrances aren’t blocked.

See you again soon.

Penny Robertson

28 September 2013


Apiary September 2013

Coming to the end of the active bee season

We are still feeding the bees at the apiary and they are hungrily taking it down.

It’s been so dry that many plants didn’t produce much nectar so several of the hives have been quite light on stores. We didn’t take a lot honey off. In fact the late summer harvest was only 26lbs, which is about 1/3rd of last year’s, and not much considering we have six hives at the apiary. We left as much as we could for the bees.

We will keep on feeding them until they stop taking it down and then we will make sure they are safe and woodpecker-proof for the winter and leave them alone until next year.

We did our varroa treatments earlier in the summer using the MAQS. While these are very strong and can result in queens going off lay for a long time, we are pleased that the mite drop has been extremely low, typically no more than 2 per colony. We will do an Oxalic Acid treatment in mid-winter to try to keep on top of this.

There have been some cold days already this month so it’s getting a bit late to open the bees up much more. We will probably ‘put them to bed’ by the end of September.


Apiary 6 July

Well it was boiling hot at the apiary today but several people turned up despite the call of the beach.

 Almost all the hives now have laying queens again and the two nucs we made up with superfluous queen cells a few weeks ago have built up brilliantly and were put into full hives.

 Two weeks ago we put a test frame into one hive that we thought might have been queenless but no queen cells were built on it. This told us that the hive already had a queen and, lo and behold, this week she has started laying! This one has taken over a month to get going so it just shows that you have to be patient!

 The stores ‘shop’ was busy with a stream of visitors stocking up on frames and foundation to house swarms or move nucs into full hives. One or two people bought honey jars but most are reporting a poor early harvest even compared to last year, which was not a good one.

 We have plenty of honey jars for sale at £20 for a half gross (72) and £39 for a whole gross. Let us know (in advance of the Saturday sessions) how many you want and we’ll make sure they are in the shed ready for you.


Apiary 8 June

Once again there was lots going on at the Apiary today. We had a good number of attendees and split into three groups to go through the bees.

Linda made sure some of our newer members know how to get the smokers going and showed them queen cups and queen cells. She made sure all in her group could see eggs so they can tell there's still a laying queen in attendance in a hive or not. She also demonstrated wing clipping on drones and gave people the chance to have a go so they can practise before starting on a queen!

We were thrilled to discover that a colony we thought was queenless now has a newly-mated laying queen. It is about a month since we left a sealed queen cell in there so it just shows that you need to be patient.

Queen cells are starting to appear in a couple of other hives. We broke some down and left a good queen cell in each hive. Will check again next week to make sure the bees haven't built any more. Peter took one of the queen cells to put into a tiny mating hive and spent a while explaining how they work and what to do once we have a new laying queen.

Our first Junior Member went through a nuc on his own. He was calm and careful and has the makings of an excellent beekeeper. We will check this nuc again in a couple of weeks to make sure the new queen is mated and laying.

Brian, John and Aidan worked in the shed making up new frames to replace some manky old ones and a few people came shopping to buy wax and other bits.

All in all it was a good session despite the wind and lack of sun.

Apiary  20 April

Saturday 20th was a good warm beautiful day to open the bees and we took the chance to go through them in detail.

Food stores are still an issue for most of the colonies though some pollen is coming in now. A couple of the hives are finishing off their winter candy and one was fed thin (1:1) sugar syrup to give it a boost. A few of the hives still have honey stores so we gave those frames a scrape and moved them nearer to the brood to encourage the bees to eat it.

One hive had a queen cell with a larva in already and one looks as though the queen has superseded recently. Will be interesting to see if there are enough drones around for her to get mated successfully.

Two hives were treated with Nozevit as they recently tested positive for Nosema. The bees were sprayed with sugar syrup containing the treatment and we will repeat that four times in all. We’ll keep our fingers crossed to see if they pick up.


Apiary 27 April 


Junior member

Junior member Aidan Smith at the Apiary


Inspecting frames

Aidan inspecting frames

Today we welcomed some new members to the apiary for the first time and Laurie went through the bees with them.

 The colonies are now beginning to build up, some more quickly than others, and one or two are starting to make queen cups. We’ll need to look carefully next week to see if there are eggs and royal jelly in any, as this will signal the beginning of the swarming season. We saw one or two drones, and some drone brood in a couple of the hives, but there are not many around yet. Drone brood takes 24 days to hatch so any new queens will have a hard time finding drones to mate with for about the next month.

 In our quest to offer as many educational opportunities as we can, we now have several different hive types at the apiary. We’ve had standard Nationals for years but now as well there’s a Commercial which already has bees in, a Beehaus that has been set up as a bait hive and yesterday we put a 14x12 brood box with frames of foundation above the strongest colony (hive 6). We put a feeder of sugar syrup on the hive and the bees will use this to build new wax and the queen and colony will eventually move up into the new box. This is called a ‘Bailey Comb Change’ and we will hope to see a couple of newly drawn frames next week.

Lastly, we have almost finished treating the two hives that tested positive for Nosema. We have been spraying them with Nozevit in sugar syrup, which has to be done four times a few days apart. We will do one more treatment during the week and then hope to see the colonies building up as normal.

Apiary 18 May

 Lots going on with the bees this week and we were pleased to see plenty of attendees new and old. And we now have some new shelving in the shed, courtesy of Brian and Linda.

 Most of the hives are doing well with laying queens and the honey flow just starting. A couple are not doing so well.

We put a new brood box above a strong colony a couple of weeks ago and the bees have moved up into it and started to draw new foundation on the frames. The queen has begun to lay in there so we put the queen excluder on to keep her in there and put the old brood box on the top for the last brood to hatch before we take it away. This is called the Bailey comb change method. Good link here about how to do it .

Another hive has a newly hatched queen cell so we will wait for a week or two and hope she is successfully mated.

The slow hives are probably not worth struggling with. We have already united one of them with a stronger colony and there’s another where the queen seems to be failing so we will make a decision about it next week. Seems sad but best to cull the weak queens and deal with the bees rather than leave them all to waste away.


Apiary Opening 7 April 2012

The weather warmed up enough on Saturday for us to have a quick look at the bees. Lots of new people came, some who know a bit about bees and some complete beginners. We split into two groups so everyone could get to at least see the bees and ask questions.

We moved the winter supers from underneath the brood boxes to above them, and put the queen excluders in between. As it has been such a warm spring already several of the super frames and been laid in so we checked to make sure the queens were in the brood boxes before putting the hives back together.

All the colonies had come through the winter but one of them had a drone laying queen so was not viable. We united these bees with another hive as we did not have a spare queen to introduce.

We checked that all the colonies had plenty of stores to see them through the next week and topped up with candy where they seemed light.

Over the next few weeks we will put the bees into the new hives we have made up and make sure they are all healthy and not planning to swarm.

We need to make up some new frames next week.

If you want to order your own protective bee suit get in touch with Brian Fisher to find out if any discounts are available to members.

14 April 2012

On Saturday we checked the bees very quickly as it was cold.

The most striking thing we found was several hives with virtually no stores at all so we fed them sugar syrup.

One hive had the beginnings of queen cells. This was a late swarm last year – we found them in a pile of stored supers in September! The old queen is still laying well but the workers have decided that she needs to be replaced. We left one queen cell with royal jelly and a larva in and will see what’s going on next week.  

We made up enough frames for a couple of brood boxes. Still plenty more to do.


May 5 2012

The weather was so cold we didn’t open the hives, but replenished sugar syrup/candy as needed. Our new system of leader + helper seems to work well. Plus we had extra willing helpers among the regular member-visitors. Several new faces this week – welcome all! A pity the weather was too bad for you to see more. Photos (click 'Apiary Photos' above left)) show us smiling through our veils, though. (Anji Hart)

May 19 2012

Well, it was all happening at the apiary yesterday.

We arrived to find a swarm hanging in one of the  bushes. We'd had a nice, warm sunny morning, so perfect swarming weather!

We hived them into a little nucleus box and will have a look next week. Will be interesting to see if there's a laying queen in there as the apiary queens are clipped so not sure how one could have got from a hive to a tree. Will let you know next week! Click on the left above for the story in pictures...

Otherwise, we started to put the bees into the new brood boxes we bought with our Waitrose money. We found the queens in each hive first and put them safely in a queen cage while we transferred the frames of brood and food from the old box to the new.

We had a quick look in the nucleus boxes we have made up with artificial swarms. One of them is doing really well and was put into a full-sized (new) brood box but the other two are slower. They are all numbered so we know which hive they come from. We need to make up more brood frames next week as we have already used up all the ones we made earlier in the season!

 June 9 2012 

Despite the slow start to the 2012 beekeeping season we have managed to get 150lbs of honey off the bees at the apiary. This seems pretty good considering we have had some swarms and casts coming off the hives and a few of them haven’t got back to full strength yet. This honey will be stored until we need to bottle it for sale at the shows we attend. We also ‘pay’ with honey for renting the apiary field area.

Two or three weeks ago a swarm, or cast, decided to go and live in the pile of stored supers by the shed. Despite our attempts to shake it into a brood box it is determined not to settle there. We think it might be queenless but will have another look next week and see what they are up to again.

On Saturday 2 June we had an amazing session where several queen cells hatched out as we watched. We even heard some of the new virgin queens piping to each other. We popped virgins into a couple of the nucs we thought were queenless so will see in a couple of weeks if they have been accepted and are mated and laying.


We've not kept up this 'diary' but we ended a successful year this weekend (October 6). We have fed the bees with Ambrosia syrup; we have put the supers under the brood boxes where possible to give extra insulation (varroa floors removed) and we have insulated the roofs and wrapped wire netting round the hives to fox the green woodpeckers. We noticed that, late as it is, the bees were still foraging and still in some cases bringing in pollen. A strange year!