A Letter From Burgundy

November 30, 2014

An Attempt at a New Hobby – Bees !

Filed under: Bees,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Lesley @ 16:42

We have had a very busy summer and time has just disappeared hence not spending much time on the computer! We had three lots of grandchildren visiting which was hectic but great fun and we have also been starting to build a new “maison des amis” in our former stable. As well as this we decided to take up a new hobby of bee keeping. We decided on a top bar bee hive  because it  is a simpler more natural method of bee keeping and the honey can be removed without disturbing the colony as much as some other forms of bee keeping. Now for the more honest reason – the combs are suspended on bars which are much lighter as well as easier to remove. Lifting boxes with conventional frames filled with honey can be hard going on the back!

Our first practical bee keeping lesson

Our first practical bee keeping lesson

The hive is simply a long box with slats of wood across which the bees attach their comb to. Ideal perhaps for the hobby keeper but would not be used generally by commercial keepers because the quantities of honey produced are lower. The environment in the box is meant to be very similar to the inside of an old tree trunk as far as the bees are concerned – hence being considered a more natural method. This old style of bee keeping is thousands of years old and is very popular in some developing countries as the hives can be built relatively cheaply and simply. We were lucky enough to have a friend who supplied us with some bees to get started. We did not know whether there was a Queen within the colony or not but if she was not there we had every expectation that the colony would rear their own Queen. We waited patiently but after a few weeks it became apparent that we had no Queen.  In this picture below the bees are being put into the top bar beehive. Prior to this they were left in their original home sitting in a box on top of our new hive so that they could get used to their new location. Putting the bees in their new ho   As our numbers of  bees started to rapidly decline, which is inevitable without a Queen, we bravely set off to collect a swarm from some friends who regularly seem to have swarms in their grounds each year. We brought a swarm back, left the bees to settle down quietly in the box that we had collected them in and then transferred them to the hive. We were confident that we had a Queen and hoped that we were now well on the way to having a thriving community of bees and perhaps just a few jars of honey…….???

The swarm

The swarm

We put them in the opposite end of the hive to our existing bees so that the two small colonies could “get to know” each other gradually but unfortunately they had a mini battle and we found some dead bees. The remaining bees in the swarm obviously decided they didn’t like their new home and flew off. We have since learnt that when introducing new bees it is a good idea to put a sheet of newspaper between the two lots of bees so that they can chew their way through gradually and get to know each other more slowly. As bees have  a short lifespan  anyway and without a Queen to lay new eggs  the colony was going to die out naturally. We decided to let nature take its course as by this time it was too late in the summer to start afresh again. A hive needs to have a sizeable, strong and healthy colony to withstand the rigours of winter. We felt we had already “let our bees down” a bit this year and the best idea was to restart next year, hopefully with more success for us and the bees.