Archives for posts with tag: beekeeping

I am really pleased to say that yesterday the basecamp beehive was stocked with its own small colony of Honey Bee’s. You might have to stick with me a bit here, I am a bit bee obsessed.

The hive was constructed last year by a group of volunteers, and has been waiting for its new occupants for a few month’s now. The other night I went to fetch a nucleus (small) colony from a local bee breeder.

The colony comes in a small travelling box and consists of a Queen, several thousand workers and the brood nest, which is on 5 frames. The  first job when you get them back is to put them on the stand their hive will live on. I also like to put their roof on top, it helps them to orientate when they are moved into the proper hive, even if it does look a bit odd perched on the travelling box.

Then the small blue plug is pulled out of the entrance so the bee’s can fly and get used to their new home. They know they have moved, and as they come out of the box they perform intricate figure of eight flight patterns whilst imprinitng a new internal map.

Once they have had a day or two to settle in the colony is transfered to their own proper hive.

The hive is put on the stand and the frames are moved one by one into it. The brood nest in the hive has room for eleven frames, so they have plenty of room to expand over the summer. We are using a WBC hive, which some might say is a bit old fashioned these days, but I rather like it, it’s well made and somehow the shape of a WBC will be forever imprinted as the shape of a “proper” hive. The idea of keeping bee’s at Swan Barn Farm is firstly to hopefully give an insight into what I think is a really important countryside skill to our volunteers, but also to provide efficient polintation for our orchards and wildflowers. I hope passers by will enjoy seeing the hive as well, maybe not to close though!

As Spike and I were transfering the frames we were also checking the colony over, making sure they were healthy and in good condition. I was really pleased to see how good natured the colony was, they are very freindly bee’s.

I also wanted to see our Queen bee, there is only one in each colony, and spotting her amongst the thousands of others is a skill that takes a while to learn. There are a couple of tricks you can use to make finding her easier though, such as putting a dab of coloured paint on her back. See if you can spot her.

Honey bee’s have been having a really tough time over the last few years, many colonies have been dying out, pretty much all of the wild colonies I used to know of have dissapeered. They are vitally important polinators, and without them the countryside we know, and the food we eat would be under great threat. I think it is very important that we do our best to look after them . I am really pleased the basecamp beehive is properly stocked now, for me its a big step in the work we are doing here at Swan Barn Farm.

Willow and I went for a walk around Swan Barn Farm this afternoon to take a look at the woods, all the rapidly opening Hazel Catkins in the coppice got me to thinking about my bees.

Hazel pollen is a vital food source for them just as they are recovering from the cold of the winter. The bee’s have been having a really tough time lately and winter is always a worry, I never believe they are really through it until the Willow trees start to flower as well, but I went along to my apiary to see how they are coping and check if they needed any extra feed to get them through until there are some more flowers about.

If you open the hives at this time of year you have to be quick as you don’t want to chill them. I am glad to say that apart from one very small colony who I didn’t think were going to make it throught the winter all of my hives were doing really well.

This colony was looking particularly healthy, I was really pleased with how they are doing, they were my best honey producers last year too and if all goes to plan I will breed some new queens from this hive later in the year. Hopefully they will pass on their good genes.

This year we will be setting up a new hive at Swan Barn Farm, I hope some of our volunteers will get chance to learn some beekeeping skills.  The hive will be going in our new orchard and should mean we get really good pollination of all our fruit tree’s.

This is the new hive, kindly bought for us by the Black Down and Hindhead Supporters Group.

We built it last year with a group of volunteers who came to help out with the Speckled Wood project.

As soon as spring is here for real it will be back into beekeeping season again and I will get a colony installed in the new hive.

They are such fascinating creatures, and are a really good way of keeping in touch with both the local landscape and the changing seasons. I am glad mine have come through the winter so well, they have had a rough time the last couple of years, I am looking forward to seeing them more in the coming months.

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