The diary of a bee hive.

The 'cottager' (or WBC) style of bee hive is Victorian in origin and is the traditional beehive of illustrations and romantic country gardens.

Thursday 25th May 2006 Robbers take over

It was the first sunny day for sometime and a chance to check the bee hives out. At first site the cottager hive looked busy with plenty of bees comming and going but on closer inspection things were obviously not so good. There were bees fighting at the entrance a sure sign that things are not right. On inspection there was no laying queen no brood and few bees left to defend what supplies were left. This hive will have to have new bees introduced and start from scratch all over again. I left it open all the frames will be cleaned out in no time. Starting from scratch will provide the opportunity to clean the whole hive up and put new frames in.

May 2nd 2006. No pollen bearers.
Part of my checking of the beehives is to see if the bees are taking pollen in. Generally speaking if plenty of pollen is being taken into the hive on a sunny day then the odds are that everything inside the hive is pretty much OK and the queen is laying. If all the hives have bees taking pollen in but one hive has bees just going in and out with no pollen at all then that is likely to be a hive without a laying queen. If your records tell you that there should be a laying queen in residence it is time for an inspection. There was no sign of a queen here in this hive and no brood left to hatch out so it was important that I took some emergency action. The weather has been quite good for a week or so now so I had every expectation of finding a good frame of eggs in one of the other hives that could be put into this cottager. I removed one frame that had recently had a lot of eggs laid on it, checked it to make sure there was no queen on it, and gently brushed the worker bees back into the hive before transferring the frame with the eggs on it into the queen less hive. I will check the hive in one weeks time to see if the bees have made the required emergency queen cell.

May 1st 2006. Scraping the bottom clean.
Every year I burn and scrape the hive base as part of my hive maintenance and disease control regime. This year the front landing board is peeling and that needs to be burned off, scraped, sanded, and repainted too. I didn’t go into the hive and check it today but I will soon.

April 2nd 2006 A laying queen seen
Today I opened the hive up fully for the first time this year. There was a very small area of brood with a small black queen in the middle. She was marked blue for last year. So we have laying queen but not much of one. I think I may take her out and put some eggs in from another hive where the queen is stronger and laying better. This hive hasn't had really successful bees for some years now.

March 28th 2006 Put thymol crystals in.
It has been a long winter with few sunny days and a lot of cold northerly and easterly winds. Over the winter there has been a gradual build up of dead bees on the landing board at the front of the hive that have been pushed out by the bees inside. Varoa and disease is becoming an increasing problem for beekeepers to manage and apparently there is some evidence that the mites are gaining some resistance to the strips. The weather was at least warmer today and although very windy I opened the hive up and put in some thymol crystals that I am going to use for the next month before full-scale honey production commences. As this wasn’t a full inspection I still don’t if this hive has a laying queen in residence. I will make a full inspection on the next sunny day when it is not so windy.

October 21st 2005 Took the strips out.
I checked the brood box and although I didn't see the queen everything looked OK with eggs and brood present at all stages. I have been feeding them on and off over the weeks and there seems to be a fair amount of stores there to get them through the winter. The entrance is now reduced to make it only a small gap to defend. I have put them back to brood and a half with the queen excluder above the super as there are stores in the super as well. I may give them a little more food in the next few weeks although I'm sure they have enough stored already to see them through the winter.

August 31st 2005 Strips in
It was a sizzling hot day but possibly getting to the end of mini heat wave that started last week so I decided to take what honey there was off the hive today and put the Varoa strips in and start feeding the bees with sugar syrup. The amount of honey was quite disappointing - it hasn't been a good year for honey from this hive. I did however see the queen and the hive is quite strong so there is no reason why we shouldn't get a really good start to next year. In six to eight weeks time I will need to go into the hive again and take out the strips. In the meantime I will keep feeding them.

August 28th 2005 Honey?
The cottager has been left pretty much alone for many weeks now and I was hoping there would be some honey to take out of it so I opened it up. The queen was laying and there was some honey distributed throughout the two supers. But not as much as I had hoped for. So I didn't take it and put the suppers back. The weather forecast is good for the week ahead and just one hot week now could make all the difference.

July 10th 2005 All seems well for the time being
Today the sun was hot after a week of wet weather and the bees were busy again. As I was going to have a look at the bees that were removed from the cottager some weeks ago and the smoker was puffing well I thought I would just open the cottager up the have a quick look at the top super first. They were making honey and there were no eggs in the super so I let them be. I will check them again in a few days time if the weather stays hot.

June 28th 2005 Another Queen cell!
As the weather was fine I decided that I would check how the 'new' bees were settling in to their new home. They were on a super when moved and I wanted to see how well they had taken to the new brood box under them. Given two boxes the queen tends towards using the top box so I sometimes switch the two boxes around and possibly should have put the super that they were already using below the brood box on this occasion. On inspection of the brood box it was evident that they had got the queen to lay on only one frame and made a queen cell on it as well! Luckily I was able to find the queen on a frame in the super quite quickly and easily and put that frame with the queen on into the brood box (after removing the queen cell). On re-assembling the hive I moved the queen excluder back above the brood box. The frames are drawn out, clean and empty so there is nothing to stop this queen laying a lot of eggs in this warm summer weather. Now that everything is back in position this hive is ready to see out the remainder of the summer honey production but will need substantial feeding before we go into winter. I don't think I will use brood and a half again next year - although I have heard that a double brood box is a better alternative.

June 27th 2005 Repelling invaders
The weather has improved and the bees are getting out and about again. I don't think the old inhabitants of this Cottager hive are too pleased by seeing their new neighbors move in as there was evidence of fighting and one bee was being forcibly ejected as I watched. I closed the entrance down to an inch or so in order to give the new 'home' bees the advantage in defending their territory.

June 25th 2005 New bees moved in.
The bees with a queen had to be taken over three miles away for a few days in order to move them from one side of the allotment to the other and today was a good day to move them back as the weather had taken a turn for the worse and they were all inside by the evening

June 21st 2005 Emergency! Emergency!
For the first time this year I have been using the 'brood and a half' system. This means that I add a super to the brood box under the queen excluder to give the queen much more space to lay in. The intention is aimed at building up a big hive with lots of bees in it. However it seems that I don't understand the full process as when in the past I have reduced the queen cells down to one in the hive I have let the hive be for three or four weeks before opening it again and that has worked fine. Not this year. In many of my hives after the queen cells have been reduced to one the bees have made more emergency cells. This first became apparent on the day bee inspector went through all of the hives. There I was saying that hive is re-queening and there is one queen cell in it only for him to open it up and find several more. I should have checked this hive again a few days after removing the queen cell as when I came open it today (it has been extremely warm so even though it wasn't the 24th yet I thought it was worth a look) there they were, queen cells in the super. There had been a swarm a few days ago into the apple tree at the end of the allotment - was that the first queen to get back?

I have decided to completely change the bees in this hive now an have removed the bees left in it and put them on a old base next to it. I have a strong new laying queen ready to replace them with.

June 3rd 2005 I thought I should check the WBC hive out, but on the way there, in a small apple tree, was a swarm, and yes the WBC had no queen, no eggs, and four queen cells in it. I reduced the four to one and took off what honey was there. As the queen cell was sealed it must be at least 8 days old. The queen will hatch out on day 16 then spend some days in the hive before taking her maiden flight to mate with the drones. There will be no point in opening the hive again now for at least three weeks. So if the weather has been good June the 24th will be the earliest day to check for a laying queen. Swarming at this time of the year will have seriously reduced the amount of honey this hive will produce this year.

May 28th 2005 Today we had a visit by Her Majesty's bee inspector who checks out our hives for bee diseases. The advice on bee husbandry has been changing over the years and we should now be changing the wax in our brood boxes every four years. Some of the frames in this hive must have been in use for two or three times that. There was no serious disease present. I will begin to change the frames now and over the summer months so that bees draw out the foundation.

May 25th 2005 On opening the hive this evening it was plain to see that the bees are getting ready to swarm. I spent a lot of time trying to find the queen in order to remove her from the hive, but no luck. There were eggs in the brood box and there was brood in the super where there shouldn't be any brood, but no queen that I could see. I took a couple of frames of honey out and will have to look for her again tomorrow.

May 18th 2005 I replaced a newly painted base to the hive. I checked through the brood box and saw the queen. There were a few queen cups with eggs in that I removed. This hive will need a weekly check from now on, or at least until the middle July, when they can breed a new queen if they still want to. I put extra super on for them to make honey in - here's hoping the weather cheers up a bit and we get some warm sunny days soon.

May 2nd 2005 We have been experiencing a spell of warm weather recently and it is well past time for clearing out and burning off the base of the hive and as a swarm had been reported in the allotment a couple of days ago I was keen to check it wasn't from one of my hives. The WBC as in fine condition with a queen laying well. It was time to put some empty frames on ready for the storing of honey. The boxes look strange and naked on an old base but the hive needs a new paint job before it is put back together again.

March 18th 2005 It was a warm sunny day - ideal conditions for the first inspection of the year. I didn't keep the hive open long, just long enough to see that eggs had been laid and that there was plenty of stores left. I put another super under the queen excluder so that hive is now on a brood and a half.

February 3rd 2005 It was surprisingly warm today and the bees were flying and bringing in pollen. The hive is looking a little worse for wear at the moment and is in need of a paint.

September 26th 2004
Although not especially sunny it was warm today and I opened the hive to put in two anti mite strips to help control the varroa mite. Although a set of empty frames was put back in the last time the hive was opened the bees have made no more honey.

August 8th 2004
Took off a some more honey and checked through the hive with Geoff. He spotted the queen that was moving from one side of the frame to the other at some speed. She looked good - a leathery brown colour. I was intending to to put some strips into the brood box to control the mites but in the end we decided not to and I put some empty frames back on. The original queen that started the year in this hive and was moved out to another brood box earlier in the year has produced no honey at all so far. I am afraid that she will not see the end of another season.

June 25th 2004
I opened the brood box for the first time since reducing the queen cells to one several weeks ago in order to check if there was a laying queen in residence. There was and there was a reasonable amount of honey to remove as well. That is the first honey that this hive has produced this year.

May 29th 2004
The queen was removed a week ago - so it was time to check the hive and make sure there was only one queen cell in place. There were in fact three cells in the brood box so I only had two to remove. I will check this hive again in three weeks time to see if the queen has returned from her maiden flight and is a laying eggs. I used to wait four weeks but if the queen doesn't make it back (as happened to my allotment hive this year) that is a week wasted.

Sunday 21st May 2004
Geoff and I removed the Queen today as she hasn't been performing well. This hive has been very slow at building up any number of bees this year and it is hard to see why. Even now there are three complete frames of stored honey in the brood box - so lack of food hasn't been an issue.
Anyway, whatever the reason was the Queen has got the blame and been taken out and put into another brood box, so we have effectively split the hive. This will seriously diminish our honey production as they should be bringing in plenty at the moment, but it could stand us in good stead for next year or even later this year if the weather holds. I will leave the hive for a week then go into the brood box to see what kind of queen cells are there.

Easter Sunday 11th April 2004
It was another sunny day so I could open up the hive again and burn the base with a blowtorch and scrape it out. Next thing to do is take out the chemical strips and put some empty frames on for the bees to start saving honey in. Now the bee keeping year is beginning to get interesting.

Good Friday 9th April 2004
The weather was warm enough to open the hive and check to see if the queen is laying. The hive has been opened once this year, a few weeks ago, albeit briefly in order to put in some chemical strips to help control the varroa mite. Whilst these strips are in I won't put any frames on the hive for the bees to collect honey in. The queen was laying and there was half a brood box of stored honey. This is not the strongest hive I have this year - but it does seem to have come though the winter and looks like it should survive for another season. In one weeks time I will take the strips out and put a super of frames on to start the collection of honey.

5 jan 2004 (2003 Summary)
The bees in the Cottager hive died out completely at the beginning of the year . I don't know why they died - they had plenty of stored food and had been treated against the Varroa mite and they had survived the worst of the winter.
    However, they died so I had no other option than to restock the hive with bees from another hive and breed a new queen. That done, there was at least less chance that the bees would want to swarm with a young queen. As it turns out they didn't swarm and indeed made a good amount of honey in one of the hottest summers we have ever seen.

20th February 2003
Bee report: out of the four hives that have come through the winter (two didn't) three looked like they were in excellent condition with plenty of bees flying. The Cottager was however, not so good. It had bees flying three weeks ago when the weather had last been sunny and warm -- so where were they today? On a very quick inspection there were some bees inside but they didn't look happy. They had plenty of food so that wasn't a problem. I will have to open them up as soon as I can and make sure they have a laying queen as it looks bad for them at the moment.

29th May 2002
On checking the hive there were three queen cells on the third frame in. I closed the hive up again having now to decide whether to reduce all the queen cells to one or to remove some in order to start a new hive.

May 2002
The bees were transferred from an ordinary 'national' hive on the 21st of May 2002 and have since been split into two the national having a queen cell removed from the cottager. At the time of writing (27th May) I can't be certain that there is a laying queen in residence. If she is still there she is in her third year of laying and could therefore be considered 'old'. However, they are the best tempered bees I have ever owned and compared to bees in my apiary incredibly good natured and easy to work with, so I want to breed some more queens from her if I can.

My Cottager beehive was a birthday present from Rosemary and Paul six years ago and has just been renovated and repainted by Geoff and his dad. It now stands pride of place at the end of Geoff's new allotment 'Apiary'.



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