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News from the Abbey Beekeeper


It is early February and I am out each day to check the hive scales. It has gone down two pounds in the last week or two. I suspect the mild weather contributed to this use of stores. The bees have broken out of the snug cluster and are flying freely during these unseasonably mild days. This takes energy and uses up precious stores! I have noticed lots of dark orange or amber coloured pollen being collected!  A great sign of renewed life. I presume it is from the crocuses in flower around the place.

A new gadget!

Recently I was visiting a beekeeping friend in the North – he showed me a new gadget (and I am a bit of a sucker for new gadgets!)….this was a device to catch swarms as they emerge from the hive. Rather then catching, it looks more like a device to prevent the queen leaving and thus the swarm does not leave. I didn’t have time to examine it in detail but it seemed to consist largely of strips of queen excluder which are attached to the hive entrance. I will try and get one and can report on its structure more fully once I have it.

That magic frame of unsealed brood….

The Queen gives off chemical phermones which help to maintain order in the colony. Unsealed brood also produces phermones which also maintains order in the colony.

This is useful to know especially when making up nuclei – always include some unsealed brood.

It is tempting to use sealed brood as it requires little looking after by the bees. By using even a little unsealed brood, we ensure that the colony will not leave with the queen during the mating flight. Bees will never abandon unsealed brood….

If you have a queenless colony which won’t accept a new laying queen, put in a frame of young unsealed brood. This will confirm if the colony is queenless (they will build queen cells) and by replacing some of the missing phermones it will give some normality back to the colony and make them more receptive to a new queen.

Unsealed brood is also useful when taking a swarm in an awkward position – a frame of unsealed brood  will attract the bees making it easier to capture!

First inspection

You may do an inspection when temp is as low as 10°C but better to wait until it is 18°C as remember they need to keep the brood nest at 35°C all year round.  I hope to do a first inspection earlier this year around St. Patrick’s day!  Happy Beekeeping.

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