Bees and Compost Tea

The last ten days have been hectic, with the extra work down to Beekeeping, and Compost Tea. Just recently, the normal jobs that I have to do on the Smallholding, have been rushed so that I can finish my preparations for the swarming season.

The rush started last week. I went to help a friend check his hives, and we found that one was queenless. There were youngish bees in the hive, so it had probably occurred recently. He ordered a new queen, and later came to the Smallholding so that I could show him how to put together new frames, so that we could carry out a shook swarm, as soon as the Oilseed rape (canola) has finished flowering. I was also putting together hive bodies and frames, ready for making increase of my own stock of bees.

On Tuesday, I had a call from a friend to tell me that he had seen his first swarm, so I continued to put hives together. By Thursday night, I had six new hives, waiting for bees. On Friday I noticed scout bees going into a hive that I had put out the night before. There were quite a few, and I got my camera ready, in case they brought a swarm in. Despite a high level of activity, no swarm arrived. That afternoon I got a call to say that the new queen had arrived, so I went along, and we shook the workers into a new, clean hive, with fresh foundation, and let them settle, before introducing the queen in her cage. We will have to wait and see if they accept her. As they have been queenless for some time, that should help, but I’m not sure how the disruption to the hive due to the shook swarming will affect them.

Scouting activity at the home hive continued throughout Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday morning, but then stopped. I didn’t notice the stop, because I was away giving a presentation on Actively Aerated Compost Tea (ACT), to the Lincolnshire Organic Gardener’s Organisation (LOGO). I think that it went well, and have had orders for at least one Compost Tea Brewer, possibly two. More importantly, I hope that an undersdanding of the Soilfoodweb will help them to grow more successfully. It has certainly helped me over the last two years. I’ll publish some pictures, when they’re sent to me, and perhaps do a short Compost Tea article.

Back to the bees. I’m not sure why the activity at the empty hive stopped. It could be that the bees knew that the weather was changing. Perhaps they chose another site, and there is a new colony not to far away. If the bees were from a managed hive, it’s possible that the beekeeper discovered that the hive was about to swarm, and intervened. If not, once this unsettled weather clears up, those bees are going to go somewhere, preferably into my hive. There were bees from at least two colonies checking out the hives. Occasionally a bee from another colony would approach the busiest hive, and would be chased away. Bees looking at another hive all appeared darker than the first batch.

Here’s a picture of the scouts outside the hive entrance.

Swarming preparation

Swarming preparation

There were more at times, and I also saw bees doing what looked like ‘waggle dances’ on the front of the hive, above the entrance. It would be great to get pictures of a swarm going in of their own accord.

As well as putting together new hives, I’ve built a couple of ‘bait hives’, to try and catch escaped swarms. Whilst I like the idea of feral swarms, many of them die out, if untreated for diseases. When I finish this post, I’m going to do some map work, and plot all of the hive locations that I know of in the area, and use it to predict where the most likely areas are to place the hives.

You can read  a good article about bait hives here         Bait hives

I’ve got to go out tomorrow, and see if I can get permission to set them out in the areas that I identify.

Last year a pest controller said that he would be able to provide me with some swarms, but nothing ever came of it. I thought that I would contact him again, but had lost his number. Whilst looking for it in the telephone directory, I came across another company, working out of the next village. I gave them a ring, only to discover that they had been looking for a local beekeeper to contact when they are called about swarms. If I hadn’t have lost the original number, I would never have known about them. Working on the assumption that I’d better be ready, I built a very simple swarm collection box, only to realise that it was probably a bit heavy to hold in one hand, whilst balancing on a ladder, so I’ve had to buy some thinner plywood, and will work on that tomorrow. The plans that I have seen are a bit complicated, probably for good reason, but I would need to see one, to work out how they were put together. I’ll stick to a more simple design, until I’ve worked out what modifications need to be made.

I guess it’s time to plan the location sfor the bait hives. I already have some ideas, but I find that it’s always better to approach these things without bias, in case there are better options than my original ideas.

Take Care


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