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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, Brood, Drones, Honey, Honey Bees, Queens, Varroa etc, Wasps

If there had been tumbleweeds…


…I wouldn’t have been surprised. I’m talking about our latest bee inspection. There were high points (our first ‘considerable’ honey grab) and low points (the tumbleweeds).

But there were a few gifts as well…

Bee inspection: First Hive

This bee inspection took place during the first half of July. We had admittedly left some time between this inspection and the last one reported in May/June, partly by design but also because of weather conditions. The design part was out of consideration for the swarming: we wanted to let the bees and especially the new queens settle before we disturbed them again.

This approach usually works well. But what we weren’t prepared for was the disruption caused by the weather. In the case of our formerly known as Main Hive Bees, the Swarm Hive Bees (they were a swarm we collected last summer), what resulted was a bit of a disaster (cue the tumbleweeds).

This hive grew quickly from a very low winter weight, then swarmed in May (although I never really saw it happen just the results) but still went into June looking strong. However, after the weeks of soaking rain and cold we had in June I began to suspect that something was not quite right. There was not the usual traffic. Still, the weather could have set them back a bit.

Not a lot of drones outside the box

Not a lot of drones outside the box….

But when we opened them up at the beginning of July, it was immediately evident how back they were set. Everyone was still alive, so no starvation. It’s just that there were not many bodies, no brood of any development, except what appeared to be drone. There didn’t look to be many adult drones in the hive, but what little of the brood cells there was looked to be drone.

Are these drone cells_July 2016

Are these drone cells?

The only thing I can think is that the weather and other adverse conditions conspired to eliminate the new queen? I don’t know how long a virgin queen can be confined to a box before making her flight. I would suspect there might be trouble if all the available brood from the previous queen has hatched or is ready to hatch. Would the workers then step in and start to lay eggs? I would have thought they would have at least turned some cells into queen cells.

At any rate, we closed them up and decided to adopt a wait and see approach. The alternative from what I have read would be introducing a new queen. But once workers start laying this won’t work: they’ll just kill her. The only recourse seems to be destroying the hive as the recommendation is to get rid of the laying workers (for example, see this site).

Not something I relish doing….

Second Hive

A much happier situation with this hive, the Garage Bees as they are known. They also suffered through the swarming and the bad weather in June, but they were a much stronger hive coming out of winter.

Ok but not great_July 2016

They are not going to win any prizes, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now….


Still, I was not entirely happy with the laying. Although there was brood in various stages, there was not enough of it to my mind. But I am hoping that giving the queen a bit more time and better weather will result in some improvement before powering down for winter. There has been a lot of activity, pollen gathering, learning flights around the box since the inspection, so I am not overly worried.

The best news was that we were finally able to get some honey! I took about four frames from them without their noticing, they had been that productive (well, for my bees). We extracted the honey the old fashioned way, by crushing and straining:

Oozing with the good stuff

The good stuff

I know this doesn’t look much and a better extraction technique might have resulted in more honey, but I’ll take it!

Two gifts from the girls

My reward for years of support….

Bee Inspector phones…

Out of the blue I got a phone message from the area bee inspector saying he’d like to come out the next morning to inspect for small hive beetle and tropilaelaps. Aside from the fact that the very last minute nature of the call combined with weekday time making the appointment impossible, I was curious about the very specific nature of the examination. Although noted in some other European countries, small hive beetle has yet to make an impact in Great Britain. Tropilaelaps, a mite, is a less likely threat in the west, found pretty much exclusively in Asia. Beebase describes it as an ’emerging threat’ because of climate change. Ok.

Wasps: let’s give them some credit

It’s that time of year when we start hearing the complaints about wasps. What is important to remember is that it is really only a very small part of the year, and that wasps are beneficial and have their place. They are especially useful in eliminating other annoying pests, as well as being pollinators in their own right. According to Do Wasps Pollinate:

There are even some species of orchid that are believed to be pollinated exclusively by certain wasps, whilst wasp pollination is vital for figs.

A few other gifts

You might be wondering what else can be hoped for from this crazy summer. Well, the very first print of the post gives you a hint:



We get the usual selection of butterflies and moths in our garden. Until one day my husband opened our shed door only to have four of these flutter out. They are Cinnabar moths (at least I think they are although in all the photos I see online the main color is more red than the lilac here). One of their claim to fame is cannibalism, as they tend to run short of food being ‘voracious eaters’.  (of course, if this is not a Cinnabar, please let me know…)


Hidden treasure from the birds

I know this is a ‘real’ flower, but can’t think of the name. But it grew on the far side of the house all on its own. A gift from the birds, I think….

Snap dragon

A gift from the sister-in-law

Russian Morning Glory

A gift from friend Kitty, a Russian morning glory (at least the seeds came from Russia)….

Bee Gifts

Gifts from my mother. The pillow should withstand outdoor weather conditions, but what about industrial strength bird poo?


Weeds I have loved?

I tend to give stuff a chance to grow to see what blooms they will throw out. Got some good ones this year….

Weed or flower_gift from birds

A gift from the birds. I have no idea what it is, but I love it and so did the butterflies….


Another weed or flower_gift from birds

I love the delicate flowers on this, another gift from the bees….

thistle in drive_bumbles like it

Growing in the driveway. I liked it, the bumblebees liked it, so I left it. Is this a thistle, Emily?

what the heck_another in the driveway

What the ….? Looked a little more impressive in life than this photo. Right beside the thistle in the drive, the one horizontal, the other very much vertical….



Attribution:  Cinnabar print:   By John Curtis (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABritishentomologyvolume5Plate499.jpg



9 thoughts on “If there had been tumbleweeds…

  1. Look at that gorgeous honey! So sorry though to hear about the First Hive–I don’t envy your quandary. Beekeeping just constantly throws curve balls; just when you think you’ve got it down, something glitches and there’s a new learning curve. I don’t like learning curves. 🙂 Like your flowers, is the pretty pink volunteer a digitalis/foxglove of some sort?

    Posted by Tina | August 8, 2016, 7:57 pm
  2. The plant in that last picture may be a mullein. Verbascum something or other.

    Posted by theprospectofbees | August 9, 2016, 2:47 am
  3. The purple one might well be a thistle – or a knapweed – wish I knew! I have some of those tall yellow flowers in my local park. Are they common mullein?

    Posted by Emily Scott | August 9, 2016, 6:18 am
  4. Honey, good for you! Did you have the comb with honey on it too?
    The first gift from the birds is a foxglove, the last a verbascum 🙂

    Posted by Josephine | August 9, 2016, 8:43 am
  5. Gosh, I didn’t the workers ever killed the queen; very French Revolution of them! Is that huge purple flower what is called an angel’s trumpet?

    Posted by annabelletroy | August 30, 2016, 12:23 am

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