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It’s been a very Buzzy Time at the Abbotsholme Apiary

11.05.17

In February I went up to the apiary and cautiously opened up the hives on an unseasonably warm day to check if the bees needed any food to help them through the remainder of the winter. Sadly one of the colonies was too weak to make it to spring leaving us with one hive of bees. Fortunately this was a very strong hive and they spent the spring months scouring the hedges and woodland around Abbotsholme for pollen from hazel and alder trees. Pollen is an important source of food for the bees, but what they really want is nectar which can be found at that time of year on willow trees.

More recently you will have noticed the field of oil-seed rape in the field adjacent to the school drive (yellow flowers), as well as dandelions springing into life. These provide a nectar flow along with a range of other plants that are about at this time of year. They’ve been busy little bees, working hard to build up their food stores which enable them to reproduce and strengthen the colony. Abbotsholme’s bees have done so well in fact that when Jake and Ben in Year 8 came to do a hive inspection on Wednesday we found lots of capped queen cells.

This means that the bees are getting ready to swarm. The old queen will leave the hive with half of the bees and set up a new home in a new location. For beekeeping this is bad news; you lose half of your bees, get hardly any honey, and you have 30,000 bees on the loose.

To stop them from swarming Jake helped to knock down all of the queen cells except the most advanced one, which we chose to be the new queen. To stop the old queen from leaving we had to find her. Because she’s so hard to spot this took 2 visits to the apiary to achieve, many thanks to Ben Ashcroft for his help. We then had to move her with some of the bees into a new hive. This would trick them into thinking that they had already swarmed and hopefully stop them from leaving. The bonus of this is that we will hopefully have 2 strong colonies next year, with twice as much honey to enjoy, as well as one hive that is still strong enough to produce some honey this year. We will be keeping a close eye on the hives from now on to make sure that they don’t try and swarm again in August and start making preparations for the winter months.

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