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A Bee report

Yesterday I spent the day at my friends house. This is the friend with the Bees and I finally ended up seeing them. They have been moved from his back garden to a remote woodland and before we went we were discussing why. It seems that Bees, like everything nowadays, creates fear among the public and one thing you don’t hear about is the Bee crap that appears for a large area around the hive. Something obvious really but not mentioned anywhere in any of the books. These are the reasons he was not recommending them for me as neighbour complaints were an issue for him and he has a much larger garden that I do.

When we went to see the Bees the intention was to check and treat them for the varroa mites and check their status for overwintering. We had to drive through a farm into some woods and along a dirt track to where he has about a dozen hives in a small clearing. It was secluded and one thing I love about these things is the cool quiet clearing with just insects pottering about. He did tell me that one concern with the remote site was that thieves are targeting bee hives and take the whole thing, bees as well, which are worth several hundred pounds each.

Then came the prep work. We had to get suited up to work on the hives. We had full body suits, with wellies, which had to be zipped and fastened correctly to stop bees getting in. We then started a smoker going which is used to quieten the bees down. Although they were quiet now they get agitated when you start poking about in the hives.

Opening the first hive was interesting. Although there was about half a million bees in the area most were just going about their business and not bothering us until we puffed some smoke into the hive. Immediately they all started moving around following the bee fire drill which is save the honey. A quick check shown that there was sign of the varroa mites but no major issue. It seems they are in most hives in the UK now. A quick look in each frame to identify if there was any eggs, larvae, a queen and stores of honey which were documented followed by a treatment for the varroa mites and the hive was sealed up again.

Queens are identified because they are larger than the others. Although drones are also larger than workers so it was not as simple as just looking. Nothing ever is. Any unmarked queen was marked with a white marker to ease later identification. The varroa mites are identified by little black spider mites at the bottom on the hive. A white board was previously placed at the bottom to aid this. Simply examine and identify. Again it took practise.

This check was repeated several times until all the hives were done. It took four hours and it was sweaty in the suits. As each hive was opened the bees became more agitated and more smoke was required. Although even then it was not too bad although my friend got stung once through his suit.

He couldn’t find queens in three hives with one showing new eggs so it was likely it still had one. All the hives shown signs of varroa mites to varying levels, none serious and all were treated. Interestingly enough, to me anyway, some hives had little or no honey and were building drones while others were full of honey.

We then tidied up, put out the smoker, walked back to the car and took off the suits. Checking each other and ensuring there were no bees on them to get caught up. Even so when we got home there were a few stragglers found in the car.

Relaxing later we had a discussion about what I wanted to do with the bees. I could put them in my garden because although I have a fussy neighbour because of the way our houses were set up with the trees and hedges he would be unlikely to identify there was an issue if I kept the hive out of sight. However this would be a problem with the kids and if I put in high it would be visible to all. So at the moment I won’t be putting a hive in. In addition it is recommended that you have three hives as the death of a queen in a single hive will cause the loss of the hive. I can’t put three hives on the ground in my back garden.

So something else to put off until I can get a bigger plot of land.

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