01 April 2019
I am Gerald Bushby (pronounced bush bee!) a beekeeper in Weston on the Green, a small village in Oxfordshire. I am going to be writing a monthly blog about the bees in my apiary. I hope you will find it interesting. I should start by saying that I am not an expert, having only kept bees for three years. Anything I say is my own personal opinion; I accept that there may often be other views and opinions.
Looking back to last year I see that we had snow in March and then a dramatic swing of temperature to 27 degC in mid April for a few days and then frosts again. I was not able to carry out the first inspection of my hives until mid April.
This year spring seems to be earlier, again, but more gentle. Mid March temperatures rose to double figures for most days and I carried out my second inspection of the year on the 21st of March. I hesitate to say it, but at the moment I am pleased to report that everything is looking good. The two new red queen hives are increasing in numbers nicely. They have expanded to cover three frames with lots of brood at all stages and with the bees bringing in lots of pollen most days. The white queen hive, the original hive, is doing even better. Here the bees have expanded onto five frames. This is what I would have expected for an overwintered established colony.
Given that we have now reached April it is most likely that the worst winter weather is now over. There is always a danger for a colony that started rapid expansion, encouraged by fine spring weather early in the year, to starve if the weather then turns cold and wet so that the bees find it hard to gather pollen and nectar for their increasing numbers. It doesn’t look at the moment as if that is going to happen this year but I am still feeding all three colonies to boost the spring growth.
If things go to plan next autumn I am intending to overwinter three full colonies and three nucleus colonies to ensure that I have enough spare capacity to stay at the level of three full size colonies even if I have some losses over winter. If all of the nucleus colonies survive the winter I will join them to the full colonies in spring and start the process all over again. To do this, as I have mentioned before, I am intending to breed my own queens from one of the new red queen hives.
One of the red queen colonies seemed to be more active earlier than the other one, so it is the queen in this colony that I have decided to breed from. My current thoughts are that I will start the process sometime in May depending on the weather and depending if the bees look like swarming. You may recall that last year there were far fewer swarms than normal in this area. Perhaps the bees knew that a long hot summer was coming and decided not to swarm. I expect the it is unlikely that this year will be the same as last year so I may have to split colonies if they start thinking about swarming. No two years are the same.
You will probably have noticed that I and 2BScientific support a Bee Charity called Bees for Development, a Charity that teaches people how to become beekeepers in third world countries. On June the 12th Bees for Development will be hosting a Garden Party at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, details below.
I have attended this enjoyable event before and intend to go again this year. If you are free that afternoon/evening do go and support what this Charity does. The straightforward process of enabling people to become beekeepers can have a dramatic effect on peoples lives as is documented on the BFD web site. This year, Bees for Development are expecting a VVIP guest who is also a beekeeper but they are not allowed to say who at this stage (you will have to guess but there are not many VVIP beekeepers). There will be lots of celebrities and cookery demonstrations by famous chefs showing how they incorporate honey in their menus. Bee art postcards produced by famous artists and celebrities such as Antony Gormley, Gilbert and George and Joanna Lumley will be for sale but the buyer wont know who the artist is until they have bought the card!
I am a proud supporter of the ‘Bees for development’ charity, my love of the bee drew me to this wonderful UK based charity and the great work they do around the world with Bees and the impact they can have on people’s lives. Please help me support this wonderful organisation, as 2BScientific will be doing with donations to this hard-working charity.