Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nature Notes: My Bees

My bees live in a top bar hive I built myself and I'm practising natural beekeeping, interfering as little as possible with the hive, letting them swarm should they do so (if that happenen next year, I am going to keep the swarm) and letting the bees build combs on their own, without frames. The hive is covered by the top bars, each wide enough for a single comb, it's open at the bottom during most of the year and it allows me to work with the hive while disturbing the bees as little as possible. The stilts keep it at a very comfortable height.

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and here's the whole swarm, two days after moving in - when I got them, I could handle them with bare hands. Bees in a swarm are amazingly docile and it was a great experience, although I was really nervous that they would fly off or sting. I need not have worried.
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The next photos were taken three weeks ago when I wanted to harvest honey and found out that they didn’t have nearly enough to get them over the winter, let alone any to spare. The year was a bad one for honey all around and many beekeepers had the same problem. You can see how nicely they built the combs along the top bars if you look closely and how the small crack between each bar is sealed of with propolis, bee glue.

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I don’t mind about getting no honey, I just hope they will make it. They are getting sugar water now so they can build up their reserves. The comb lying on the bottom, that was my fault. It still has brood in it, so I leave it there until its empty, then I’ll take it out. You can see in the next photo that the honey combs are empty and really light in colour, compared to the reddish yellow of the brood comb.

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In the three weeks since I took those photos, they have built more honey combs and have started filling them with honey made from the sugar water I give them. The swarm is named Ygramul. I am amazed every time I look at the hive, all those tiny animals working together, neatly building their home. Just look at those honeycombs, it’s just so perfect.

More Nature Notes posts at Rambling Woods

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