Below is a gallery of some of the hives that are being set up across the United Kingdom, for the bees to self-populate and thrive without our intervention.
Following the success of the course run in March 2017, the bees discovered and thrived in these hives, I will be running two more next Spring 2018.
Hampshire course: 7th – 8th April
Cornwall course: 14 – 15th April
Price: £200 which includes all materials, lunches etc and an evening meal on Saturday.
For those wishing to camp, that is also included in the price.
Both locations have log hives and we should be able to observe the colony which is a very different experience to the lifting of frames in a conventional hive.
For more details write to email@example.com
This Autumn, I ran another course in log hive making. It was a great success and hopefully, they will all be up high for the bees to find next Spring. More information on log hive making can be seen in the earlier post.
Log hive courses are being planned for 2018 in Ireland, Spain, Cornwall and Hampshire.
More details to follow soon.
A swarm of bees, collected in a woven straw skep was tipped on a sheet covered ramp and the bees soon ran into a Golden hive.
After a few weeks, I checked the colony to see whether it needed any more combs. This is a 13 deep frame hive and initially, the size is kept to 8 frames using a dividing board.
By lifting the edge of the top cloth it is possible to look at the last frame without disturbing the main colony. If I see any comb growth, I add another frame. When there is an abundance of flowers comb growth is rapid and frames added every week.
This year was relatively quiet for swarms, but I was lucky enough to be in the orchard when a beautiful swarm erupted from a Freedom hive. This landed on a nearby apple tree and I was able to catch it and then the following day, transfer to a Golden hive.
Over the last few years, I have been placing Freedom and log hives locally on farms with the intention of creating a community of bees which are healthy and able to live without our intervention. Aswell as providing strong drones, I would hopefully be able to catch swarms to use in other types of hives. In remote locations, the easiest way of doing this is with a bait hive. This is a box of approx 40l with a small entrance hole. I place a few drops of lemon grass at the entrance to attract scout bees. The gallery below describes this in detail.
Both the log and freedom hive have been very successful in attracting bees. By attending a course I hope that I can show how, using a few tools, to make a hive and then give advice on making it attractive to bees and the best places to site the hive. My inspiration for making such hives has been to look at the wild bees in my area. I am so lucky to have found many, living in both trees and houses and if the weather is good, I hope to show some of them, which have survived many years without human intervention.
Thomas Seeley, an American scientist who has devoted his life studying wild bees has just published a paper, on Darwinian beekeeping, suggesting how we need to rethink how we “keep bees”. The article can be read here or you can visit the Natural beekeeping trust website and read more about the science behind this approach to beekeeping.
Film maker Tanya Cochrane made this short film on this year’s course.
Course Update July 2017
The great news is that everyone who made a log at the course and put it in a tree or on legs has had success, and are overjoyed by the arrival of a swarm. Some actually witnessed the bees disappear like a vortex into an entrance hole.
4 weeks later on removing the base, you can see the beautiful new comb growing down from the top.
As a result of this course, I am planning to run small courses in the Autumn and early Spring and encourage more people to get involved and bring bees back into the wild. If interested please contact me for more details.
Early Spring is an anxious time for a beekeeper. As I do not feed the bees sugar or apply any chemicals to control Varroa mite, I am relying on the bees having collected enough food in the Autumn and being able to survive until the first flowers of Spring. It is great to see them collect orange pollen from the first snowdrops, followed a few weeks later by an abundance of yellow willow pollen. From observing this, I know that the queen has started laying again and that soon the population will be increasing after feeding off these fresh stores. This puts a pressure on the colony and often, while rejoicing that they have survived, it can be sad to see life dwindle at the entrance and the colony fail due to lack of honey.
I don’t open the hive but it is possible to put an ear to the entrance hole and hear the murmur of life within. This year all my hives survived as well as the dozen wild colonies which live in cavities in roofs, old chimneys and trees around my village.
I wait until April to remove the base of the hive and look up to see how the bees are faring. On the video below you can see that the bees are already building new comb. It is an awesome sight. There wasn’t a loss of heat or pheromone and I was able to put my head right up to the hole and film without any bees getting aggressive.
I couldn’t see any signs of condensation and the base board was dry. A few Varroa mite could be seen, but the majority of debris was wax scales which had been dropped by the bees. It will be interesting to see whether they have been picked up on the next inspection.
Here is a short clip in real time of a swarm moving into a hive. I had set the hive in an ash tree approximately 5m above the ground at the beginning of April. Nothing happened until July… two days after I had put some more lemon grass oil in the entrance.
This swarm moved into the hive mid-July. I revisited in early October and was amazed by what I saw. As it was so late in the season, I wasn’t expecting to see much growth, but the colony had now expanded to half of the hive.
I hope many people will come to Art in Action this year in Oxford.After 40 years It is their last year.
The Natural Beekeeping Trust will be there and I am delighted to have been asked join them with my log and Freedom hives. I have had amazing results this year with the bees choosing to move in to the hives . The scouts have shown a preference for these hives over other designs.