Monday, 27 June 2011


It seems like ages since I completed my hives. They sit in the wriggly tin shed, patiently awaiting some occupancy.

The reason for the torturous delay has been thrift. Rather than going out to 'buy' some bees from an apiary, I have decided to acquire them from 'G' over at the adjacent plot.

His hives have had a hard winter and he's currently in the process of rebuilding them, getting in new nucleus's, queen cells etc, and allowing them to build up in numbers during this year to get his apiary back up to speed. He has six hives at the moment.

Anyway, yesterday I donned my virgin white bee-suit and broke out my brand new hive tool and smoker and ventured into G's apiary, more excited than nervous about my first close contact with so many bees.

Take me to your leader...
 You can laugh at the white wellies! 'G' didn't have wellies on, just sports shoes, and he paid the price. Bee stings all up the back of his legs! I stifled a laugh.

I was a bit amazed. As 'G' cracked open the first hive and I'd puffed smoke into the entrance and over the top of the frames, the pitch of the bees hum changed a bit. They didn't look or sound mad and I was remarkably calm (I wasn't sure how I'd react to be honest faced within inches of thousands of bees).

What we were looking for was the queen in this hive.

The idea, if I've understood it right, is this. 'G' has a nucleus hive (a small box containing up to five brood frames) into which he will place a couple of brood frames from a healthy hive. On these frames will be a queen cell and lots of eggs and grubs of other drone and worker bee cells.

(Left) capped off cells waiting to hatch, 
(mid) grubs in the making and 
(right) tiny eggs
We then take this nucleus, together with some bees from the healthy hive, over to my apiary and wait for the new queen to hatch. She'll then lay eggs for the new colony of bees. My bees.

A character trait to be bred out - 
gathering at the bottom of the frame
Unfortunately, there wasn't a viable queen cell yesterday to take so I've got to wait about ten days (checking regularly) to see if the bees in the hive will make one.

It was interesting to note that the temperament of the bees in each hive was slightly different. In one hive they were very placid bees, not really bothered by our interference, and in another they got very pissed off quite rapidly and bounced of the hood of my suit.

Despite the delay in getting my own little fellows, I realised that I have overcome what anxiety I may have had about handling bees. I was even putting my hands amongst them in the hive, gently touching them to get them to move so we could see the queen.

I've still got to clear Area 51 properly so I'll get onto that in the evenings this week to prepare for my bees arrival. Just got to be a bit more patient.

It's not like there aren't a million other jobs to do in the meantime.



  1. It all sounds very exciting, and new. The suit's very 'fetching'; you could almost play cricket in it.

  2. You can certainly run it it Cro, I made sure of that.

  3. Oh I can't wait to see the whole process! I love, love, love the photos. Even the one of you in your alien suit. Laughed out loud.

    I am going to keep bees as well. The guy who bought my buck keeps them and is going to set me up. I have hives in my old project house.

    Somebody once told me that working with bees is like meditation. The humming, and and light winged gentleness of honey bees. Almost an out-of-body experience.

    So cool Chris.

  4. are so cool to be able to do this...bees....that many would "DO" me in for sure. I'm just thinking about all that honey...sweet sweet honey...mmmm!

  5. Why thank you Crow. I thought it was going to be an 'out of my suit' experience but I was ok and I'm sure you will be too.

    I could even see the bees talking to each other - no seriously. Some sort of chemical communication. Probably saying 'look at that idiot in his stupid bee suit'.

  6. Well Ron, you'd be surprised. They didn't seem interested in attacking or stinging (me anyway) at all. Just like they had 'stuff' to do and got on with it.

    I could do with a lesson or two off them.

  7. That was really interesting! Chris how do you recognise the Queen cell in the nucleus? The bit where you said they were calm and so were you when you were handling the bees - I thought that was cool! Bees and wasps don't frighten me either, but in saying that I think I'd don the white wellies too, wouldn't fancy having my legs stung!

  8. That WAS really interesting, Chris. AND - just think about all those lovely candles you will be able to make from the wax!

  9. Hi Molly - the queen cell literally sticks out like a huge lump from the frame.

    The Queen looks different from the other bees. She's longer in the body so she can push her bum into the comb to lay her eggs hence the bigger bump.

    I'm sure I will get stung, it's inevitable!

  10. Tell you what Tom. I'll make you some candle for you bloody candlesticks from my first batch of wax.

    Makes a good balm too for your skin. You could get John to rub it in for you hehe...

  11. I am totally impressed with the whole process Chris! As my grandmother used to say....patience is a virtue. Think of how 'virtuous' you will be when you finally get your queen and are off to the races producing the best honey in the county!! all due of course to your patience and the 'relaxed' bees you will raise. I guess.....

  12. I'm so excited for you that you are getting closer! And was glad to read you really "connect" with the bees. My grandmother had bees and could work with them in shorts and a halter top. Insane! But she had something going with them, because she never got stung. I know, it sounds like a real "fish tale."

    I too enjoyed the photos, especially the one with you all suited up!
    Although I am able to walk in the trees that are just filled with them and not be bothered at all, I think I would suit up for a hive. (I have no idea what kind of bees they are and what on earth are they doing in the trees. It happens every year though).
    Can't wait to read more!
    Get this, my security word is "behord"
    Too funny!

  13. Your first bee encounter sounds very like mine - it is so calming and I can imagine it being almost like a meditation. So exciting though. I hope your queen comes through. I had ordered 2 nucs from a local-ish apiary, but he has been having trouble getting the queens mated - the weather had been too awful for them to go on their mating flight. The result is that the nucs have not been able to build up with brood. Sigh - there may still be time.

  14. Hey Chris! Thanks for comment on Dad`s b`day. Oh, you just `missed`Brynn........but I`ll let you know should anything change. And to think she was in London last year too! Pity.......

  15. Very interesting post, loved the photos.
    I'm intrigued by the wellies. Have you always worn white wellies or do you wear different ones for different outfits?

  16. Bees are on my list for someday :O). But mmm I don't think bumble bees. I can handle the little ones but there is something about the bumble bees.

  17. Nice to meet you Chris. Loving your bee posts. I don't keep them myself... yet, but I do have a friend who started this spring and one who will start next spring. I'll be sure to pass this link on! I'LL be back just because I love bees and the idea of beekeeping and your terrific photos...

    Blessings, Debbie