Friday, February 27, 2009

Last evening I took my new medical stethoscope out to the hives to try out. I put it on the roofs but couldn't really hear anything. I then put it on the side of the hive box and could hear the hum and bustle of what was going on inside. I then went to the two Layens to Warre transfers I am doing and listened to those too. I also put the stethoscope to the top box of the Warre and in the first hive there was silence but in the second one I could hear the hum of the bees at work. This was a bonus find for me, I found a non disruptive way of monitoring the progression of my Layens/Warre transfers.
This morning when I went to the apiary, I found in front of one hive a drone at pre-emergence stage that had been thrown out. It looked as though it's thorax had been punctured and it was infested with varroa mite. I hope this is a sign of hygenic behavior. I have made a note of which hive it was for future monitoring.

I put bait hives out at my out apiaries today hoping to catch feral swarms.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I decided today to close the upper entrances on both the Layens/warre transfers. I have felt up until now that the bees needed both until they overcame the upset of being inverted. With today being a little cooler, I wasn't so worried about them overheating at the top of the hive trying to get out. I have monitored them all day and they are both now using the bottom warre entrances although many bees were still returning to the top entrance and were not finding the lower one about 4 feet below it. I went out again at dusk and they have all managed to find their way home. I expect it will be like this for a day or two with reducing numbers of bees still trying to return to the top.
The almond blossom is all but finished now with just a few fields with late flowering varieties in full blossom.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Photos of warre hives in transfer

The first images is from warre2 hive and you can see the bees are using the warre entrance quite well.

The next shot is warre1 hive and very few bees are using the warre bottom entrance.

The next two images are warre1 showing the top Layens entrance partially covered by the metal flap that the bees are using. If this flap is pushed closed, the bees can push it open again! I am leaving it like this to deter them using the top entrance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Beekeepers Delight

Went out to the apiary this afternoon and did a quick check of the entrances of the two warre hives I have transfer boards on with Layens hives sat upside down upon. They are using both entrances, the bottom warre entrance and the top Layens entrance. I am monitoring them to see if the dynamics change from top to bottom as the brood nest migrates down. One of the hives is predominantly using the top entrance with just a few bees using the bottom. The other warre is about half and half. I shall close the top entrance when both hives are mainly using the bottom entrance.
I have noticed within the last two days all hives performing undertaker duties. Seems strange that they are all doing the same at the same time! Makes me wonder if some bees from each hive have been on something toxic!
I saw the first flying drone today so I think mid February through into April is pretty much my swarming season here. I visit the apiary several times a day so I shall be keeping a close eye out for swarms from now on.
I witnessed a couple of evenings ago a strange sight I had never seen before. It was dusk and the sun was just setting, I was looking at one of the warre's with the layens hives on when I noticed from the top entrance a bee come out seemingly carrying a drop of water. The sunlight was right behind it and it glistened brightly. I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first as the flap closure was partly covering the entrance. I suppose the bee could have been regurgitating the water but it didn't appear so. It did seem to be carrying it. The bee came out about a couple of centimetres then just shed the water onto the flap lid of the layens. I saw the water mark on the flap lid and touched it with my finger and smelled it. It was just water. So what was I seeing! I put it down to the fact that the sun was just going down and the temperatures dropping. The bees had been out all day collecting nectar from the almonds and spring flowers. The water was condensation from within the hive which the bees were getting rid of, either by regurgitation or by carrying. I am still learning new stuff about these amazing creatures even after all these years.
The almonds are still in blossom but are starting to tail of now, the first of the field poppies are out and the wild potentilla is full of white blossom. Warm days and cool nights............. a beekeepers delight!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vipers Bugloss

I just noticed the first of the Vipers Bugloss has started to flower. I think it's proper name is Echium Vulgare. I had actually bought some Vipers Bugloss seeds because I know it is a good bee plant. Then I realized it is growing all around here naturally. Oh! well, it might be a particularly good strain.

They say you should move hives either less than three feet or more than three miles. Well tonight I moved seven layens hives about fifty metres/yards to my newly designated area for my apiary. So we will see tomorrow if the old saying is true or not. Michael Bush says not and I am in agreement with much of what he writes on his website. Four of the Layens are to be transfererred into other hives, two warre, one Kenyan top bar hive and one hybrid half framed Kenyan hive. The other three Layens will be split to make up for losses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Almond Blossom Time

The almond blossom is now at it's peak and it is a joy to see my bees winging their way to fill up on the nectar. The weather today has been warm and sunny all day, real T shirt weather! Here in this shot you can see the almond trees in all their glory.
I have set up my apiary sites which shows the bees foraging range on a google map. Copy this URL into your browser and then click on La Yesra which is my home apiary or Urracal which is my out apiary.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Late December 08 and Early January 09

Had a day off beekeeping today with the weather sunny and in the mid teens. I have had to rescue several bees that come in the house and get trapped by the light of the window which is unopenable. The first of the almond blossom is out and I am sure my bees are taking full advantage. Walking through the almond field this morning, my dog walked into a wild boar, a big one with tusks. He took off after it and chased it into a ravine. He didn't bring back supper but at least he was unscathed.
Planted 3 each of Lavandula Dentata hybrid, Lavandula Dentata and Lavandula Santolino. Some of these will be a metre high in a couple of years and is one of the few plants that can be kept without water in the summer heat. I have been searching for a plant that the bees can feed on for our summer dearth which is the end of June to the end of August. Lasy year I tried Borage and Phacelia but both had finished by the summer! I am thinking it is going to have to be some kind of succulent. The agave's are visited by the huge black bees which are bigger than bumbles but I don't know if honey bees can feed on them. The other plants that do well here are Aloe Vera and Yucca's, of which I have many. I have just ordered from Nickys Nursery some wild flower seeds which are wonderful bee plants. Aster, Lemon Balm, Golden Rod and Vipers Bugloss. How they will do here is as yet unknown but I will be scattering the seed on the hillside anyway.


Had an email from a beekeeper from Denmark, although he is English. He runs a small commercial beekeeping outfit of about 150 hives
and a small Isolated Island Breeding Station for carnica queens.
He came across my web site quite by accident whilst looking for some local contacts, presently on holiday together with his Danish wife, in the mountains behind Malaga.
He has long been interested in topbar hives and was wondering if he could visit me whilst they are
here. He is nearing retirement and has long talked about what when and how it should be, and often
talked of the kind of division of time I seem to have achieved. Beekeeping in Spain in the winter months and back to Sweden in the short summer season. Of course I said yes but his holiday hotel is 3 hours away so I will have to see if he can make it.


Had a pile of old Layens frames to clean up from my dead outs. I put a huge pan of water to boil on the gas barbecue and immersed the frames 3 at a time in the boiling water. All the wax and propolis floated off and the frames came out a treat! Made up another Layens Warre transfer board and 3 more entrances. Made 2 more Warre floors. Sorted through my old foundation and found some non wired section foundation which will be ideal for the Warre starter strips.


I made up one of two Layens to Warre transfer boards yesterday. The Layens hive is a one piece affair with fixed floor and hinged roof. The roof is not detacheable (unless you take an angle grinder to it). My board has the same external dimensions as the layens with a hole the same internal dimensions as the warre. I have made a sheet metal slide which covers the warre hole and can be slid completely open from the outside. I routed a 1mm deep slot in the board to take the slide.
The plan is to open the layens and without disturbing the colony, set the board on top with the slide closed. The board is screwed to the top of the Layens hive and the roof is left open. I then invert the Layens hive over the top of the warre hive which has been set out with starter strips on the top bars on three box elements and with the queen excluder entrance (see gallery photo) in place. I then remove the slide which now connects the Layens to the warre. Because all the cells are all angled downwards instead of upwards, the bees will know that something is not quite right and quickly move down to the chambers below. I am hoping I can remove the Layens after 5 or 6 weeks and harvest the honey and the wax. The weather will dictate when I carry out the transfer.


After the warm sunny weather of yesterday(20 deg C), the grey skies are back today but still mild at 13 degrees. Bees going mad on the lavender with a hum so loud, my wife asked if they were swarming!
Modified my Layens transfer box roof to give it a beespace above the frame top bars and to put a skirt of wood around the periphery to make it more weather proof. Last time I used it, there was some ingress of rain water into the hive. Gave it, Hybrid hive and TBH roof a coat of fence stain. Need another sunny day to render some cruddy wax in the solar melter.


Although overcast with a few bright spells and temps around 12 -13 degrees C, the bees are flying and foraging on the lavender. If we don't get a prolonged frosty spell (highly unlikely) the lavender will continue blooming until late spring, early summer. It has been a mild winter with old leaves still on the almond trees with flowering about to commence in the next few weeks. There are other wild flowers blooming and I really must get a book on european wildflowers and identify what are useful to the bees.
Did some filling of gaps & holes in my hybrid Top Bar Hive. I have designed it to hopefully have all the advantages of a TBH without some of the disadvantages. I will post some photos when it is fully finished. It uses cut down British National frames with the hoffman side cut off at about 10cm from the top bar. The idea is to give the comb more support than a standard top bar whilst allowing the bees to construct natural comb on the starter strips of my own pure wax that has not been tainted by any chemicals or antibiotics. The gaps in the bars allow the bees up above the bars, so there are removable panels set a beespace above the top bars. Each panel only uncovers a couple of the combs so the whole colony is not exposed when the roof comes off.


Rainy day again and although it is 10 degrees, no sign of bee activity. A bit of internet research revealed the identity of an abundant plant that has just started to flower here. It is Bermudan Oxalis or something. I don't believe it is of any value to bees as the web site I visited said it was a poisonous plant. Shame really as it is all over the place. Spent some more time in the workshop and completed 3 more warre box elements. I am looking to have 5 elements for each hive.
edited later
Just been past the bee water trough I provide for them and there are a lot of bees collecting water from it. Seems strange that on a drizzly day, they fly the 100m or so to the trough to collect the water when it is right outside their hive!


A non flying day today, about 8 deg C, grey and drizzly. Decided to clean up some Layens hives and a Layens transfer box plus a Kenyan TBH. Cleaned the debris out of the Layens then left them open to the birds so they can find any wax moth grubs that I didn't. Gave 2 coats of fence stain to the transfer box and the Kenyan. Need to make a new floor for the Kenyan before next duty.