2020 in retrospect

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote my retrospective review of the 2019 season. At the time I was thinking “What a nightmare! If I never again have a year like that it’ll be too soon.”. This was due to a major fire in my research institute which terminated a 30 year research programme and […]

Preparing for winter

The beekeeping season is fast receding into the distance as the first frosts of autumn appear and, finally, the wasp numbers start to diminish. By now colonies should be heavy with stores, either collected by the bees or provided by the beekeeper. There is relatively little actual beekeeping to be done this late in the […]

Long distance beekeeping

This post was originally entitled ‘lockdown beekeeping’. I changed it in the hope that, at some point in the future, we’ve all forgotten lockdown and are back to the ‘old normal‘. Instead, long distance beekeeping, better summarises the topic and might rank better in future Google searches … But before I start, here’s some general […]

More gentle beekeeping

I’ve done less beekeeping this year than any time in the past decade. The Covid-19 lockdown enforced changes to the way we live and work, meaning my contact with the bees has been ‘big and infrequent’ rather than ‘little and often’.  ‘Big and infrequent’ meaning a day or three of intense activity every month or […]

The gentle art of beekeeping

High summer. The swarm season had been and gone. The June gap was over. Grafts made at the peak of the swarm season had developed into lovely big fat queen cells and been distributed around nucleus colonies for mating. That was almost six weeks ago. From eclosion to laying takes a minimum of about 8 […]

Bigging up nucs

The phrase bigging up [somebody or something] means saying they are very good, usually in public . It is slang and used informally and usage has increased significantly in the last couple of decades. The term bigging in bigging up meaning promotion, is relatively new. However, the same word can be traced back to Middle English and […]

It’s the little things …

When I first started keeping bees colony inspections were a special occasion. There was quite a bit of preparation beforehand, collecting together the paraphernalia the catalogues all described as essential for effective beekeeping. I’d fuss over the hives, sometimes opening them a second time (or twice in a weekend) to check things. I’d write up […]

The million drones fiasco

Accidents happen. Sometimes they are due to stupidity, sometimes to forgetfulness, or sometimes they are just the result of plain dumb luck. They’re also often caused or at least exacerbated by ‘local’ factors – like a rainstorm or a cancelled train preventing timely inspections.  Or a countrywide lockdown necessitated by a global viral pandemic. With […]

Queenright … or not?

A brief follow-up to the (ridiculously long) post last week about leaving queen cells in the colony after a) it swarms, or b) implementing swarm control . How long does it take for the new queen to emerge, mate and start laying?  And what if she doesn’t? How did we get here? We are approaching […]

Swarm prevention

Swarm prevention is an important component of early season colony management. There are a number of drivers of swarming – ageing queens, overcrowding, the age-old urge to reproduce – some of which can be effectively ‘managed’ by the beekeeper, so delaying (or even preventing) the need for swarm control. It might even prevent you from having to climb a wobbly ladder to recover a swarm from the top of your neighbour’s apple tree. Time spent on swarm prevention is time well spent.