Standards are high at the annual Christmas lights event. It’s important that every entry is a strong in order to outperform the competition.

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Unwelcome guests

Cooking an evening meal, I reach for the oregano and then for the thyme. As the herbs start to work out where they are, why they’re here and what they’re meant to be doing, a familiar but confusing aroma issues. This doesn’t smell so much of my dinner as my beehive. And not in that cooking-with-honey way.

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There are lots of kinds of beehives, but many of them have the same construction: a brood box, which is a large space for the colony to live, and supers, which are smaller boxes, added on top, in which bees make honey and which beekeepers sometimes have to take away for their own good (the beekeepers’ own good, not the bees’).

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I’ve had my beehive for over two weeks. It’s full of honeybees, and getting fuller. In that time my neighbours have had two nests of very different varieties of wild native bee: leafcutters and bumblebees. They’re not camera-shy.

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My nucleus is building up strength. It takes 40 days from its egg-laying to a worker bee going out on its foraging missions (bees spend their first ten days in the hive doing household chores). This means that the bees now out foraging were eggs long before I acquired the nuc.

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Frustration (video)

I stopped off to wish my bees a good afternoon and to ask after their mother. One worker was clearly in some discomfort.

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The First Death

Inspecting a beehive is the central mystical ritual of beekeeping. Seeing the bees at work, spotting the queen scuttling around and appraising the hard work they are all doing is, I’ll be honest, one of the major draws for me. It’s something that should be done as infrequently as possible because it disrupts the hive, stresses the bees and interferes with the environmental conditions that they’re trying to maintain. At the height of inspection season no more than once every few days.

Beekeepers go to great lengths not to damage or kill insects. But sometimes it does happen.

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The Timelapse Beehive

Some background to

I’ve wanted to keep bees for 20 years, and I’m finally getting round to doing it. There’s a lot of nonsense going around about how it’s a new middle-class fad, but I recently dug this book out. It’s called the Golden Throng and it was printed in the 1940s.

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Feeding Bees

To start with something worth saying:

Do not feed bees honey. If you find a tired bee, mix it up some sugar solution. One crystal of caster sugar to one drop of water should do. Honey from the shops, which is usually from a foreign country, and even honey from a more local hive can contain fungal spores which can cause serious diseases, like American Foul Brood.

Now that’s over, let’s move from feeding individual bees to the feeding of tens of thousands.

In my post on the installation of a nucleus I showed the improvised bottle contact-feeder in action.

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Achieving Bees

There are a number of ways one can acquire bees. To paraphrase Twelfth Night:

but be not afraid of bees: some are born to bees, some achieve bees, and some have bees thrust upon them.

Some people catch swarms. My great uncle Ronald had a hive thrust upon him. Although I’m the third generation of bee-keepers in my family, I wasn’t born to them (the previous two generations being predecessors but not ancestors). I went with the safer and easier option and obtained a nucleus from a local bee-keeper.

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