The Flow Hive

Some of you may have seen the recent froth on the internet around a creation termed by its inventors the Flow Hive (you can check it out on Youtube).  It seems the hive contains within it plastic combs that can be split down the middle by the operation of plastic cams.  Thus, any honey contained within the comb flows out (if it hasn’t crystallized).  This honey then flows out of the hive in a channel and can be collected via a pipe.  Apart from practical questions about whether the honey thus removed is sufficiently ripened, I personally am against plastic combs and find the whole idea behind the Flow Hive quite appalling.  The wax combs of a bee hive are an integral part of the bee organism, just as are the internal organs of a mammal.  We should not mess with them.

There are some further comments on the Natural Beekeeping Trust’s blog.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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Bees Dance to a Different Tune

At the still point of the turning world …. there the dance is …
and there is only the dance.  More here.

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Bandit Bees

bandit bees

In response to the post about eternal drones & the unusual behaviour for the time of year this is a picture of the bandit bees that have broken into a weaker colony across the garden  & taken over. It didn’t take them long. I noticed a determined line of bees coming & going from this colony at 10.00 this morning, followed it & found a bit of a massacre!  It’s all gone quiet now at 3pm. I am wondering whether they will partially inhabit this hive as there are a LOT of them in their original hive. No drones though that I have seen. In fact no drones among any of the colonies here.

The cooler weather didn’t put off these bees & hasn’t ever since they arrived mid july this year. They can be seen in all weathers, bringing back pollen in large quantities & now of course the greatest prize of all….someone else’s honey!!  Hopefully they will at least have filled some of the above gaps in the comb with this thieved honey. The top photo was taken about 3 weeks before the bottom photo so they are evidently getting some stores from somewhere.

Survival of the fittest, for sure.

They had evidently tried to invade another colony too who were out in their numbers at the entrances, obviously “bugged” & in defence mode!! I reduced the entrance to one for that colony & left them to it. They soon settled down to bringing in pollen & seemed to be more relaxed.

I wanted to post a video of the robbing but sadly IT capabilities are not quite there.

I am wondering if the bees are outdoing themselves in vim & vigour due to the constantly milder weather we are experiencing, instead of hunkering down & conserving energy.

IMG_1540Posted by Sal P

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Everlasting Drones

One of our Warre Hives dragged out its drones around the week of 22nd August, as normal this year.  Subsequently, from September onwards it has been gripped by a second honey flow fervour which has seen its numbers increase dramatically so that in October it was flying as vigorously as in the main honey flow in June.  Nothing on this scale has happened to this hive in the last two years.  (by contrast our other warre is just ticking over, a few bees coming out, drones a distant memory & well hunkered down for winter).

On the 1st October drones re-appeared from this hive in substantial numbers and throughout the month our garden has echoed to the sounds of the noisy old beggars flying incongruously around yellowing autumnal vegetation.  As I write on 12th November, during a brief sunny interlude in the rain, Drones are still flying unmolested by house bees even though there are dead bees littering the ground in front of the hive as the years workers gradually expire.

What is interesting is the excitement of the hive – hard to describe, but they seem to be scrambling to get at the forage even though by now supplies must be dwindling fast.  I’ve read that the physical presence of Drones can have an effect on the behaviour of bees in the hive..?

I’d be interested if anyone else has experienced the same as this exceptionally warm autumn comes to an end, in the meantime I’ll be savouring  the sounds of summer while they last!

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Dave Goulson discussing research on bumblebee decline

You might be interested to listen to this interview on BBC4’s ‘The Life Scientific’ which is scheduled to be broadcast this evening at 21:30:

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Panel Discussion: Bee Centred Beekeeping, 19th November, 7:30pm

As part of what has become an annual appearance at Stroud BKA, this year I am part of a panel discussion on the subject of Bee Centred Beekeeping.  The panel will be made up of 5 beekeepers with varying backgrounds and experience and questions are invited from the audience. Questions may also be sent in by email or by using the contact form on this page.

The idea of the evening is to try and get beyond the beekeeper and to examine what matters for the bee, rather than getting stuck in dogma.  All are welcome.  More details here.


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David Heaf Masterclass, November

David Heaf Masterclass, a two day course on Bee Friendly Beekeeping, 29 & 30 November 2014
Venue:            Ragman’s Lane Farm in Gloucestershire
Times:             10 am to 5 pm on Saturday 29, and 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday 30 November.
Cost:                £120 (incl VAT) for the two day course.  Cost includes refreshments and a simple lunch each day
How to book

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How to Dispose of my Colonies

I was cutting down the wildflower meadow behind my beehives yesterday.  I was using hand shears (rather than the hedge trimmer I used last year) because I thought it was less likely to upset the bees.

Nevertheless, one bee took a dislike to what I was doing and stung me on the lobe of my right ear.  I pulled the sting out with tweezers, put my bee suit on and carried out.

Soon afterwards I could feel my lips swelling.  I suddenly felt very tired and was sweating profusely.  I had trouble getting back indoors and was having trouble breathing.

I rang 999.  The ambulance arrived soon after.  They did tests, an adrenalin injection and took me to hospital where I had more tests.  They gave me anti histamine and steroids and kept me in under observation for six hours.

Very reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that the bees will have to go, but I don’t know how to go about this.  I have two hives, both are Warre style and quite tall.  I’ve only been keeping bees for a couple of years.  I haven’t used any treatments, neither have I taken any honey or given any feed.  They are still busy bringing in pollen.

Can anyone advise what time of year it would be best to move them, how to move them and where to move them to?

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Graham Brookbanks

Chandlers Ford, Hampshire

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Deformed wing virus

We have one hive of bees that we got as a swarm this year very early in the swarming season. At the moment we’re feeding them because we weighed the hive they’re well below the weight needed to get them through the winter. Yesterday morning I went to top up the feeder and there was lots of activity with plenty of bees coming in and out of the hive and lots of pollen coming in.

I stopped to watch the bees for a while and found three or four bees with deformed wing virus outside the hive and one of them had what looked like two mites on it. Our Warre hive doesn’t have windows so I don’t know what proportion of the bees have deformed wings inside.

Am I right to assume that seeing three or four bees outside the hive with deformed wings means that a lot of the bees in the hive will have this virus and that therefore there’s likely to be a lot of varroa in the hive that have spread the virus?

If that’s the case we can either do nothing and see if the bees can cope with the problem themselves or we can treat them. Having read about natural bee keeping and having done a natural bee keeping course earlier in the year I’d decided I would try to be treatment free. However, there was some discussion on our course about weaning bees off varroa treatment rather than going cold turkey (I can’t quite remember the details which is why I’m needing to ask this question now).

The bee keeper who collected the swarm for me is almost certain that the swarm came from a conventional bee keeper who’s bees are kept very close to where our swarm was found and who “lost” a swarm from one of his colonies that day. He told me that the bee keeper was up to date with all his treatments so I assume the parent colony where our swarm came from had been varroa treated.

I’m not quite sure how I would wean bees off treatment because surely I would either treat them or I wouldn’t and there isn’t an in between. As yet we haven’t been sugar dusting because I’ve wanted to open the hive as little as possible and we don’t have a mesh floor on the bottom to count a mite drop. I’m considering using one of the organic acids if I do treat. Any advice would be very gratefully received.


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Frustrated harvest

Now in its third third summer and in three of four  boxes we decided it was time to have a go taking a box off one of our warre hives as the top two both seemed chock full of capped comb through the viewing windows and had been all year.  The the hive itself had swarmed at least once in June and currently seemed to be in the throes of a mini honey flow and had ejected most drones over the last week.

Having not done this before we were hoping that as of today (30 August) the brood should have moved to the lower boxes and we would be able to snaffle the top one with minimum off fuss.  We planned the event with military precision & had made a matching octagonal escape box to immediately place the hive box on removal – this had half a dozen escape cones built into the roof to allow any bees inside to escape back to the mother ship – that was the theory anyway.

On removal we could see that there were a lot of bees in it and in particular clustering near the base of the box – on examination a large area had capped brood on the lower parts of the combs.  We immediately returned the box to the hive, affixed a new cover and replaced the quilt while besieged by a furious mob of bees – this hive is normally extremely placid.

it seems virtually impossible to predict the right time to harvest a warre without causing some major issue in the hive – did we attempt this too early?  Heaf mentions “early autumn” as a good time.     This hive was started from a caught swarm in 2011 and this is the first time we have laid hands on its internals since then.

I guess in reality every hive has a different character, work ethos and housekeeping habits so it will always be a bit hit & miss judging the right time…..

Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated…





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