The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Bees and not to bees

Posted in Bees | 13 comments

Today’s article is brought to you by Danny (that’s me – seems weird to be referring to myself in the 3rd party). Fiona is unwell as per the previous post, but is recuperating rapidly.The big news is that a swarm of bees arrived in one of our two vacant hives. Both our old colonies died off in the freezing cold of January. We had hoped that a stray swarm might take up occupancy and it has come to pass. Happy Days. I remember the old rhyme that I learned when I was knee high to a potato stalk back home in rural County...

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Amaryllis and honey bees

Posted in Bees, Plants and Bulbs | 8 comments

Amaryllis and  honey bees

This morning was clear and crystal bright. When the Min Pins and I tramped to the chicken run we were stopped in our tracks by the loud buzz from our apiary. Hundreds of young bees were making test flights in the crisp sunshine. They do this to orientate themselves to the hive before making their first solo foraging flight. Having worked out the coordinates (they use the sun) they can venture for miles and always find their way back home. I collected 3 eggs from the run and returned to the kitchen with the lightest step. Sunshine just does the...

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How to move a hive of bees

Posted in Bees | 31 comments

How to move a hive of bees

At lunch time I stood and worked out the logistics of moving our new colony. It’s sitting on top of the old colony at the moment. The flights of the worker bees distracted me and I watched them flying in and out of the hive. Imagine the biggest airport in the world and then multiply it by 100. Without the help of Air Traffic Controllers, groups of bees are taking off and landing constantly. There are no mid air collisions even when there are new worker bees bobbing up and down in front of the hive. This first flight of worker bees is...

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Honey bees, emergency and the Snelgrove board

Posted in Bees | 7 comments

Honey bees, emergency and the Snelgrove board

“There have to be three elements for the bees to swarm: a queen, flying worker bees and honey stores. If you remove one of these elements, they will not swarm.” Mike was striding down the garden towards the hives. Despite it being a showery day we were going to divide our colony in two as he suspected that the bees were preparing to swarm. I had mentioned that we had found queen cups and cells on some of the frames ten days earlier. These are special cells the bees make to breed a new queen. Although we had destroyed them and added...

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Our colony of bees is behaving strangely

Posted in Bees | 2 comments

Our colony of bees is behaving strangely

I was devastated when we lost our two colonies of bees a few weeks ago The garden was so quiet without them. I used to have a horror of flying insects (especially those that sting) but somehow the bees have buzzed underneath my skin. When they were gone, I realised that I had grown to love them. However, there were always moments of apprehension when approaching the hive. There are just so many bees. Yesterday we realised that we had crossed a bridge. There was so much going on in the hive we just didn’t have time to be worried. We...

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Shaking the bees into the hive

Posted in Bees | 2 comments

Shaking the bees into the hive

Our local Bee Inspector, Lindsay Sampford, arrived this morning to transfer the new bees into our old hive. The new colony comes from an area that has ‘resistant mites’. These are Varroa mites that are resistant to the older treatments of Bavoral and Apistan strips. This means they have to be treated with Apiguard (available from Thornes) and oxalic acid in the winter (when the queen is not laying). Varroa mites burrow into the eggs and larvae, cause deformed bees to be born and weaken the colony. Lindsay advised us that the best...

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New bees for Easter

Posted in Bees | 2 comments

New bees for Easter

We are so lucky. We got a call from Lindsay Sampford, our local Bee Inspector, on Thursday. “Would you like a colony of bees?” I jumped at the opportunity. A colony would have more than a fighting chance of survival through next winter if we got it now. It should be strong by the autumn. A quick call to the owner, who was moving away from a commune in Burwell and we were in business. When we lost our bees a few weeks ago, the single biggest factor that made me sad was that they would not be pollinating our fruit trees and broad...

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Our honey bees are dead

Posted in Bees | 10 comments

Our honey bees are dead

Both of our bee colonies have died. They’d been flying on sunny days since January. I was so pleased that they’d survived the winter. Two weeks ago I noticed that they weren’t flying about, even on the best days. Last weekend I was working in the borders near the hives and noticed there was no activity at all. And none in the mornings when I went down to the chickens. Today was mild and warm so I decided to dust off my bee suit and investigate. I opened up the small white hive first. The bees were motionless, clustered...

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