September bees

The honey harvest is over and London temperatures are cool; since returning from San Diego at the end of August, where I wore shorts every day, my winter coat and scarf have already been pulled into action a couple of times. The bees know winter is coming (as does any Game of Thrones fan). Look at them frantically bringing home the pollen, bringing home everything they can now while a few flowers are still out there.

Bees bringing pollen in

That bright tango orange pollen was a mystery to me until I saw a post in the British Beekeepers Association forum about it. Other beekeepers are seeing it too, and they think dahlia or nasturtium. You can see a lady just popping in through the mouse guard with some below.

Orange pollen

Emma and I opened up our hives on Saturday to check they’re doing ok for stores. Rosemary’s hive, shown below, is almost taking up the whole brood box. They couldn’t really be doing much better. They still have a fair amount of brood, on about 6 frames I think, all worker brood now – it’s too late for drones. Time to kick out their hungry brothers.

Rosemary's hive

We had created a space above the brood box using an empty super and then put another super on top with a few super frames we didn’t harvest. The gap makes them see the super as not part of their hive, so they go up and rob it, storing the honey in the brood box. We want them to be on just the single brood box over winter, which is the convention in the apiary, though I think there are arguments in favour of double brood boxing or brood-and-a-halfing a strong colony. Below you can see the ladies eagerly lining up round a few chunks of honey we cut out from the now otherwise cleaned out super box.

Honey munchers

Little honey munchers

Lavender’s hive, headed by our new young queen, had a month long gap in brood production while Lavender was being created and mated, so they’re still lagging behind on numbers as you can see below. But doing better. Emma’s been feeding them lots and they were waiting at the feeder for us, lapping up every last drop of sugar syrup. Tried hefting and their hive is a little more tricky to lift than the last time I tried. But still doable, whereas my puny arms can’t hold Rosemary’s up.

Lavender's hive

I think I accidentally crushed one of Lavender’s daughters, she was dragging this orange blob behind her squashed abdomen. Sorry little one 😦  I’m used to seeing the sting itself, which is visible here, but not the orange blob – presumably the bee’s venom sac, which would normally get pumped inside you?

EDIT: willowbatel has pointed out in his comment below that the blob is probably the stomach or other internal organ, as the poison sac attached to the stinger isn’t very big and usually is slightly clear.

Squashed bee dragging sting

The bee below I photographed because I watched her for a while casing out a hive. Back and forth she went along this gap, shoving her head inside but not quite getting her body to follow through the narrow space. An innocent forager would have gone in through the front door, so she was clearly a devious robber bee looking out for a less well defended entrance. A reminder to keep beehives well sealed up.

This is not a bee. This is a Bob. He is getting ready for winter too. Zzzzzzz

Bob being a cat

As cosy as a cat

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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14 Responses to September bees

  1. whitt98 says:

    Looks like your hives are well on their way to being ready for winter. Good job. I like Bob’s idea of preparing for winter – he definitely has the right idea 🙂


  2. ceciliag says:

    So good to see inside your hives. I ensure that my bees have two supers of honey and brood going into winter as it gets to 10 below F and stays there for a while. Your names for them are so sweet (excuse the pun) Mine are called Blog hive, Number two hive, Rat House hive.. not very original!! Soon I will also start with the sugar water until it freezes solid. Amazing what they can survive! Loved your tour.. c


  3. willowbatel says:

    the yellow blob on that squished bee is probably the stomach. The poison sac attached to the stinger isn’t very big and usually is slightly clear. I squish bees more often than i should and i see this a lot. I usually assume it’s the stomach because whenever i’ve been stung (on my suit or otherwise) nothing like this has come out.


  4. Simon says:

    You harvest early down south 🙂 I still have three supers to come off, but I hope to get them away this week. I over-wintered my bigger hive on brood and a half last winter and wouldn’t recommend it. Better to go on double brood so you can move frames around if you need to. I always leave a full super on the hive, but remove the queen excluder so the colony can move up if it gets cold / hungry. I don’t understand why people take all the honey and then feed sugar syrup, surely the best food for bees in the winter is the honey? What do you think?


    • Emily Heath says:

      We harvested earlier than I would have chosen. Our hive is on an association apiary, and the beekeepers in charge like us all to do the same procedures at once. They decided we should all do Apiguard treatment at the beginning of August, so we had to get the honey off the first week of August.

      Maybe it was a bit selfish to take some honey, but we only took six frames in total and that’s the first honey harvest I’ve had in three years! We just don’t seem to get much honey. It might be because the apiary’s shady and the bees take a while to get going in the mornings, or maybe since beekeeping has exploded in popularity down here there’s too many bees for the forage available. Only one person in the apiary has done particularly well this year, they got two supers from their New Zealand bees. And that’s not a spectacular amount compared to hives I see online with four or five supers stacked up.

      Congrats for getting three supers!


  5. I have saw quite a few sneaky bees loitering around the back of Lavender’s hive in August and wasn’t sure if they were robbers! Now that our little hive is growing I think they will be able to defend themselves. It was lovely to have the apiary all to ourselves on Saturday! ;o)


  6. daveloveless says:

    How are you liking the rubber gloves? I don’t like wearing my leather beekeeper gloves because they are bulky, but I assumed the rubber gloves would be too thin. If those work well for you, I might give them a try.


    • Emily Heath says:

      The rubber gloves are a good compromise, and much easier to clean/cheaper to buy more if you need to throw them away. They still impede your ease of movement a bit compared to no gloves, but offer some added peace of mind.


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