Bees, honey, flowers, cake and a party

In an unexpected turn of events, a rainy, miserable week was followed by a gorgeous sunny Saturday. So off to the apiary it was, where I met Brian checking out his super. He has placed a queen excluder and normal National super on top of his top-bar hive and the bees are now starting to go up there and draw out the foundation. Brian sees it as a way to get the best of both worlds – foundationless brood frames with easier-to-extract super frames.

Brian's hive

Once Emma arrived we inspected our hives. We found lots of this beautiful stuff…


And more perfectly capped HONEY. Our boxes are heavy. I can just about lift a super (which contains around 30 pounds of honey) on my own, but it is much easier with a hive partner to help. Trying to move the boxes around without squashing any of the 60,000 constantly moving bees inside is a task and a half too, but we try to keep casualties to an absolute minimum.

Capped honey

As one of the artificially swarmed colonies from May containing a new queen had gone queen-less, last week we combined it back with their mother Chamomile’s hive. So five hives have become four.

We combined using the usual newspaper method, placing newspaper with a few slits in above Chamomile’s brood box and then placing the queen-less brood box on top (we checked through several times to make sure there was no queen in there). I was more nervous about this than usual as there were a few cells with multiple eggs in, a sign of laying workers. Would these workers kill Chamomile?

The answer this week is nope. I found plenty of neat eggs up in the top brood box, one per cell, so Chamomile has been up there investigating. Down below we spotted Chamomile, a long golden queen, although perplexingly we also found a few queen cells. It’s late in the season to swarm and there were only a few cells, so we’re hoping this is a case of supersedure and are leaving the bees to get on with producing their new queens.

Beehive cake

Bee cake made by Penny Pedley – can you spot the queen?

After a hot couple of hours inspecting we went on to Andy’s 60th birthday party. The party had a bit of a bee theme to it, with this spectacular honey cake made by Andy’s wife Penny. The little bees were made of chocolate raisins with almond wings.

Andy Pedley and Scarlett blowing out his cake

Andy and his great-niece Scarlett blowing out his cake.

We all got a piece of cake, as well as plenty of other delicious food, beer and Pimms. Scarlett Johansson and Benedict Cumberbatch were also at the party.

Andy's birthday card

A few more photos from the week…

Cupcake decorating

Cupcakes from a evening cake decorating course I did at City Lit, near Covent Garden.

Radbourne Walk poppies

Poppies and cornflowers growing along the Radbourne Walk wildlife gardening project I helped out earlier with this year. Unfortunately Council staff turned up a few weeks ago (even though it had been agreed earlier in the year they wouldn’t) and strimmed down many of the newly planted flowers. So some of my taxes this year went on destroying the work I and many others sweated over. An allotment holder noticed and managed to stop them, but by that time most of the alleyway had been strimmed. The Council have again agreed not to do this next time.

To end on a more positive note, here is a bumble bee enjoying a pumpkin flower.

Bumble in pumpkin flower

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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28 Responses to Bees, honey, flowers, cake and a party

  1. Mei says:

    I wonder how the bees from the top bar hive get up to the super. I thought all the top bars were flush against each other?


    • John Wilkinson says:

      My thoughts also!
      Another point ,this arrangement looks anything but weatherproof?


      • Emily Heath says:

        It has survived several rain storms so far. The real test will be the winter as top-bar hives have never done well over winter in the apiary (it was only placed there in the spring). My fear is that the amount of space in there will be difficult for the bees to keep warm.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Yes, I see what you mean. Presumably Brian must have made some holes between some of the bars. I haven’t seen what it looks like underneath the super.


  2. lizard100 says:

    Nice idea with the tbh and national box. Interesting method.


  3. I love the “best of both worlds” solution. I expect to see this idea taking off.

    I’m glad the merge of the hives worked. It’s always worrying when a hive goes queenless.


  4. Nice to hear good news . . . and very interesting cake.


  5. Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    Awesome update thank you for sharing have a blessed day


  6. Alex Jones says:

    With councils looking to save money, it makes sense they assist nature benefit by stopping cutting back verges.


  7. One question, I assume the frames pictured are from the brood box as they are deep frames? How much stores are they storing in the brood box as most of my colonies are wall to wall brood! How many supers are on the hive? Make sure they have plenty of space to process the nectar / store the honey. I know more than one question…


    • Emily Heath says:

      Yes, from the brood box. Each hive (except the two combined ones) now has one or two supers on with space still to fill. Our colonies don’t tend to fill up the box completely with brood, perhaps something to do with their genetic strain? I don’t mind them having honey in the brood box as it’s good insulation and food come the winter.


      • Glad to hear your colonies are doing well. I have no experience of city based bees mine all being more countryside. I was just asking to make sure they had plenty of space. I agree with having adequate stores for Winter and in fact I will probably end up double brood again this winter as I have a lot of spare brood frames full of stores. At least it saves on Autumn feeding!
        Looking forward to your post when you extract that lovely Honey.


  8. Once again, I am distracted by the cake, despite Scarlett and Benedict!


  9. solarbeez says:

    They strimmed the poppies? You have to wonder why people do things like that…obviously those flowers were purposely planted there. I’m glad you shot a photo before that happened. I’d be tempted to stick signs in the ground stating, “Poppy Patch for Pollinators!”
    Lovvve those cupcakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It may be done by an external contractor who has agreed to strim at regular intervals. I am not in any way excusing what they did but I doubt if they apply any logic – they are told to strim and so they strim.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. P&B says:

    Interesting way to arrange the hive. You mentioned that the top-bar hive is only there in spring. What happens to it in winter? And the bees?


  11. What a great birthday party! The cakes were superb. Amelia


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