Getting my bee-jo back

I didn’t post about the bees last weekend because I felt especially down about my beekeeping skills after an intense catalogue of failures on Saturday. First, I failed to find Queen Stella in my allotment bees, which would have been particularly useful given that they had produced some queen cells. Next, I improvised with swarm control by doing a split that afterwards didn’t make much sense to me. Lastly, for the second week running I failed to find our queens Pepper and Melissa so that we could finish off the Bailey comb change. A complete hat-trick of bee failures.

Luckily, yesterday was not so bad. With both Emma and I inspecting, we miraculously found both Pepper and Melissa! Last week I had put queen excluders between each colony’s three boxes to try and narrow down which box the queens were in. We then knew that frames with eggs in = the box containing the queen. Pepper and Melissa have now been moved up into their box of new frames drawn out by the bees. These look like the frame Emma’s holding below, all fresh and clean.

New brood frame

Now that these frames are drawn out in each hive, the queens can start laying in them. A queen excluder below stops the queens laying in the old combs. The brood hatches out in the old combs and then we can throw them away, or give them to anyone who might want to boil and reuse the frames. Alternatively we could destroy the brood before it hatches, as a varroa control technique – bees with deformed wings have been spotted. Emma put monitoring boards below the hives, so we can see how bad the mite drop is next week.

Here’s Jonesie finishing off his Bailey comb change with Jochen helping – the bees were not too happy at their boxes being pulled apart.

Jonesie inspecting

Shaking bees

Lots of pretty flowers are out now. Forget-me-nots are smart – once the flower is pollinated, the yellow centre fades to white to indicate to pollinators that no more nectar is available.



Today Tom helped me out with the allotment bees. You may have heard the news that a new royal princess has arrived in the world – well, my bees had been busy making new royal princesses of their own. And not just one but so many I lost count… possibly as many as 15 queen cells were scattered across the frames, some on the sides, some on the bottom. Luckily I found Queen Stella and Tom helped by taking her away with some of her bees in a nuc. Reduced down the queen cells to just two, one sealed, one unsealed as insurance. Destroying queen cells is not something I enjoy, but if the hive produced several cast swarms most of them would probably not survive and could create a nuisance if they start building in people’s homes.

I finally found bees on a dandelion… right outside Tom’s hive, they were going mad for it. I had been wondering why everyone says dandelions are so good for bees as I’d never seen any on one, but now I have! Mark Patterson from the London Beekeepers Association told me on Facebook that “Lots of bees frequently visit dandelions. The problem with them is they need 3 hours of un-interrupted direct sun exposure before they start to secrete nectar. If you get a very warm sunny morning the bees go mad for them. They collect both nectar and pollen.”

Bees on dandelion

This is what Tom’s entrance looked like, after a rainy morning the bees were loving the sunshine.

Bees flying home

Occasionally I do things that don’t involve bees. Sometimes I do things involving cats instead:

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

Cat lattes

And anything that involves eating is a big hit with me, like this carrot cake at Lady Dinah’s cat emporium.

Carrot cake

And a veggie dim-sum platter at Shikumen, Ealing. Yum.

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.
This entry was posted in Colony management, Swarms and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Getting my bee-jo back

  1. Erik says:

    Happy to see you out with the girls. Love the dandelion picture! Good luck with your princesses.


  2. Bill Fitzmaurice says:

    Glad your bee-jo’s back Emily!! This time of year can be very up and down. Your photo of the humble dandelion is fantastic!!


  3. disperser says:

    Almost makes me feel bad for keeping my yard dandelion-free . . . were it not for all my neighbors doing exactly the opposite (a veritable sea of yellow flowers surrounds my yard).

    Nice reading the good news.


  4. The bees certainly keep you on your toes. It was so good seeing all those healthy looking hives. It sounds as if you should be thinking up another good queen name,too. Amelia


    • Emily Scott says:

      Hi Amelia, yes, having sold two hives I have now already gained another from the artificial swarm split I had to do! Downsizing is a slow process. I will call Stella’s daughter Stella II but I do need a new name for her other daughter in the new colony next door. Perhaps Ariel, as she will need to fly high to find her princes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. They loved that dandelion Emily and a few others close by. So much for bees not foraging close to their hives as that one was right at the entrance 🙂 just wait until all the flowers from the seeds we have planted come out and will be interesting to see what the bees do then. Thanks for the books by the way they are great and very interesting.


  6. Emily, I too had an up-and-down spring…queens making it through the winter only to disappear in the first round of mite treatment, and then swarm season broke early here and JUST as I walked toward one hive to give it more room and a swarm prevention configuration, they swarmed and perched 50′ up an old cedar, flying away 2 hours later to who knows where! Like you, I left two big queen cells in there and today will see how the new queen is coming along. Downsizing IS slow, as even when you take a nuc off and sell it, you must still deal with the bees left behind. You are left waiting for them to raise a new queen who will also be nuc’d and sold off, then you should have a small enough number of remaining bees that they can be layered onto a new hive or nuc’d up with a bought queen. Takes a while!


  7. Love your idea of using the queen excluder to narrow down the possibility of where she might be. The queens that came with our new bees are very small and we are having trouble identifying them. Lots of brood, so we knew they are at work. But it will be difficult to find them if we need to replace them.


  8. Anna says:

    A Taranov board can come in handy for those times when you spot lots of queen cells and suspect an imminent swarm. I hope to make my own soon so that I have it available when needed and won’t be left scrambling…


    • Emily Scott says:

      Hadn’t really looked into Taranov boards before – wow, the idea is fascinating! Have you tried it before? It sounds too good to be true!


      • Anna says:

        I haven’t at this point in time (but I secretly hope to someday!). It’s time consuming as you have to wait for the bees to coalesce on the board, but apparently it’s very effective. Rusty has some posts on it. I agree, it’s incredibly fascinating. Believe me, if I ever use it I will certainly post about it!


  9. Thanks for the info about forget me nots and dandelions, its a lovely picture of the bees on the dandelion.


  10. P&B says:

    I don’t feel that bad now struggling to find my queen knowing I’m not alone. I usually look for larvae as an indication that she’s still in the hive. I would rather do a fast inspection than take my time looking for the queen so the bees can get back to their routine. Dandelions are not just good for the bees, we can eat the leaves too.


    • Emily Scott says:

      You’re right, seeing eggs and larvae is usually more important than seeing the queen and tells you everything is ok. It’s just occasionally, like with swarm control, that it really helps to find her! I have a recipe for dandelion salad in one of my cook books.


  11. The eats on your blog are always so tempting. 😀 I thought your title was cute. I have never seen so many bees on one dandelion. What a great capture!


  12. thebigbuzz says:

    Well, I never knew that about Forget-me-nots or Dandelions! Very pleased to read you’ve got your bee-jo back! We (and the bees) need folk like you!


  13. Don’t be down. You are doing amazing with the bees.


  14. Paul says:

    I think I’ve lost my bee-jo about every three weeks. Then one decent sunny day with the bees and it makes a return.


  15. Julie says:

    Gorgeous pictures and love the one with the bees caught in flight as they are heading back to their hive. You’re doing a great job! Also, that is such a cool bit of trivia about the forget-me-nots!


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