A post for bee and poppy lovers

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve joined the London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) mentoring scheme this year. Today I was joined at the Perivale apiary by one of my mentees, Chris. He is doing well and spotted lots of eggs as well as queen Pepper. He also got stung for the first time, so is now properly on his way to becoming a beekeeper.

Chris inspecting 2

Queen Melissa must have given her loyal subjects orders to destroy all records, as their hive records had a distinctly chewed appearance. Perhaps she is hoping to remove all evidence of her age before her daughters decide she is getting too old. Still no sign of queen cells and the bees are well on their way to filling up a second super. They really are the most perfect bees.

Chewed hive records

I enjoyed finding Albert’s new and rather upmarket hive stand.

Posh hive stand

We inspected all three hives and found them queen-right. While Chris was inspecting he noticed that Pepper’s bees had a few cells with dead larvae in – only about ten in total spread throughout the brood box – these looked like bald brood or chalk brood but I think in such small amounts nothing to worry about. Will keep an eye on it though.

Afterwards I had some lunch with Drew and then went on my own to check on the allotment bees. When you are having a hard time in life and things are not going your way, the allotment is a good place to come for some mental healing. Our wildflowers sowed a few months ago have burst into colour, with red poppies waving everywhere. In amongst them bumbles buzzed and chirping sparrows jumped from stem to stem.

Borage and poppies

Borage and poppies

Allotment poppies

Allotment apiary

Our cherries are turning red to match the poppies.

Poppies and hives

Allotment poppies

It’s harder to be sad while watching a bumble feeding on bramble flowers.
Bumble bee on bramble

Can you see how her pollen baskets are grey but with orange coloured stripes running through them? I loved that.

Bumble bee flying from bramble

Inside the hive things were not so comforting. Sadly my troubles with the allotment bees continue, after combining the two hives on 6th June it seems something has happened to Andromeda, who had been laying so well in the nuc. No sign of eggs last weekend so Tom kindly gave me a test frame with eggs to see if the bees would try and produce a queen cell to replace her. They had done nothing with the test frame this week.

Sometimes queens stop laying if there’s not much nectar coming in, but the blackberries are out now and there’s no shortage of food in the hive. It may be that she has accidentally been squashed at some point or something went wrong when combining the two colonies. But as they haven’t tried to make a queen cell from the test frame, is either Andromeda or another queen in there somewhere but not laying for some reason? Another of these bee mysteries. All thoughts or theories welcome.

Honey super

I still inspected without gloves or smoke, but I could sense a change in mood, without the calming effect of open brood pheromones they were more buzzy and irritable than in the past. They also have more honey to defend now. Above you can see them hard at work in the super. It’s not all capped yet but all the frames have been filled and it’s mighty heavy to lift off.

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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33 Responses to A post for bee and poppy lovers

  1. Extraordinary to see the striped pollen baskets so clearly. And such a fine hive stand! RH


  2. disperser says:

    Hmm . . . hope the sadness mentioned has to do with the hive, and not other stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful plantings, Emily! I do love flowers. As for Andromeda….we had a very early, warm spring this year, where it has been August for months now. The hives swarmed in March and early April, way ahead of their usual time as life was sooooo good in the spring…lots of maple and hawthorn nectar and loads of pollen. Our big flow is blackberry (bramble), usually mid June. This year it was a month early and there was an unprecedented second round of swarming. I think the hives were just so strong, so full of honey and pollen, the bees felt confident. Perhaps you caught Andromeda in swarm prep? When I don’t find eggs I go hunting for the queen. I have inadvertently squished a few in my time.


    • Emily Scott says:

      Interesting… I’ve not had bees try to swarm a second time before. This colony was already split after queen cells were spotted back in May. They wouldn’t be able to swarm at the moment – no queen cells to leave behind. I can imagine we may have squashed her.


  4. solarbeez says:

    I had a queen stop laying from mid May all the way through the blackberry nectar flow and into late August…then quite suddenly, the number of bees picked up and a bunch of honey was put on in late September. Since I don’t pull out frames and inspect very often, I can’t for sure say the bees didn’t replace the queen, but it’s possible she quit laying brood because there was a mite problem. They put on so much honey that I didn’t feed or use pollen paddies at all during winter.
    Nice shot on the ‘two-tone pollen.’ Bees move fast. I’d call that a lucky shot to be in focus and range at the time. Dang, I wish I had shot that. 🙂


  5. The allotment looks a perfect place for bees and I loved the stripy pollen sacs on the bumble – obviously spoiled for choice when it came to pollen gathering. Amelia


  6. The Apiarist says:

    I bet there’s a queen in there … If you did squish her in a previous examination they would have started emergency QC’s and they would be obvious. Since there are no cells started on the test frame as well it suggests they’re probably queenright. Bees do some pretty weird things sometimes – or at least it seems that way to us who are simply trying to read the external signs without access to the pheromones that determine what’s actually going on.

    I know it might sound daft, but she’s not in the super(s) is she?? Queenright colony but no eggs in the brood box … we had one at the association apiary like that yesterday.


    • Emily Scott says:

      Thanks for the reassurance. It just seems odd for her to suddenly stop laying like that, but as you say bees have their reasons, mysterious as they may seem to us.

      Not daft about the idea of her being in the super, Tom asked the same thing. I checked a couple of frames and they only had honey, but I’ll check more carefully next weekend. The super has been so congested and tightly packed that I’ve been avoiding checking each frame for fear of squashing bees. I’ll have to smoke them right down first.


  7. hencorner says:

    Wot no gloves???!!!
    How very brave of you… 🙂


  8. donna213 says:

    You mentioned that the striped pollen baskets are rare. How does it happen? Feeding on different flowers? How long does it take to fill a pollen basket?


    • Emily Scott says:

      Yes, it must be feeding on different flowers. Thinking about it, it’s probably more likely to happen to a bumble bee as they switch between different flower species more than a honey bee does. I’m not sure how long it takes to fill a pollen basket! I imagine it’s quite hard to say as it would vary so much depending on what types of flower and how many flowers the bees were finding.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. P&B says:

    Interesting looking hive. I love the poppy field and I love the color combination. I’m impressed with how well your hive is too.


  10. Brambles are very popular with the bees here at the moment but I haven’t seen any striped pollen.
    Hope you feel better soon, very best wishes. Philip


  11. beatingthebounds says:

    Your wildflower meadow looks delightful – and the striped pollen baskets are amazing. Our garden has been overrun by Green Alkanet which has been flowering for quite some time and which the local honey bees (not sure where they are coming from) clearly love – the bumbles in the garden seem to generally go for other flowers but the Alkanet is always absolutely swamped with honey bees.


  12. The allotment bees live in such an idyllic place – shall we move there too Emily and leave all other troubles behind? 😉 This summer is only half done with time for good things to come xx


  13. Phillip says:

    One of my queens recently stopped laying and I think it’s from shock, if there’s such a thing in honey bees. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve had to move all my hives and swap out brood and frames from strong colonies to weak colonies — every week something new. Some of the older queens don’t react well to that kind of commotion. I’ve seen it happen a few times before. After two or three weeks of constant disturbances, a queen will just give up.

    This is total speculation on my part.

    Has your hive been disturbed a lot lately?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Scott says:

      It’s funny you say that Philip, as I’ve been wondering that myself. She is a new young queen born this year, but when I got rid of my drone laying queen I combined two colonies and moved her from a small nuc into a new hive with three brood boxes and a super. Perhaps the change in size and new bees was just too much of a shock. Also with the mentees inspecting the hive has been open longer for inspections than it normally would be.

      If that is the problem, how can I unstress her though, will she ever start laying again? Should I try reducing the colony down in size to just one brood box? It’s currently on two.


      • Phillip says:

        My queen that recently stopped laying was also moved to a much larger hive, a huge empty hive compared the her last one. I’ve heard from some US beekeepers about queens becoming “demoralized” by being given too much space. It’s a delicate balance between enough room to lay, but not TOO much room to lay. Everything I did to the poor queen over the past month was probably too much for her. If I’d noticed it earlier, I probably would have reduced the hive down to one brood box and left her alone for at least two weeks. Maybe that’s something to consider with yours.

        At any rate, that’s my best guess.


        • Emily Scott says:

          Very interesting, thanks Phillip. My Bailey comb change, which was the reason my hive was so big, is over now. So hopefully I can reduce down to one brood box next week. There are no signs of laying workers and the bees have done nothing with a second test frame.


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