Growing my bees

Not bigger bees, but more colonies! I have doubled the amount of hives I have – not too difficult when you only have one to start with.

New hives being put back together

I’ve purchased a colony (the one on the right in the photo above) from a very reasonably priced local source.  This gives me options if one colony goes queenless at some point.

The colony on the left is the swarm I took from Drew’s parents’ tree. They have been moved from a six frame poly nuc into a new National hive I’ve purchased from a Cornish supplier, Heather Bell Honey Bees. The hive cost £134 ready assembled, which is a good price. I just had to paint it with a special low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint as the wood isn’t cedar – I chose a cheery yellow colour.

New hives

Here’s the hives all closed up and secured with ratchet straps – there are badgers in Drew’s parents garden. I left the nucleus propped up against the hive for a while so that the last few bees would leave and walk up into the entrance.

Back at home, I have been enjoying July’s balmy weather and the arrival of solitary bees in the garden. I had thought my Stachys byzantina (Lambs ears) purchased from Rosybee -plants for bees were a bust at attracting bees. How wrong I was! The wool carder bees I was hoping for haven’t arrived, but what I believe is a species of Anthophora (flower bees) has.

Solitary bee Anthophora on Lambs ear

A whizzy, high pitched little bee has been visiting the Lambs ear. It zooms up and down between the flowers, hovering hummingbird-like for a second before its long tongue darts in. When you get a momentary look at the tiny face – before it disappears again into a flower – the eyes are pale green.

I’ve been told by @apiculturalLdn and @rosybeeplants on Twitter that it may be Anthophora furcata, Anthophora bimaculata or Anthophora quadrimaculata. You can see a little video I made of it in action – Anthophora flower bee. Check out that tongue!

I am very pleased with the Lambs ear plants. Their silvery, elegant leaves feel so soft and velvety – perfect when you have a toddler running about. Lambs ears never seem to be plagued by aphids and need no watering as the furry leaves are so efficient at collecting rain droplets. And they are said to be good for soothing bee stings too!

In the recent unusually hot July evenings I have been enjoying pottering about in the garden, watching the local creatures – our fish nibbling at the pond surface, cooing wood pigeons, fledging thrushes being fed by their parents, the neighbours’ cat rolling in our catmint. And most of all the buzzing bees, going busily about their business. I think the plant below might be purple loosestrife and the cuddly gingery bee is a Common carder bee.

Common carder bee

Is there any greater pleasure than sitting out at 9pm reading about bees, no need for a coat, a mini magnum in your hand, while solitary and bumble bees patrol your Lambs ear?  Surely not.

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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20 Responses to Growing my bees

  1. disperser says:

    See? This is more likely to get someone into bees than some of the other posts. Nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norabridget says:

    I love your blog. Many thanks for sharing the wonderful joys of your life in the garden and with your bees also. I have tried growing the plant lamb’s ears a few times in my garden but it seems to disappear. Something is eating the plant or roots maybe?? I don’t know what happens it but I have got some more in a pot so will try & give it another go. I am also growing my bees too! A bit more to it I think and I am still learning and hopefully my bees will benefit without too much stress from me. All the very best with your writing and thanks again. I live in mid-west Ireland.


    • Emily Scott says:

      Thank you, hi over there in Ireland! I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been to Ireland – I must go sometime soon. Funny about the Lambs ears disappearing. It’s said to grow best in full sunlight and well draining soil with not too much water – we get tons of rain in Cornwall but it’s managed to thrive despite that! Don’t water unless it’s been very hot with no rain for ages. Good luck with the bees too!


  3. Now yer in Kernow, yer in reach of DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group).Though the title sez Debn we have members from Kernow, Summerzet and Darzet as well, Our next meeting’s this Sunday at the Quantock BKA’s apiary and big shed where we’ll be playin’ wi’ microscopes an’ pollen. If yer int’rested lemme know an’ I’ll send ye the details, or else I spect you’ll find it on the DARG website.


  4. Erik says:

    Love the yellow! Congrats on the second colony. We have Lamb’s Ear as well and the bumblebees love it. In past years we have had a European Wool Carder bee as well, but the patch is getting overgrown with the oregano (which blooms later and the bees also enjoy) so the Lamb’s is getting pushed out. Need to find another spot for it with more room.


  5. Ray says:

    Excellent Emily, thanks for sharing. You are well on your way now, just don’t be surprised when your 2 colonies decide to grow even bigger. I got the usual 1 hive (from a friends swarm) in year one, then I got another for the same reasons you did in year two, and that became 4 last year and this year I am on nine! Better get another spare box, that’s all I’m saying! hehe


    • Emily Scott says:

      Thanks Ray! I’ve had that problem before too! Don’t want to have more than three or four colonies though – don’t have enough space or time for that. My plan is to sell any extra colonies. Still, you can never have too many spare boxes!


      • Oh how I know that addiction. 🙂 I had to grow well beyond my exhaustion point before I reigned in my desires for more. But it was nice to have gone there. Now, like you, I am setting a more realistic set point.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. simoneharch says:

    Hon emily. The hives look amazing! I love the yellow! Could you please let me know what paint brand you found best? Thanks. Simone


  7. beatingthebounds says:

    The bees are really taking-off now! I’m not sure that the flowers are Purple Loosestrife, which is usually associated with wet ditches or the margins of streams or ponds. I have some photos which I took earlier this week which will eventually appear on the blog, so then you can make a comparison.


  8. One thing you should treasure is that Maisemore poly nuc. I find that polystyrene hives give bees such an advantage. I encourage you to paint it up with masonry paint, as Maisemore recommends, and in theory it should last 30 years!!!! I just got a Maisemore brood box and roof and it is amazingly easy to construct, much much easier and quicker to assemble than the wooden equivalent. Anyway, good luck with your new bees. 🙂


  9. Brian Skeys says:

    Sounds like an ideal life to me both for you and the bees.🍷


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