Bee Hives Thrive in Spring 2016

Due to a super mild winter our bees only needed to have a very short period of a few months when the weather was too cold for going out ‘foraging’ and by April we could see plenty of activity and the numbers of bees in the colony began to grow and grow!  We also welcomed many new volunteers onto the bee-keeping programme in April and we soon had a regular Saturday morning group of many different ages. Here’s some of the group getting to grips with the basics…

“I got involved as I wanted to learn something new and it is so interesting to see how busy they are and learn how complex their systems are!”  Sophie

“I feel very excited and happy to be so close to the colony” Narendra

“It was really interesting and exciting seeing the hive with all the bees flying around and seeing larvae in the cells and where the queen bee was.” Nathan

Our practical rolling programme includes the below aspects and apart from the honey extraction and pest management (which are both autumn/winter tasks) our new bee-keepers started to get to grips with the tasks right away.

The life cycle of the honey bee

Health and nutrition for the colony

Tools and safety awareness

Hive assembly and maintenance

Open-hive demonstrations and inspections

Pests and integrated pest management

The Bee Hive

The first task for our volunteers was getting to grips with the layout and different parts of the bee hive which was accomplished by repeated demonstrations and studying learning resources developed for the purpose. The modern hive has a self-spacing, ‘movable frames’ arranged side by side across the width of a rectangular box, which allow the bees to be ‘managed’ so that maximum amounts of honey can be produced and then easily extracted. Modern hives consist of:


  •  Outer cover: provides weather protection.

  • Inner cover: provides separation from an overly hot or cold outer cover and can be used as a shelf for feeding.

  • Honey super: usually shorter than the brood box, this is the uppermost box where honey is stored.

  • Queen excluder: provides a selective barrier inside the beehive that allows worker bees but not the larger queens and drones to traverse the barrier.

  • Frames and foundation: wooden frames with wax sheets with honeycomb impressions where the bees build their wax honey combs.

  • Brood box or Deep Super: the lowest box of the hive where the Queen Bee lays her eggs.

  • Bottom board: this has an entrance for the bees to get into the hive.

  • Hive stand- providing a landing board for the bees that helps to protect the bottom board from rot and cold transfer.

During April and May the Queen Bee lays eggs during the day and night, laying over 2000 eggs a day, more than her own body weight! With the brood nest expanding the colony grows bigger every day and the bees begin to fly out and ‘forage’ for nectar when the weather becomes warmer. Many important plants for the bees come into flower in May in our Paradise Garden including Fruit Blossom, Dandelions and Daffodils and the bee hive explodes with activity as the bees fly out to ‘forage’ and bring back nectar.

The hives need to be inspected every week to check that the Queen Bee has plenty of room to lay in the brood box, adding another if necessary.

Photos of open hive demonstrations in April & May, 2016

It is also the time when the swarming instinct is at its highest so it is time for the our Bee Keepers to be ahead of the bee’s requirements for honey storage by placing another super on as soon as a super is half full of bees and comb, especially if the weather is good! Volunteers learn how to inspect the hives and put second and third honey supers over the first during May so that they can be filled with the surplus honey that the bees are making – it is the season of plenty!

Watch This!

A short film of open hive inspections undertaken in April / May, 2016, demonstrating to new volunteers how to open up the hive and what to look for…

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