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We have had the most terrific spring and summer so far and the bees are going forth and multiplying like mad. Having started the season with four really viable colonies we are now up 9 and counting. My garden (at home) hive swarmed and this gave my husband much fun in saying that he ‘told me so’ any way, the swarm was caught and is now safely ensconced at our apiary 4 miles away.

Last Saturday we had our bee-meeting at Pluscarden Abbey which is Benedictine and it was good to know that despite somewhat drizzly weather and overcast skies the bees were comparatively friendly and gave no ‘up-hill’. As always we all took masses of cakes and biscuits for our tea afterwards and were able to leave our dear and friendly monks lots of goodies to feast on at a later time – a sugar-rush might have happened methinks.

Up here, with out well spread our colonies, we are beginning to experience a lot less varroa and in fact several of us have had little or no problem at all – so far any way. We must hope that it is a continuing trend.

The swarm out of my hive at home is going to a new bee-keeper who is taking the trouble to learn as much and as quickly as possible – he is excited about having his first colony – and a good sized swarm it was too.

Many of our friends are experimenting with Warre-hives and also with top bar ones too, we are all interested. I have read The Barefoot Beekeeper and his comments about top bar hives are most encouraging – a lot less trouble making up frames ad nauseum so to speak. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy bee keeping to one and all – it is really good and happy up here in Scotland.


More on the Elgin Black Bees.

The feral bees are very settled and it is a big colony. We have put a super on top of the brood box as they clearly needed more room. Since we put the super on they have been bringing in more nectar than pollen – filling up their larder? Today however it is turning to more pollen again. I really like these bees!!!

These bees are VERY busy and don’t seem to mind a bit of chill in the air or a rain shower – they just keep going. Can’t decide what they are foraging on but they are  bringing in predominantly yellow pollen. There is no OSR within a three mile radius so it can’t be that – thank goodness. Could be dandelion as it seems to be a bumper year for them – no other ideas really.

The nucleus box we had at our apiary is now in a full sized brood box and G. saw the Q. plus eggs and capped brood – Yippee.

For Vicky.

I don’t think that they are any bees other than the feral ones from next door and it is pretty clear that they swarmed on Saturday. I am very familiar with the acres of OSR at Longmorn as Kevin and Sheila West live in the very middle of it all as do Caroline and Mike Dean who are holding our next Dinosaurs meeting on May 18th! 

How are your bees Vicky? Up and running I hope?.

Loving Martha Kearney’s programme – she is very jolly and honest with it. I hope we get some honey this year – she did really well I think.

Great excitement – Feral Bees.

We have had a very successful ‘over-winter’ and to date we have six up and running colonies – one in a nucleus box but a good one.

However yesterday. which was not good weather. my husband and son were out walking the dogs at 8.30 and they came across a swarm in the long grass adjacent to our colonies. As our boxes had been thoroughly inspected a few days before it was a mystery that there should be a swarm – and SO early in the morning.

Husband – Graham – went back to our bee shed a collected a skep to cover them with and resumed the walk. On their return an hour later he found that a good half of the bees were in the skep and so he took the hive barrow with a hive filled with frames in it and put those bees in and covered them up with a crown board. Half an hour later he returned and found that the majority of the remaining bees were in the skep – he did the same again and placed a white sheet from the ground up to the hive for the remainder to go up. He felt that the Queen was there due to this behaviour.

When we had a good look at these bees we had to conclude that they had most probably come from a very strong feral colony which lives in the adjacent farm house roof – YAY – feral bees!!!! The Scottish black bee (Apis Melifera melifera) is a dyeing breed and needless to say the collection of a feral colony is very good news. The bees are much darker and somewhat smaller and very busy people. This evening (Monday) I went outside at 8.30 and they were still busy and about their business.

That evening Graham and I went and collected the bees and brought them to our garden (three and a half miles away from the apiary) and there they sit surrounded by acres and acres of gardens in the middle of Elgin. This afternoon G. went through our other hives (quickly) and noted that it was clear that none of them had swarms (phew!!). Next job was to inform ‘the man’ who is monitoring feral colonies in Scotland and hopefully create as much excitement at his end as there is here.


One further thing to add is that we also conclude that they had most probably swarmed on Saturday afternoon when the weather was much warmer and sunny but along came the rain and I think they got the worst of it and got ‘downed’ with a heavy downpour which never really went away – brave bees.

Got to love them. Happy Bee keeping.

Wow – so early!!

Today, 20th February, two of our four hives are flying. The temperature up here on the Moray coast is +14C and really VERY spring-like. I hope our ‘girls’ aren’t making a huge mistake as the weather is so very changeable but here’s hoping.

As I write my cherry tree is burgeoning – also very early – and so we must hope that this year’s horrid weather doesn’t give us a nasty surprise. I noticed gorse in flower this morning on the way home from the farm (a hedge which had been cut back) so the signs for the bees are really hopeful. A shambling badger was in the field too – jolly to see, especially up here where they do not carry Bovine T.B.

It is really upsetting to read that Bumblebees are now feeling the effects of the diseases which our honey bees carry – BAD!!! We are so lucky to have our ‘Dinosaurs’ bee association up here – they keep us very informed about important things.

Happy Bee Keeping.  x.

What a long time it has been since I last wrote a post. Up here, in the north of Scotland, the weather has been extremely kind to us although last summer could have been a little better. Our bees are really fine with four going into the winter in a strong position so great hopes for next season.

At the moment we have snow drops about to open and the ‘January’ jasmine is in full flower – I wonder if the ‘February’ forsythia will be equally early!! It will be interesting to see how our bees assess the season because the temperature, during the day, is high for the time of the year.

Happy bee keeping. x.

Spring on the door-step – I hope!

It has been a difficult winter for us this time around. Last winter we sailed through with no losses but this one has been quite different and we are left with only three colonies – awful!! Clearly there is some diagnostic work to be done.

Any way – I am busily getting ready for build-up and hoping that the queens will be as fecund as they usually are.

There are beautiful signs of spring already and the gorse has been out for almost a month in sheltered spots. The garden is good too with masses of aconites, snowdrops and crocus blooming away. Do write and let the blog know how you have got on.Bees in trouble,

Wax Polish.

A couple of years ago at The Forres Flower Show when the local bee association used to have a Honey Exhibit stand I was very impressed by one of the exhibits which was Wax Polish. I carefully wrote down the recipe for it and this week, having accrued quite a ‘stash’ of wax, I made some.

The recipe was equal parts of bees-wax, linseed oil and the best turpentine you can buy. One just warms the wax to melting point and then measures in the same amount of the other ingredients and – hey presto – wax polish.

I had also looked ‘on line’ for ‘recipes’ and quite frankly the one I was given years ago was just the same as one ones which were highly recommended. Lots of ‘be careful’ notes about how inflammable turpentine is etc…..which I heeded. Linseed oil is always to hand as we used to have horses and it was a useful product for them too.

The polish can be as hard or as soft as one likes, just alter the amounts of turpentine and linseed oil. I have two friends who work with wood and one likes the polish to be hard and the other – well you can guess. My son restores antique furniture and he is VERY pleased with me – Brownie pints galore. V x.x.x.

Happy Halloween.

I expect that you have all seen the very depressing newscast on BBC today about the plight of our bees –  sad indeed.  I feel very lucky to have got enough  honey this year for our family and friends. I don’t sell any.

A small smile for you. V x.

Harvest home.

We have now harvested our honey for this year and are thrilled that we can account for +/- 30 lbs so, given the constraints of the weather this year, we are thrilled.

I was chatting to the young man, from the Loch Ness Garden Centre who has a stall at our Saturday Farmers’ Market,  and he was saying that their one bee-hive, which feeds exclusively on their garden centre plants, has also done well this past (horrible) season. Interestingly he said that the hive is managed by the Inverness Bee Association so he has little to do with it but does go and have a ‘look-see’ when they are attending. It is my firm opinion that bees thrive in a garden setting

I was disappointed to find that Vicky didn’t have her jam and honey stall on Saturday, perhaps she is away? It is clear that folk in this part of the world are very ‘handicraft’ and small business orientated – such a good thing.

Our bees have almost finished for the season although today, which is bright, sunny and warm, has brought them all out again – heavenly girls, they are so in tune with their environment.

The small amount of honey I have retrieved after cleansing the wax (heated) has gone into a jam jar for use in recipes. I made my Christmas cake last week and will ‘feed’ it from now until I ice it – yum!!!

I was given a tagline for my birthday and honey is ‘THE’ ultimate ingredient. V. x.

Just about the end of the season.

As there are only two of our hives which are still taking in sugar syrup at the moment  I am thinking that the end of this season is nigh – and what an awful season it has been too!.

Many of our bee-friends have had serious problems and lost colonies and so I suppose that we are fortunate in as much that we have lost none despite some of them being comparitively weak. Virtually no honey to speak of either,  just enough for Milly our grand-daughter and some for Christmas presents for the other young.  Milly is with us for the week-end (Tattie Holidays for Moray schools) and we are to extract some honey – a sticky job which I am sure that a five year old will just LOVE !!!!

Whilst ‘surfing’ through my various bee-books I found the following poem by an early 18th century author (anon).

There’s a dear short gentleman,

That wears the yellow trews,

A dirk below his doublet,

For sticking in his foes,

Yet in a singing posture,

Where ‘er you do him see,

If you offer violence,

He’ll stab his dirk in thee.

Undoubtedly a Scottish wee gentleman with trews and a dirk – ? – Just a little something to make you smile after the pessimistic comments above. I was at Pluscarden Abbey the other week and one of the Brothers told me that their apiary season had been poor too – clearly we all need more than prayers to improve this past year. V. x.


Breakfast table barometer.

I just can’t resist putting this into a Blog.

This is courtesy of ‘Ma Broon’s Cook Book’. Just another of the joys of living in Scotland

A cup of hot coffee is an unfailing barometer if you allow a lump of sugar to drop to the bottom of the cup and watch the air bubbles arise without disturbing the coffee.    If the bubbles collect in the middle, the weather will be fine; if they adhere to the cup, forming a ring, it will either rain or snow; and if the bubbles separate without assuming any fixed position, changeable weather may be expected.

I think this is especially useful at this time of the year when we going into the top of the hive so often to add sugar syrup – share your thoughts?. Heaven only knows what this says about me?

p.s. There are lot of ‘Ma Broon’s Cook Books’  available on the usual selling sites. The whole book is an absolute gem. Don’t take my word for it – have a look.V x.

Happy October.

Graham has a job every other day feeding our bees. There has been much nicer weather of late and they are all out and about foraging. The hive at home has kept taking in lots of pollen and yesterday, Sunday, out came a hoard of baby bees on their flight to learn where they are.  I am sure that they will have plenty of bees to keep warm throughout the winter. The weight of the hive tells us that they have plenty of stores too.

All of the hives are looking good but we still have to make a final decision as to whether we will combine two of them at the Blossombank Apiary. The feral bees in the next door farmhouse roof are good to go as well and very busy. They don’t get any outside help at all and are considered to be feral. There is an academic beekeeper at Dundee Uni. who monitors them via us and he tells us that they have very likely built up an immunity to Veroa over a period of time – interesting!! I hope it is true as they are now very much in contact with our bees which are only about 300 yards away.

Autumn has started up here and the big ‘blow’ last week sent lots of branches crashing down – wood for next winter and bug houses in the mean time.

Local supermarkets donate sugar.

For the second year running the local supermarkets in Elgin and Forres have run a scheme whereby local residents can ‘Help the Bees’ by donating bags of cane sugar to the local Bee Association – many thanks for the help.  The local press, who are always ‘bee-aware’ ran an article too and many thanks to Gerry Thompson and John Salt for their input. A super photo of John and one of the young bee-keepers Casper added interest to the article. Casper is only 10 and working towards his Bee-keepers Exam.


The deed is done.

We have successfully combined the problem hive from our apiary into the hive at home which had a small colony but in really good order.

Graham went to our Blossombank apiary last evening at 7.30, came home with the  box which had the Porter bee escape on  and ‘hey presto’  when it was added to our in situ box we had, hopefully, enough bees to make it through the winter safely. Incidentally all but four bees had gone down through the escape board, how good is that? 

A sheet of newspaper placed between the boxes below a queen excluder will ensure that the new bees in the top brood box are  made acceptable to the bees already in the hive. It works because the time delay caused to the bees in the top box having to chew their way through the newspaper sheet will allow a period of time so that the bees accustom themselves to the bees in the lower box and vice versa. We also put some fondant on the top of the new box so that the bees will have a sufficient supply of food whilst they explore their new environment.

That means that we now have six colonies all of which are, hopefully, ready for the winter. 

Still hoping for an Indian Summer though!!!

Update on Queenless hive.

After an interesting blog from Vicky I write the following.

Yesterday Graham went into the hive which we thought was queenless only to find that we had ‘hurrah’, four sealed queen cells in the bottom brood box. A new plan has been hatched.

I spoke to Gerry the other evening and he said he had a similar problem a year back and decided that there may well have been  a ‘duff’ Queen in the hive. He therefore laid a white sheet in front of said hive and shook the bees onto it allowing them to fly back into the hive – ‘sans Q’ – and then a new Queen was made.

We considered doing this too but now that we see the hive is quite positively Queenless we are going to put a Porter bee escape onto that double brood box and having moved all bees down into the bottom box we will then remove the queen cells and move those bees into our hive at home which we know has a good ‘up and running’ Queen.

Our reason for this is that it is so very late in the season for the hive with Q cells to build up and so we will unite those bees (thanks to newspaper method) and feed them like mad with the winter seeming closer than ever. Our other thought is that the Queen’s mating flight might be too late and out of the question which would then jeopardise the coming spring bee production and hive behaviour.

It is a relief to know exactly where we are with that hive as it has been something of a conundrum for us – now solved!!

Hopefully the weather will be kind enough over the weekend to allow this to be done. The bee escape is being put into place today and as the frame with eggs on was only put in a week ago we are in time to ensure that no Queen will hatch 

All of the remaining hives are looking normal but I think that feeding them is going to be a priority for the next couple of months – that is of course unless we have an Indian Summer – fingers crossed. Happy bee keeping. V.

Yes, I know – it’s been a while.

What a ‘different’ sort of summer this has been, especially for bee-keepers. I am happy to say that, as usual,  that all of our hives are up and running but we do have worries about one of them.

We have given four of our colonies away of late as it seems such a shame that so many folk have lost their bees.

Graham and I only want to have five or six hives to work as this seems to be the right number for us to manage comfortably, hence our spreading our bees about so much.

The hive we are worried about seems to be queenless and although we have put two frames of eggs into the hive to encourage the ‘girls’ to make a new queen nothing seems to be happening. Any way, the nucleus hive we have at home has now been put into a full-sized brood box and we are proposing to add the weak hive (? queenless) to it in our garden in the hope that between them they will be a strong enough colony to over-winter successfully with a view to moving it back to the apiary in the spring.

In fear of sounding repetitive I have to mention the weather patterns and also that I have been interested to note that the plight of bees has been mentioned on the national television news several times this last fortnight with  the weather being mentioned as the culprit.

There has been sufficient ‘keep’ about for the bees but the weather has played havoc creating a situation where foraging is next to impossible.  We have been feeding our bees already with the view to ensuring they can over-winter with sufficient stores.

I hope that everyone is managing to take the long-view, which frankly seems quite pessimistic, and they have their stove tops busy with sugar and water. Good luck to all. Keep all like-minded folk informed to encourage us on. Finger crossed.

We had a look in the hives yesterday and were very pleased with what we saw. However one of the nucleus boxes seemed quite weak and so we have brought it home to our garden hopefully to build up. It had two worked frames fourteen days ago with eggs and capped brood so we know that there is a Queen but there had been no significant build up. I’ll keep you posted as to how they do.

In the past our house garden has proved an absolutely ideal place for bees as although we are only one-quarter of a mile from the centre of our small city we are completely surrounded by house gardens where ‘real’ gardeners keep their ‘estates’ full of flowers and some vegetables too. In addition several of the streets are lined with lime trees.

I had quite forgotten how much we enjoy having bees just outside the door and, this morning, I found myself trotting out to have a look at them and see if they were up yet. Just a few and I imagine that if there are any ‘waggle-dances’ yet they will be quite new to the colony which is used to being surrounded by farm land.

Today we are off to Fordyce, a village just beyond Cullen on the Aberdeen side. It is a village which is named as ‘historic’ as it still looks as it might have done several hundred years ago – with the exception of phone lines. The village is throwing open 15 of its cottage gardens, the Manse and Castle too so it should be good. We have emptied the piggy banks in case there are any exciting new plants to buy.

One of our sons his wife and daughter have just moved up to Moray and are only 5 miles away from us. Their property is full of lime trees, sycamores and rhododendrons not to mention an excellent selection of interesting and special trees. Fingers crossed we can persuade them to have a few hives there. There are six defunct W.B.C. hives there already which, sadly,  need to be used to feed a fire but softly, softly we may be lucky.

Happy bee keeping. V. x.

The visit of our ‘Bee-friends.’

Sunday 1st July dawned very ‘dreich’ in Elgin and we feared that the rain might ‘stop play’ – however by 1.30, when we set off to our apiary the rain had quite gone away and the day was overcast but still and calm with a temperature of 14C.

We were visited by 11 like-minded ‘intrepid’ bee-keepers (very unsuitable weather for bees not to mention the people!) but, after a hive inspection last Thursday when we found little to be pleased with, I am VERY glad to say that today, helped by more expert bee-keepers than ourselves, we found a most encouraging situation.

It was generally agreed that the hives had all swarmed but they were all doing the right thing and Queens were found and marked – thanks John and Rob – and we are much happier with the general status of our hives.

In the shed area  the one swarm which we had put into a full-sized brood box was transferred into a nucleus box – they looked very good and the other colony in a nucleus box  needs feeding. As I speak ‘his lordship’ is making up some sugar syrup for tomorrow.

The hives on the bank all had Queens which we did not mark as they are young and it is ill-advised to interfere with them. The nucleus box on the bank also needs feeding.

We had tea, coffee, biscuits and cake to make a very jolly ending to a most satisfactory meeting and guess what – as soon as the last person drove away – the heavens opened. I am sure that someone, somewhere really likes bees and bee-keepers.

Tonight there are two much happier bee-keepers in Benmore. It becomes more and more clear as time goes by that bees know far more about bee-keeping than we do – we just have to learn to trust them more – heavenly girls!!!, not to mention the drones which not only ‘do their stuff’ with the queen but work quite hard at maintaining the ambient temperature in their home.

It’s been a while.

Graham has been SOOOO ill, fortunately he is well on the mend now and we have got back into our hives – at long last.

Quite a story to tell. You will have read that the weather up here – since the end of March – has left much to be desired and then Graham’s emergency trip to hospital and subsequent period of recovery landed on us and so the hives were somewhat neglected – we have paid the price!!!!

On the few occasions that he was up at the apiary swarms were seen and dealt with so that we had three nucleus boxes on the go as well as the five hives. One of the boxes is on the wheel-barrow I mentioned a couple of months ago – it works very well. On Wednesday this week with the weather being grand we went into every hive.

What we found made it quite obvious that all of the hives had swarmed and were all clearly awaiting the opening of the most beautiful sealed Queen cells or  mating flights to get the whole cycle going again. Two of the nucleus boxes had eggs in so that was most encouraging and the third was building up well – so no worries there. Rob Mackenzie reminded us that, when the weather is this changeable and cold, it can take a month for mating flights to happen so we are holding onto that fact!!

In fact, after our inspections there were no worries with any of the hives, bar one, with all having  perfectly normal behaviour, happy and contented bees which encourages us to feel that all is well, it was  just not what we had planned. The hive which gave concern had few bees, some capped brood but no sign of eggs – we are thinking about this one. As it is a full-sized hive we can probably add some bees from another to it – certainly we can add a frame with some eggs as when we have some to spare.

Our Bee-friends are coming to see the apiary on Sunday so there will be plenty of informed advice for us – thank goodness – and as we only want to take five viable hives into the winter we might be able to make some plans to combine colinies.

No word from Michael and Casper as to how the bees they had from us are but, working on the principle that no news is good news and the hope we will see them on Sunday, I am sure we will get an encouraging report.

The varroa situation seems resolved as all looked well on Wednesday. This has been quite a learning curve for us as we are usually very attentive to our bees but, because of the situation which was  beyond our control, our bee-keeping has been somewhat haphazard. It is still early in the season and so I am sure that the hives will easily build up in time for autumn and there is much keep for them to forage on. The hives already had good stores  and we are reasonably positive for the remainder of the season.

Once again there is a potatoe crop adjacent to the apiary, very simlar to the situation which we faced two summers ago. Graham has spoken to the potato growing contractor who has promised to give him advanced warning when the crop is to be sprayed. Two years ago this worked well, fingers crossed for the same this year.

We gave a colony of bees  to a great friend who reports that ‘they are sorted out’ and up and running.

Graham and I have always kept bees for the huge interest it gives us and this season is not letting us down. Even MORE interesting.