The Orchard Bees
Some background information
Bridport Town Council kindly agreed that BCOG may keep bees in the Orchard. Withy panels, incorporating a gate, were originally put up to fencing north and south of the area behind the apple cordons. These panels have been removed, and the area was re-fenced in 2013.
The horizontal top bar hive (see diagram at the foot of this page) was installed on Friday 13th July 2012, and the bees - about 3,000 in number - were introduced into the hive on the following Monday.
To find out more information about the arrival and settling in of our bees, please read the July 2012 report from BCOG's beekeeper, Jim Binning.
In April 2013, the BCOG Committee agreed to the addition of another top bar hive in the bee enclosure. The hive is complete and in place, and home to the second swarm of our bees.
Jim visits the bees regularly and welcomes interested observers. To arrange a visit to the Orchard bees, please use the contact form.
For further information about natural beekeeping, visit Jim's website: jimthebee.co.uk
4th June: The hives were visited by Jim, as a swarm had been reported earlier on one of the trees, but this was not visible at the time of his visit. The bees may have now colonised the empty hive and plenty were seen going in and out of the two top bar hives.
August: click here to link to a YouTube video created by Rob Jayne: "Bee Keeping with Jim Binning - an inspection of the hives"
"The bees nearest the gate are very strong and have provided bees for two other colonies. The original hive became weak. The queen had died and the remaining workers and drones were destined to die out. At the beginning of the month I put in a new British Black Bee queen [Apis mellifera mellifera] and some additional worker bees and brood from a hive in St Andrews Road. They appear to have settled down.
I repeated this process for the Warre hive and wait to see if they will settle down in this hive."
Jim is very pleased with both hives, they look strong and healthy, with good stores of food.
The hives survived the winter and started the year as strong colonies. The weather this year has not been kind to bees. There was a good start to the year and the original hive swarmed the second week of May, the earliest any of my hives has swarmed. June can usually be a difficult month as there is a gap in the availability of nectar and pollen; to help this dearth, plant borage, as it refills its nectar every two minutes. The hives were strong enough to see this period through and I managed to take enough bees from these two hives to start three new colonies in the area.
The hive nearest the gate was still overcrowded and I had been given a Warre hive, so I set this up in the apiary and added bees. It was late in the season and sadly they did not prosper. I will try again at the beginning of the season next year.
The bees have settled down early this year. They start by kicking out the drones and not letting any back in. I have tried to make sure they have enough stores to see them through the winter.
The new Warré Top Bar hive
Some additional information:
Both hives are doing OK and both have some stores of honey to see them [hopefully] through the winter.
Both hives have too many bees. This seems to be an issue across a number of beekeepers that I have spoken with and is likely to be associated with the strange weather patterns this year. I would expect the hive to shrink down to about 10000-15000 bees but there are many more than that. Maybe this cold snap will rewire their clocks. As a bit of insurance, I am feeding some fondant to the bees roughly every ten days.
August : click this link for a separate report for this month
- Tree bumble bees (a recently-arrived species from Europe) nested in the tit box in the sycamore behind the compost bays.
- The grass in the bee enclosure is cut during cool conditions, to avoid the need for doing this when the bees are flying strongly.
December 2016 overview
We believe neither of the hives swarmed this year, probably due to the unusual weather patterns at the beginning of the season.
We fed both hives from the middle of September and gave them some fondant as a precaution at the end of December.
We hope that by careful management we can nurse both hives through the early part of 2017, and they could have sufficient strength to allow us to split them to form a new colony in the Boot Field in Askers meadow.
As bees need all the help they can get, we have recently established a ‘pollinator bed’, which includes a whole range of native bee friendly plants.
November: Jim reported that he is feeding the colonies with sugar syrup and that both of the orchard hives are looking strong. The wasps are still very evident and Jim will deal with them if they look like attacking the bees.
Jim planned to try something different by changing the entrance on Hive 2 and moving it to one end. He ordered a new nucleus of bees for that hive at the end of May/beginning of June (read all about this in his report, below).
- Jim has also put up a bait hive on the tree between the hives and the compost bins facing the hives, to try and catch a swarm. (This was agreed by the BCOG Committee at its May meeting).
Photos: Jim Binning
The first top bar hive newly in place: photo - Tricia Hawkins
Both top bar hives 2016: photo - Jim Binning
Horizontal top bar hives
A horizontal top bar hive is basically a long empty box which copies the natural space bees might find in an empty tree trunk where the tree has fallen.
Most of the horizontal hives in this country have sloping sides and are also known as Kenyan hives (because they were reintroduced and developed as a cheap, efficient hive alternative for subsistence farmers in Kenya). The sloping sides allow the bees the best use of space to build their comb, which they naturally hang in a catenary shape (the shape of a flexible chain suspended by its ends, and acted on by gravity). The bees don't need to fill out the corners with comb to keep in the heat.