The Orchard Bees

Some background information (scroll down for updates 2017/2016)
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 re-fenced (see photos - Orchard Working Days 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.

More information about the arrival and settling in of our bees can be found in the July 2012 report from BCOG's beekeeper, Jim Binning.
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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. He's also hoping to run some workshops for schools.
To arrange a visit to the Orchard bees, please use the contact form ("Contact Us") to be found on the menu bar at the top of this page.
For further information about natural beekeeping, visit Jim's website:
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2017 updates
- October: The colony introduced to the new Warre hive has not established and will have to be replaced next season. The other 2 colonies are settling in for winter and being fed as required.
- Click this link for August
- July
Jim has now installed the new Warré Top Bar hive and has colonised it with bees from one of the other hives.

warre top bar hive
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- June
The left hand colony swarmed whilst Jim was away in May, so he was unable to collect the swarm, but that hive is still strong.
Tree bumble bees (a recently-arrived species from Europe) are nesting in the tit box in the sycamore behind the compost bays.
The grass in the bee enclosure was cut during cool conditions, to avoid the need for doing this when the bees are flying strongly.

- April - Jim is very pleased with both hives. Pollen and nectar are both being brought in, and brood is evident, so the queen is laying.


2016 updates (links to earlier annual reports on the right of this page)
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.
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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).
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Photos: Jim Binning
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The first top bar hive newly in place: photo - Tricia Hawkins
Both top bar hives 2016: photo - Jim Binning
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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.
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