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Local college takes to beekeeping

Vannessa and mentor Pete search for the queen on the rooftop of Basingstoke College of technology

Vanessa and mentor Pete search for the queen on the rooftop of Basingstoke College of Technology

Right on Vita’s doorstep, a college has taken to beekeeping.

On a rooftop less a few hundred metres from Vita’s HQ, Basingstoke College of Technology has installed two hives. We went to visit them this week.

Sited just a few weeks ago, the nucleii colonies are growing fast and one is already confident enough to be producing queen cells. With a mentor from Basingstoke Beekeepers, the five-strong college team is enthusiastic and attracting the interest of different departments in the college.

They’ve chosen as their apiary site the rooftop of the engineering department. It is nicely sheltered and they have erected fine mesh netting to make sure the bees fly outwards over the town and not backwards into the air conditioning machinery where maintenance men might otherwise find all-to-quick fixes for any problems.

Up on the roof. BCOT beekeepers Lauren, Tim and Vanessa with Pete of the local beekeeping association (left)

Up on the roof. BCOT beekeepers Lauren, Tim and Vanessa with Pete (left) of the local beekeeping association. Casual observers can watch the bees safely from this side of the mesh.

The bees, headed up by Carniolan queens are beautifully tempered and reputed to do well except in rather hot climates– no worries there then!

The big question now is will the colonies grow large enough to bring in honey before the nectar flow stops. The first supers were added today and there’s plenty of good forage around, so here’s hoping!

Since this could well be a year when varroa thrives, the bees were treated early with Apistan and will receive Apiguard treatments in preparation for winter.

We will keep you informed of progress and so will they on Twitter @bcotbuzz and Facebook.

Eager new beeks: Tim, Lauren and Vanessa.

Eager new beeks. Three of the five-strong team: Tim, Lauren and Vanessa.

Heater bees or hygienic bees?

A heater bee -- head down and vibrating to generate heat to maintain the brood temperature

A heater bee — head down and vibrating to generate heat to maintain the brood temperature.

As I patiently wait the appearance of a queen in the observation hive (it seems that the first queen cell was torn down and two others started, albeit at a late larval stage), I’m becoming interested in the heater bees.

I always thought that bees with their heads in a cell were simply cleaning it.  That’s not  necessarily so.

Jurgen Tautz in The Buzz about Bees tells that bees, heads down in cells and vibrating are actually heater bees maintaining the brood at the optimum temperature. He reckons that the control of the brood nest temperature is equivalent to power usage of 20W (watt) and that if bees could channel that energy into a light bulb, they could light up their dark hive world!

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

Do bees go bananas?

IMG_2146In theory ripe bananas should have some effect on bees, but there was no apparent reaction from mine so far.

Ripe bananas give off isoplentylacetate, the main component of the honeybee alarm pheromone. (I picked up this factoid in Jurgen Tautz’s wonderful book, The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism.) So, in theory, they might be expected to become a bit stroppy in the vicinity of a nicely blackened banana.

Immediately after a thunderstorm I put one at the entrance to a queen-making nuke, but they didn’t seem to care much at all. Not even the dead bee thrown out before the storm.

Has anyone noticed their bees going bananas?

(By coincidence, I see this topic has just been raised today on Bee_L Listserv)

Turlough, Vita’s Beekeeper Blogger

The empty cell

The  empty cell

The empty cell

Bees, huh! After yesterday’s activity around the queen cell in the observation hive, I said I expected the queen to emerge in the next few days. They thought otherwise and she emerged overnight — well, I think she did!

In any event her cell has now been largely dismantled. I haven’t managed to see her yet, but this afternoon there was quite a commotion in the hive for a while and I wonder if she has already made her first flaps in the outside world.

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

Paying right royal attention

IMG_4977The observation hive bees are paying great attention to their queen cell.

I think she is due to emerge in the next two or three days.

I think there is only one remaining queen cell in the hive, but this protectiveness is often seen to ensure that one queen does not emerge before another.

Meantime, the foragers in this small colony are very busy bringing in the nectar which is now in full flow.

Turlough, Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

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