Courtesy of Nick Bentham Green our Covid secure Apiary Visits began in April and have been of immense value to new beekeepers like me. After my first visit I put together the brief report below to illustrate their value and encourage more attendees.

On a fine day I rolled up to rather lovely setting of Coombeshead Farm and met Nick for the first time.

For the second time ever and the first time in anger I put on my bee suit. The first bit of advice from Nick was an explanation for the use of the elasticated loop at the end of each arm. By locating over your thumb it prevents the sleeves rolling up . Obvious really but not to me! ( sheltered childhood and all that).

Nick then explained how he lights his smoker and the materials he uses. For Nick this is very much a "just in case" piece of practice throughout the days inspections we did not use the smoker at all.

There are 3 active hives at Coombeshead Farm.

The first was the most active and populous. Excellent frames of capped honey, brood , larvae ,pollen etc . The queen was quickly identified. We changed some frames and due to its advanced nature added a second super to provide more space. Nick stated that this hive will be the first to potentially swarm so this hive will need careful inspection at the next visit.

The second hive was in good order albeit less advanced. The marked queen was easily spotted ( by Nick) . Again frames were exchanged and rearranged . Nick thought this hive would need a second super but on inspection the existing super was relatively empty so this was not necessary.

The third hive was the least populous and active. Although we did not see the Queen we knew she was present and active due to the eggs and larvae present. This hive was left as is other than to replace the canister of sugar solution food. No cause for concern at this stage in the season.

The idea of regular weekly visits throughout April to July is to see how each hive progresses (or not) through the busiest period of the year.

So the following week we inspected all 3 hives again. Overall all three hives had advanced but the cool weather had probably limited. The third hive had advanced the least and was a cause for mild concern. Despite thorough search we still could not find the Queen but again eggs and larvae suggested she was present but not very active. Probable strategy for following inspection was to introduce workers from another hive to bolster numbers. Amongst many other pearls of wisfom imparted by Nick an interesting discussion ensued around the use of bait boxes and how to scent with lemongrass to attract swarms.

These are a couple of photos taken on my second visit.

Rearranging frames on the edge of the brood nest to create more space for the queen to lay

A healthy frame of bees with plenty of space for laying

I am looking forward to attending Coombeshead Farm on as many Saturdays as possible through coming months and will find them invaluable when my own bees arrive in June.

Presentation via Zoom on the Asian Hornet

Last Friday 23rd April we had our zoom presentation. Gerry Stuart gave a fascinating talk on the subject of Asian Hornets, their characteristics and how Asian Hornet Action Team and the National Bee Unit work to find and eradicate. We came out with a clear idea of the threat they pose, and the responsibility we all have to assist by being vigilant and reporting accurately. Personally I also came away with a certain admiration for this insect and its way of life. Many thanks to all that attended from our Group and those from other Groups within the CBKA.

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

Plants for bees and other pollinators

Whether you have a small patio, or a large garden, growing flowering plants is an effective way to help Britain's bees and other pollinating insects, such as hoverflies.

Pollinating insects need food, water and shelter. They love plants which are rich in nectar and pollen. Nectar contains sugar for energy, while pollen contains protein and oils – forming a balanced diet.

Easy ways to help bees in your garden

What could be lovelier than a garden buzzing with insect life, colour and fragrance all year? With bees in trouble, our gardens are vital fast-food takeaways for bees and other beneficial bugs. As well as serving up a varied menu of plants they provide the shelter and nesting places bees need.

What's more, bee-friendly gardening is more likely to be responsible gardening - growing the right plants, and avoiding chemicals in the garden.

Grow 10 bee-friendly herbs

Herbs are easy to grow, and some are a valuable source of food for our bees and other pollinating insects. They also have the benefit of adding fantastic flavour to our meals. Short of space? Try marjoram, thyme, chives , sage or creeping rosemary in a pot. If you have more space in a sunny border, try a rosemary shrub.

Angelica, with its nectar-rich flowers, will attract plenty of early bees and other pollinators, and unlike many other herbs, can thrive in partial shade. Fennel is rich in nectar and pollen, and will attract a variety of solitary bees, such as Mining bees and Yellow-faced bees, as well as Bumblebees and Honey bees.

Do bees drink water? Yes, they need refreshment

Like humans, bees need water. Water is essential for honey bees to make food for their young, and keep their hive cool and humid. They collect water during the summer months.

Fill a bucket or tray with water – preferably rain water – and put a few stones in it that are large and stable enough to give bees a safe place to drink from. Floating old wine corks on the surface also gives bees something to land on. Got a pond? Try adding floating-leaved plants, wine corks or rocks to give bees a landing pad.

Make a wildflower meadow for bees

Wildflowers such as cornflowers, cowslips, and the common poppy are all brilliant for bees and other wildlife. Pick up wildflower seed mixes at your local garden centre.

Here are a few simple steps to get wildflowers blooming in your garden. The ideal time to do this is September or October because this mimics the natural cycle when flowers typically drop their seeds. You can also sow wildflower seeds in spring.

Remove any vegetation or turf. Alternatively, use a strimmer or lawnmower to cut the grass as short as possible, and then rake the ground to reveal patches of bare soil.

Wildflowers thrive in unfertile soil. Remove the topsoil, or dig the soil over to a depth of at least 15 cm to reveal the less fertile soil below. Scatter the seeds lightly. Use 3 quarters of a teaspoon of seeds per square metre. You can mix the seeds with sand first, to aid even sowing. After sowing, lightly rake the surface and firm down with the end of a rake or your feet. Water the soil if you're sowing during a dry period.