The Arrival of the Bees

Hugh shaking out the last of the bees

Hugh shaking out the last of the bees

The most exciting thing for Hugh this week was definitely the arrival of the bees. Having put together the hive, the six brood frames with the nucleus (or ‘nuc’) of bees was transferred from the travelling box to the hive, and additional frames of wax foundation were added so that the bees will have plenty of space to lay eggs and store nectar and pollen in the brood box (the big box at the bottom in the picture).

The last of the bees in the box were shaken onto the ground just in front of the hive to find their own way in, guided by the pheromones from the queen bee in the hive.

We added a feeder full of sugar water to the space in the roof frame so that the bees would have enough sugar until they mapped out the area and had found plenty of sources of local nectar. I’m not sure if this was necessary, but some guides recommended it and it seemed like a good idea. To create room for the feeder I used an empty ‘super’ box as an ‘eke’. An eke (pronounce ‘eek’ as in ‘to eke out’) is a spacer that is added to create extra space in the hive, who can be for a variety of reasons, such as making space for a feeder, as here). The super box is the shallower box, just below the roof. Once the bees have created ‘pulled comb’ across most of the brood frames, and have stored enough honey for their own needs, the super will be filled with wooded frames containing wax foundation, and the bees will then start to store honey that we can harvest later in the year (hopefully) or next year (probably!).

By the next day, the bees were flying in and our of the hive in decent numbers:

Today, when we were watching the bees, we noticed that lots of them were carrying pollen on their back legs. Bees don’t just transport pollen between plants, they also bring balls of it back to the hive for food. Whilst nectar provides the bees with carbohydrates, pollen provides them with protein. These ‘pollen pellets’ can be up to 30% of a bee’s weight and hang off their hind legs in ‘pollen baskets’.