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Further Tales from a Top Bar – 3

So the new jam jar feeders had mixed results, due entirely to my poor workmanship. The holes weren’t quite big enough to allow easy removal of the jars, and my attempts to free them aggravated the bees and I got stung… so I went back to the bottles and plastic chutes for a while – cleaning them each time seemed to avoid the problem of air locks.

The issue of how long to keep feeding the bees remains something of a concern. Much of the advice was to stop, so toward the end of June I started reducing the amount of syrup, but in the first week or so of July noticed that the bees seemed very subdued and there were one or two weak or dead bees in the feeding end of the hive, so I resumed feeding. This pleased them very much, so much so that they started following me back to the kitchen, where they soon discovered the source of their syrup! We spent quite some time pursuing and evicting them, only to find they flew back in at the first opportunity. I wondered if feeding them later in the day might stop this behaviour, but got stung again for my pains – they enjoyed the syrup but didn’t like being disturbed that late… bees are hard taskmasters.

During a recent visit from John and Jenny we opened the left-hand (feeding) end and observed considerable activity there, including a drone or two, which suggests that they are rearing brood. Following my observation last time of different types of bee, we noticed quite a range of bee sizes and colours. While this may be normal given the freedom of the queen on her mating flight, I did have an issue a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a secondary entrance to the hive via a top bar that I had not fitted properly. It was at the feeding end and was generating a lot of activity, so maybe a few other bees got in. I blocked it up and managed to fit the top bars more tightly, so now the only entrance is the main one.

Opening the hive again last week with Steve’s help has revealed that comb building has progressed apace. I need not have worried about providing too many extra bars!

They were again very busy at the feeding end.

The feeding end

They had propilised everything more than the last time I looked. At the right hand end, they had quickly built comb on both the new bars, and even started to link the comb to the follower board:

Inside of the follower board

I moved the follower board and the first bar where the comb is still being built with relatively little trouble – fortunately the bridging comb broke easily.

The newest comb (hive side)

However, the comb on the second bar was larger and stuck to the sides again, so had to be freed with a knife. There was a bit more bridging to the adjoining comb which fortunately gave way without doing too much damage. The comb was full of stores and was remarkably heavy to lift. However, the bees were very unhappy at this intrusion – there was an audible gasping sound as I moved this bar and they started to become very agitated, so we decided not to pursue a full inspection – the bees are obviously vigorous and healthy.

The second comb – full of stores

I added a new bar at either end, so from the original 10 bars, they are now up to 16 and still building! There are 30 bars in the hive so they have a way to go before they fill it, but if and when they do, the simplest option is probably to take some honey and provide some new bars – I have some spares and even for me, they are easily made.

I have now reduced the feed considerably, providing a little syrup every other day. This seems to have stopped the bees’ visits to the kitchen, but perhaps they may still be upset about being inspected? Who knows. They are certainly a bit more subdued – I’ll just have to keep a lookout for any signs that they might be hungry. They really should not be with all those stores! Anyway, I have modified the jar feeder which is now working just fine.

The flowers in the Virginia creeper on the side of the house have been humming with bees – I assume that at least some of them are mine – they have certainly seemed to head that way as they left the hive. It will be interesting to see if they fly far enough to find the heather on the Forest in the next few weeks…. I’ll try to find out and keep you posted.