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    Mike Howroyd

    Campus Bee Diary 17/6/2015

    Hello Everyone,
    It’s the swarming season, so all beekeepers are keeping a close eye on their colonies to make sure they don’t lose half their bees. Have any of our campus bees managed to escape?
    Read on to find out….

      Suspected swarm at Blenheim Terrace

    A couple of our hive leaders rushed over to Educational Engagement at Blenheim Terrace last week, after a report of bees coming in through a window and flying around under the eaves. As is often the case, they were bumblebees, so a big sigh of relief that our honey bees hadn’t swarmed! These were tree bumblebees. The drones congregate outside the nest, flying in a sort of ‘figure of eight’ and waiting for the virgin queens to emerge. This is similar to the honey bee drone congregation area (except not as high in the sky), but this behaviour is not typical of bumblebees in general.

      Frame making workshop 16/6/15

    Well done to the 6 keen frame makers who assembled 16 super frames and 2 brood frames at the lunchtime frame making workshop. All agreed that it was ‘very therapeutic’, although it’s apparently more difficult than working with brain tissue!

      Laidlaw Library Roof Apiary

    Both colonies are doing well. ‘Laidlaw 2’ colony, from a swarm collected in May, has settled into its new hive, and is expanding rapidly. A super has been added to give them more room. The hive monitors are also now working and anyone interested in logging in to see how the hives are performing can do so by emailing sustainability@leeds.ac.uk

      Sustainability Action Group Apiary (Earth and Environment)

    The Sticky colony is thriving, but not yet ready to swarm. There are a few empty queen cups standing by, but there is plenty of room for the queen to lay, and have stores of nectar and pollen.
    Preparations have begun to re-queen the Lively colony, as they have been difficult to work with in previous years. The Lively queen has been sent into exile with her entourage, while the rest of the colony were left without their queen. The expectation was that the queenless bees would build emergency queen cells in an attempt to replace the queen, but there were no signs of these a week after the removal of the old queen. The plan is to remove the emergency queen cells (if any!) and import a newly hatched virgin queen from a better-behaved colony in the Kirkstall Valley. We await the emergence of this new queen with anticipation….. If the re-queening exercise fails, the Lively queen will be reunited with her colony.


    Mike Howroyd

    Campus Bee Diary 2/7/2015

    Hello Everyone,
    We are in the infamous ‘June gap’, when nectar and pollen bearing flowers are usually in short supply, and bees risk starvation if the weather is bad. However, our bees continue to do well. But a queen is missing from one of the Laidlaw hives – have they swarmed or is it regicide?
    Also, there has been an outbreak of European Foulbrood in the Leeds area. It’s a notifiable disease so all beekeepers are on high alert.

    European Foulbrood (EFB) Alert

    We are in the process of checking all hives on campus for EFB, following the alert sent out yesterday by the Leeds Beekeeping Association. If found, EFB must be reported it to the local Bee Inspector. Minor cases can be treated, more serious cases result in the colony being destroyed. The disease is caused by bacteria and can be spread by infected bees robbing or visiting other hives, so immediate control is vital.

    Laidlaw Library Roof Apiary

    There are two hives on the Library Roof, both fitted electronic monitors that enable us to measure certain parameters from the comfort of our desks. Both colonies are doing well and have enough stores.

    Laidlaw 1 (headed by a daughter of the Sticky queen, good temperament):
    There was chalk brood on the tray and at the mouth of the hive. However, the colony itself looked to be very healthy. The beautiful queen was spotted (not that easy as she is not marked yet!) and she also looked very healthy.

    Laidlaw 2 (from a swarm caught on campus in May):
    This colony appears to have lost its queen and there is no new brood in there, indicating that the queen had been absent for a few days when the check was carried out. They are unlikely to have swarmed, as the number of bees hasn’t dropped. It may be that the bees have decided to replace the old queen, known as supercedure, as there are two quite advanced queen cells and one reasonably new one in there. It will be interesting to watch the monitors over the coming week to see how the temperature, etc. changes as the new queen emerges and goes on a mating flight.

    Sustainability Action Group Apiary (Earth and Environment)

    Sticky Hive
    The Sticky colony are busy building queen cells, so they are either planning to swarm or supercede their old queen. As we don’t want to risk losing half the colony, and must try to minimise the possibility of swarms on campus, the old queen was moved to a nucleus box (known as a ‘nuc’, and smaller than a regular hive) with plenty of bees and stores, leaving the rest of the colony to raise a new queen in the old hive. This procedure is known as a split, and is one of the many options for swarm management. The outcome may be two colonies, or they may be reunited before winter if one queen fails. No sign of EFB.

    Attempts at re-queening the Lively colony
    Plans to re-queen the Lively colony with a queen from a more manageable colony were thwarted, when the unhatched queen-in-waiting in a far off apiary in Kirkstall failed to emerge from her cell. So the Lively queen continues in exile with a small entourage. Meanwhile, the rest of the Lively colony had been queenless for a few weeks…. or so we thought! A check today revealed a brand new queen who is already laying, and who must have been raised from an egg from the original Lively queen-in-exile. Now we have a new Lively queen instead of a well-behaved replacement – NOT the intended outcome! No sign of EFB.

    Damian’s Hive
    No swarm preparations yet. The colony is doing well, but they are a bit crowded with a single brood chamber and may need to be increased to a ‘brood and a half’ – i.e. allowing the queen to lay in both the brood box and in the super immediately above. No sign of EFB.

    A new apiary has now been completed in St. George’s Field. This will be used initially for training and outreach until we are ready to expand the hives to this area.


    Mike Howroyd

    Campus Bee Diary 14/9/2015

    Main updates:
    1. Honey harvest
    2. Queen marking
    3. Naming hives and colonies
    4. Hive check updates

    Honey harvest

    Autumn is usually the time to harvest honey, but unfortunately we won’t be taking any from our campus bees this year. In a good year, a strong colony of bees may store an excess of honey but the weather has been less than ideal. As our policy is to leave the bees with enough honey to get them through winter and only feed them with sugar when absolutely necessary, they will keep their honey stores this year.

    The bees are preparing for winter in other ways too. They are no longer raising drones (males), which are only needed for mating. The remaining drones will be thrown out of the hive as the weather cools, to save on stores. Queens are laying fewer eggs, and the young bees hatching now will live for up to 6 months, huddling together for warmth, eating the stored honey and rarely leaving the hive.

    Queen marking

    A marked queen is easy to spot during a hive check, and this is especially useful when checking if a colony is queenless or ‘queenright’, or if you need to catch the queen for some reason, as they can be very elusive. Officially, special pens in different colours are used to show the year of hatching, but we just use a blob of Tippex which seems to work very well. We marked the two queens (Queen Michaela and Queen Pre) in the Laidlaw apiary last week using a ‘crown of thorns’ cage which sticks into the comb and holds the queen still while she is marked (see below). If it used with care, this just holds them still without squashing them. Queen Pre experienced a brief period of discomfort when the cage sank a bit far into the wax, but thankfully she was unharmed.

    Naming hives and queens

    Now we have five hives on campus, a clear naming system is needed, so a new system is now in place. The name of the hive is like a house address. The colony is identified by the queen, and the names currently in use are taken from members of the Campus bee network closely involved with the colony 

    Hive check updates
    Laidlaw 1 (Queen Pre 2014)

    Queen Pre is a daughter of Queen Sticky from last year. Swarm management was successful, the colony is strong and good tempered, and the bees have gathered enough honey stores to last the winter without extra feed.

    Laidlaw 2 (Queen Michaela 2015)

    Queen Michaela’s swarm was caught on campus early this year. This queen is a result of the bees ‘superceding’ their old queen, which happens when a queen is getting old or failing to lay. There are sufficient bees to survive winter, but will need extra feed. Their temperament is not as calm as the Sticky dynasty.

    SAG1 (Queen missing or stopped laying)

    This colony’s queen had a late start as she hatched in July after the colony swarmed (in spite of our efforts to prevent it), and bad weather caused a delay in mating till mid August. Although she has never been seen, eggs and larvae were seen in a check 4 weeks ago. However, she has now either died or stopped laying. The colony had some capped brood but no larvae at the last check. They may be strong enough to go through winter with extra feeding.

    SAG2 (Queen Carla 2015)

    Queen Carla’s colony was captured in July near the SAG apiary, and she is probably a daughter of Queen Sticky. Her laying pattern is good and the colony is strong. We are feeding them with ‘Ambrosia’, a specially formulated honey bee food, as their stores are very low and forage is becoming increasingly scarce.

    SAG3 (Queen Sticky 2012)

    The much loved Queen Sticky is 3 years old but still laying well. Her colony is good tempered, so we are keen to keep her as long as possible. The colony is small, and stores low, so we are feeding them in preparation for winter.

    SAGN1 (Queen missing or stopped laying)

    This is a nucleus (‘nuc’) colony whose queen in missing or has stopped laying. They cannot survive the winter as they are too weak, so they will be united with another colony. But first, we need to find out if the queen is present, because if she is there would be conflict between the two queens. A queenless colony would normally try to make a new queen, but asthey have no eggs or young brood they cannot do this.
    When a thorough check failed to reveal the queen, a frame of brood was borrowed from SAG2 and put into the nuc to provide them with an egg or a young larva. If the bees start forming a queen cell, this is an indication that they are queenless. If they don’t, the queen may still be present.

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