The RBG officers decided in 2013 that they would like to set up a static group apiary. After considering potential locations, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were approached about setting up an apiary on their land. With a good working relationship already having been established with the Heligan management, they were very receptive to this idea.
The apiary now serves as an excellent opportunity for new and aspiring beekeepers to get some practical, hands-on experience, as well as a fantastic teaching tool for our most capable members to impart their knowledge and skills via observed inspections and demonstrations.
This page serves as a diary to record updates and goings on at the apiary, written by the apiary manager, Simon Kellam. Scroll down the page for the latest updates.
Roseland Beekeeping Group Heligan Apiary Inspection
Date : 22 April 2017
Time : 12pm
Weather : Cloud / Sun 14°c
Many thanks for all who attended the first inspection of the season. In attendance: Sally, Jane, Ian & Diana, Marcus and 2 Heligan staff members, Claire & Andy.
I was not sure what to expect from the 2 hives as they have been pretty quiet out front over the last few weeks but pleasantly surprised to find working queens in both.
Clover : National Hive. Small colony occupying 4 frames. Spotted the marked queen (yellow). Brood and larvae present. Plenty of stores. A few bees spotted with DFW. Colony very calm. Removed top super, leaving brood chamber on its own for a few weeks whilst the colony hopefully develops further.
Bluebell : National / Rose Hive. Converting this hive to a Rose Hive. Rose box placed over National brood chamber, the latter being gradually moved up the stack as it develops. Again a small colony and very calm. Occupying 5 frames. Spotted the marked queen (yellow). Small amount of brood and present. Would have expected more, not too sure of the queens health?
There are 2 new stands now constructed ready to take some more hives. Heligan staff have done some good work over the last few weeks, cleared around the pond and prepared a good stretch of ground next to the hives to sow some wildflower seeds. All in all the apiary is looking much more vibrant now. The plan is to establish at least another 2 colonies once we get hold of some more bees.
There is a complete Rose hive ready and waiting. We ran through the basic principles of how a Rose hive works, all same size boxes, no queen excluder and less evasive ways of checking the hive for signs of a swarm developing etc. This led onto further discussions on ‘bee friendly’ ways of managing bees and also the subject of Varroa and how to treat or even not treat. All very interesting.
Hopefully look at another inspection in a month's time.
Roseland Beekeeping Group Heligan Apiary Update
Date : 8 May 2017
Time : am
Weather : Sun 16°c
Its been a busy few days in the apiary, worthy of an interim report.
On Friday 5th May I collected a good size swarm kindly donated by Jim Wood from the Rosevine area on the Roseland Peninsula. who had no more equipment available to home it.
Primrose: The day old swarm was already in comb production mode on 6 National Brood frames. I transferred these into a National Brood Box and put a Rose box on top of this with the aim of converting this into a Rose Hive. Gave them a small amount of syrup.
Bluebell : There was no sign of any further progress with this hive or the Clover hive either so I decided to unite them using a sheet of newspaper and see what happens. If it succeeds then keep this as a National Hive.
Monday 8th May I collected 2 donated colonies from Laura Mackenzie at Gorran Haven who’s 4 busy hives had out grown the size of her garden. Both occupied a National Brood Box plus a ½.
Clover: Applied the old name to the biggest of the 2 new colonies. Both the National Brood Box and 1/2 brood box full of bees so I put a Rose box in between them to allow expansion of the brood nest as practised with the Rose hive method of bee management.
Cowslip: The 2nd of the 2 new colonies occupying a National Brood Box and ½. This colony was formed as a result of an artificial swarm and it has yet to be checked if it has a laying queen. Will leave it settle in before investigating.
The apiary now looks somewhat busier. Let's hope the new colonies all settle in ok. Planning on a group inspection in a couple of weeks time to see how things have progressed.
Roseland Beekeeping Group Heligan Apiary Inspection
Date : 25 May 2017
Time : 12pm
Weather : Sun 18+°c
Many thanks for those who attended today’s apiary inspection, which was blessed with fantastic weather. A somewhat more active apiary this time round, compared to the previous inspection. A number of members were regrettably unable to make the inspection but in attendance were Colin, Claire and two newbees, Oliver & Rob. It was an ideal opportunity to enable Oliver and Rob to get close up and hands on with the bees.
Bluebell : National Hive. United with the hive previously named Clover on the 8th May. Both weak colonies had marked queens. No sign of any queen this time or fresh brood. 1 frame with chalk brood. Plenty of stores though. Will have another look in a week or so and decide on a course of action.
Cowslip : National Hive. (Donated by Laura) Brood and half + super. This colony was made up from an artificial swarm. Full of bees but no sign of any queen or related activity. Give it another week to see for signs of a mated queen.
Primrose : National / Rose. Swarm donated by Jim. Came on National frames. Rose box put on top of a National Brood box to convert into a Rose Hive (5th May). Rose box now completely full of fresh drawn comb, good brood pattern and stores. We added another Rose box on top to allow for further expansion. Looking very healthy.
Clover : National / Rose. (Donated by Laura) Brood and half + super. Strong National colony when introduced into the apiary. Put a Rose Box between the 2 brood chambers to allow for expansion and convert to a Rose Hive.(8th May) We carried out a quick swarm check on this inspection by prising the top box up and looking underneath for signs or swarm cells. None found. Keeping the crown board on during this procedure minimises brood nest disturbance and heat loss.
Rose : Rose Hive. Earlier in the morning I brought over a hived swarm from my own apiary that had originally been captured at Heligan Gardens some 2 weeks ago. The bees could be seen actively flying around the hive orientating themselves to their new surroundings.
I have just finished refurbishing the apiary’s old Top Bar Hive that was looking in a bit of a sorry state. By chance, as I was putting the finishing touches to it I had a callout for a swarm collection in Truro. The TBH is now populated with the swarm and it should be back at Heligan in the next few weeks.
Thanks to Claire the Wildlife Co-ordinator for taking the photos which are courtesy of Heligan Gardens
Hopefully look at another inspection in a months time.
Roseland Bee Group Heligan Apiary Inspection
Date : 1st July 2017
Time : 12pm
Weather : Sun 16/18 °c
A welcome break in the weather enabled us to carry out the monthly apiary inspection as planned. In attendance were Geoff, Penny, Oliver, Sally, Tim & Holly. The bees were also out making the most of the sunshine after being cooped up in their hives over the last few days.
Hive Id : Rose
Type : Rose Hive – No.Supers : 2 – Insp.Aim : Full
Swarm establishing itself nicely, having now fully expanded into a 2nd Super. Healthy looking hive and queen laying well. Once we had spotted larvae and brood we closed up the hive so as to minimise any further disturbance to the brood nest area. Added a 3rd Rose Super above to allow for further expansion.
Hive Id : Bluebell
Type : National – No.Supers : 1 Brood Box – Insp.Aim : None
Leaving this hive to dwindle out, united from 2 previous weak colonies. Still queen less and down to 4 frames of bees, although we have managed to salvage 10lb of honey
Hive Id : Cowslip
Type : National – No.Supers : 1½ Brood + Super – Insp.Aim : Check for space
This colony originates from an artificial swarm. The queen now mated, laying well and the colony very active. This hive is the only one with a queen excluder and the bees seem slow to move up into the next super so we decided to remove it.
Hive Id : Primrose
Type : Nat/Rose – No.Supers : 1 Brood Box + 2 Rose Supers – Insp.Aim : Check for space
Last Rose super added on 25th May now full of beautiful white comb all started from small starter strips. Very healthy and active looking hive. Had to add a National Super of drawn comb on top to allow further expansion, having temporarily run out of spare Rose Supers.
Hive Id : Clover
Type : Nat/Rose – No.Supers : 1½ Brood + Rose Super - Insp.Aim : Full Inspection
This hive is probably where the swarm originated back in May, that is now in Rose. Happened not long after placing it in the apiary. Very active but brood pattern suggesting not a prolific queen. Possible sign of supersedure cell being formed in the centre of one of the frames too. Put the Rose Super from the top onto the bottom as part of the process of converting from National to Rose hive
Hive Id : No name yet
Type : Top Bar Hive (TBH) - Insp.Aim : Progress Report
Populated with a swarm on 22nd May and moved to Heligan on 13th June. Started with 4 top bars with comb from a national super. Now occupying 12 bars. As seen from the photo, the observation window is an ideal way to see how it is progressing. We opened up each end to have a peek inside. The bees were busy drawing comb at each end. Moved the follower boards out by a couple of bars to allow for further expansion. No need to go into the brood area, Healthy looking hive. Interesting to see how this will over winter.
The apiary surroundings at Heligan are looking great at the moment. All the bees were busy but notably very calm which helped make it a very enjoyable inspection for everyone. Thanks to Tim for the photos.
Hope to get another inspection planned for about 5 weeks time. Thanks to everyone who attended. If you know of any other newbees who want to get some hands on experience around bees, please pass on my e-mail so they can get in touch. I’ll then put them on the Apiary inspection list
Lost Gardens of Heligan Bee Day Event
Date : 23rd August 2017
Time : All Day
Weather : Sun / Cloud 18 °c
The Lost Gardens of Heligan invited RBG to participate in one
of their Wildlife Wednesday events, which is part of the Lost
In combination with our monthly Apiary Inspection we had our
event tent, with observation hive and candle making, on site.
Geoff and Penny were ever present to help our 8 volunteers
man the tent throughout the day whilst I held a couple of
Apiary tours, which were attended by a mix of the volunteers
and Heligan staff. Needless to say it was a busy day for our tent.
A daily record of 134 candles rolled and sold.
Apiary Inspections - 11.30am / 2pm
The aim of the inspections was to keep them fairly simple as many
of the participants had never seen inside a beehive. It was great to
see their excited faces full of wonderment as we passed around a frame full of calm bees and honey stores. I also took the opportunity to add an ‘eco floor’ and ’ventilated quilt box’ that I have been experimenting with, to a couple of the hives.
The apiary area has blossomed this year, with a lot of hard work being carried out by the Heligan staff to clear the brambles and plant some wild flowers. The bees have also been busy and the hives have established themselves well over the summer.
The only disappointing one was the Top Bar Hive, which started amazingly but then swarmed. The remaining bees seemed never to recover, with no sign of a mated queen. Then a few weeks ago the hive was completely empty with a number of dead bees on the hive floor. I was really looking forward to see how a colony would ‘winter’ in a TBH. The lovely comb that’s left though should be a good starting point next year to house a new swarm and we’ll see how it goes from there.
We have managed to sell a small quantity of honey from the apiary to the Heligan shop but in line with sustainable beekeeping methods that I’m exploring, I wont be taking too much more off, instead leaving the hard earned bounty for the bees to enjoy over the winter. Roseland Beekeeping Group has cemented a good relationship with the new staff at Heligan this year and they are very supportive of the sustainable beekeeping methods we are practising. It fits in with their Heligan ‘ethos’ very well and they are aware that its not always ‘just about the honey’.
It’s a wrap as far as inspections go for this year. I hope those who have attended have enjoyed them, I certainly have and have gained some valuable experience along the way too. I will be making regular visits throughout the winter to check the hives are ok and the bees are all snug. If anyone would like to join in on an apiary check please let me know.
I feel very privileged to have been allowed to steward lots of lovely bees in such a wonderful setting.
Lost Gardens of Heligan End of Season Update
Date : 29th Sept 2017
Time : 10am
Weather : Sun / Cloud 15 °c
Today the hives were prepared for the winter. All five hives very active with plenty of ivy nectar and pollen being bought in which should hopefully see them through the winter. In line with the sustainable beekeeping methods that we are experimenting with, they have not been artificially fed and have their own honey stores to survive on.
I am experimenting with some ventilated quilt boxes that I have made (see pics). The theory is that airflow, trickling through the mesh floor (that’s partially filled with woodchips), ventilates up through the hive to the quilt box, which has 5 internal and 3 external meshed holes. The bees can control this flow by propolising over the internal mesh holes. As you can see on Clover, they have blocked the 2 front ones but left the rear ones mostly open. On Primrose next to it they have left them all mostly open. I am hoping this takes out the guessing game of how much ventilation they need. There is also a cotton filled bag of woodchips in this box for added insulation.
The hives have all been surrounded with a thin framed, corolex material, wrapping, adding a bit more insulation and protecting them from the elements over the winter. Finally I have strapped the hives down, just in case. I will sleep easier when the wind is blowing its nuts off.
Hope we have a good winter and all our bees stay safe. Looking forward to next year already.