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 2018 updates.
Lost Gardens of Heligan Tree Hive
Date: 6th April 2018
The finishing touches to our new Tree Hive in our apiary at Heligan Gardens were completed today and it is now ‘open for business.
The idea is that a natural swarm will find its way into it, hopefully from one of our existing colonies. I am probably one of the few that actually want bees to swarm!! Although its good for the health of a colony it will hopefully also lead to a populated tree hive.
The Monterey Pine log was felled from nearby in the Heligan estate in February. We started work in earnest on the 26th Feb on a bitterly cold winter's morning. Some eleven members turned up to help and give moral support, which was a great turnout.
After the initial chainsaw work it soon became apparent that the chipping away of the cavity with more ‘traditional tools’ was not as easy as one might think. Patience needed! A second session that week saw good progress made. Up-righting the log into position also proved difficult but with the help of some of the Heligan staff and a winch this hurdle was soon overcome.
The auxiliary pieces to makeup the Tree Hive ie. roof, door, observation window, etc, I had the luxury of preparing beforehand in the comfort of my workshop at home.
Today we primed the cavity with some old brood comb, painted the cavity walls with melted honey/wax, sealed any gaps and put some spales in to support any new comb. Now it is fingers crossed. If a swarm doesn’t find it then plan B will be to put one in it, but I hope that isn’t necessary.
Again many thanks to all the helpers that have turned up throughout the project. It’s been a great group effort.
Roseland Bee Group Heligan Apiary Inspection
Date : 19th April 2018
Time : 11am
Weather : Sun approx. 16 °c
After a very long cold damp winter it was great to see the sun out and a good opportunity to carry out our first inspection of the year. In attendance were Geoff, Penny, Ian B, Sally, Jane, William & Robin. The main objectives were to remove the winter wraps from around the hives and have a quick look in to see if all was well. Unfortunately by the end of the inspection it was obvious that the bees had not faired well at all, even though they had plenty of stores and no signs of any disease.
Hive Id: Rose
Type: Rose Hive – No.Supers: 2 – Insp.Aim: Assess
A well established swarm from last year. Evidence of only a small cluster of dead bees remaining but with plenty of stores in the hive. Possibly too cold for them? Only a few dead ones in the bottom. Where did they all go? I did notice the top box at a slight angle thus exposing the edge of a few frames in the super below which may have been a contributing factor to their demise?
Hive Id: Bluebell
Type: National – No.Supers: 1 B.Box + 2 supers – Insp.Aim: Assess
If any hive wasn’t going to make it through the winter I would have thought it would be this one. It only had a viable queen very late on last season and was low in numbers. I put a super of honey on top from Primrose in September to make sure they had enough stores.
2 to 3 frames of bees. Plenty of stores around them and pollen coming in. Evidence of brood. Closed up quickly so as not to let out any valuable heat.
Hive Id: Cowslip
Type: National – No.Supers: 1½ Brood + Super – Insp.Aim: Assess
A fairly strong colony at the end of last year. A newly mated queen. Again a small cluster of dead bees with plenty of stores available but maybe too cold for them again? This time loads of dead bees in the bottom? Not sure why different to Rose & Clover
Hive Id: Primrose
Type: Nat/Rose – No.Supers: 1 B.Box + 2 Rose Supers – Insp.Aim: Assess
A very active colony. Loads of stores. Evidence of brood. Bees bringing in lots of pollen. Closed up without disturbing them unnecessarily.
Hive Id : Clover
Type : Nat/Rose – No.Supers : 1½ Brood + Rose Super - Insp.Aim : Assess
This was a very active colony last year. Again small cluster of dead bees, plenty of stores available and only a small number of dead bees in the bottom. Again where did they go? Quite a bit of damp in this hive. Not sure if it’s a result of no live bees in there or a fault of the hive configuration.
We also brought out the Top Bar Hive which we will hopefully colonise at some stage this season and for those who hadn’t seen the Tree Hive finished it was an opportunity to have a look over that as well.
Thank you for those who attended. Plenty to ponder. A bit disheartening after the progress made last year but lets hope we can learn from it. Not the best introduction for William being his first hands on experience with bees. It won’t always be that bad. Lets hope the next inspection is more positive.
Roseland Bee Group Heligan Apiary Inspection
Date : 2nd June 2018
Time : 11am
Weather : Sun approx. 16 °c
Some inspections, like the previous one in April when we discovered that three of the colonies had perished due to our extended cold winter, are ones that can be very disheartening. Today was the exact opposite. With everything coming into bloom, the smell of blossom in the air and three thriving colonies, those dark days of winter are soon forgotten. The fortunate ones in attendance today were Ian & Diana, Jim, Harriet, Eddie & Laura, Carol, Jane and new to the group Ian Ingram.
Hive Id : Rose
Type : Roseland Hex Hive – No.Supers : 2 – Insp.Aim : Monitor new swarm
This new twin walled hex hive is something I have been working this winter and this is the first trial of it. We introduced a swarm into it last week and today we checked its progress. Within a week it has rapidly established some new comb and the queen has started laying with some capped brood already showing. Due to the hexagonal shape of the super, there are custom made, semi permanent frames filling the end spaces, each side of the six Rose Frames. It was lovely to see a perfectly formed comb now taking up one of these frames (see pic). My aim has been to construct a hive that we can ‘respectively’ interact with in a conventional way but one that also has many of the attributes of a tree cavity. I have to say that the bees looked very happy and calm in their new home but the winter will be the true test.
Hive Id : Bluebell
Type : National – No.Supers : 1 B.Box + 1 supers – Insp.Aim : Look for Queen
A quick look a few weeks ago and there was no sign of any brood. Thinking the queen may have gone, I decided to leave it and see what happened. Today I was prepared to add a frame of brood/nurse bees from another hive hoping they would raise an emergency queen. However to our pleasant surprise there was plenty of pollen coming in at the entrance and inside we found a solid pattern of capped brood. Sometimes its best to let them be and not jump to conclusions too quickly. Result!
Hive Id : Primrose
Type : Rose – No.Supers : 3 Rose Supers – Insp.Aim : Monitor progress
Last week I swapped the Rose hive body over for a newly refurbished one. This has always been a strong colony and it came through the winter unscathed. I had to put an additional super on last week as it is expanding rapidly. Today we saw that they had already made good progress in filling out the frames. There was no need to go in any further as all looked well.
I have been experimenting with single entry holes in the supers instead of the traditional bottom entrance. (to try and represent a hole in a tree trunk) They are plugged with a cork and when I feel they need an additional entrance as the hive size increases, I open one up. I have also been putting an angled piece of bamboo over it so as to stop the elements directly entering the nest area. (The hives at Heligan are quite exposed in comparison to a tree in a woodland area.) The result of this is a bearding effect at busy times of the day as they try and get in and out of the hive (see pic) but I have yet to see any detrimental effect of this.
We took the opportunity to check out both the Top Bar Hive and Tree Hive to see if there had been any action. As of yet, none, but I think the effects of the winter have delayed any swarming tendencies in the colonies this year. Still plenty of time though - fingers crossed.
Thank you again for those who attended and for the great pics Jane. Look forward to the next one in a month’s time.