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 2019 updates.
Date : 4th May 2019
Time : 12pm
Weather : Sun approx. 14 °c
After having had to cancel the previous inspection, a spell of warm weather enabled us to carry out our first inspection of the year and an opportunity to see how the bees had faired over the winter. In attendance today were Geoff, Penny, William, Liz, James, Paul, Milo, John V & John D.
The timing was also somewhat fortuitous. Whilst carryout a pre check walk of the apiary, I noticed a lot of activity in the brambles behind the Hex hive (ID. Rose). A swarm was nestled on a post amongst the brambles and had obviously been there from the day before.
So once everyone had arrived, the first thing to do was to go and check it out. An ideal opportunity for some of the new beekeepers to get close up to their first swarm. We then went over to the Tree Hive (still unoccupied) to see if there were any scout bees checking it out…and there were! I thought the best course of action was to carryout the inspection and then re visit the swarm / tree hive. (See update in summary below)
Hive Id : Rose
Type : Roseland Hex Hive – No.Supers : 3 – Insp.Aim : 1st Inspection
Decided to leave this hive as it was near to the swarm and in the flight path of the flying bees checking out the log hive. Plenty of activity out front but highly likely this was where the swarm had originated
Hive Id : Bluebell
Type: National – No.Supers: 1 B.Box + 2 supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection
This was looking strong. Good brood pattern and lots of drone brood in the main brood box being built below the frames into the ‘eco floor’. Plenty of stores, so added a 3rd super to make more room. Used Cork panels on 2 sides of the hive over the winter for insulation. Put these back after the inspection with the aim of leaving them there all summer. Removed baffler from entrance hole and opened up a couple more of them by removing the cork bungs
Hive Id : Primrose
Type: Rose – No.Supers: 2 Supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection.
This was again looking strong and healthy. Previously swarmed last June. Plenty of brood, larvae and eggs. Added a 3rd super to make more room. Removed baffler and opened up another entrance hole. Left exterior cork panels in situe for the summer
Hive Id : Clover
Type : Rose – No. Supers: 2 – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection.
This colony was used for the observation hive last year. Noticeably less activity in front of the hive over the last month or so. Top super pretty much empty and about 5 frames of bees below. However some good brood pattern developing so maybe a slow starter. Spotted the marked queen who looked healthy enough. Removed baffler and opened up one more entrance hole. Again left the exterior cork panels in situe.
Hive Id : Poppy
Type: National – No.Supers: 3 Supers – Insp.Aim: 1st Inspection & Convert to Rose Hive
Top 2 supers busy with bees, brood etc. Bottom super empty. A good opportunity to introduce a new eco floor and swap to (V3) Rose Hive supers. Some of the frames will be odd sizes but they will build comb underneath into the void of the eco floor if they want. This may not be as convenient and as tidy for the beekeeper, but the bees make the most of it, probably for the overall good of the colony. Geoff did manage to spot a bee with DWV but the overall health of the colony looked good and it didn’t concern us too much.
It was great to see the Apiary thriving after a relatively mild winter. All the surrounding fauna was blossoming, and spring in full swing. The bees had found their own stores had been adequate to see them through. (No supplementary feeding was used). The swarm was a welcome highlight of the day. It had obviously been there over night. It was nestled in a very awkward position and tempting it, or scooping, it into a skep could prove difficult. The risks of losing the queen and stressing out the cluster were high. In the end I decided to let nature take its course. The bees were scouting out the Tree Hive all day and we could see them flying to and from the swarm site. I left the Apiary at 4.30pm and the swarm had still not decided what to do. That night the temperatures dropped to near freezing so I was praying they would decide to go at least somewhere. When I returned the following afternoon the swarm had gone. Alas they didn’t migrate to the Tree Hive. They had obviously found somewhere more suited, probably away from other bees. This is one of apis mellifera’s natural traits, enabling them to equally share available forage and to also minimise the risks of drifting and spreading diseases.
Date: 15th May 2019
After a year of patiently waiting (something the bees are trying to teach me all the time),the
Tree Hive in our apiary at Heligan has finally colonised. They have built this comb from scratch
in the space of 10 days. It's just amazing to see, and they are so calm too. Not sure where the
swarm came from? The swarm that was checking it out a few weeks ago when we had our first
inspection, ended up going off somewhere else. Maybe they changed their minds?
Just reward for those of you who braved the near freezing conditions in Feb '18 to help construct
this tree hive. Hope many of you can make it down to the apiary over the summer to come and
have a look for yourselves.
Date : 5th June 2019
Time : 11am
Weather : Heavy showers approx. 14 °c
The weather turned out to be a lot worse than the forecast and hardly ideal for opening up the hives. I had managed to strim around the hives before the heavy rain came. Loads of long grass and wild flowers on the perimeters, providing an ideal setting for the apiary.
Due to the imminent Royal Cornwall Show there were only myself and three others in attendance, Paul & Janet Bright
and their neighbour Donald who is a top bar beekeeper. As it turned out it was an ideal opportunity to discuss various
beekeeping husbandry methods, such as converting a National hive to a Rose hive, the pros & cons of top bar hives and
the fun in collecting swarms.
All the hives seem to be ticking along nicely but due to the weather it wasn’t appropriate to delve into the hives. After
coffee and a chat we had a stroll around the apiary. There was a brief break in the weather and the warmth of the
sunshine came through. We had a quick peak inside the tree hive to check progress. The bees were as calm as you like
and there was further expansion of the nest, All looking rather good.
I am aiming for the next inspection on Saturday 29th June. Will keep you all posted.
Date : 29th June 2019
Time : 11am
Weather : Sunny spells. 19 °c
We were fortunate to have a lovely warm morning for the 3rd inspection of the season. A number of new faces turned up too, which is always good to see. In attendance were Geoff, Penny, Tom, Adam, Neil, John D, James and myself.
We were yet again somewhat fortunate with the timing of the inspection. Whilst preparing for the group to arrive, I noticed a bit more activity than usual at the front of the hex hive, Rose. As I stood there observing, the noise level ramped up a gear, and yes it was swarming! I donned on my veil and sat right in front of the hive to observe the whole affair. What a privilege and a joy to see, bees following their natural instincts. The swarm settled nicely on a nearby apple tree, just in time for the arrival of the group. Geoff kindly demonstrated how to catch a swarm to those who had yet to experience such an event. One lucky attendee went home with a nuc full of Heligan bees!
The inspection was also very positive. All five hives including the tree hive seemed in good health, with good queen laying patterns and plenty of stores. One point to note is that there has been no sign of any chalkbrood in any of the hives this spring - I’m pretty confident we can attribute this to the attention given to the insulation and ventilation of the hives.
Hive Id: Rose
Type: Roseland Hex Hive – No.Supers: 3 – Insp.Aim: Check for space
As this hive had just swarmed, I didn’t want to do anything other than check the top box for space. A quick peak confirmed that there were enough empty frames.
Hive Id: Bluebell
Type: National – No.Supers: 1 B.Box + 2 supers – Insp.Aim: Full Inspection
This colony has been progressing well. Good laying pattern, stores and calm bees.
Hive Id: Primrose
Type: Rose – No.Supers: 2 Supers – Insp.Aim: Check for space
This was again looking strong and healthy. Probably time to put another super on top in a couple of weeks. Bees calm.
Hive Id: Clover
Type: Rose – No.Supers: 1- Nat B.Box 1 - Rose Super – Insp.Aim: Laying Q?
This colony is again going to be used for the observation hive for the coming Heligan events. The colony has expanded somewhat making it more difficult to find the queen when we need to. With more room needed, we put a queen excluder under the new super. Not something I usually like doing, but its only for a short period of time and it will cause less stress on the colony when looking for a frame with the queen on
Hive Id: Poppy
Type: Rose V3 – No.Supers: 3 Supers – Insp.Aim: Check Progress
This has now been gradually converted to a Rose Hive V3, clad with the permanent cork insulation. Added a needed 4th super. These bees were very calm again.
3rd time we have opened up the observation panel to have a brief check for progress. It’s always a pleasure and my favourite moment. They are almost oblivious to our presence. First time I have used no gloves but the tree colony gives you that kind of confidence and leap of faith. The comb is progressing downwards well.
All in all another well timed inspection and I cant stop thinking to myself how privileged we are as a group to have an apiary in such an ideal setting.