Summer Bee Check at the School Apiary

Time for a visit to the Marsh bees, to see how both colonies are getting on. The entrance to the top bar hive is facing in to the prevailing wind and, given how the only surviving colonies had their backs to it, we want to make sure that the bees don’t have to deal with too much weather so it’ll need windbreaks, like the Warré. The hive itself is not thick walled at all – it’s just plywood – so we are going to have to do something to insulate it too.

We walked through the fenced off area, which is the reptile zone; the difference in the grass is marked:

The grazed area has rushes and thistles, but there are clovers, ragwort and other phorbs in the sheep-free section, and the grass is long and lush. It could probably do with a light graze at some point. We went over to the hives, and some of the straw bales had fallen over by the Warré, so we hitched them up, and checked on the willows. They are doing well behind the hive, but some the others have dried out. The bees themselves seem to be thriving:

We discussed the type of windbreak we should procure for the top bar. We decided that rather than buying in bales, we would use what we had: willow or hazel uprights, interwoven with flexible material, a bit like a dead hedge. If the children could make rough panels out of things from the Marsh as part of Forest School, we could use those too. We can put taller willow whips to grow up at the same time, and we have arranged to relocate cleared willow from the National Trust rangers’ maintenance work to the Marsh, which will mean we are reusing resources. Sustainable beekeeping means looking at all aspects of apiary management…

The top bar hive bees are also looking well and thriving. The bars had no sort of starter strip so the bees have built comb obliquely across – always a hazard with nothing to keep them properly aligned. Warrés are managed by the box so it doesn’t matter what they do on the bars but this could be a bit problematic going forward. We shall see. They should straighten up at some point!

We also had a look at the black poplars. Sadly, only one seems to be alive. One had been chewed, and another had snapped at the base. Maybe they got to dry? Is it too windy? We think we might have found a black poplar and perhaps we should plant them in the lower ground rather than up on the berm where it is obviously drier. Meanwhile, the elecampane is flowering profusely in the apiary:

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