Luckily the warm weather is a time when bees need attention and love. We have three colonies at an t'Ionad Glas and at this time of year their numbers tend to expand. Like any household, when there are too many folks under the same roof, some will find other digs. In over crowded bee colonies some bees will split and form their own separate swarm with a new Queen. If you don't want to lose your precious bees to the wild then you simply add and extra floor to their home by building one and stacking it onto the existing floors. You can then take one of the sections and start off a new colony with it, adding on space for the bees to move into as time goes on. Beehives come in kit form, they are probably easy to build if you are a carpenter but the frames that go inside are fiddly and it's probably better to buy them and put them together yourself. The wax is pre-formed and slides into the frames, this gives the bees something to build on.
Anyone who keeps bees will tell you that it's an enchanting occupation. For only the second time ever, I put on a bee-keeper suit (as opposed to a bee-suit a la bumblebee man) and got to work with the hives yesterday. Bees are sensitive creatures and can read your feelings quite easily. Firstly it's important to sty out of their flight-path, this is the small slot at the front of the hive where they go in and out. If you stay to the side or back of the hive they will not feel under threat and are less likely to defend. Bees are unlike humans in that they only attack if they feel the need to defend, and if you are calm and respectful you will not get stung. The bees are busy milling in and out with their little sacks full of nectar, they are often covered in pollen from head to all of their feet, they look pretty wild like this.
It was tricky to take the pictures through the face netting and with thick gloves but I'm happy with these. It's good to see them really close up. When we took off the lid of the hive we sray in a few puffs of smoke to make the bees a bit dozy. This is just regular smoke from paper and makes the bees think they are under attach so they fill their bellies up with honey to protect it, this in turn makes them dopey as they are more placid. When you need to take the layers of the hive apart you have to lever them gently away from each other as the bees make a wax seal from propolis which sets hard. It's quite hard to dislodge the frames, also stuck with proplois but we took out a few to look at the honey and to look for the queen.
Being around bees is very calming. The sound of their hum and the smell of the hive is quite intoxicating, a bit stonifying. Keeping bees is a good passtime not just because of the interesting creatures they are to watch but also because of the obvious results, honey. We all know how important bees are and their dwindling numbers is worrying. To nurture a bee colony would be a good thing to do if you have the interest or the space. A flat roof is ideal as it means you don't need a large garden.