First time beekeeping on my own

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admanga

New Bee
Joined
May 20, 2024
Messages
21
Reaction score
15
Location
Grenoble
Hive Type
warre
Number of Hives
1
Located in a small village in an agricultural area between Lyon and Grenoble, France. My garden has many fruit trees, including some UK traditional cookers and some modern French eating apples.

When I was a teenager in the UK, my family had a beehive and I was occasionally my father’s assistant for hive operations. This was almost thirty years ago, and I’ve always wanted a hive.

May 2024: the opportunity arrived when a medium sized swarm settled on a small pear tree in my garden (swarm size was about 3/4 of a football, which I presume is a primary swarm). I rushed out and bought a secondhand hive (well two actually) via the free ads and returned in time to collect the swarm. I obtained a smoker and beekeeping outfit. The hive seller was a professional with over 30 hives, who was retiring because of his advanced age, downsizing his operation, starting by selling off his spare hives. The hives are Dadant 10 frame, each with a ventilated floor, brood box, queen excluder, one super, wooden 14L feeder box the size of half a super, top board with one way bee grill and a galvanised cover. The beekeeper set up the brood chamber with one frame of old comb and nine with waxed frames ready for the bees to build out their own comb. I bought two identical hives because I knew that it would make sense to aim for two from the start and the ventilated floor seems like a must have for its summer ventilation and promise of mite control. I did not have time to clean, disinfect this equipment, so there is always a risk that my new bees could have been contaminated by something that came with the box.

The beekeeper advised filling the feeder generously with syrup to help the bees get started, and to leave them alone for at least two weeks to settle into their new home, and to keep the mouse excluder grill in its lowest position. I gave them 500 ml of syrup and did not open the hive again because the weather was sunny the seemed to be doing well enough foraging on their own.

The bees have a darkish thorax with orange stripes going to cream towards tips of their abdomens, presumably Buckfast, as this race is one of two popular in my region of France (the others common bee race is described as black bees). My bees are tolerant of gardening 2 m in front of the hive, standing close but off to one side, and the mowing the lawn nearby. They seem non-aggressive and I think worth persevering with. Nonetheless, I will wear the beekeepers suit for every hive opening until I have gained in confidence.

The hive is not yet in its final emplacement, and I'm gradually moving it away from a border with a neighbour, walking it backwards in 2 m steps every couple of days. The bees do seem quite excited the next morning and circle around a bit.

To make defending their hive entrance less of a challenge, I have reduced its width by inserting a baton of wood behind the metal mouse excluder grill, which I have set in its low position, meaning there are about 10 bee sized holes remaining for the bees to pass through. This restriction does not seem to disrupt their coming and going at the moment, as there are only ever about 5 bees visible in the landing area at any time.

I’ve read the excellent book Get Started in Beekeeping by Adrian and Claire Waring, which has explained many new concepts compared to my previous knowledge. I also discovered that keeping bees alive through the winter is a lot more challenging today than it used to be because of varoa mites and a couple of diseases that were not previously an issue. And I have discovered colleagues at work who also have hives and can advise me on any locality-specific information, rules etc. I received some good advice from them already.

Since inhabiting the hive two weeks ago, the bees have gone from collecting only nectar, to collecting about 80% nectar and 20% pollen this morning. This looks promising for brood rearing.

I will report on a first look inside the hive (will be subject of a post in the beginner section of this forum).
 
I got started with beekeeping in the same way.
In Italy the difficult bit is getting the bees through July and August. There are no flowers so the bees rely on stored honey. Feed them syrup if necessary and make sure they have access to clean water. Good luck.
 
I got started with beekeeping in the same way.
In Italy the difficult bit is getting the bees through July and August. There are no flowers so the bees rely on stored honey. Feed them syrup if necessary and make sure they have access to clean water. Good luck.
Yes water, my girls love hanging out in my pebble laden paint roller tray in the afternoons, quite surprising how much they consume
 
Hi there, I'm in the grand est. Got some bees a few years ago and now have three hives. I'm more of a Laissez faire type of bee keeper. You'll be surprised how robust they can be.

I have the dadant hives as well. I put a piece of corrugated metal on the top in summer and a wrap in the winter. Just to protect from heat and cold. We're a bit colder in the mountains than where you are. I Asked a friend 'Jean Marie' to be my mentor for a year or so. Maybe you could do the same it'll smooth things along. Good luck.
 
The bees mentioned above are now in a "frankenhive", Dadant above, Warre below. They are building new comb in the Warre and appear very happy. Lime blossom is out (silver lime) and their numbers are increasing steadily.

I obtained a second swarm today, 5 Dadant frames from a split. Also Buckfast type, which is fine by me. These, I've had to put in a Dadant10, which I reduced to 8 frames using insulation as spacers. I need to figure out how to get them into a Warre too, but not right away. I'll give them time to adjust to their new location and make sure everything is fine first.

What is complicated is predicting the honey flow for the next month in this location. It is about to get really hot after a relatively cold start to the summer. There is a field of sunflowers about 100 m away, which should open soon. There is a lot of chestnut in bloom at 1 km. And blackberry is still in bloom in places.
 
The bees mentioned above are now in a "frankenhive", Dadant above, Warre below. They are building new comb in the Warre and appear very happy. Lime blossom is out (silver lime) and their numbers are increasing steadily.

I obtained a second swarm today, 5 Dadant frames from a split. Also Buckfast type, which is fine by me. These, I've had to put in a Dadant10, which I reduced to 8 frames using insulation as spacers. I need to figure out how to get them into a Warre too, but not right away. I'll give them time to adjust to their new location and make sure everything is fine first.

What is complicated is predicting the honey flow for the next month in this location. It is about to get really hot after a relatively cold start to the summer. There is a field of sunflowers about 100 m away, which should open soon. There is a lot of chestnut in bloom at 1 km. And blackberry is still in bloom in places.
Any rain there at the moment or forecast? Is there still moisture in the ground?
It looks an excellent climate there at this time of year although with the heat things might dry out too much perhaps. Average highs around 27 c and about mid sixties of rain?
 
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@monoenduro, I just put spare roof tiles on top of the hive to help shade them from direct sun. The flat tin roof was getting too hot to touch.

@Antipodes, It rained yesterday but I expect proper summer (30 degC) to arrive soon, which means every day sunny and very little rain through to September. This was one of the wettest starts to the summer that we ever experienced. Today, sunny and at 9:30 am the bees are out in numbers, probably getting high on the silver lime nectar, which must be nearing its end.
 
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