Beekeeping at Dudmaston

Beekeeper at Dudmaston

Volunteer beekeeper Alison looks after the four bee hives on the estate. She keeps us updated on the bees' activities and their welfare.

Jobs in the apiary

At this time of year, Alison has lots of jobs to do. Due to a lack of pollen and nectar, she is always checking for starvation amongst the colonies. It's most likely for bees to suffer from starvation in late June as spring flowers are over and summer flowers are yet to bloom.

Queen bees lay more eggs in the summertime so there's more mouths to feed. Alison feeds syrup to colonies that seem low on food stores.

Most recently Alison has been checking on the apairy to make sure that the bees aren't preparing to swarm. The colonies naturally want to multiply, and as a consequence, swarming can occur. The old queen leaves the hive with half of the colony, approximately 25,000 bees! And back in the hive, the bees are busy raising new queens, who in turn may swarm again or just one will remain, get mated, then continue with the resident bees.

Alison has also been checking that the queen bee has plenty of room in the brood chamber so she can lay lots of eggs in the hive. Sometimes the bees store too much nectar and pollen in the chamber so the beekeeper adds what's called a 'super' which is a store room for nectar.

Can you spot the queen? Look out for the blue dot.
A frame of bees from one of the hives at Dudmaston
Can you spot the queen? Look out for the blue dot.

How are the bees doing?

Alison is pleased to report that our four colonies are doing well but each one has it's own level of progression. We have two are large colonies, one medium and one small on the estate. Unless anything major happens within the next month or so, Alison will leave the bees as four separate colonies over the winter. If a colony becomes queenless so late in the summer, she would unite two together, as one large colony has better chance of survival than two smaller, weaker ones.

Honey extraction

It won't be long before Alison can extract some honey from the bee hives. We haven't had bees on the estate for very long, so this year will be the first time we can see what Dudmaston honey looks, and hopefully tastes like.

During the springtime the bees at Dudmaston benefited from locally grown Rapeseed for pollen and nectar.  Whilst Alison was pleased they had access to this, the nectar stored granulates very quickly within the comb, meaning any honey extracted can turn solid.