In April 2016 Standen’s General Manager decided to re-introduce bee-keeping at Standen. Margaret Beale kept an apiary in the orchard which extended far beyond the current orchards boundaries. (Margaret and James Beale were the original owners of Standen). The funding was initially through the National Trust with the aim that long term, the apiary would be self-sufficient. A group of 14 volunteers started training to learn about bee-keeping. Our initial course was for one year under the tutelage of Rick who was a very experienced bee-keeper. For the first few months we had to clean very old equipment, throw away lots of damaged items etc. We were eventually able to create two WBC hives (they have wooden internal brood boxes and supers with separate external lifts). We also purchased two ‘Buckfast Queen Bees’, one unfortunately died but the other now resides in ‘Pear’ hive which is now a lovely calm busy hive. The second hive ‘Lavender’ had an old queen who managed to survive through the winter of 2016. Regretfully, the two hives suffered with varroa disease during the winter months and although treated we did lose some bees.
It was with much sadness that Rick passed away before Christmas 2016, but he was very instrumental in starting up the bee group and also introduced us to Nick who took over as our trainer with great enthusiasm.
A fresh start – our bee group now consists of eight regular members who meet Wednesday mornings, training is provided by Nick and Steve (Steve lectures on bee-keeping). During the year some of the things we have learnt are:
- How to make supers and brood frames (for honey and queen bee to lay eggs in)
- How to build a hive, what equipment is needed and how to maintain it
- How to manage some types of disease
- How to make a ‘smoker’ used for inspecting hives (keeps bees calm)
- How to inspect hives and ensure the bees have everything they need to grow and survive throughout the year
- What reporting is required (as an apiary we could be inspected and have to provide reports of hive activity which also ensures all bee-keepers are informed of each hives status)
- How to grow hives via queen cell transference and other methods
- How to create a nuc (the start of a new colony of bees)
- What to do in a swarm (although we have not yet caught one!!)
How to look after bees during the winter and bad weather to ensure the colony’s survive (regretfully we did lose a hive due to a sudden change of weather and the bees did not have enough honey to survive a week without additional feed. The hive died – a very painful lesson was learnt by us all)
It has been a very exciting year for all of us. The old queen bee in Lavender died and the whole hive was in danger of dying without new brood/eggs so we provided a frame with young uncapped larvae on from ‘Pear’ hive and hoped the bees would create a new queen cell (an emergency queen). The bees actually created six queen cells. One Wednesday during our inspections, we actually watched two queens being born which is very rare. We decided to keep one queen in Lavender hive and the second queen bee we caught to create our first nuc to start a new bee colony – this is now Cherry nuc. We did the same again to create ‘Fig’ nuc. From the original queen in Pear hive she now has two daughter queen bees in Fig and Cherry. A nuc is a small starter home to enable beekeepers to start a new colony of bees or where a swarm of bees can be placed if the swarm is not large enough for a whole hive. Pear, Fig and Cherry are all now producing lots of brood and eventually as the nucs grow, honey will be made by the bees too as the nucs expand.
Nick then donated a new colony of bees which were placed in Apple hive. This colony was our ‘angry hive’. The bees often stung us during inspections and the hive has been fraught with problems (disease etc). However the bees have recently created a new queen and over the past few weeks the hive has been much calmer and new brood has been seen – it is assumed that the original queen may have died or left the hive which caused the bees to be so stressful.
Steve has kindly donated two new nucs containing Corniolan bees (originating from Eastern Europe). These are thriving nucs and have been called Apricot and Plum. The different breed of bee should strengthen the Standen apiary in the long term although their temperament is very different from the calm Buckfast bees!
As at July 2017 we have a total of seven nucs and hives in habitation at Standen and only one spare empty hive for a possible swarm of bees. We have almost reached our maximum capacity by creating our own new colonies and by very kind donations from Nick and Steve.
Whilst the Standen bee-keepers have learnt a lot during the past 7 months, (we are still novices) there is still a lot more to learn about disease, how to harvest honey, how to keep hives alive through winter etc etc. Eventually when we feel experienced enough, we hope to provide small talks/displays of our activities to visitors to Standen. But that is likely to be in another year………..
Our eight hives are called Pear, Apple, Cherry, Fig, Apricot, Plum, Quince and Lavender. The Lavender hive used to be located in the Kitchen Garden on the original water pump base surrounded by Lavender plants.
Jane & Richard