HF Holidays' Bee Heroes

HF Hero Bee Keeping

BEEcome an HF Hero and help us to save the bees!

The bees are in trouble so we need a hero, could that be you?

Honey bee colonies are vanishing, they’ve lost 97% of their natural habitats already and pests have brought diseases they can’t fight off on their own.

Without bees, there’d be no honey, no fruit, and no vegetables! Bees are key to the survival of our fruit and vegetables as they pollinate them (carry pollen from one flower to another) to help them grow.

Here at HF Holidays, we’re doing our bit to help. Working with local beekeepers, we’ve set up hives in the grounds of our country houses at Selworthy, Freshwater Bay, Derwent Bank and Abingworth and now you can help too.

Kids on our family walking adventures will also get a FREE pack of HF Bee seeds containing a selection of wildflower seeds that our bees just love! When you get home, plant the contents of this pack in a pot, window box or flower bed and join the fight for our bees!

Take photos, keep a diary and share your stories with us at #hfbees.

Where can you see the HF Bees?

You can come and see the bees (but don't get too close) on a family holiday at:

Freshwater Bay House
Derwent Bank

The HF Beekeeper

HF BeekeeperLet us introduce you to our very own HF Beekeeper. Just like you, he's doing his bit to protect our bees and help them thrive. Each week, he'll update you on his own hive, and how many bees he's seen - can you beat him with the count? Let us know!

Me and my bees

Hi, I'm the HF Beekeeper and each week I'll be updating you on how my hive is getting on. But first I need to give you a bit of a catch up as the Beekeeping season kicked off early April.

HF Holidays Beekeeping hiveIt all started with building a hive, ready take to a local apiary (a place where lots of beekeepers keep their hives) so it's there when the new colony of bees move in. There are two main bits - the big box at the bottom is called a Brood Box and is where the colony of bees lives with the queen, the box on top is called a Super is where the bees store their (delicious to us) honey.

I keep my hive at a small apiary on the edge of some woodland. As well as being a safe distance from any public footpaths, the area was also abundant with foraging material for the bees to make themselves at home.

HF Holidays New BeesIn April I introduced a colony of over-wintered honey bees to their new hive hoping that in the next few months the hive would be filled up with happy, well-tempered bees - the idea is to not get stung after all!

Known as a "hive mind" the bees work as a colony - the honey bee doesn't do well without the rest of the colony and will die without them. Each hive has one queen bee who is the mother to all the bees in the hive (up to 80,000 at the height of summer). If the colony gets too big the bees will create another queen and the hive will swarm (more about swarms later), which means half the bees will leave the hive and go in search of somewhere else to live, taking half the honey stores with them (not something a beekeeper wants to happen). It takes 9 days for bees to create a queen larva and another 8 days for the queen to develop and hatch. This is why beekeepers have to check their hives each week to look for "queen cells".

Other things to look our for are young brood (larvae) and eggs, so you know your queen is healthy. The queen herself is longer and slimmer than other worker bees (when I see mine I'll mark her so she's easier to spot and share a photo with you - so far she's playing hard to get). We also check for any signs of disease nd, of course, the all important store of honey!

Hf Holidays bees beekeeping hive inspectionHere we're checking our hives, you can see the large frames of wax where the bees make their home.

Worker honey bees only live for about 4 weeks so it's vital for the survival of the colony that new bees are being born all through the summer months. I've already mentioned that there is only one queen. When she is first born she leaves the hive for the only time in her life to make a new home with a new family.

She lays tiny eggs that look like grains of rice in the wax cells in the hive. When the egg develops into a larva, the worker bees then feed it pollen, nectar, and honey and seal the cell until it's time for a new bee to emerge.

In my final photo for now, you can see the capped over cells. But can you see the new baby bee?

HF Holidays Bees Beekeeping HF Hero


HF Bees Honey hfheroYes the bees have been bussy and the first Super on the hive is full of honey. You can see all the capped off honeycomb cells in the photo. This will have to be spun out soon the extract the honey before it chrystallises in the comb. A very messy and sticky job which we'll probably do next week - I'll keep you informed.

The weather is supposed to turn a bit wet and cold in the coming week so, when the sun comes out again, keep any eye open for bees in your garden, their hives are full of youngsters and they'll be needing to replenish their supplies of food.

Finaly for this week. Did you spot the baby bee coming out it it's cell in the photo above? Here she is...

HF Bees young be hfhero

HF Holidays Bees Beekeeping HF HeroGrumpy bees

The bees were not in a good mood this weekend. I was stung as soon as I arrived at the apiery and later in the afternoon while I was helping someone with their hive 3 or 4 bees managed to get inside my veil and I ended up going home with a bit of a fat lip :0(

Why were they in such a bad mood? A combination of wet and windy weather during the week which meant they couldn't get out to forage and what is know as the June Gap had resulted in a lack of food and when bees can't find pollen and nectar to take back to the hive they get grumpy.

The June Gap comes as trees such as Horse Chestnut and wild flowers such as Dandelion and Blackberry's stop flowering which results in a drop in the nectar flow. During this time bees are reliant on the flowers growing in peoples gardens. So it is REALLY IMPORTANT, if you've been on a HF Holidays Family Adventure, that you plant your Bee Seeds.

In July shrubs and trees such as Lime come into flower to help the bees gather enough food for winter.

Hopefully we'll have some better weather this week and they'll be in a better mood when I next visit.

Back to the subject of stings. If you are stung by a bee take sit down and take it easy, don't panic. If you can see the sting flick it out don't try to pick it out. If you do this you may end up squeezing more poison in. If you can take a couple of antihistamines. Don't try and do anything too energetic for half an hour or so until you know you feel okay. If you start to feel faint or numb or out of breath get someone to take you to hospital straight away - you may be alergic to bee stings, in very serious cases you may go into anaphylatic shock. But remember bees will only sting you if they think they are under threat. Unlike wasps, if they sting you they die so they will only sting as a last resort. If you are watching bees in your garden it is very unlikely they will hurt you.

Hungry bees

Well the bees seemed a lot happer this weekend. The same couldn't be said out the beekeepers - 30 degrees in a bee suit is not comfortable!

The main concern at the moment is food supply. Friends of the Earth have reported that wild bee colonies have been found that are starving due to lack of food. I took along a feeder and some sugar syrup just in case but my colony seemed to be fine. I'm a bit concerned by the amont of young brood. There is young brood and capped cess where the young develop in to bees but not as much as I think there should bee. I'll have to see what next weekend brings.


Comb in Super Uncapping Comb 
Spinning Honey on tap Honey

I wasn't the only one trying to get some work done in the garden between rain storms

Big Bussy Bee

Getting ready for winter

Well there's not much happening at the moment. As we come to the end of the Beekeeping year I have to treat the Bees for the Varroa Mite. The Varroa Mite is a parasitic mite that attacks Honey Bee brood - the young aphids that haven't yet becoem a bee. It attaches to the body of the bee and weakens the bee causing viruses such as deformed wing virus.

A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a colony.

The Varroa mite is the parasite with the most pronounced impact on beekeeping and may be a contributing factor to colony collapse disorder.

You cannot get rid of the Varroa Mite but you can reduce its numbers by treating with a "miticide", basially a poison that affects the mites but not the bees. The miticide is added to a sugar mixture and placed at the top of the hive, other than the main enterance the hive is sealed, the bees take the treatment down into the brood where it become a gas that kills the mite. Treatment takes 4 weeks so I won't be able to check on my ladies for a while. 

Meanwhile food is becoming scarce as the nectar flow comes to an end adn without any supers on the hive (due to Varroa treatment) the bees will be getting hungry and the hive could be attacked by bees from another colony searching for food. To try and protect my bees I've reduced the size of the entrance to the hive so they can better defend their food supplies if they are attacked.

I'll be giving the a good feed once Varroa is over.

hf beesMeanwhile I've been storing and labeling my honey.

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