Bee Keeping @ComptonVerney 2013

So, with the season drawing to a close we’ve had a chat to our resident volunteer beekeeper, Rod Oates, for a review of the season.

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Beekeeping was introduced to Compton Verney at the end of April this year with the purchase of a nucleus – essentially a small colony of bees consisting of five frames on which there was a queen, some brood and worker bees. This nucleus was placed in a wooden hive situated to the west of the grounds.

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The bees settled into their new home but the poor weather soon triggered them to swarm, leaving a relatively small number of bees in the hive along with a young queen. However, as soon as the summer weather arrived around the middle of May this queen started laying and the colony rapidly increased. At this time there was a great deal of activity outside the hive as the bees began actively foraging bringing in both nectar and pollen.

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These bees were hard workers and thanks to the good weather, soon started producing lots of honey. In late August we removed the surplus honey from the hive and after extraction yielded around 50 jars of honey.

Alongside this thriving hive, we wanted to introduce a second. The plan was to catch a swarm but due to the weather pattern in the early part of the season very few bees actually swarmed this year. So, a second nucleus was very kindly donated to us in late July. However, this was a bit too late in the season for the bees to expand their numbers sufficiently. We felt that a smaller colony may not survive the winter so we have united that colony with the stronger one in the first hive. This way we give the stronger colony the best chance of surviving the winter months.

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Hopefully next summer we will manage to take a swarm but failing that a nucleus can be developed from the first colony.

Either way. it is fantastic that from our first season we have (or rather, our bees have) produced 50 jars of Compton Verney Honey. We will be auctioning the first five jars at our auction evening on 12th October. Honey has been described as liquid gold so lets hope we manage to draw in some high bids!

Post contributed by Tanya Weaver, our beekeeping volunteer blogger.

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Note from editor:

The response from visitors and staff to our bee keeping activity this year has been really encouraging, and to illustrate, our bee related blog posts are the highest visited posts this season to date. I hope the hives continue to thrive, and would hope at some stage to find additional funds to consider a third hive – possibly more!

I’d like to thank Rod, Val and Tanya for their hard work this year. It is thanks to their efforts, knowledge and support that we finally have buzzing hives at Compton Verney. Thanks also to all readers of our posts – do feel free to comment on the blog or ask questions, and maybe enter your email address to receive occasional updates from the grounds team.

Gary Webb, Head of Landscape and Gardens

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