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Bee diary

Finn McMullan studies at home and keeps bees in his hive The Golden Arrow

Finn McMullan studies at home and keeps bees in his hive The Golden Arrow

Finn McMullan wrote up his diary for 2013 for us to read.

Diary of a Bee Kid

Hi, I am Finn McMullan and I am now 11 years old. I am from Northern Ireland and I live in the countryside. I had one hive called the Golden Arrow and added another hive this summer called the Golden Eagle. I am a beginner at beekeeping.

Last entry. Autumn 2013

Finn 1 Nov diary

Varroa Treatment

Almost every day my mum and I went to our apiary to count the varroa. Once a week for four weeks, I put in a new square of Apilife Var. When I added up all of my varroa for the season, my total was 310 for the Golden Arrow and 37 for the Golden Eagle. I’m a lot happier because last year the Golden Arrow dropped 1585.


All month I have been feeding my bees syrup at night. When we go to buy the sugar from Lidl everyone stares at us because we have 32 bags of it. We have to explain that we have bees. I probably won’t be feeding them anymore because I think they are strong enough to survive the winter. Finn 3 Nov diary

Comber & District Horticultural Society

Today I cleaned my wax cappings so I could enter the honey show. After the wax had melted, I poured it into the mould. Next I decided what honey I should enter for the tasting and the display. That night my dad and I went to the honey show to drop off the honey and the wax. The next day I went there and the first thing I saw was a card saying that I was 3rd in the tasting and then I saw I got 1st place in the wax. A big box of jars was my prize. Yea! Unfortunately this will be my last diary. I don’t have too much to write about because my girls are all snuggling up for the winter. I hope everyone enjoyed my diary as much as I did. Happy Beekeeping!



Finn McMullan (10), gained his FIBKA Preliminary Certificate of Proficiency in Beekeeping at the Gormanston conference.

Finn McMullan (10), gained his FIBKA Preliminary Certificate of Proficiency in Beekeeping at the Gormanston conference.

22-7-2013 – Gormanston

My mum and I went to Gormanston to learn more about bees for the 5 day conference. I thought the lectures were too long and there were so many of them, but mum thought they were fabulous. While we were there, we got a microscope, a pollen identifier kit, lots of honey buckets and my new bee suit. One of the things I got to do was dissect a bee and it was the grossest thing I have ever done. On Thursday I took my preliminary exam, which was a written test and a colony inspection. The next day I found out that I had passed and I was given a certificate. I was over the moon!

26-7-13 – My New Queen

Last month my queen was missing and I think my virgin was eaten by a bird. Mum put a queen, from a different colony, into a Butler cage and introduced her. When we came home from Gormanston, she was accepted and she had 4 frames of brood. I am quite happy about that.

12-8-13 – Honey Extraction

Today I got to extract all of my honey from my colony. I wasn’t that good at uncapping, but I was alright at the spinning. After a while I got a bit bored, but tried not to show it. I collected 38 pounds of honey this year. I should have made a bit more if one of my colonies hadn’t swarmed. After the honey was taken off my colony, my queen had 10 frames of brood. Now, all I have to do is feed them and put a varroa treatment on. Since I don’t like honey, I am going to sell it all. I should get around 50 jars, which I’ll sell for £5.00 each. If anyone wants to buy some of my honey, just email Mellissa Bee!



FOUR supers - it's taller than me!

FOUR supers – it’s taller than me!

JULY This was the swarmiest month I have experienced in all my life, although this is only my second year of bee keeping. Both my colonies tried to swarm this month. The Golden Arrow is taller than me now because I had to put a double brood box on her to swarm prevent and I had four supers on.

12-7-13 – Dead

I was away in Spain with a friend and mum rang me to say my old queen was gone. She had disappeared and is presumed dead. Waaa!

18-7-13 – A New Queen

I’m still in Spain and mum called again to say that my virgin queen was gone. I’m upset! My bees are going to die if they don’t get a new queen soon. Mum put a spare mated queen into a Butler Cage and introduced her into the colony. I’m hoping that they don’t kill this queen as well.

21-7-13 – The Golden Eagle

My other colony now has 9 frames of brood and two supers. However she has queen cells so we have to prevent her swarming by using the Snelgrove Board.

22-7-13 – Federation of Irish Beekeepers

Today I am heading off to Gormanston in Co Meath to learn more about bees at their summer course for a week. On Thursday I am going to do my Preliminary Beekeeping Exam and hopefully I shall pass.

a plastic artificial queen cell base.

What you see is a plastic artificial queen cell base, Finn showing us that the new queen has emerged.

1-7-13 – Introducing a New Queen Cell

The Golden Arrow tried to swarm again – how irritating! I knocked down all the queen cells and gave them a new queen cell from the Belfast Bee Keepers Queen Rearing Group. I put my old queen in another brood box on top of the hive with a Snelgrove board. Three days later, I looked in the cell to find the new queen had already emerged.

24-6-13 – Nosema

AFBI rang to tell me the test results we sent them last month. They told me the Golden Arrow had no acarine, but has light nosema. I am a little unhappy that I still have nosema.


Drones tickle! They have no sting, so this is safe.

Drones tickle! They have no sting, so this is safe.

I love drones!

They are cute and they cannot sting. I put a drone on my cheek and he crawled around and he tickled me like crazy!

5-6-13 – Queen Marking

Today my mum and I marked the Golden Eagle and gave her a full size brood box, because she was mated. My mum caught the queen in the crown of thorns and I marked her blue, (even though I know that the colour for 2013 is red) because it is one of my favourite colours.

Hiving a swarm.

Hiving a swarm.

6-6-13 – Swarm Spotting

I get a fiver; I get a fiver! I was in the apiary and I heard a huge number of bees buzzing in the air. It’s a swarm! I ran to get mum, then I followed them to see them hanging in a small beech tree. It was mum’s favourite colony. She swarmed because mum had splodged a big red dot on her back and wings accidentally when she tried to mark her, because the last dot was cleaned off. Mum cried! I told her to pray to God that the bees would supersede her, but unfortunately they swarmed. I found it, so I get paid a fiver.

Finn's empty queen cell

Finn with the queen cell

12-6-13 – Missing Queen

While we were inspecting my colony, we couldn’t find my queen. I asked mum could we go over it again to make sure she was there, because there weren’t any eggs and we spotted a queen cell in the centre of a frame. Mum noticed a lot of bees underneath the floor. We poked around for a while and eventually, I saw a big red dot on the queen’s back. We put her back into the brood box and knocked down the queen cell.

14-6-13 – Freezing Bees

A few days ago mum and I had to put 30 bees in the freezer, because we need to send them today to AFBI to check for nosema and acarine.

19-6-13 – Supersedure

During today’s inspection, we found another supersedure cell. My queen had 6 frames of brood laid, so I told mum to knock down the queen cell (but she didn’t!). I was very disappointed. I don’t want them to replace her, because she is one of the best queens in the apiary for making honey. She has three supers already!


Found the queen

Found the queen

1 May 2013 – Bailey Frame Change

Today while inspecting my colony to do the Bailey frame change, I found my queen and moved her into my new poly hive. Last Christmas day, I was given a polystyrene bee hive by Santa. I hope she doesn’t swarm and that I get rid of the nosema. While I was trying to get the varroa board, I was stung by a bee from a different colony. I ran through the apiary like a maniac to put toothpaste on my arm – It helps. I also went on to Beebase to see how many Varroa I had in my colony. The bees dropped one Varroa in one week, so Beebase thought I only had 7 varroa in my entire colony. Yay!

11 May 2013 – A New Colony

My mum’s best colony made some queen cells, so I helped put one queen cell into a nuc with some frames of bees. She said that I could have it if she gets mated. I am naming it the Golden Eagle.

Checking the apiary

Checking the apiary

17 May 2013 – Swarm Spotting

Mum shouted, “FINN!”, so I ran to the apiary to find thousands of bees from her colony in the air. Mum told me to get my bee suit and a queen cage while she looked for the clipped queen in the grass. By the time I got back, mum had found the queen. We put her into a queen cage and put her into my pocket. After mum’s inspection, we moved the queen out of my pocket and into a nuc. I was bummed because every time I find a swarm, I get £5 but mum saw this one. Every day I go down the field to our bait hive to see if there is a swarm so I can get a fiver.

Bailey Frame change DONE

Bailey Frame change DONE

22 May 2013 – Swarm Prevention

Today we finished the Bailey Frame change, however my colony made some queen cells. We tried to prevent them swarming by using a Snelgrove board. I hope it works. I’ll tell you what happens next month.


First inspection on 16 April 2013

Today I had my first inspection and I got to use my new smoker. I won it in one of the B Kids’ competitions some time last year. My bees had 4 frames of brood, 3 frames of honey and I saw the queen. I couldn’t believe they had already started in the super. There were no signs of disease and they were taking down the syrup. They were calmer than normal, however I got 1 sting. I squashed the bee that stung me because I didn’t want her to suffer for three days with guts falling out of her abdomen.

Making frames can get boring!

Making frames can get boring!

Making frames on 17th & 18th April 2013

I made 11 brood frames because I need to do the Bailey frame change. The hammering was the fun part and luckily I didn’t smash my thumb. After two days, I eventually completed all 11 frames, but it seemed like it took forever and I became extremely bored.

Feeding the bees at night

I don’t feed the bees in the day because I had the experience of robbing last year. We fed them to give them a boost for the spring.

Bailey frame change on the 30 April 2013

I tried to do the Bailey frame change, but we could not find the queen because I used too much smoke. I wasn’t happy about that, but I had 6 and a half frames of brood. I probably will try again in a few days.

Slugs love seedlings! Photo - Thomas-Quaritsch

Slugs love seedlings!

Photo: Thomas-Quaritsch


I planted some poppies for my bees, but the slugs started to munch them for lunch. I’m going to convince mum to not to re-queen my colony, because I think she is a nice queen. I might go down the hill, where our apiary is, with no gloves on to prove my queen is friendly. If I do, I will let you know how it goes.



May 5 – First sting of the season!

First sting of the season

First sting of the season

And there I was, minding my own business! Who says bees don’t sting unless we annoy them? This one hadn’t read the rule book. Applied Thorne’s brilliant after sting lotion (sadly, no longer available) and the pain vanished immediately.

My one remaining colony doing well. Lots of pollen going in, all different shades of yellow, from almost white to deep gold. Must check in my pollen guide to see which flowers they have been visiting.


April 14th

At last, a warm and sunny day. Perfect for having a swift look through my hives, even though the bees will not like the strong winds today.

No brood to speak of, but two hatched queen cells.

No brood to speak of, but two hatched queen cells.

The first colony, in my blue hive, seemed very small. I worked through the frames and began to get quite worried. No brood at all, so no laying queen in the hive for at least three weeks. I did find two hatched queen cells, in the centre of one comb (see pic). I think I may have a virgin queen in this hive and she has no chance of being mated as there are no drones around yet and she only has a short time – 10 days – to be mated. I will either have to unite them with a queen right colony or buy in another queen, which is going to be difficult as there are no queens ready for sale as yet. Uniting seems to be the way forward, then in May I can make a split and have two colonies once more!

Lots of brood - a "queen right" colony.

Lots of brood – a “queen right” colony.

The red hive next door had many more bees and I quickly found worker brood in all stages, including eggs. Hurrah! A colony with a laying queen.

March 31st, 2013

Easter Day and still VERY cold.



Poor bees, they have been unable to fly for what seems like weeks. There are not many flowers blooming in this cold wind either so no nectar or pollen for them even if they could fly! Because of this, I have bought some pollen substitute for the first time ever and given each colony a good supply.

Noticed a problem with the blue hive today. Several dead bees beginning to block the mouseguard on the entrance. A few is normal but I have removed about 20 from the entrance to the hive. There are also one or two streaks of diarrhoea to be seen. I suspect nosema infection, though it appears slight at the moment. This happens when the bees are confined to the hive for several weeks in bad weather so not surprising that it is happening now.

Pollen patty and warm sugar syrup with 'Vitafeed Gold' in place

Pollen patty and warm sugar syrup with ‘Vitafeed Gold’ in place

What to do? I plan to feed warm sugar syrup and give both colonies Vitafeed Gold. If I do nothing, the bees will suffer, especially if this cold weather continues. Feeding syrup when it is so cold is a risk as the bees may not be able to fly to ‘go to the toilet’, and they will certainly need to, but the forecast for the end of this week is warmer, so fingers crossed!

March blossom is very welcome

March blossom is very welcome

March 21st – Spring at last!

A biting cold wind today, snow is forecast and the temperature is only 1deg C but this flowering fruit tree is bravely offering my bees pollen and nectar. Pity that it is too cold for the bees to fly to collect it! Must check the candy feeder on the hives and give more candy if necessary.

Mid-March 2013

This late very cold spell could be serious for bees in the UK as the queen may stop laying as they go into the winter cluster once more. Any brood may be left without a covering of bees and will become chilled and die.

Also, because the queen has slowed down or stopped her egg laying, there will not be enough bees born in time to take advantage of the oilseed rape spring crop which is the mainstay of the honey harvest for both bees and beekeepers in many areas. The old bees will just die of old age as they can’t last much longer.

Problems, problems!


February 2013

Yes, we got a glimpse of sunny warm weather.

Drowned bees

Drowned bees

Bees are dying because they are drowning in the gutter while trying to get water. They used to get water from my door mat but, since it dried out, they have chosen the gutter instead!

Floating twigs make a raft for the bees to land on.

Floating twigs make a raft for the bees to land on.

How to save them – add a raft of sticks! NB. Must make sure I add a wire mesh screen to the gutter down pipe so that it doesn’t get blocked if the sticks wash down when it rains. Must also check the sticks after rain to make sure they are still there. It might be a good idea to set up a water source fairly near the hives that will not dry out or drown the bees and will not cause them to fly across our pathways to reach it!

My bees are flying about in the February sunshine

My bees are flying in the February sunshine

The apiary: lots of bees flying in the sunshine from both colonies. Good to see after all the cold weather this month! NB. Must check the mouseguards, make sure they aren’t getting blocked and remove them next month.’

A lovely sunny day for my bees on the aubretia

A lovely sunny day for my bees on the aubretia

web-bee-on-aubretia         A bee on the aubretia, gathering nectar and/or pollen. Will have to check what they get from aubretia.

Had a peep inside the hive

Had a peep inside the hive

This is all that is left of a 1/2 kilo block of candy added 2 weeks ago. The bees are hungry and the hive feels light. The queen is beginning to lay and the brood nest will be expanding. There are a lot of mouths to feed. Because the weather is cold, the bees cannot fly every day in search of food (there aren’t many flowers to visit right now either!), so it is ESSENTIAL that I feed the bees NOW. Added more candy today. NB. Feed a light sugar syrup next week.

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