Posts Tagged ‘bee hives’

ATTEMPT BY RAT TO ACCESS BEE HIVE – 2nd wk in January 2014

Checking to see if a rat had gained access to the bee hive. The wire mesh floor had halted the rat - for now!

Checking to see if a rat had gained access to the bee hive. The wire mesh floor had halted the rat – for now!

I guess from a rat’s point of view, the honey stores in a bee hive, are a very attractive potential food source in the depths of winter. This only became immediately apparent the other day when Áine spotted a freshly gnawed part of the wooden frame on which the bee hive sits. The plastic inspection board which was previously under the mesh wire floor of the hive had been dislodged and was on the ground with tell-tale teeth marks in one corner.

A closer inspection was required so the bee suit was donned. No sign of a hole in the hive itself. Thankfully the cedar wood from which the brood box is constructed is one of the harder woods, but rats don’t give up. I’m thinking inverted flower pots on each leg of the wooden support frame which keeps the brood box off the ground might deter the climbing rats, or mice for that matter.

Meanwhile, if this is a problem you have encountered, I’d be interested to know if you have any suggestions to prevent rats getting access to a bee hive. Comments in reply to this post would be much appreciated.



School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid's School hens.

School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid’s School hens.

I was very impressed after speaking to Dundrum GIY group in the Goat, Goatstown, recently, to then be brought by local GIY Champion, Shane Maher, to see a famous school garden in Stillorgan nearby. Teacher Caroline Jolly has been the inspirational driving force behind developing this educational oasis. Caroline is a protégé of Marino Institute of Education lecturer, Paddy Madden, author of  ‘Go Wild at School’.

The grown-up community helps the students, especially during the school holidays in keeping St. Brigid’s  School Garden looking great all year round. Daily attention is needed also for the hens. Food and water for the hens is one responsibility, but so is protecting poultry from the increasingly brazen foxes in this suburban environment. Amazingly, a honeybee brood box was set up empty and after  a few months a swarm took up residence in the midst of the wildflower meadow. Seeds for this wildlife oasis came from in Scariff, Co. Clare.

It is important to also appreciate the legacy of fertility which underpins the thriving nature of this school garden. The site was before now part of the Rectory garden for St. Brigid’s Church of Ireland in Stillorgan. A previous Rector kept a couple of donkeys there in years gone by. Geoff, Caroline’s uncle and godfather and Patsy who also works in the school garden, expressed their appreciation for all the fertility which the donkeys bequeathed to the present generation of young horticulturalists. Good fertility and soil structure is being maintained now by a fine three bay composting system which decomposes a diverse mixture of plant matter and poultry poo.

My sincere thanks to Caroline and crew for the very kind bottle of elderflower champagne, old coffee grinds for deterring slugs and the finest of St. Brigid’s hens’ eggs. One of the bigger eggs had a delicious double yoke. Congratulations to Shane and all at Dundrum GIY for all their work in lending a hand whenever required in this wonderfully inspirational outdoor living classroom.


The surviving colony of healthy well tempered bees housed last August as a swarm captured by John.

The surviving colony of healthy well tempered bees housed last August as a swarm captured by John.

With some trepidation, myself and beekeeping mentor friend, John Holland, approached my two hives in our friend Carmel’s garden to see how the two hives had survived the winter. The temperature outside was about 16 degrees centigrade and the day was fine. It is generally not a good idea to open a hive for any length when the temperature is below 15c as the bees get dangerously chilled. However back in January, I had briefly lifted the lid to place flat bags of fondant on top of the frames so the bees would have some food to survive the very long winter. This was intended to supplement their own winter stores.

One hive was active, the other dead. When we opened the quiet one, the remains of a bee cluster were to be seen. The small size of the cluster suggests there were too few bees to maintain the 37 degree standard temperature of the hive, so essentially they died of the cold. They had hardly touched the fondant I have placed in the hive, so they were too weak even to feed it seems. There were many signs of chalk brood as well, so the brood box and frames will need to be sterilized so all parts are disease free before a new colony can be given a home there.

The other hive was a total contrast. It shows good signs of a young fertile queen as larvae were prolific. In fact the brood box seemed to be quite full of bees. Immediately, we put on a queen excluder and a super on top of the brood box and queen excluder. This super of frames will give the bees space to put the honey ‘up in the attic’ so to speak. This will leave more room in the brood box for the queen to lay eggs and breed more bees. Had I not put on a super, there is a risk that the lack of space might have caused swarming. There is no guarantee the bees are not thinking of swarming so each week from now on, I must make time to examine this healthy hive. If it is growing fast enough to split, then I will have an empty brood box now to house the new swarm. We live in hope!