Amgueddfa Cymru


On the 5th June undeterred by his previous stinging incident Nigel ventured up to the rooftop hives, this time accompanied by Sally.  The weather was much better for this visit, a nice sunny warm day with temperatures about 17 °C and very light winds.  The pair started checking the hives, the weaker colony was its usual slightly depressed self, it was noted that there were reserves of honey and a reasonable number of capped brood on the central frames of the hive. The beekeepers went through the frames one at a time and inspected the bees and despite there being far fewer bees in this hive the queen couldn’t be spotted! She’s unmarked and really quite a small queen bee compared to our other one, so it’s not unsurprising that she’s hard to spot even if there are only a few bees!

The strong colony was thriving and incredibly busy as usual. The small frames in the super are getting heavy with honey and some of the frames are almost full and the bees are sealing them with a cap of wax. Looking through the large Deep National brood box frames it was clear that there were more queen cells being produced. Sally and Nigel removed 11 cells – some which were definitely queen cells and some others were suspect drone or play cells (cells where the bees test building queen cups but never lay any eggs), clearly our bees are intent on producing a new queen but why? Queen cups/cells can be several different types: Emergency Queen Cells- produced when the queen is dead or lost; Swarm Cells, produced around the bottom of the frames and are completely vertical and lastly and the type we seem to have most of, are Supersedence Cells. These long vertical cells are produced mid frame on the face of the comb. The intention of these cells is to produce a replacement queen, usually when the existing queen is old or is running out of sperm. Really there should be no need to remove these Supersedence cells but with a young queen, bred last year, and lots of healthy brood being produced, removal of these cells seems like a wise precaution. In the next few weeks we’ll be bringing our bee keeping mentors from Natures Little Helpers to advise on how best to deal with them in the long term. 

There was more pain for Nigel this inspection, although he was wearing a smock and veil over the top half of his body he only had thin suit flannel trousers on!

Over many of the past inspections it has seemed like the bees are preferentially attracted to or angered by male beekeepers. The guys have been stung with far greater frequency than our female beekeepers. This time Nigel must have really aggravated them – he was stung 6 times through his thin trousers! Six times! That must have really hurt- I bet there was some choice language used!

The first ever National Meadows Day is tomorrow, Saturday 4th July. You may have noticed National Museum Cardiff now has an Urban Meadow on the east side by the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre. It gives us a fantastic new outdoor learning space where just a lawn used to be. Check out our programme of events based around the meadow in What's On.

Our Urban Meadow with the bee hives on the roof is a positive approach by the museum to increase pollinators within Cardiff and are funded entirely through landfill tax. Meadows on our other museum sites help pollinators throughout Wales. With a no dig, no chemical policy, as well as introducing plants and seeds from Flora Locale recommended suppliers, we are following sustainable principles. 

Children have used the Urban Meadow to start investigating the natural world, children who may not otherwise have visited a museum. The next event is ‘Family Fun in the Meadow’ on Saturday 11th July: Help our OPAL scientist to survey the bug life in our urban meadow and learn to be a botanical illustrator. See the What’s On guide for further information

You can find further information and links to events for National Meadow Day on the Plantlife webpages

Also you can follow the Twitter hashtag: #magnificentmeadowsday

By Sally Whyman and Kath Slade

Have you been keeping up to date with our Museum Bee Keeper's diary? Well here is the latest installment of how our bees are getting on:

With a trip to the US meaning I couldn't keep tabs on the bees for three weeks, the other beekeepers are pressed into service to look after the hives. It’s good to know that everything is in safe hands while I’m away, plus my absence gives some of the others a chance to have bit more “bee time”.  In the weeks prior to my departure our strong colony was looking very full of bees, with numerous queen cups having been removed and there being a large number of drones (males) in the hive. We knew that there was always a possibility of swarming and in an attempt to curtail this I’d asked my fellow keepers to keep a close eye on the hives and to check regularly as we can’t risk having a new virgin queen hatch.

On the 22nd May, Catalena and Nigel went to check the hives, here is her report:

"Nigel and I went up to see the bees today, It was an overcast day, not raining and not that windy really and the temperature was about 14 degrees. The strong colony was REALLY full of bees and very busy, there were also LOTS of queen cells being made. We removed SIX active queen cells, 2 of which were much longer than the others. Maybe the other 4 were 'suspect dome shaped Drone cells'. There were also lots more empty queen cells (more than 6 others) which I crushed with the hive tool. The hive is just so full we feel sure that swarming is inevitable. There are lots of drones and drone cells too. We considered moving another frame of brood over to the quieter hive, which would be a good idea but decided to leave that for another visit. We cycled the frames in the super, moving the emptier ones to the middle. We spotted the queen with her big green spot on her back, she nearly crawled out of the hive but we spotted her and we were about to catch here when she turned around and crawled back in.

The less productive hive is still very quiet although there were still bees flying out and bringing back pollen. We took the lid off the hive to have a closer look but didn't disturb anything. There is still lots of syrup/honey in the contact feeder and the bees are still using it, so we left it in the hive.

We checked the new hive with the swarm lure inside but unfortunately it is still empty.

On an eventful note, Nigel got stung on the calf by a bee that crawled up his trouser leg! Not nice at all but Nigel can handle pain!  I think I would have cried if it had happened to me!"

Keep posted for more news about of museum bees.

Astudiaeth newid hinsawdd ar dir eich ysgol!
Daearyddiaeth & Gwyddoniaeth (CA2)

Defnyddiwch eich dosbarth awyr agored! Ymunwch â'r 175 o ysgolion sy'n cymryd rhan yn yr arbrawf arbennig hwn!

Mae Bylbiau'r Gwanwyn i Ysgolion yn rhoi cyfle i ddisgyblion cynradd fabwysiadu, astudio a chofnodi datblygiad bylbiau'r gwanwyn fel rhan o rwydwaith gwylio'r gwanwyn. Caiff pob disgybl fwlb Cennin Pedr Dinbych, Crocws ac photyn gardd er mwyn cofnodi'r tyfiant a'r amserau blodeuo.

Trwy gasglu a chymharu data mae disgyblion yn darganfod sut mae'r newid yn ein hinsawdd yn effeithio ar ein tymhorau, a beth mae hyn yn ei olygu i ni ac i'r natur o'n cwmpas. Mae disgyblion yn cymryd rhan yn Her Athro'r Ardd i gael tystysgrif gwyddonydd gwych.

Gall ysgolion ledled Cymru gymryd rhan gan bod y canlyniadau yn cael eu casglu drwy'r we (neu'r post os oes rhaid). Mae'r prosiect yn un parhaus a gall ysgolion gymryd rhan yn flynyddol.

Er mwyn gwneud cais i gymryd rhan yn Bylbiau’r Gwanwyn i Ysgolion 2015-2016 llenwch y ffurflen gais ar-lein drwy ddilyn y ddolen isod.

Ceisiadau nawr ar agor ond mae niferoedd yn gyfyngedig felly wnewch gais yn fuan i sicrhau eich lle ar y prosiect! Ceisiadau ar agor i ysgolion yng Nghymru yn unig. Mae’r dyddiad cau wedi pasio ar gyfer ysgolion o’r Alban a Lloegr ond mae croeso i chi gysylltu ag Ymddiriedolaeth Edina am wybodaeth ar sut i gymryd rhan yn y project yn 2016-2017.

Bylbiau’r Gwanwyn i Ysgolion – Ffurflen Gais.

E-bost SCAN

Well last week we posted about the Beehives up on the roof at National Museum Cardiff and how they fared over the winter. Today we have another exert from our Beekeeper’s diary. Has the weaker colony survived? Let’s find out: The weather in late March and early April was fantastic and the strong colony went from strength to strength.

During the next weekly (9th April) inspection we decided to place our first super (a set of shallow frames from which the queen is excluded, used to collect honey) on the strong colony and moved another frame of brood across to the weaker colony. This moving of frames serves two purposes, it helps reinforce the struggling colony whilst limiting the size and growth of the strong colony and thus lessens the risk of having to deal with the colony growing to such an extent that the bees swarm. Every time a frame of brood is removed the frame is replaced with a fresh frame of new foundation (a sheet of patterned wax on which bees build their comb). The rate of productivity is currently so high in the strong colony that a new frame of foundation is being drawn out and prepared for laying within a week!

At the next inspection (16th April) another frame of brood was moved across and the contact feeder in the weaker colony was refilled with more honey. Whilst honey might not be the most cost effective feed the bees certainly like it!

We noticed that the weaker colony certainly had more activity with more bees flying in and out than has been seen recently, hopefully the translocation of brood is working and the colony is growing in strength and numbers.

Whist inspecting the strong colony, a large elongated brood cell called a queen cup was noted- it wasn’t sealed and contained a grub. We removed the cup and grub in order to minimise the chances of a new queen bee hatching and the colony swarming. We inspected the rest of the frames looking particularly closely at the abundance of dome shaped, capped drone (male) cells! There were quite a number of hatched drone bees too, which may be indicative of the colony getting ready to swarm? Hopefully our regular removal of brood should limit the expansion and development of the colony and reduce the risk of having to deal with swarming this year.

Beekeepers use the term drawn-out to describe the process where bees build their honeycomb structures on a base of fresh foundation wax. The bees build up hexagonal honeycomb until the honeycomb cells are 12-15mm deep. This process of building comb outwards from the flat foundation is called drawing-out. The super that we placed on the strong colony is gradually getting filled with honey too.

The bees are gradually filling the fully drawn-out comb in the centre of the super although all the frames have been drawn out to some extent. The super frames that have been partial filled have been moved one or two positions out towards the edge of the super and the more empty frames have been moved inwards to a more central position in order to encourage the bees to work evenly across all the frames within the super.

During this inspection we also installed a third hive on the roof. In this third hive we placed pheromone swarm lures. The idea being that a passing swarm of bees might find and settle in this hive if we’re lucky. The lure hive is essentially a normal hive loaded with foundation filled frames. We have used some of the old, drawn-out frames from our other hives in order to give it a lived in feel and scent (apparently swarms don’t typically settle in new unused hives). If we aren’t successful in catching a wild swarm the hive can be used to home a third colony of bees that we currently have on order with Natures Little Helpers.

29th April inspection – it was a lovely sunny warm day although perhaps in hindsight a little windy for bee keeping inspections. I took the opportunity to take Annette Townsend up onto the roof to see the bees. Not only was it tough to hold the frames of bees still in the breeze, but Annette’s hair and bee keeping suit was being buffeted around so much that she could hardly see a thing! The bees weren’t keen either, there were lots flying around and they were generally grumpy. Annette has blogged her experience, so you can see how she found beekeeping here. Anyway another lesson learned – too much wind makes life tricky – heavy frames of bees and a strong breeze aren’t compatible!  

Bee inspection 6th May, another sunny but slightly breezy day again but not as bad as the previous windy hive inspection. Again the weaker colony wasn’t inspected particularly intensively, we just quickly refilled the feeder with honey and once again transferred a frame of brood and juvenile bees into the hive from the stronger colony. Our efforts certainly seem to be paying off, once again there seemed to be significantly more bees flying in and out of the hive plus at least four of the frames now seemed to be covered in bees! The feeder obviously is still being used by the bees but they also seem to be flying out to find natural sources of food too.

The strong colony seems to have stepped up a gear too! Another two queen cups were removed and several suspect other dome shaped cells were removed just in case! A section of brace comb was cut at the edge of the hive in order to allow all the frames to be removed freely. Brace comb is extra honeycomb that is built between frames, it is perfectly normal for wild bee colonies but for managed hives, brace comb prevents frames being removed. The brood now extends almost to the outside frames and there is a considerable amount of capped honey surrounding the brood. The small honey collecting frames inside the super were moved around once again to ensure an even honey fill. None of the honey filled comb in the super is actually capped (the honey sealed in with a wax cover) yet but you get the impression that within a few weeks another super might need to be added!