Removing Beepol Lid - part 2


My first attempt to remove the beepol hive plastic lid had been unsuccessful and the lid was left in the nest (loose and unglued), so my immediate concern was to go back in late and night and remove it before it started getting incorporated into the nest structure! (I.e. before the bees started to build wax structures around and on it). 

The plan was simple: under cover of night and red light again, I would open the lodge very quickly, grab the lid and close before the bees really had chance to even come to the front of the lodge. There was going to be no pause to analyse or consider any bumbles on the lid - instead, we would place the lid immediately in a large plastic tub so that we had them contained, and then help get them back into the nest through the entrance.

The operation went very smoothly (as planned this time!) and was done without any harm to the residents. Two actually came out with the lid, trapped in the "one way entrance" chamber. (I'm not a fan of this chamber, we had bees die in here last year also). One of those bumbles turned out to be dead already, the other we coaxed out and onto the ledge. She stood guard for about 10 minutes, probably wondering how she had been miraculously transported from inside the nest to outside, but then found the entrance and went back inside without fuss.

view inside beepol - CH3 improved with lid removedThe view inside the beepol nest (CH2 & CH3) is now vastly improved, just as we had intended. We can clearly and easily see wax pots and lots of busy bees looking after them. 

a hive arrive-o!

Great excitement ensued on Wednesday (10th April) as our Beepol hive arrived from Dragonfli. My parents were staying with me as part of the welcoming party, which perhaps was lucky as it meant I held my breath slightly as the citylink courier swung the hive to his ear and exclaimed 'what you got there? Well b*gger me, it's bees. I coulda been stung', stringing together more words in one go than was probably good for him. I was livid and thought he probably should have been stung: the guy was clueless (and toothless) and had no idea what he'd been transporting or how to care for it, despite jumbo lettering all over the box.

The bees, of course, were going nuts after this, so we left them to calm down in the garage, hoping there was no major nest damage. We have never ever had a decent experience from citylink by the way, and I recommend that you never ever use them.

beepol hive as it arrives in its packaging..

Everything was prepped for installation of the hive into the lodge (CCTV etc.) so we just had to wait. We removed the outer transport packaging and checked the internal nest box. Sadly we discovered a stain seeping through the box - from the colour I guess honey, although a quick check with Dragonfli on twitter and they thought maybe some of the sugar water supply. Either way, NOT GOOD. The bees hate stickiness and I hate the thought of the bees and/or their nest and hard work getting damaged.

the beepol hive itself - with some staining


The plan was to site the box during the dark and and then remove the plastic lid that is glued to it. This is not for the faint hearted, as Dragonfli say on their site, there is a significant risk of getting stung! But i'd done it last year without a problem so intended to do it again. The point of this 'unauthorised' modification, by the way, is two fold:
1) removing the plastic lid allows the next to extend in height into the lodge space; allowing the development of more bumblebees and potentially longer lifespan of the colony.
2) we've got multiple cameras in the nest now, one is pointing down, and for the best view we need the plastic removed.

We placed the hive box inside the lodge in our garage, to keep the light down as much as possible and then allowed the bumblebees to settle down again for a few hours. Poor things must have been very stressed by all the day's moving about. Then, under cover of darkness we ventured out to go back into the lodge and remove the plastic lid. We used a red light so that we could see with minimal disturbance to the bumblebees. However, they can of course tell that something is happening by all the vibration and inrush of cold air.

beepol bumblebee "hive" showing the plastic container and lid

Getting the plastic lid off is actually a bit tricky and proved to be moreso than last year. It clips onto the main box the best is in, but it is also glued - so these glue seals need to be broken. Generally a screwdriver will do it, but it took a fair bit of 'levering' this time. Of course, as soon as you do that the bees come rushing and some were starting to force their way out through the lid edge before I'd got it removed (but as the seal was lifting).

I pressed it down and got it to the point I thought it was free and quickly tried to lift it. The idea was to whip it away quickly and shut the lodge before the bees even got a chance to really get far; but this is not how it went.

In fact, one corner of the lid was still glued, so it didn't come away. Meanwhile I'd lifted it and the bees came rushing - all over the lodge perimeter and fizzing like crazy. All over the lid too. One even shot off across the garden, flying in near dark, which amazed me. I thought she'd come for us, but she just flew off. I guess we lost her.

I had to make a snap decision - the lid was covered in bumblebees and I thought if I removed it, I'd have all these bumbles in the garden in the dark and no way to control them or return them to the lodge; so I quickly abandoned the lid and left it in the nest.

However, the drama was not over, as by this stage several bees had dashed outside the lodge, some dropped to the ground and others were on the lodge lip, making it impossible to shut the lodge lid. This was less than ideal.

We knew that the only was to resolve this was pretty much to leave the bees to calm down of their own accord. We captured the ones on the ground using jars/card and placed them on the lodge roof. Of course they were not happy, giving full 'level 4' warning (I.e. aiming sting at you) and one of them even shot its venom at me from a distance. However, in all cases they fairly quickly found their way back into the lodge via the open lid. (which was a relief, as I had no backup plan, other than to trap them in tubs overnight for safe keeping).

We then propped open the lodge lid as another four or so bumbles stood guard on the lip; we just had to wait until they sensed no threat and returned into the nest. So, we went indoors and poured a dram to calm down!

last remaining escapee being encouraged to rejoin the colony

After about 45 mins we returned back outside and, as expected, all four guard bees had gone back into the nest and we could use the infrared camera in the lodge to confirm there were none still on the lip. So, we quickly removed our wedge and shut the lodge with all our bumbles safely back inside (except the one that flew off). The plastic lid, of course, is still inside, loose; so some time very soon I have to go back in a try and grab that out before the bees build round/on it. This will also improve our camera picture which is, of course, part of the reason for doing it.

Notwithstanding, things looked pretty reasonable on the cameras - the ankles and positions were good and despite the transparent plastic lid obscuring some of the view we could definitely see some wax pots filled with honey; and' of course, the sound was unaffected (and loud).

This colony has way more workers than the Beepol we got in August last year (not surprising) so this whole process was more risky and more intense. Last year I managed it myself all in one go with barely a murmur from the few bees in the lodge. And we were able to open it up once every night to check and take pics without the bees even noticing! I think it's different because there are many more bees in this colony at the moment and also it's much colder at night now, so they will notice the lodge being opened.

It was probably a mistake to attempt it all in one go with this many bees - I probably should have cut the lid loose without trying to remove it, and then closed the lodge and let the bees all settle down again. Then gone back in either an hour later or the next evening to remove the lid. That will probably be my preferred strategy going forward.

Plan Bee

We are thrilled to have ordered a new bumblebee hive before the season is over!

After the demise of our Koppert Hive, we thought that would be that until quite by chance we discovered the Beepol range from a discussion on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Facebook page.

Unlike the Koppert solution, which is mainly an industrial solution marketed and sold to farmers and growers, the Beepol system is very much more aimed at the home gardener and bumblebee enthusiast. (Sadly this is also reflected in the pricing with retail prices being higher than trade prices and the involvement of the retail "middle man")

The main hive is very much like the Koppert system, with a plastic inner nest and outer cardboard box. It is slightly less industrialised than the Koppert box, which means there are pros and cons. Pros: it contains a clear lid for viewing, which the Koppert box doesn't (so no cutting through the lid to insert a camera!) Cons: the open/close of the bee entrance is more fiddly, involving a foam bung and string. On the Koppert box this is done with a clever built-in plastic slider.

In most other respects, though, the boxes are extremely similar, with similar performance. The life of the Koppert box is stated as 10 - 12 weeks at upto 50 bees, but less accurate data is provided for the Beepol box, saying it might last anything from 8 weeks to "the whole season" (march - september) and ships with a Queen and 30 - 40 bees. At this stage we'd be hoping we can get 6 - 8 weeks life from it into September.

The nice thing about the Beepol system, again differentiating it from the more industrialised Koppert solution, is it has a matching wooden "lodge" to house the hive while it is active. This is something the Koppert system does not include and why I had to go about building a whole shelter system to protect our Koppert box in the garden. (When a farmer uses it, they just stick it in the field on a palette with some polystyrene over the top).

The lodge is a lovely, reusable home for the hive, that is attractive to have in the garden and allows easy access via a hinged lid. The other great feature is room to install a video camera inside (WOOT!) that will look down through the clean plastic hive lid. This is just perfect for the 4-camera set up we have. I will fix another camera onto the front of the box to observe the entrance.

The major, major concern at this stage now is how to control the wax moth that we know we have in the garden and have now learnt of the existence of our previous bees. We will have to take every precaution possible. This will include some DIY advice from Beepol about using paintbrush bristles taped to the lodge entrance/exits to provide a screen that the moths do not have the strength to push through. I'll be honest, I'm a little concerned that this heath robinson approach might not work well as it will be hard to determine what is ok for the bees, but not ok for the moth. However, at the moment Beepol say they are working on a productised solution and the DIY option is the best there is for now.

With that in mind, we have also ordered B401 Certan. This is a biological preparation that is harmless to bees, humans and honey, but will defend against the wax moth. We will spray the lodge and hive with a Certan solution. We will also seal all vents with tight webbing (which we used on our other nestboxes to prevent ant intrusion) so that there are no secret holes for moths to enter.

As with the Koppert Box we will also take precaution against ants by mounting the lodge on greased bricks. We will also have to monitor closely in the high winds we can experience in the Fens - this is why my shelter for the Koppert box was so robust, but also led to us not really examining the box once it was all in place. We will be more vigilant with this one.

All in all, it's quite a concern, but we will learn a lot and be able to share it with the bumblebee-loving community.

Can't wait to get our new bees!


Based on traditional bee hive designs, the Beepol Lodge has been hand crafted in the UK from durable timber grown on FSC plantations.
Bumblebee colonies do not continue through the winter in the same way as honeybees do, so each year a fresh new Beepol garden hive can be purchased and placed within the lodge, ensuring every summer you can enjoy the sight and sounds of British Bumblebees hard at work in your garden, grounds or golf course.
The Beepol Lodge contains one Beepol garden hive, which can be replaced with a new one when the hive comes to the end of its life and the new queen bumblebees have dispersed. It has a hinged roof for access and for viewing the Bumblebee colony within.
The Lodge has exit and entrance holes designed for the particular size and shape of Bumblebees and even a landing ledge for them to rest on, as they come back to the hive with heavy loads of pollen.
Each Lodge incorporates wooden legs to keep the hive off the ground and has an option for attaching a mini wildlife camera, so you can see your bees at work from the comfort of your home or office.
The Beepol Lodge is the ultimate wildlife feature for your garden, grounds or golf course, providing a fascinating permanent place of residence for your very own Bumblebee colony every summer.



It's been a quiet weekend (plus a day off work) on the blogging front owing to us have guests; and to a degree also quiet on the bee front for the reasons outlined below.

Special Guest

Our guests were very special - amongst them was my 3yr old niece, Chloe, who named Holly for us. Since the loss of Lucy (Lucas) last week, Holly had changed behaviour. She came out of her nestbox and started sleeping "outdoors" in the tub overnight. And her activity levels had begun to drop. Prior to the arrival of Chloe we were concerned for Holly's wellbeing, desperately hoping she could hang on for wee Chloe to meet and enjoy watching. 

Thankfully Holly clung onto the last, although she became very slow and inactive over the weekend. At one point we had a major scare, when for the first time she managed to get trapped in amongst the stones in the box.

Chloe had the pleasure of seeing her outside of the nestbox (and inside for a short while) over the weekend and walking a little, though most of her time was spent resting under moss. Sadly tonight, though, is her last at the grand old age of 67 days. 67 days of joy, amusement and often bafflement. She's followed the pattern we now recognise - become very still during the day; shaking or moving a little, gradually less and less; unsteady; curled up a little, tongue out; but unable and unwilling to drink anything.

A tiny, stripy ball, barely perceptible below the moss that was keeping her warm and feeling safe. Holly was rescued quite unexpectedly and we had to develop and perfect our techniques and care for her and her siblings on the fly; and she has taken a lot of our attention over the last few months, so she will indeed be missed. After our standard 24 hour minimum confirmation period we will give her a fine burial in the lavender where the next generation of bumblebees will forage next year. 

Holly when she was rescued

Koppert Colony

The other sad news is the final demise of our Koppert Hive in the garden. Over the month we noticed the sound inside the nest changing from a busy buzzing to a crackling sound. We had no real explanation for this at the time, although I now think it was the onset of Wax moth. Over the last week the activity in the box has signifcantly declined to the point where yesterday there was an average of about one "Motion" event every hour - which probably represented at most one or two bees actually active and foraging. 

The Hive has just made it to 10 weeks old - it was quoted as 10 - 12 weeks lifetime, so there is the possibility this is a natural conclusion and not caused by the wax moth. However, there is no denying the fact that not only did I see moths on the CCTV outside the box on occasions, but sadly over the last two days I have seen (at least) one inside the box. This is just such a bad omen. It's very upsetting to think that the colony might have been destroyed by this parasite, whose larvae destroy the waxy honey pots inside the nest and thus destroy its ability to survive. I really hope they have been able to produce new queens before this devastation, but I'm not too hopeful that was indeed the case.

If I'd known about the wax moth when we got the hive I would have taken stringent measures to try and better protect it. As it is, I knew no better. My plan for next year is to find something natural to try and discourage the moth (Mint has been suggested) as well as look at technology solutions. My preferred option at the moment is the wireless entrance controller by Koppert to close the box overnight. 


This is not the end of our project - aside from being sure the colony is fully inactive, there is still some data to collate from the CCTV system and also much writing up to be done. Then there are preparations for next year; I want to design something for queens to hibernate in later in the year. I also want to adapt our nestboxes in various ways. There is quite a lot of photography to sift and organise, and I have several other creative ideas too. It's going to be busy!


Mind your head!

We've now got to the point where our CCTV DVR system has been tweaked with all the motion detection and camera angles that we can fairly quickly run through our footage and look for interesting activity. Over the next few postings I'll post a few of the videos we have found that have caught our attention.

Today's is just a funny little clip. BCW actually spotted this as it happened - a bee flew in and instead of flying into the entrance, just flew straight into the box and fell the ground! It then seemed to buzz off into the nearby lavender to recover! The clip below is in slow motion so you can see what happens more easily. 

It's not actually the only instance - we've seen this happen at least one other time. We don't really have an explanation other than a last minute brake failure!