OKEHAMPTON Beekeepers have required several adjustments to their summer programme due to problems with members' bee colonies, but were very grateful to Suzanne Maxwell, for stepping in at short notice to host its mid-month meeting.

That afternoon the Oke Bees assembled at Suzanne's on a very warm day — ideal for bees but possibly a bit on the hot side for beekeepers, especially when wearing full protective gear, suit, veil, gloves and Wellingtons! They were about to set off to the apiary when six uninvited visitors, sheep of unknown origin, appeared next to the hives. These were duly herded into a suitable shed where they would be in shade and given a bucket of water.

Colony inspection could then start in the earnest. Suzanne has two strong productive colonies and she has been using an integral feeder adjacent to the end frame which served as 'float' to prevent the bees from drowning in the syrup.

Inspection of the six national brood frames in the Nuc quickly showed bees but no sign of eggs or brood (or queen), this could be a problem if left unattended. The next colony was good and strong, housed in a 'skyscraper' — luckily the sharp eyes of one beekeeper spotted the queen who was duly marked with this year's colour, red. The third colony to be opened also had filled two supers with honey so Suzanne should get a good honey harvest this year!

The groups next summer meeting will be held this Sunday at Simon O' Sullivan's apiary at Granny's Meadow near Yeoford.