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Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Thursday, 17 June 2010 14:28 UK
Busy bees arrive at Buckland Abbey
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

A honey bee
A honey bee from the new hive at Buckland Abbey

It's midsummer, the sun is out, and so are the thousands of worker bees which have been delivered to Buckland Abbey this year as part of the BBC/National Trust Bee Part Of It season.

The honey bees are making themselves at home after their delivery in a nucleus hive on 11 June 2010.

And they couldn't have asked for a better 'home' than this.

After a sunny couple of weeks, Buckland Abbey is alive with flowers, fruit and vegetables - perfect for foraging.

David Milford
David Milford checks up on the bees

Our bee expert throughout the season is Devon beekeeper David Milford.

"The nucleus hive would hold about 5,000 bees," said David. "That will double by the end of June and probably triple by the end of July - weather permitting."

The hive is full of worker bees and a queen bee, who has been laying eggs since early June.

The eggs take 21 days to hatch, so the baby bees will emerge from late June.

David said it's a case of so far, so good: "The conditions here are really good for them. There is a lot of forage around and there will be more from early July onwards.

"The main forage will be blackberries."

Even now, there are rich pickings to be had at the National Trust property in west Devon, with flowers, fruit, trees, vegetables, lime trees and even weeds for them to feed on.

And the worker bees seem to be making hay while the sun shines: "Oh look, this is good - there's some pollen going into the hive now," said David.

"They take it home in their legs and they are doing a good job at the moment. They are happy and content because the weather is fine."

The hive has five frames and - crucially - a supply of sugar syrup: "That helps them produce the wax to draw out the wax foundation we put in for them," explained David. "They need a helping hand."

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Watch Carole Madge's film about the bees arriving at Buckland Abbey

Unfortunately, the colony might have arrived a little too late to produce honey this year: "The hive was held up by the poor May we had and the volcanic ash delayed the queen bee's arrival from New Zealand by three weeks," said David.

"They say a week is a long time in politics, well it's even longer in a bee colony - they can do a lot in a week so to lose three weeks is a lot of time.

"Next year we would expect to produce honey, definitely.

"And if any queen bee can come up with the goods this year, it is a New Zealand queen bee like this one.

"New Zealand queen bees are a very gentle strain and they produce very strong colonies.

"We'll see what we can do."




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