Time for an update on our bees!
Last year by chance we got a swarm of bees and since then we are beekeepers again. But to be honest, the swarm was really small and we were full of doubt if it would survive winter.
But it did, and because of the fine weather in February and March, the colony grew. Starting from May I could give them more space and they were building new combs in the new frames. And at the end of the month, almost all 10 frames were filled with eggs and larvae; the colony was fully grown. I enjoyed the sound of buzzing bees and we could see them on so many flowers in the garden: even in the big flowers of the pumpkin.

When I saw a barrier of honey in the frames in June, I placed a new honey box on the colony. It was already a bit late in the year, and I didn’t expect to be harvesting honey this year. But at least they had space to store their winter food.

From left to right:
Frame filled with closed brood and barrier of honey in top, me checking to see if there are queen cells and same frame with new build combs.

The bees really worked hard in the honey box. Within a few weeks, they built new honeycombs and filled it all with fresh honey. But they didn’t seal the honey yet.
Since then, the weather is dry, which means less nectar in the flowers, and fewer flowers in general. The bees know this and react by reducing the number of mouths to feed. The colony contains male bees only during the mating season. And if this season is almost finished and the nectar flow is slowing down, the colony starts to get rid of the drones!

The killing of the innocents.

Around 17 o’clock in the afternoon when the drones are returning home, the workers don’t allow them to come in anymore. Or they simply throw them out, or even pick them up and fly them away! In Holland, we were never able to see this, like here. The drones even ‘screamed’!
In Portuguese it is called ‘a matança dos inocentes’ in Portuguese: the killing of the innocents. It lasted more or less a week.

Today I had another quick peek in the box. But still no sealed honey. I think we have to wait to harvest honey next year. I will let them keep this.
And if the drought is continuing I might even have to feed them before winter.

Some Portuguese beekeeper words

work beesas abelhas operárias
dronesos zangões
6 aug 2020



  1. Hello, this is interesting information. I am part of the ‘Flow Forum’ but there is no one in that forum from Portugal; they are all from Australia and the USA, so I have very little local experience to draw on. I live in Sintra and I have been trying to keep bees for nearly two years now. My first hive was ‘taken from a drain at a friend’s house and it didnt survive. My second hive started with a Nucleus and that, too, perished last year over the winter. This was, I feel, because I added a super way too soon, in terms of population numbers, and way too l;ate in the year. I also unfortunately broke my leg very badly during all of this so I was out of action for a while. Anyway, I was going to buy another Nuc in April this year but I discovered that my old hive became ‘inhabited’ by a new swarm. This swarm, was very week (less than a frame to begin with) and I left it alone. I started feeding the hive sugar water 50:50 about two months ago – a learned that a feeder within the hive was bad news in terms of robbing, so I put a feeder bottle on the top of my chicken run, about 50m away. This feeder became the source of manic activity from my hive and also some hives down the road, but it did encourage comb building and the colony has grown to 7 full frames in the last two months. Now I am contemplating adding a medium box, but I am unsure whether this is the right thing to do. My bees are still gathering quite a lot of pollen but I am worried that it might be a bit late in the year to add extra space. Yes. there is a big drought on and the weather is warm, so i have built a quilt box to absorb any condensation and also retain heat. I really do not need to harvest any honey; I just want them to survive and grow. I have a second hive near by which is empty. By the way, we are inundated with Asiatic hornets and I have become quite an expert in their behaviour (and also in killing them). I have killed over 180 in the last 5 days and now they are rarely coming to the beehive to take my girls. Anyway, I would appreciate a little advice regarding whether I add a medium box or not. The bees have doubled in number over the last 6 weeks and I haven’t been feeding for 3 weeks. I will also probably do a Varroa treatment in September . Thanks for your help

    1. Hi John, thanks for your comment and shared experiences.
      I would never give more space to a colony at this time of year. (Unless you want to merge two colonies)
      Cumps & boa sorte!

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