Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dragonfli Bumble Bee Beepol and 2017 Villa - unboxing and review

The Dragonfli Ltd Beepol and Villa

I wrote a review of the first Dragonfli Beepol and Villa back in 2011, and I really wanted to share my thoughts of the new 2017 Beepol Hive and Villa with you.

This will be our fourth Dragonfli Beepol. This year the Villa (the pretty wooden hive that the Beepol goes in) and the Beepol itself have been thoroughly redesigned, taking on feedback from customer experience, especially with regards to pest control and colony strength.

Bumble bees are at the mercy of many enemies, man being one, destruction of habitats, mono-culture farming practices, poor weather, pesticides,Varroa mite and Wax Moth. A large, strong, healthy colony is better at surviving these perils than a weak, small one.

The delightful thing about being able to keep and observe Bumble Bees is gaining an insight into their life, beginning right from the moment they arrive.

Unboxing the Dragonfli Beepol and Villa

Dragonfli Bumble bee Beepol Villa arrives two boxes
Our Dragonfli delivery arrives!
MrPB lifts Dragonfli Bumble bee Villa out packaging
MrPB lifts the Dragonfli Villa out of it's packaging.
Dragonfli Bumble bee Beepol colony outer box
The Bumble bee Beepol is revealed
Inside the box marked LIVE BEES is a white cardboard box (above), containing the plastic Beepol hive, with the colony already thriving inside. When you lift the hive out, the bees will be active and buzzing noisily. They are responding to the light and movement.

Dragonfli Bumble bee Beepol hive
The colony are contained in the Beepol Hive
Under the Hive is the new liquid feed chamber. Leaving the chamber in the white cardboard box, the cap is removed from the sponge (cylindrical creamy coloured wet thing, top centre of the chamber - see photo below) and the Beepol is clipped on top of it with the sponge poking up through the hole into the Beepol.

Previous Beepols have not come with a feeder, but should the weather be inclement after release, making it difficult for the bees to forage, this liquid feed will serve as a backup supply to keep the colony strong.

new Dragonfli Beepol liquid feed chamber
The new Dragonfli Beepol liquid feed chamber
The Beepol is then placed inside the wooden Villa. The white cardboard box should touch the back wall of the Villa, but there will be gaps on each side, and a large one at the front. The bees will be able to negotiate this gap when they leave the Beepol entrance (temporarily sealed with a yellow sliding door), to exit the villa by the wide open slot machined in the wooden Villa.

Dragonfli Bumble bee Beepol placed inside Villa
The Beepol is placed inside the Villa
Dragonfli Bumble bee colony look fit well good nest built
Sneaky peek at the Bumble bee colony, looking fit and well with a good quantity of nest built
We sited the Hive under a Fatsia japonica, with the entrance facing east. The garden is filled with excellent pollen and nectar sources, though this doesn't seem to matter, as the bees always fly off eastwards towards the North Downs.

Dragonfli Bumble bee Villa sited under Fatsia japonica raised flower bed
The Dragonfli Villa located in a raised flower bed
Within moments of opening the sliding yellow door we saw the first Bumble bee leave the hive. NB, the Beepol has been pulled forward in the Villa to allow MrPB to open the sliding door and release the bees. It was pushed back into position after this photo was taken.

first Bumble bee come out Dragonfli Beepol
The first bee!
We only had to wait 20 minutes for the first bee to return to the hive, with its pollen sacks bulging. That's the fastest yet!

We're thoroughly enjoying watching the comings and goings of our new furry friends.

Dragonfli Beepol Maintenance

Dragonfli treat every Beepol and Villa against Wax Moth before it leaves them, and while it is advisable to leave the colony as undisturbed as possible once it arrives, you will need to respray the whole set up with Wax Moth repellent every 3-4 weeks from date of arrival to the end of the colony's life (end of July-ish). Failure to do this could result in the Wax Moth larvae eating all the Bumble bee larvae, and leading to the total devastation of the colony. Signs to look for are cobweb like threads inside the Villa and Hive, and the appearance of greyish brown larvae. These larvae are capable of burrowing into the wood of the Hive, you may see these tunnels when you clear out the Villa at the end of the season.

Dragonfli Beepol and Villa Review

The online ordering process with Dragonfli is very simple, and if you have any queries, the customer service is excellent.

Delivery is by courier, on a specified day. Remember these are live creatures, so you need to be on hand to take delivery.

The packaging is really sturdy and beautifully sized for the contents. there is no excess space, or need for padding, and the bees have good ventilation round them.

The Beepol hive is a lovely bit of design engineering, balancing ventilation and protection needs very carefully.

The Villa is robust pine wood with filtered vents at the back, a wide entrance with landing platform, and this year a felted roof. Now I know from chicken-keeping experience that the space between roofing felt and the roof itself can provide a perfect place for pests to set up home. We will need to see if this is the case with Bumble bees.

Not only would I highly recommend Dragonfli as a company, which we have personally used since 2011, I would also highly recommend giving a Bumble bee colony a home in your garden or on your roof terrace. The hive takes up only a small space, and the colony size is a fraction of a honey bee colony, so you won't ever be surrounded by a swarm, so long as you respect them and don't bang the hive. They are fascinating, educational, docile and absolutely vital for pollination - and, lets face it, for the continuation of life as we know it on Earth.

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