OBKA Winter Talk – ‘Differences in sub-Saharan and UK Beekeeping’

The video of the Zoom talk is now available to watch in the Members Area

OBKA Honey Show 2020 – video of George McGavin’s talk

The recording of George McGavins talk, on The BioSur Foundation in Costa Rica, is now available in the Members Area.

Video of OBKA Honey Show Awards now available!

Dear Member,

We now have the ability to host videos on this website.

Our first video is of the Honey Show 2020 Awards ceremony. This was of course held virtually and the video is a recording of the Zoom session.

It can be found on the home page of the Members Area. Enjoy!

And more videos are on the way.

OBKA Honey Show Results 2020

The results of the 2020 Honey Show, that were awarded tonight, 08 November 2020, are available in the Members Area.

For a bit more information and some lovely photos see the OBKA Honey Show 2020 page.

The Hive Count 2020

If you have registered your bees with BeeBase then you should have received the following; if not, the please read on for the annual hive count.

 

Dear Beekeeper

 

It is again time to update your BeeBase records with the total number of overwintering hives as of 1st November 2020.

 

To complete this year’s hive count please click the link below which will take you to BeeBase. Once logged in, please answer the hive count questions displayed and then click the ‘Submit response’ button. It is as simple as that! Please update your records by 31st December 2020.

 

If you currently have no colonies, please update your BeeBase record to confirm this by selecting “non-current”.

 

Please click this link to update your Hive Count.

https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/login.cfm?relocate=/secure/beekeeper/hiveCensus.cfm

 

More details of this project, its importance and why we need your help can be found on BeeBase:
http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=362

 

2019’s count indicated a total UK population of honey bee hives at approximately 264,000. Please note that several assumptions formed part of the calculations used to get derive this number. It is therefore classed as an ‘experimental statistic’.

 

If you have any security concerns about clicking on the embedded links in this email, you can access BeeBase directly from your Internet browser to complete the hive count. Simply log in to BeeBase and select ‘Hive Count’ from the list of options displayed.

 

We have produced additional guidance on how to update your records within BeeBase, these are included in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document on the Hive Count information page of BeeBase.

 

For more information on the National Hive Count you can email hive.count@apha.gov.uk or call the National Bee Unit Office on 0300 3030094.

 

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

National Bee Unit

Report on our first Winter Talk ‘Queen Substance’

If you missed our first Winter Talk there is a report in the Members Area by our Secretary, Richard Stansfield.

 

Don’t miss the next next session, details are in the Events calendar.

OBKA Sponsors National Honey Show 2020

Well, to be precise, we sponsored a beeswax wrap demo:

 

OBKA Sponsors Beeswax wrap Demo National Honey Show 2020

Latest Covid-19 Update from National Bee Unit

If you have registered your bees on BeeBase you will have received their email with the latest Covid-19 beekeeping guidance.

 

If not then

 

(a) Why not – register your bees immediately on beebase, and

 

(b) Here is their guidance, as a downloadable .PDF : COVID-19_and_Beekeeping_-_GB_Update_October_2020.pdf

OBKA (Virtual) Honey Show 2020 – Entry form and details

Honey Show 2020

 

Please find below the entry form for our Honey Show. Entries must be submitted by 1 November with judging on 8 November.

 

Our President, George McGavin (who many of you will know from various BBC nature programmes, including one where he allows himself to be covered by swarming honey bees) will present the cups via Zoom.

 

We hope to recruit a few more people to assist with collection of entries, details to follow.

 

For drop-off of entries, please respect the following COVID-secure guidelines:

 

  • Wipe all jars / bottles with a disinfectant wipe and then place in a clean cardboard box along with the entry form. The box should be left open, so we can see the entries. (Do not wipe the wax products or the photos to avoid damaging them.)
  • If leaving at Peter Hawkin’s house, place the box in the front porch, having cleaned your hands with alcohol hand sanitizer before touching the door/door handle. Please do not ‘stop for a chat’!
  • Similar arrangements for dropping off at other people’s house.
  • If dropping off at Woodstock apiary on 1 November, please park in the car park, leave your box in the place as directed by Peter and then leave. We need to avoid more than six people being present at any time.

 

When we return entries, we will follow similar arrangements in reverse at a date to be arranged.

 

Peter will contact members in possession of an OBKA cup to arrange for its safe return. Under no circumstances leave a cup unattended at Peter’s house.

 

If you have any questions, please send an email to:

 

secretary@obka.org.uk

 

and

 

hawkinspeter051@gmail.com

 

Honey Show Entry Form – 2020.pdf

 

Apiary Clean Up days 11/12 Sept – Volunteers needed

Apiary Clean-up and Maintenance Days Friday 11th September, 4-6pm, and Saturday 12th September 10-12am

 

We had a successful first apiary day last week but there are still a number of clean-up and maintenance jobs that need doing while the weather is still fine. We are looking for volunteers for the following tasks (you need to bring your own tools):

 

 

  • Preparation of shed before painting. If you have a powered sander and / or coarse sandpaper please bring it along.
  • Ground work to paving slabs – bring shovel
  • Heavy gardening / clearance – bring cutters / loppers etc.
  • Rubbish collection (heavy duty work gloves)
  • You will need a bee suit to work in the apiary.

 

If you can help, please contact Sandra Simpson

OBKA Beekeeper training under Covid-19 restrictions

 

We are pleased to announce that we have been able to carry out some training for new beekeepers at our Training Apiary at Marlborough School.

 

In line with Covid-19 guidance we are limiting the number of people at the Training Apiary to 6 people – 4 students and 2 tutors. We also require students and tutors to wear facemasks when working closely around a hive.

 

For further information please contact  training@obka.org.uk

European Foulbrood incidents in West Oxfordshire

We have become aware of a number of incidents of European foulbrood in West Oxfordshire, centred on Burford. The latest information from BeeBase may be found here:

http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/public/BeeDiseases/efbReport.cfm

We suggest you pay particular attention to monitoring for EFB at your next inspection and review your hygiene protocols to ensure you don’t make the problem worse.

If you have any concerns about the health of one of you colonies please contact our seasonal bee inspector, Mark Lynch.

OBKA Tutors Blog #15 – Honey Harvest 2 – Uncapping and Extracting

If you have been following the OBKA Tutors Blog 2020 you might notice that this is the second blog that covers uncapping and extracting.

 

The first blog was by David Lord, our Senior Tutor for the Beginners Course. This blog is by Andy Pedley. As always with beekeeping, especially as a beginner, it's always good to see different ways of doing things and picking put the elements that work for you (for example I always use a heat gun to melt the wax cappings.....)

 

So you’ve got your supers back home (or wherever you do your extracting) and they are stacked, probably on the floor, hopefully in a gravel tray to keep them off the floor surface and catch the drips, and covered to keep bees out (or in, perhaps); clean cloth is good for this!

 

You’ll need to be organised to extract – and a few words of warning …

  • First, honey is very sticky. If you think I am stating the obvious, then its because it needs to be said! It gets on your hands, the door knob, the phone, your mugs, kettle, and from there transfers ALL round the house. So be very careful – I go into “extracting mode” and don’t answer the door, the phone, or do anything except extracting until the job is finished.
  • If honey drips on the floor it will get on your shoes and then be tramped through the whole house; so minimise movement out of the extracting room, consider slippers to be taken off when you leave the room, dust sheets outside the room. Avoid dripping honey on the floor and wipe up any drips that do happen. When I was shown extracting, my mentor covered the kitchen floor with newspaper (remember that!!) and if there was a drop on the floor, put an extra sheet of news paper down to cover it. The paper was burned at the end of the exercise.
  • Honey flows silently. It makes no noise if it overflows or spills, so be very careful about not over filling buckets.
  • Honey is hygroscopic, so it absorbs moisture from the air; in order to keep, it needs to have a water content of 20% or less, and so the extracting room and all equipment needs to be as dry as possible.
  • Honey smells and will attract bees, so the extracting room needs to be bee tight – windows shut, and if there are airbricks they may need covering. Working in a room full of bees is not fun!
  • Finally, honey is veryheavy …. do not overfill buckets for that reason (you’re going to need to lift them when you are thinking about bottling the honey) and DO NOT STACK BUCKETS – buckets have been known to collapse under the weight of a bucket above, spilling the contents of the bucket on the floor …. 

 

Remember too that if you are going to sell honey, then food safety and trading standards law applies; everything needs to be food grade, clean, and you need to be healthy, clean and wearing appropriate clothing …. (picture, a well prepared food handler) – gloves are a good idea, some kind of overall, head covering and if you have a beard, a beard snood -all can be bought on line. During these COVID-19 Days, a mask is desirable.

A well prepared food handler

I find working left to right is good, so the super’s are stacked on the left; one is promoted to the worktop, and the frames are extracted one by one for uncapping.

 

Uncapping is done over a tray of some kind (I use a stainless steel baking tray with a wooden “bridge” to rest the frame lug on)as the cappings, dripping with honey, need to be collected.

“Cappings honey” is drained off later, and some say it especially good to prevent hay fever. Cappings themselves of course are bees wax, and clean, white, new, so some beekeepers keep it separate and use it to make their blocks of bees wax for the honey shows. 

 

There are lots of tools that can be used for uncapping … for hobbyists, then you can use a knife (bread knife, carving knife, or bee keeping suppliers sell special uncapping knives); a heated uncapping knife (I used to have one, but stopped using it as the honey could be seen boiling under the heat) uncapping fork, spikyroller, recent device is an uncapping plane). Each has their pro’s and cons, which I ll not go into here. Some also use a hot air gun – which can be very quick, but I can not make it work reliably! Commercially uncapping machines are available too.

 

Uncapping is done holding the frame so that the top overhangs a bit; the cut is then made and as it is overhanging, the wax drops clear into the tray. It’s good to minimise the bits of wax on the frame, as they ll clog in your strainers later.

Uncapping tools

Once uncapped, the frame can be put in the extractor; and the next frame prepared until the extractor is filled. Extractors spin the frames, and centrifugal force spins the honey out. Make sure the tap is closed when you start! There’s a video of a rather fun (but not recommended) transparent honey extractor on Thorne’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2cyfmYb6gE 

 

Extractors come in different types and sizes (in the Thorne’s video it’s a tangential, where frames have to be spun twice, with the frame being turned round in between); there are also Radial Extractors where the frames are like the spokes of a wheel, and both sides are extracted at once. Manual extractors are cheaper, but need hand “winding” . Electric extractors have a motor with variable speed, so save much effort, time (you can be uncapping the next batch of frames while the extractor spins all by itself) – but are of course much more expensive.

 

Frames need to be balanced in the extractor – full frame opposite full frame – as extractors will vibrate and move round the room – start on a slow speed and increase the speed as the honey comes out of the frames.

 

Once uncapped, the frames are put back in the super, stood out of the way (on a tray to catch drips) and when done, returned to the bees (for apiaryhygiene reasons, ideally the same hive that they came from) where the bees will clean off the residual honey) so you can store the frames for winter.

 

The honey is run out of the extractor, though some kind of strainer (see the video) and into buckets for storage; put the lid on the bucket and ensure it is sealed – make sure it is airtight! I cling film mine as a belt and braces approach.

 

(Next… straining and bottling.)

 

Andy Pedley

OBKA Tutors Blog #14 – Harvest – getting supers off the hive

So you keep bees – probably – as you want a honey crop, and this is the time when you’ll be thinking about harvesting.

 

 

Some beekeepers harvest “as they go” so when you ‘re inspecting, if you find a frame that is fully capped, then its taken out of the hive so the honey can be harvested from it.

 

 

Others may take off both a spring and a summer harvest, if the area they are in has a good “honey flow” in the spring – or if there is Oil Seed Rape grown nearby, as OSR honey crystallises very quickly and can set in the frames. You can also get a “flow” in the autumn, and some may harvest this, or you may want to leave it for the bees, to save needing to feed them, either at all or so much. Sometimes there is a late heather crop, but that needs special handling as the honey is thixotropic (jelly like) and won’t extract easily.

Ling Heather Honey

Ling Heather Honey

I think there are 4 stages to harvesting your honey –

 

  • getting the supers off the hive, and transporting them to your extraction facility

 

  • extracting,

 

  • straining and “ripening” and

 

  • packing for sale.

 

And in this blog I ll deal with the first stage, getting the supers off the hive.

 

When you are working your hives, you will have noticed that the bees are always in the supers, so the first step in taking honey off is to “clear” the bees out of the supers.

 

Traditionally this is done with a “Clearer Board” – a spare crown board can be adapted by fitting a “Bee Escape”, and this is then put in the hive, with the supers to be removed above it. Make sure the supers are bee tight …. once the bees are out of the supers, the honey is undefended and wasps and robber bees will find any hole, and you will lose an amazing amount of your crop in a very short time! Typically a clearer board is left in place for 24 hours, and ideally you remove the supers in the evening when bees are less active.

 

There are other methods of clearing bees from supers – from brushing each frame (time-consuming, but may save you a second trip, and feasible if you've only got a small number to process), using a repellent (not very effective in my experience) to using some kind of blower to blow them off (not a happy experience for the bees).

 

And of course there are several types of bee escape – the traditional one is the “Porter” bee Escape, which fits neatly into the precut holes in a proprietary crown board, but rely on the bees going through a pair of springs which need to be adjusted. Better in my experience are the “lozenge” escapes, which works more like a lobster pot – and has the advantage of not needing a perfectly sized and shaped oval hole.

National Crownboard with Porter bee escapes

Rhombus bee clearer board

Rhombus clearer in action - rhombus cut in half and put in opposite corners

Clearer board with 8-way clearer

8-way clearer - the exits!

It’s important is that when you remove the supers, that they are taken away to a bee proof location quickly; again the bees will find unprotected supers very quickly and will rob it out – this includes from within your kitchen or where ever you do your extracting. If you are removing several supers, put the crown board on top of the supers that waiting, or a cover cloth, to prevent bees getting back i while your back is turned!

 

If you ‘re using a barrow or transporting the supers in a car or van, then that needs to be clean (and the car/van bee tight – shut the windows and doors unless you are actually putting stuff in it.

 

Ideally put the supers in a tray (60 cm square gravel trays are good, and make good emergency roofs for hives too) in the boot, and again when you are stacking them on the floor waiting for extraction. Certainly stand them on something clean, and that will accommodate any slight leakage / drips.

 

You are unlikely to clear EVERY bee from the supers, and may find a few in the car with you – they ll fly up to the windows and if the windows are opened a crack, should leave. A small brush will help you flick others out. Cover the supers with clean cloth when in transit, but don't be concerned if you find you have the company of a few bees as you drive – opening the car windows while you are actually driving will help them out! There will be stragglers, and they’re very unlikely to be any bother (other than pooing on the car upholstery!).

 

If you are putting the supers in a car on a hot, sunny day, with the windows shut the car can get very hot, very quickly …. so park in the shade, otherwise your precious crop could become a sticky mess, as could your car.

 

Do remember that each super can weigh about 15kg (30lb) and should yield about 12kg of honey (25lb); heavy …. you may need assistance lifting and carrying them. And you may want to have records of which honey came from which apiary (if you have more than one), or hive, so fixing a label on each super with information on it can help here – a drawing pin and a bit of card is enough on wooden hives. Ideally put the label on before the supers are taken off the hives, very easy to get confused!

 

NEXT Post… Extracting ….

 

Andy Pedley

OBKA Tutors Blog #13 – Varroa Monitoring

Monitoring Varroa is an important part of beekeeping. It gives you an insight into when treatment may be required. If left unchecked varroa mites will build up exponentially to a point where the colony becomes nonviable.

 

Varroa affects the colony in many ways.

 

  • Deformed wings which are shrivelled and adopt a ‘spaghetti’ like appearance;
  • Stunted abdomens;
  • general weakening of the colony;
  • Patchy/ pepper pot brood patterns;
  • High level infestations can be a direct cause of colony loss;
  • The mite is also a vector of a number of viruses. Although bee viruses usually persist as unapparent infections and cause no overt signs of disease, they can dramatically affect honey bee health and shorten the lives of infected bees under certain conditions.

 

Source of information: Beebase

Left untreated varroa mites will expand exponentially and overwhelm a colony

 

 

One of the easiest methods of estimating the number of varroa is by inserting the varroa board below the open mesh floor. Before you do, it’s worth drawing squares on to your board, as it will make counting easier. If you also give it a light coat of Vaseline it will hold any mites dropping onto the board.

Varroa board marked with a grid to nake counting varroa drop easier

The board is then inserted onto the runners under the mesh floor and left for 7 days, then removed, a count can then be made. The lines on the board aid counting. Many events though the year have an effect on the number of mites in a colony so the number you get now needs to be entered into a ‘varroa calculator’ follow the link below and follow the instructions.

 

http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/public/BeeDiseases/appresults.cfm?

 

The result will advise when you will need to treat your bees. Keep checking the varroa count through the season but don’t leave the board in when not in use it defeats the object of open mesh floors.

Varroa drop

Varroa mite drop on a monitoring board

What you might find on a varroa monitoring board

...but not everything on the monitoring board is varroa!

David Lord

OBKA Tutors Blog #12 – Honey Extraction

I keep all of my honey extracting kit in large plastic box, which I also use as the uncapping tray.

 

The kit consists of: knife, newspaper, towels, wood bar with hole (for the frame ends to sit in,) and frame rests.

 

The conservatory is a good place for me to extract as it is bee-proof and hot when closed up. I work in a line, with full supers one side, then the uncapping ‘tray’, extractor and finally empty super to put the extracted frames back into. The newspaper is for the table and floor, as it’s easy just to place another sheet on top once it’s messy and sticky.

Honey extracting kit

Extracting setup - plenty of newspaper!

As soon as I get the supers home I start removing the capping before the temperature drops in the honey. Working while it is still warm in a warm room makes everything so much easier. I like to cut the cappings off with a knife, but you can use an uncapping fork, bread knife or any thing that opens up the cell. The trade suppliers will even sell you a heated knife for the purpose, but it’s not really necessary!

 

 

Make sure you open all the cells on the frame. The cappings will drop down into the tray and at the end of the session I will put these into a sieve to drain.

 

 

 

Once uncapped I try to load the extractor evenly to balance the weight as it spins. The extractor sits on a 3 wheeled wooden frame. I put a folded towel under 2 of the wheel which help dampen the imbalance when starting. My extractor is a home made job, comprising of a Thorne 9 radial frame which is mounted in a food safe barrel driven by 180w sewing machine motor.

Removing the cappings

Home made extractor

Once loaded I spin slowly at first and increase speed as the frames empty. As usual with spring honey, some has started to set in the cells and will not extract. I will have to dealt with this separately by scraping down to the mid rib of the frame and putting it into a warming cabinet to melt the honey then putting thorough a sieve.

 

Once the honey has filled the extractor I drain it off into (food grade) buckets. I do all of my filtering at a later stage as trying to filter now is too slow and holds up the process. Once I have finished extracting I leave the cappings in a sieve to drain overnight. The extractor I lie on top of the plastic box to drain. To clean up I just wash down with cold water and allow for dry ready for the next time.

To see how a commercial bee farmer extracts honey see the following video by The Norfolk Honey Company on YouTube:

 

 

 

David Lord

OBKA Tutors Blog #11 – Managing a colony preparing to swarm – the Pagden method

How to manage a colony which is making preparations to swarm.

 

Swarming is a natural part of honeybee behaviour, it is how they reproduce. However when they swarm you lose a great deal of your foraging force, and may cause nuisance or alarm to the public, so to avoid that happening here is an explanation of how to do a simple artificial swarm which manages the bees’ instinct to find a new empty home, and manages where the bees end up.

 

When you inspect a colony and find queen cells are being made, there are a number of different methods you can use to avoid a swarm emerging. Essentially if you keep in mind the 3 entities in the hive of the Queen, the flying bees, and the brood, if you remove one of these entities away from the others then a swarm is averted.

 

Here is a simple description of the Pagden method which I use a lot.

 

If you consider that a prime swarm is the old Queen emerging from the hive with a large number of her flying bees looking to set up home somewhere such as a big hollow tree, then this method replicates the conditions that those bees seek but avoids the need for them to leave home to achieve it.

 

Honeybees will typically swarm when queen cells(s) get capped in the colony. This will happen on day 8 from when those eggs were laid. As a new beekeeper you want to take action when you first spot that queen cells are being made, do not wait for them to be capped as that can often be too late.

 

You will need a second floor, brood box full of frames of foundation, crownboard, roof and stand. For this method you need to find the queen.

 

Here are daft pics to try and help it stick in your mind.

This pic shows your colony, complete with Queen, flyers, brood (represented by lots of c-shaped cashew nuts in a bag), and also queen cells (represented by knobbly unshelled peanuts).

 

Move the original brood box to the side onto your spare floor, and put the new brood box with fresh foundation in the original position. Find the queen and put her in this new box.

 

As the location of this hive stays the same, all the flying bees which are orientated to this position will join the queen in the fresh box. You have given them a new empty box and moved the brood away, thereby mimicking the effect of the queen and flyers landing up in a tree, but they have actually gone nowhere, so they are happy and you are happy.

 

The original brood box that contains the brood and the queen cells are now in a fresh location. Any bees that have already learnt how to fly will return to the old queen’s position when they next fly as that is the location to which they are already orientated.

This pic shows the outcome that you are aiming for – the queen and the flyers remain in the same location with a different brood box which is full of foundation. The brood box that contains the brood and queen cells is in a new location.

 

There are additional considerations, but that is the bare bones.

 

You need to consider how many queen cells you leave in the new location. If you leave multiple cells then you may suffer from multiple virgin queens hatching out and emerging from the hive as casts ie small swarms of bees with a virgin, which can be excessive and can deplete the colony to nothing. If you have a choice of either open or capped queen cells, the advice is to leave 1 or 2 open queen cells. Leaving 2 allows for ‘an heir and a spare’, i.e. reduces risk of a single cell not successfully hatching at all. Choosing the open cells over capped ones means you can better judge when they will hatch, and also avoid instances of a capped cell not containing what you anticipate eg it’s an empty old one.

If the box of brood & queen cell(s) is to remain in the same apiary then it may be argued that you should shake additional young bees from the supers of the original colony into this brood box to make allowance for all the bees that will fly back to the original site, and ensure that enough bees remain in the brood box to care for all that brood. If however the brood & queen cells are being moved >3 miles away then there is no need for this as the flyers won’t find their way back to the original location and will stay in the new location.

 

 

When you moved the queen into the new box you may choose to move her on the frame that you find her. If you do this it is essential that there are no queen cells on that frame, otherwise they will still swarm. Some argue that if the frame contains any eggs and/or very small larva then they might make more queen cells from these and still swarm. Personally I choose to transfer the queen along with a frame of large larva as I take advantage of the opportunity to use that frame as a sink for varroa and dispose of it when capped. Alternatively it could be argued that transferring a frame of sealed brood which will soon hatch will make cells available for the queen to lay in soonest which is advantageous. But all this complicates the bare bones.

 

 

You need to consider whether the original brood box has enough food stores. Bear in mind that the flyers in that box will return to the old queen’s position if staying in the same apiary so no nectar will be brought into it until the young nurse bees in there learn to fly – they will be orientated to this new position only. Assess how much stores are in the original brood box. If not much then you can move 1 or more supers across to provide stores to tide them over until their bees are old enough to forage.

 

 

Having ensured that the box of brood in the new location has enough stores, and only 1-2 queen cells, you would then try to avoid disturbing them for 3-4 weeks to give the virgin a chance to hatch and get mated and start laying before you inspect them again.

 

 

There are further optional complications which you will come across as you progress with your bees, such as moving the brood box & queen cell(s) to the other side of the original hive after a few days, but that is optional and therefore enough said.

 

 

Finally here’s some pics of queen cells, they hang vertically whilst worker and drone brood are horizontal. If you only have capped ones to choose from, go for a big one with good dimpling ie it looks like effort and care was taken when building it rather than a smooth small one. If your queen cells are open then they won’t show the dimpling so much. Avoid choosing only a queen cell that is surrounded by drone brood, as sometimes bees make a mistake and will try to create a queen cell from a drone larva so don’t rely on that one.

Good looking sealed queen cell

Oops, lots of swarm cells!

Open queen cells from below

Helen Raine

OBKA Tutors Blog #10 – 2 Metre mentoring

or Conducting A First Inspection

Friends Henrietta and John had acquired a Nuc. Of bees, A Hive, and (before lockdown) my services as a Mentor.

 

With the relaxation in lockdown, and maintaining a strict 2 m separation, a Mentored hive inspection took place on Sunday 17th May. I took a camera with reasonable telephoto, and was able to take photos to help with this article.

 

Henrietta & John’s Hive is beyond a pond – a great source of water for thirsty bees, and a good 2 metre wide barrier!

John got the smoker going – using grass pellets, which is fine – anything dry and burnable works as smoker fuel – my favourite is hessian (sacking, burlap to our American friends). Feel free to experiment – corrugated cardboard, rotting wood, hay, straw, wood shavings.

 

Supplement with sprigs from Rosemary if you don’t want to come home smelling like a bonfire!

 

Lighting the smoker is a bit of an art, and keeping it alight surprisingly difficult … after 29 years beekeeping, they still go out on me! Always have your lighter in your pocket! 

 

After smoking the bees, Henrietta took the roof off and put it where no one was going to fall over it!

 

Its good to smoke the bees and wait a couple of minutes after, so that they have time to respond to the smoke.

 

The generally used explanation for the effectiveness of smoke is that it stimulates their flight or fight response, naturally bees would live in woodland, and the smoke simulates a forest fire; they can not fight, so they prepare to flee, filling their stomachs with honey; this makes them more docile, and also less able to sting as they can not bend their abdomens. The smoke also interferes with their ability to sense the alarm pheromone, which may be a more scientific explanation. Whatever, it works!

Off with the Crown Board – often we’d leave inspecting the supers till last, but we wanted to find out what was going on and so have a good look now!

 

The super was only put on the hive a week ago, so we were delighted to find that most of the frames had been drawn out into honey comb, and there was nectar, and even some sealed honey, on the frames.

 

In order to “encourage” the bees, we moved a couple of undrawn frames to the centre, where they’ll draw them out, and the full frames to the edge – they’ll finish them off over the next 10 weeks.

 

Question – This hive is a “National” with a single brood box and a single super; what are the alternative hive types, and brood box configuration.

 

 

Good use of the hive tool, to lever up frames for inspection.

The frames here are fitted into “castellation” type runners, which hold them in position at a precise distance apart, so that the all important bee space is maintained. There are other ways of spacing the frames.

We took one of the super frames out, just to see what was going on; the frame went in with undrawn comb 7 days ago, so in 7 days the colony have

 

  • drawn the frames out and

  • filled with nectar (the shiny liquid you can see in each cell is nectar – honey in progress!).

 

And they've been working on the other frames in the super too!

Great work Girls!!

 

We moved unused frames to the centre to encourage the bees to start work on them, and put the “filling” ones in their place – there’s about 10 weeks till the end of July when the harvest comes off and hopefully the bees will completely fill this super, and another in that time! Perhaps 50 Lb (25Kg) of lovely, local honey …. what will it taste like? What colour will it be?

 

Question … why is honey different colours and flavours?

 

When we took the super off, we found wild comb on the queen excluder; this is slightly annoying (making wax requires a lot of energy on the part of the bees) and will be in the way.

 

We cleaned this off – wax is a valuable bye product – think candles, think furniture polish, think lip balm or hand cream.

 

With the queen excluder removed, we had access to the brood box; the real interest.

The history of this colony is that it came as a 5 frame nuc 5 weeks ago, and you can see that Henrietta and John put the 5 frames in the centre of the hive (the darker ones with the coloured ends) and then put new frames on each side (so from left to right you can see the dark brown “dummy board”, 3 new frames, 5 older frames, and then 3 more new frames).

 

QUESTION: you can see the old frames are marked with paint; why do you think that could be? What colours are used here, and why?

 

 

Henrietta took the “dummy board” out and again some wild comb had been formed on that – we cut that off and set it aside with the other wax.

 

This makes a bit of space so you can remove the other frames without rolling bees against each other.

 

Question: why did the bees make the wild or “brace” comb?

 

This was frame 3, and the bees have been working hard. In 5 weeks, they've drawn this comb out. Filled it with brood, nectar (uncapped) and honey (capped); you can see that the colour of the (wax) cappings is different for honey and brood.

 

Henrietta shook the bees off so we could see the frame better, and here it is again. You can see a bit more wild comb at the bottom of the frame too – we left this.

 

The lines in the brood area are where the wire in the foundation runs; the queen has chosen not to lay eggs in those cells. The wire will not be completely embedded, so the queen will reject the cell when checking it before laying an egg into it.

Henrietta shook the bees off this frame and is looking for eggs – which are a sure sign that the queen has been there in the past few days and generally, if you find eggs, you can be sure that the colony is queen right without needing to find the queen.

 

Eggs are very tiny (about the size of the eye of a needle) so hard to see – I have to be wearing my reading glasses, and need good light! The mesh of the Veil does not help either!

You can see that the brood under the bottom bar on this frame is different from the brood above, This is “Drone” brood. - drones of course are the male bees, and they are a bit bigger than the workers, so need bigger cells to develop in. When capped, they have “domed” cappings, and are very distinctive.

 

Question: what do drones do? And what happens to them in the autumn? Why is Drone Brood useful?

 

We wanted to find the Queen – of course – she had been marked and clipped, and so was relatively easy to find.

 

Question – why would you mark, and clip the queen??

 

Is it significant that the queen is marked with green paint?

 

And this is why the queen is hard to find; she’s right in the centre here, but other bees are on top of her! You can just see the green mark, but what is usefully shown is that her abdomen (back end) is much longer and differently marked than the other bees. This is what I look for when looking for an unmarked queen.

Since we’d not been able to find eggs, and wanted to, we tried using a small torch to help find them – a magnifying glass would have been useful too!

 

We went right through the “brood” are of the hive, and the last frame was this one; there’s no brood here, but the bees are very organised, and are using it to store pollen, nectar and honey, very close to the brood nest where they’ll need it.

 

Pollen comes in many different colours, distinctive to the flowers the bees have collected it from. Here’s a detail so you can more easily see the different pollen colours.

 

Question: Honey comb is made from bee’s wax – but where does the bee’s wax come from?

Job done, and the hive is carefully put together. This roof is pitched so its put on this way round so the rain is shed to the sides, not on the entrance and “alighting board”.

 

Inspection over, a chat …. lots of questions!

 

  • What about Varroa, and varroa treatment. And other disease

  • What can you do with the wax- why is wax valuable and not to be wasted

  • How do you tell the difference between the queen, drones and workers

  • When do we get the honey harvest (and why)

  • When do we put the second super on?

 

So we ‘ll try to answer those in future blogs, and if you've other questions, then pose them in the OBKA Beekeeping  Q&A section and we’ll do our best to answer!

 

This is the Mentor’s side of the story, Henrietta will write it up from the “Victim’s” point of view, and it will be published in Kidlington News Online https://kidlingtonnews.org/ !

 

Andy Pedley

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OBKA Tutor’s Blog #09 – Catching my bees swarming!

Swarm Collection – Saturday 2nd May 2020

 

I have been a member of OBKA since 2018 and keeping bees for 12 months. My one colony survived winter and looked very strong when I conducted my first inspection at the beginning of April. A great feeling of pride that I had got through my first big challenge of beekeeping. During my visit on 16th April I spotted a Queen cell, plenty of capped brood and a large number of drone cells and stores.

 

I made the decision to perform a split, (an operation to divide the colony leaving the Queen cells in the new half) and transferred the split into a Nuc box. During a brief inspection on 23 April I noticed the increase in the colony had been quite dramatic, I transferred the colony into a Brood box.

 

On Saturday 2nd May I attended my hives with a view to only conducting an inspection of the Hive with the original Queen. That hive was all fine, everything was as expected -plenty of stores, worker brood and drone cells and evidence of fresh eggs. During that inspection I noticed a lot of flying Bees around the area of my split colony.

 

I soon realised I was observing a swarm, presumably from that split colony. Fortunately, after a short period of time they decided to land on a nearby hedge. Once they appeared to calm down and cluster, I moved closer to get a better view.

With assistance of my son who was with me ( his first time of wanting to come with me to check the bees – lockdown for you !) we were able to capture the swarm safely into a Nuc travel box. Once most (almost all) were safely inside the Nuc box I sealed the entrance for 24 hours. I placed the Nuc box with my other Hives, in the location where I would eventually transfer them into the empty Hive.

I returned the following day and was able to transfer the colony into a brood box. I placed a rapid feeder (1:1) with homemade sugar syrup above the brood box; because they were my own bees I didn't need to isolate them and treat for varroa but was able to feed them straight away to encourage comb building.

 

In the space of two weeks I have gone from one strong Hive to three potentially strong colonies. I am looking forward to checking the colonies and watching them thrive. I have enjoyed the experience of splitting the colony and dealing with the swarm. I am sure I have made mistakes along the way but I will learn from them, such as leaving too many Queen celIs in the split.,With just one Queen cell they should not swarm but she may not be successful mated whilst with more than one Queen cell you may have a swarm with a Virgin Queen. As you can see in the first picture two swarms so perhaps two Queens left at the same time but in reuniting them the Queens will sort themselves out. It has been a great start to the season, I will be happy to provide an update as to how I get on throughout the summer.

 

Stay safe and well.

 

For more information on putting a swarm in a Nuc see this video from Stuart at the Norfolk Honey Company: https://youtu.be/nqVeNpC0aVY

 

Carl Goodman