What beekeeping related activities did you do recently?

  • Hey Guest, We've had to cancel our 2020 Summer BushMoot PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information.

slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,079
148
Devon
By popular demand a thread about all things to do with or related to beekeeping.

Like many others here I have a few colonies and I keep them for all sorts of reasons. The main one was simply just to have honey bees about the place as we had not seen them locally. They have gone one to produce a good crop of honey and produce plenty of other products such as wax, pollen and propolis as well as help pollinate various plants in our local area.

I'm also keen to try and look after them in a more natural way and to try and make most of our equipment ourselves.

Currently I'm trying out foundationless brood frames and after today's inspection they seem to be going well.

What's everyone else been up to?
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,368
2,560
Mid Wales
Sadly, I gave my bees up a few years ago but I'll follow this thread with interest. For some reason (maybe we're too high/too exposed I don't know) we lost both colonies for the second time so decided to call it a day.

I cleaned and stacked the two hives ready for a friend to pick them up and before he came (a week later) a swarm had gone into one of them! He had to drive home with a full hive :)
 

Bazzworx

Full Member
Mar 5, 2009
360
51
34
South Glos
I have 7 hives at the moment in north Wiltshire. I was up to 20 odd last year but moved out of a rented cottage on a farm to buy our first house so I had to reduce down a bit. I use to keep bees in my early teens as I had taken an interest from my grandfather who was a beekeeper, not that we ever done any beekeeping together. When I got to my mid teens motorbikes and girls became more interesting than bees so had a bit of a break. 20 years later a friend of mine had an interest in having a couple of hives. I had kept all my equipment from my teens and also inherited my grandfathers when he went into a home. We organised and cleaned up all the equipment and sorted out the good from the bad and ended up with a few good hives each.
This was a couple of years ago and the hobby has snowballed from there. To build up stocks we would split colonies and collect swarms. I think he was up to 10 or 12 hives last year.
The main reason I keep bees is that I find them fascinating. I like honey but I don't eat much of it, I use the wax more for various projects. I try to sell my honey to friends and family to help cover the cost of equipment but in reality I give more away than sell. This year I have been focusing on queen rearing as that's an area of beekeeping where I'd like to really hone my skills.
One thing I like to do is to show people what goes on inside a hive and give them their first experience of beekeeping. I also take a tub and spoon so they can try some honey straight from the hive.

I'm intending to inspect some hives tomorrow mainly to check yo see if 2 virgin queens have mated so I'll try and get some pictures (not always the easiest job though)
 

Woody girl

Full Member
Mar 31, 2018
2,713
1,811
61
Exmoor
You can't beat fresh local honey.
I've always been fascinated with bees. Something I'd love to have but sadly no room here.
I once looked after a tiny smallholding for six months and there were 4 hives. The owner had arranged for another local beekeeper to come in and deal with the bees but I had a lovely time helping to spin the honey out of the combs and it tasted wonderful.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
Got so hot inspecting on Saturday that I only checked if they had enough space in the supers, rather than doing a full inspection. We're in a windy spot and they seem a bit behind hives elsewhere. Still I'm happy as long as they're doing well enough to get through winter, really.
 

MrEd

Full Member
Feb 18, 2010
1,423
375
Surrey/Sussex
www.thetimechamber.co.uk
i have kept bees for a few years now but tis year hasnt been so good, i lost a colony over winter, and my other colony is a lost cause. supercedure cell, let hatch but 3 weeks later no sign of queen or eggs (presumably eaten while out mating?) so frame of eggs and brood from another hive, and they made a queen cell. However, this one hasnt done well either, still no eggs and about half the volume of bees :/
 

slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,079
148
Devon
Each year has been quite different for us. The first year, 'The Year of the Swarm', was spent catching swarms and buying hives as our nuc was overfull when we got it. 2nd year was better and we extracted some honey for us and friends. Last year got off very well and we had a bumper honey harvest but the autumn wasn't ideal to build up the colonies for winter. Still, we managed to get there without feeding any sugar.

This year is a bit more normal, they are doing fine without a huge harvest so far. We're into the June gap as they say, some stores being consumed and plenty of room in the brood frames by the look of them. We're fairly remote from other keepers and the bees mostly forage on wild flowers and trees (no known fields of OSR).

I'm also raising a few new queens, a couple from a split, one emergency for some reason and just this weekend found a supersedure cell on a hive that has struggled a bit this year. Due to our remoteness I also like to ensure our hives produce a large amount of drones.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
Each year has been quite different for us. The first year, 'The Year of the Swarm', was spent catching swarms and buying hives as our nuc was overfull when we got it. 2nd year was better and we extracted some honey for us and friends. Last year got off very well and we had a bumper honey harvest but the autumn wasn't ideal to build up the colonies for winter. Still, we managed to get there without feeding any sugar.

This year is a bit more normal, they are doing fine without a huge harvest so far. We're into the June gap as they say, some stores being consumed and plenty of room in the brood frames by the look of them. We're fairly remote from other keepers and the bees mostly forage on wild flowers and trees (no known fields of OSR).

I'm also raising a few new queens, a couple from a split, one emergency for some reason and just this weekend found a supersedure cell on a hive that has struggled a bit this year. Due to our remoteness I also like to ensure our hives produce a large amount of drones.
There's nothing wrong with feeding sugar in autumn to make sure that they have sufficient stores going into winter (and then feeding fondant if needed), but if you don't want to do that and you take too much at harvest, you can hold back some supers with capped honey and feed those back if they're looking too light in autumn. If they don't need it after all, you can extract the frames in spring, no harm done.
 

oldtimer

Full Member
Whenever anyone mentions bee-keeping, I am reminded of the time when some years ago, I was headteacher of a very small, rural primary school, and was involved in a research project on children's oral communication. The project leader was a friend and colleague who was soon to become a professor of Education and later the vice-chancellor of a major university. In other words, an intelligent and very highly qualified man.

Our objective was to get the children talking about something and then observe how individual pupils contributed and interacted. We needed a stimulus for discussion and as my colleague had recently taken up bee-keeping in his Cambridge back garden he decided to bring his paraphernalia to show the children. The children listened and looked with interest to his introductory remarks and all seemed to go well until he asked if the children if they had any questions. Then Barry, aged nine and still unable to read or write and whose test scores in all areas of learning were consistently well below national averages, asked, "What do you do when your bees can't get enough pollen to thrive?" Barry, who lived with his family on a self-sufficient smallholding, was not satisfied with the answer my friend gave him and made a few suggestions as to how he could manage his bees in the city more efficiently. The class discussion then degenerated into a highly esoteric discussion on bee-keeping between illiterate Barry and my PhD qualified friend. None of the other children or myself could follow what they were talking about and we went off to our own devices leaving the two of them happily engaged in their own animated discussion.

Although that experiment contributed little to our planned research, my friend's honey production improved dramatically. Followers of this thread will come to their own conclusions as to whose area of expertise was most useful, but the rest of us learned that day the valuable lesson that respect is due for knowledge that is not measured by formal methods. I later discovered that Barry's knowledge was not confined to bees and that he could have shared an equal amount of information about most aspects of small scale food production. That day's experience coloured not only all my own subsequent professional research into Education but my view of other people as a whole. I also suspect that Barry taught me more than I taught him- and I was the one who was getting paid!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Broch

Bazzworx

Full Member
Mar 5, 2009
360
51
34
South Glos
I had a look in 5 hives today, was really pleased that the two splits I did have successfully mated queens and one of them has wall to wall brood on 4 out of 6 frames, my concern is them having enough food going into the June gap. They are defiantly going to be a prolific colony and I'll be moving them into a full size hive very soon. The other has a mated laying queen but was quite honey bound so I swapped out a honey frame for a frame with drawn comb.
 

slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,079
148
Devon
There's nothing wrong with feeding sugar in autumn to make sure that they have sufficient stores going into winter (and then feeding fondant if needed), but if you don't want to do that and you take too much at harvest, you can hold back some supers with capped honey and feed those back if they're looking too light in autumn. If they don't need it after all, you can extract the frames in spring, no harm done.
I know some bee keepers think feeding sugar causes all sorts of problems whereas others will remove all honey and place a 20kg block of fondant on the brood frames. I like to try to do things more sustainably and would prefer to avoid feeding sugar as I have to buy it in. We do usually get a good flow of ivy nectar and as we don't like the taste of it it is ideal to let the bees fill their hives for winter. Previous years we have used a sugar syrup to help the bees draaw their comb and fondant in late winter to tide them over.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
I know some bee keepers think feeding sugar causes all sorts of problems whereas others will remove all honey and place a 20kg block of fondant on the brood frames. I like to try to do things more sustainably and would prefer to avoid feeding sugar as I have to buy it in. We do usually get a good flow of ivy nectar and as we don't like the taste of it it is ideal to let the bees fill their hives for winter. Previous years we have used a sugar syrup to help the bees draaw their comb and fondant in late winter to tide them over.
If you don't want to feed sugar just hold back on extracting (all supers, or at least a few supers per hive) until spring and give the bees what they need over winter.

Last year I left a shallow box with one super's worth of not fully capped honey on each hive to then turn into brood and a half this year.
 

Bazzworx

Full Member
Mar 5, 2009
360
51
34
South Glos
I tend to feed syrup over winter if needs be but I try and keep a load of honey filled brood frames to reduce the amount of sugar I feed them. I have left a super on before without the queen excluder to prevent isolation starvation but found the brood and a half a pain to manage the following spring. I then had a brain wave and ended up shaking all the bees down then put a queen excluder on (couldn't find the queen quickly). Once the brood emerged they back filled the super with honey which was fine. I keep thinking I might ditch the supers and just use brood boxes for the whole operation with out queen excluders, my thoughts behind this is that they would use as much space as they needed for brood then fill the rest with honey. Then when the time comes I can take the top honey boxes and leave the bees with what I expect would be 2 brood boxes with the top being mainly honey. The reason I haven't tried this yet it that it would cost a a fair bit of cash to set up, brood boxes of honey are heavy to handle and it would be a pain to manage the brood over two boxes.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SaraR

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
I tend to feed syrup over winter if needs be but I try and keep a load of honey filled brood frames to reduce the amount of sugar I feed them. I have left a super on before without the queen excluder to prevent isolation starvation but found the brood and a half a pain to manage the following spring. I then had a brain wave and ended up shaking all the bees down then put a queen excluder on (couldn't find the queen quickly). Once the brood emerged they back filled the super with honey which was fine. I keep thinking I might ditch the supers and just use brood boxes for the whole operation with out queen excluders, my thoughts behind this is that they would use as much space as they needed for brood then fill the rest with honey. Then when the time comes I can take the top honey boxes and leave the bees with what I expect would be 2 brood boxes with the top being mainly honey. The reason I haven't tried this yet it that it would cost a a fair bit of cash to set up, brood boxes of honey are heavy to handle and it would be a pain to manage the brood over two boxes.
I know what you mean. I'd love to run a one size box system, bit deeps only would be too heavy for me and shallows only too annoying! :D I'd like something like the Rose hive with just one size boxes that are all in-between national deeps and shallows. But I can't be bothered to change now - too much money, effort and faff.
 

oldtimer

Full Member
A question for bee-keepers.

Although we grew up in different parts of the country (Devon and Hampshire), both my wife and I were told as children that bee-keepers always tod the bees when there was a significant event in the family. This is supposed to ensure that the bees keep working for the family. Flora Thompson also mentions this in her tale of growing up in Oxfordshire at the end of the 19th century, "Lark Rise to Candleford". It is also mentioned by Noel Streatfield in one of his children's books. Yet when we asked our bee-keeping next door neighbour if she had told her bees about the birth of her latest grand child, she was mystified, having never heard of the custom.

Do any of you keep this old custom alive? I've asked the bees in our garden but not being a bee- keeper I didn't get the slightest buzz of interest.
 

slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,079
148
Devon
I do leave supers of honey on for winter. I also have a couple of hives on brood and a half as that seems to suit them. Luckily the queen was in a lower box at the first inspection this year so put the excluder in early.

I know brood and a half can be a pain but where I am it seems to suit some colonies. The teacher at our local BKA lived somewhere similar and also kept his bees on brood and a half as he found that worked best. I have other colonies on double brood if they're doing well. One is also in brood and two halves as I experimented in leaving the excluder out last year as you get told the queen will not lay past the first super of honey. This queen did not seem to know that and laid in the brood box and three supers...

Sadly I don't know many old customs to do with bees, I'm a new keeper and the old keepers I know are more from a commercial background.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
I do leave supers of honey on for winter. I also have a couple of hives on brood and a half as that seems to suit them. Luckily the queen was in a lower box at the first inspection this year so put the excluder in early.

I know brood and a half can be a pain but where I am it seems to suit some colonies. The teacher at our local BKA lived somewhere similar and also kept his bees on brood and a half as he found that worked best. I have other colonies on double brood if they're doing well. One is also in brood and two halves as I experimented in leaving the excluder out last year as you get told the queen will not lay past the first super of honey. This queen did not seem to know that and laid in the brood box and three supers...

Sadly I don't know many old customs to do with bees, I'm a new keeper and the old keepers I know are more from a commercial background.
Yeah, brood and a half does seem to suit a lot of them. My previous line was fine one single brood box, but my current line is more varied. I've got 2 on brood and a half (one should probably have been on double), one one double and one on single brood box. My queens seem happier in the upper box. oh well.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
467
259
Ceredigion
A question for bee-keepers.

Although we grew up in different parts of the country (Devon and Hampshire), both my wife and I were told as children that bee-keepers always tod the bees when there was a significant event in the family. This is supposed to ensure that the bees keep working for the family. Flora Thompson also mentions this in her tale of growing up in Oxfordshire at the end of the 19th century, "Lark Rise to Candleford". It is also mentioned by Noel Streatfield in one of his children's books. Yet when we asked our bee-keeping next door neighbour if she had told her bees about the birth of her latest grand child, she was mystified, having never heard of the custom.

Do any of you keep this old custom alive? I've asked the bees in our garden but not being a bee- keeper I didn't get the slightest buzz of interest.
Oh yes, telling the bees. I talk to mine anyway (calms me down when they are unimpressed by my presence) so when I first heard about telling the bees I started doing that too. Can be quite therapeutic.
 
  • Like
Reactions: oldtimer

MrEd

Full Member
Feb 18, 2010
1,423
375
Surrey/Sussex
www.thetimechamber.co.uk
A question for bee-keepers.

Although we grew up in different parts of the country (Devon and Hampshire), both my wife and I were told as children that bee-keepers always tod the bees when there was a significant event in the family. This is supposed to ensure that the bees keep working for the family. Flora Thompson also mentions this in her tale of growing up in Oxfordshire at the end of the 19th century, "Lark Rise to Candleford". It is also mentioned by Noel Streatfield in one of his children's books. Yet when we asked our bee-keeping next door neighbour if she had told her bees about the birth of her latest grand child, she was mystified, having never heard of the custom.

Do any of you keep this old custom alive? I've asked the bees in our garden but not being a bee- keeper I didn't get the slightest buzz of interest.
i dont but i will do now! i love old tales and customs like this :)