Favourite equipment

At least nowadays each season is just a matter of top up purchases rather than the full investment.  It isn’t cheap to keep bees – we do it for love not profit or return on investment.  After a few years, though, I am definitely developing some preferences.

Maisemore gloves, recommended.

Maisemore gloves, recommended.

My favourite gloves were purchased from Maisemore.  I went there in person and tried them on as another beauty of them is that they are available in glove sizes.  This means you can find those that fit close enough for easy removal and with enough motor control to use a camera as well as do what is necessary with the bees.  I have found, though, that they are less good for controlling an iphone or iPad – I assume that these have been calibrated for skin using temperature or something as well as just pressure.  nevertheless I’ll be treating myself to a new pair this year.

An all in one is definitely the best suit type for most inspections and swarm collections.  Bear in mind that we usually inspect when it is warm enough to wear a t-shirt so beesuits do get hot.  Some of the fabrics are just too thick for comfort just as some suits and gloves are too thin for full protection.  it helps to either visit a supplier or go to one of the bee gatherings so you can feel the garments.  I love Bee Basic.  The fact that the hoods are interchangeable is useful.  I purchased a zipped bee jacket for those times when I may not need full protection and didn’t want the hassle of carrying a full beesuit.  I can wear it more or less like an anorak and if I have sturdy jeans can feel pretty safe.

The best sting stuff seems to be After Bite.  One of our volunteer beekeepers seems to have been targeted more recently so we try to keep something at all times.  After Bite seems better than the more creamy preparations and it is in the form of a pen so conveneient to carry.

Clear quilts are great and Julian, the regional bee inspector seemed to rate them, too especially for beginners.

My worst equipment is the hive strap with a ratchet.  I seem to have a form of dyslexia when using them either unable to get the tightness I want or unable to undo them when someone else has succeeded to put them on.

As far as smoker fuel is concerned I have tried lots.  I do find the pellets sold for the purpose are quite good and I often add some lavender in the hope it calms the bees.  Increasingly though, I use a water spray which seems gentler.  For emergencies I then also have a spray I purchased a couple of years ago.  The bees don’t like it but they do react quite quickly to it.

My worst moment as a beekeeper was when I had allowed my mentor to persuade me to add a super beneath the brood body over the winter.  For me this really didn’t work because it means more weight and more manipulation of heavy bits of hive.  When I had to take the super from below the brood box and place it above in spring, I hadn’t realised and couldn’t see from above, that the bees had used propolis to glue the frames of the upper brood box to the super frames below.  I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t lift teh brood box a little, slide it across and place it elsewhere whilst I moved the super out of the way.  Then suddenly some of the lower frames came detached with a thud and a cloud of unhappy bees was everywhere.  I have wintered on a single brood body ever since and have only had one winter fatality.  That was Spring 2003 – the colony was alive and well as late as mid march but the prolonged winter seemed to knock it on the head almost before the worst was over.

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Neglect – and time for a bait hive

New hive with notice 'vacant possession' docile bees only

Wood work complete I just need a colony for my hive.

I’ve been neglecting this blog a little as it has been so interesting now we have the Arnia hive monitors at our Hughenden Manor Apiary.  I so wish I could do this at home, or set up a Raspberry Pi to do similar.  If you are interested search for Hughenden Buzz on wordpress or follow this link. http://hughendenbees.wordpress.com/

It is really nice to be involved in a group such as the volunteer beekeepers at Hughenden.  I prefer to be home in the evenings when most of the BKAs have their sessions though the communities there are great and of course the buying and selling of equipment or nucs saves money.  One of the Hughenden beekeepers mentioned that last Sunday her bees at home swarmed.  Luckily she was ready to do something to them and so actually they had swarmed somewhere close by and she was able to gather tham and make an extra colony.  She and I have been called out to a whole host of swarms at about 1.30 pm on a Sunday so I start cooking the Sunday roast with some trepidation these days.  The fact her bees swarmed was useful, though.  I had just added a super to each of my hives so I hope that took their minds from swarming to drawing comb.  My back gets so bad I may have to give up beekeeping – I certainly pace myself as far as opening the hives are concerned.  It seems to force my back into exactly the wrong position and even the weight of a single frame  sometimes makes it even more uncomfortable.  Still, until I am forced to, perhaps I should consider a bait hive.  This is still an area that fascinates me.  Partly because of one swarm collection at Hughenden Manor’s walled garden; the bait hive was positioned on the wall and the bees just marched in with obedience – the easiest swarm collection ever.  Partly because in my early days the tales from older beekeepers about bait hives and their mysterious hints about their secret formula for ‘bait sausage’ were so intriguing.  Cucumber was definitely mentioned.  I have just kept to lemon grass oil and something that could smell of bees already.  Oh and the sign I added saying ‘Hive to let, gentle bees only need apply’.  Not that I was very lucky.  perhaps this year I will be.  I’ll add a poll at the bottom to find out if people have had success with bait hives.

Bait box

Here is a bait hive placed near a swarm that was too high for me;  I think eventually these bees moved into my chimney having spent a cold, wet day or too in the tree.



Bait box

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Good Advice From Bees

Love it

Romancing the Bee

Bee humour

Have a wonderful Spring day!!

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Middlesex Beekeepers’ Day Part 2: David Aston, Plants and honeybees

A good summary, well worth reblogging.

Adventuresinbeeland's Blog

A follow-up post to ‘Middlesex Beekeepers’ Day – Terry Clare, Queen rearing for the average beekeeper‘.

Below are my notes from Dr David Aston’s talk. David is President of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), a Master Beekeeper and holder of the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB). I have paraphrased, but the thoughts and facts are his.

David Aston David Aston

Look about you next time you travel across the country. The UK environment is experiencing destruction everywhere, with hedgerows being slashed and the mechanical flail whipping back foliage that creatures could live in. Meanwhile, in our gardens many of us are obsessed with tidying away any mess; in doing so we are taking away the homes of creatures that could have lived there.

As beekeepers we should not blame the weather for everything. We can overcome most of the problems. At a recent conference on the health of honeybees which David…

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Who was the biggest show off?

I woke to sunshine but it was past mid-day before I was able to enjoy a short walk outside.  The temperature had reached that critical 10 degree level and I hoped to see some bees but decided to take in the garden and see what forage it could be providing for a brave bee.  Harry the cat insisted on joining me on my expedition and what a show off he proved to be.  Everytime I paused near a tree to peer at snowdrops or a crocus he decided to show just what a great tree climber he was.  The sun was putting out dazzling rays of warmth as if to convince me of its great power.

2014-02-16 13.16.31            As I took the circuitous route to the apiary I saw fat buds of a tree peony, healthy new hydrangea leaves, surprisingly advanced rhubarb and even an allium almost a foot tall.  In February!  Another show off methinks.

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Turning the corner and entering the green tunnel that leads to the apiary, it seemed incongruous to see reminders of winter in the form of holly still with berries.  No sign of life on the weeping willow but the Mahonia flowers show proudly against the lush green foliage.

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Now we reach the hives.  Wow.  The first hive has a healthy show of bees mainly close to the entrance doing the spring cleaning from their winter confinement.  I glance to hive 2 a little more in the sun there is a great cloud of activity.

2014-02-16 13.17.00As I head back to the north side of the house I espy 2014-02-16 13.16.07some shy aconites with their pretty green ruffs around their heads making them look like innocent choir boys.  I search for more then see another show off.  A solitary honey bee seems to skip from aconite to crocus keen to boast her flying expertise and make herself the centre of my camera lens.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Sheds glorious sheds

Our garden shed is probably an ancient monument.  It has been repaired numerous times, and the door widened as our mowers became wider in an effort to reduce the number of rows needed to finish the job.  I had tried to persuade the OH to get a new one when we last had this one reroofed.  I am afraid I refuse to ender its dark and foreboding interior.  It almost certainly has been a home to the dreaded glis glis and if they are there again I don’t want to come face to face.

At last the decision was made.  We need to replace it with a larger one.  But when the man came to estimate he suggested it made more sense to rebuild the front and out double doors on the old one. And put a new shed beside the old one which could be a bee shed.  A bee shed for me.  A 15 ft by 6ft bee shed.

Just think of how much room there will be in this shed.  To be fair, it will be a little away from my hives – but there is the possibility of power being taken into it.

And this estimate was some time ago now.  The due date for the shed (which is made to suit customers) is the week beginning 14th October.  Just over a week away.  Time to get very excited.   Here is a link to our local shedmakers

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Feeding time in the apiary

Autumn Feed time.  That means making syrup at winter strength to make up for any honey we have removed to ensure food stores for the winter and to encourage winter bee production.

Something that is most bizarre is that supermarkets used to sell or even give spoiled sugar bags (split usually, sometimes with a little dampness) to beekeepers as the volume of syrup the bees will take can be enormous and hence expensive.  Supermarkets rely on bees indirectly as they need food production to be as high as possible and they need pollinators to increase yield.  Some supermarkets even have bee friendly projects – such as the Coop’s Plan Bee.  I was sure they would be happy to let me have sugar but once I had gone through all avenues I was told no – it is that grey being ”health and safety” at work again.  I had also asked in Gerrards Cross Tesco but never got a definitive answer.  My fellow beekeeper on our Hughenden Manor bee project had success with Tesco in Princes Risborough though he was asked to pay a reduced amount for the supplies but just this week we learnt from him that the manager has now been told by Head Office he cannot do this any longer – the sugar needs to be destroyed!  Our friends Health and Safety strike again.

So,  I had been trying to build up stocks and today went to Morrison’s to buy.  (I had asked them before and they also said they couldn’t give me any – though they said from memory that they used it in the staff canteen).

2013-09-25 17.02.19   My favourite syrup feeder is a green one from Maisemore.  I don’t need to use a super as the footprint is the full size of a super.  It is very easy to take off the hive roof and then the lid of the feeder to top up.  Surprisingly sometimes it takes the bees a while to find the syrup and I need to dribble some down the funnel to give them a Very Strong Hint.  The capacity is excellent.  Many beekeepers find that 2 litres of syrup can be used up in just 2 or 3 days.  Having two feeding points ought to improve the bees access to the syrup.

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In the early days I did cut some extra holes in the crown board to coincide with the feeder openings but I assume that wasn’t necessary.  Surely the design of the feeder acts much like a crown board?  Perhaps someone will correct me if I am wrong.

The design is quite clever.  The central turrets mean the bees can come up from the hive below but as they are covered they cannot escape into the feeder itself.  Ridges on the turrets and on the cover give grip to help the bees climb when necessary.  You need to fill the container slowly when there are bees feeding to avoid them drowning or falling in the stampede as they all try and escape the tsunami of syrup.  I usually put the syrup in washed out milk cartons and I have often gone down at dusk without bothering to suit up as it can be a quick operation to whip off lids, add more syrup and return the lids.

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Managing the volume that needs to be made over the crucial few weeks can make the kitchen look as though it is more like a production line.

So I had better get back to the production line.

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Media City !


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Beekeeper this autumn

As part of my ‘Beekeepers in winter’ entries last winter, I explained how I’d applied to countdown and passed the audition.

This morning I look out of the window after yesterday’s rain.  The sun shines and as the days get shorter so morning shadows get longer.  Tickets to media city, Manchester seem to throb in my pocket and we’ll leave shortly.  Tomorrow I will be filming my Countdown episode!

Already I have a very positive view of the team.  Maps and tips have been sent and money to cover the train fare.  I just don’t trust myself to remember the tips.  My practice games seem to show I am getting worse not better and I didn’t sleep well.  it should be a great day.  I appear in the penultimate game so I have audience tickets for the first 3 games filmed.  I think, if my opponants are not too good, I do have a slim chance of winning one or even two games.  On TV at the moment is Jen Steadman and I am so glad she will have had 8 games before I came along.  But there could be someone just as good in full flow.  If I were to win both games then I would need to return probably in November.

I have packed 5 tops and tried to follow the rules (no thin stripes, no sparkle, no checks, no small patterns all of which can cause camera problems).  I’ve practised putting on make up hoping not to look too washed out.

The next time I wrote other than a ‘jot’ by smartphone, it will all be over.

Just keep your fingers crossed that my first opponant is not a 10 year old genius.  Two of my grandchildren made me a lovely card.  If the first contestant I play is called Robert it might freak me out!IMG_1071

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