A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Beekeeping Course: Week 3

The third week of the Beekeeping course again was split into 2 parts; the apiary visit and then back in the classroom. Before going up to the hives we were advised that we were quite lucky that the weather had picked up enough for us to do the hive inspections. Also young virgin queens will have recently hatched so the apiary visit had to be quick as if the hives were left open too long they could take flight and be lost.

On the walk up to the apiary I put my suit on and tucked my trousers into my socks (I didn't fancy Bees in my breeches). I managed to pull a large amount of hair out of my head as the Velcro on my veil got caught in my ponytail. When we got to the apiary we split into 2 groups and looked through the hives. The first hive we looked in was a polystyrene nuc hive; a nuc or nucleus hive is a small hive created from a larger hive, they usually only contain 5 or 6 frames of brood and a queen. The queen was spotted but she is still a virgin queen so was hard to spot as she has a very small abdomen compared to a laying queen. The hive was closed up very quickly so not to disrupt the build up of the hive. We then moved onto a larger more established hive, this one having a double brood area. We did a quick check to make sure there were no queen cells being created and removed a couple of queen cups; they were all empty so were just practise cups. There were plenty of brood and also quite a lot of honey in stores so no issues with the hive. We passed around a frame that the foundation was been drawn out on; this is where the Bees turn flat foundation into full comb with cells ready for eggs to be laid, or honey stored.

After the apiary visit we went back to the classroom. To begin with we had a presentation from a guy called Chris who did the same course I am doing last year. He told how he has gone from a beginner to what stage he is at now. By what Chris was saying, he has really embraced Beekeeping. He has got 6 hives now though 2 are nucs and may be used to strengthen the other hives should the need arise. One thing that interested me was that he builds his own hives from ply wood which would make it a lot cheaper, though the hives wouldn't last as long and would need to be treated against rot each year; The usual wood used is cedar as this has natural resistance to rot. I'd also need to make sure my measurements were precise so the frames fit in without getting stuck or being too loose. All in all his talk was very encouraging as this time last year he was at the same level as me.

The second half of the classroom session was Dhonn, the other guy running the course, talking about other essential pieces of equipment needed for Beekeeping. As he was talking about the various bits of equipment he handed them around the room for us all to see. Some of the items passed around were:-

  • Queen cage and marking pen - This is a small round cage used to hold the queen down so you can use a marking pen to put a coloured mark on the queens thorax, making her easier to find.
  • Hive tools - Already mentioned in a earlier post, these are used to prise hive components apart that have been stuck together with propolis by the Bees, also used to scrape debris and other bits from frames.
  • Porter Bee escape - These are basically one way systems that you put between the brood chamber and the supers so that the Bees will leave the supers and not be able to get back in. This is done so that when you return a couple of days later there are no Bees in the supers so you can take them away to extract the honey. 
  • Uncapping fork - Has two uses. The first use is to remove the capped honey so that it can be extracted. The second use is for removing drone brood to check for varroa; this kills the drone brood as the fork impales the brood, but as varroa prefer to infect drone it a useful technique for seeing how bad your mite levels are.
  • Frame spacers - Simply used to make sure the correct space is kept between frames.
There were other items mentioned such as the suit and the smoker but these items weren't passed around and are very self explanatory.

Also in the past week my better half's chickens have arrived, please visit Stephs Chickens where there are pictures of the girls.