Today was the fourth part of the Beekeeping course. We started with a very quick apiary visit. Unfortunately the virgin queens haven't mated yet so the nucleus hives had no eggs in them yet; if the queen doesn't mate soon then it could be too late. While in the apiary we also collected the yellow boards under the mesh floors and scraped the debris into newspaper to examine for varroa when back in the classroom.
When back in the classroom the first thing we went through were different ways of starting Beekeeping. The first method was to get a nucleus hive or nuc, which contains 5 frames with at least 3 full frames of Bees and some frames of stores. When you receive a nuc, the frames are placed in your hive and the colony expands from there. We were advised this is the best way to start for beginners as there aren't as many Bees as a full colony so are easier to handle. The next option is to buy a full colony; doing it this way you don't need to wait for your colony to build up and will usually get a crop of honey in the first year. This way is more expensive and trickier due to there being more Bees to handle. The other way to get started is to catch a swarm. The big advantage of this is that it should be free; while the downside being that you don't know the character of the Bees. They could be very aggressive, they could have swarming tendencies and they could be diseased. Taking all the above into account and the possible availability of discounted nuc hives, that will be the option I will be aiming towards to start with.
During the coffee break we were free to examine the debris collected from under the hives to see if there were any varroa dropped. Luckily there wasn't as all the hives had been medicated effectively prior to last winter. There will be more on the subject of varroa later on in the course. The main things that could be seen in the debris were granules of honey, Bees legs and a couple of other dead Bee parts.
The final part of this weeks course was by a guest speaker called Phil who is a semi commercial Beekeeper with around 100 hives. I'm not sure that I'll ever have that many hives but it was good to hear from someone with his experience of over 30 years. I have read in several places that you can ask lots of Beekeepers their opinions and get a different answer from all of them and this rang true with Phil. Where as Ivor advises using open mesh floors, Phil swears by solid floors and also Ivor has double brood hives, Phil has single; I think the main thing is to work with what you are comfortable with. Phil gave some good advice about removing your supers when ready to harvest honey, which was if there is a full honey flow on and you take off 3 supers make sure you are able to put 3 empty supers back on or you may make the Bees congested. At the moment I only have 2 supers built and another to be built so when I have two supers on I will only take one off at a time so I can replace it with the other and always have two on. There was talk about the different plants that help a colony of Bees, but as there is lots of rural area around where I live there shouldn't be a shortage of Bee forage unless there is a major drought.
All in all there was a lot to take in this week and I'm not sure I remember everything but also believe I got a lot from today's course. Next week is half term so it will be two weeks before the next one.