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.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Beekeeping Course: Week 6 ..... Bee Day

Wednesday the 15th of June will be now known to me as Bee Day. At last I can actually call myself a Beekeeper! The day started with me going to work at an early hour then when I got home I prepared my hive to take along with me to the course. While doing this the heavens opened and we had a really strong downpour. At this point I expected that any apiary visit would be out of the question but luckily I was wrong.

Upon arrival at the course Ivor advised us that anyone who had brought a hive would be able to take their Bees home after the class, as he had created enough nucleus hives for everyone who required one. There were three of us this week, including myself with hives. I drove my car up to the apiary and we split into three groups; one for each of us who were taking Bees that night. The first thing that was done was to put my hive where the nucleus hive was, and move the nucleus box to the side; that way any Bees that were out foraging would return to my hive rather than the nucleus hive. Ivor then removed the 6 frames within the nucleus hive and placed then into my hive along with 5 frames of wax foundation that I brought with me in the hive. It was at this point that one of my new "ladies" was a little too affectionate with her greeting and stung me on the ankle. I know it was a lady bee as males can't sting! It felt a little like a hot needle in my skin, luckily only for about half an hour before it wore off. Ivor found the Queen and marked her with white paint while he was transferring the frames over to my hive. We then left the apiary and headed into the classroom with the hives open ready to collect any stray Bees.

Upon returning to the classroom we had a quick coffee break and then moved on to discussing swarm management. One of techniques covered was the "artificial swarm"; this method is used when Queen cells are found and is a way of controlling the swarm before it leaves the hive. With this method you need to have a second hive. The first step is to move your hive about 2 foot to one side and put the second hive in it's place. You then take out the frame with the queen on and place this into the second hive and fill the hive with frames with drawn out comb or foundation if comb is unavailable. This frame with the queen on must have any queen cells removed so they aren't raised into a new queen that may fight with the old queen. In the second hive you need to get rid of any sealed queen cells but leave the unsealed ones. At this point the hives are sealed back up and left for a week. During this time the flying Bees from the first hive will have returned to the location of the first hive, which is now the second hive and the one with the old queen in. The Bees in the hive with the old queen now have plenty of room to expand and are much less likely to swarm. After a week you can go into the hive without a queen and remove all but one queen cell, which should be sealed by now and depleted of Bees as most have returned to the location of the original Queen. This hive is now moved 2 foot to the other side of the hive with the old Queen causing even more flying bees to return to old Queen as they will seek the nearest hive when they find their hive has been moved. At this point you will have a strong hive with the original Queen and a smaller colony with a newly raised Queen. You now have the option of amalgamating the 2 hives but with a younger Queen or having a second hive. This method does sound complicated on paper but when it was demonstrated at the course it was much easier to get to grips with. There were other methods that were explained but I will leave them for the time being.

At the end of the course I returned to the apiary to collect my Bees. I closed the entrance up and placed the Bees carefully into the back of my car. When I started the car there was a steady buzzing coming from the back that seemed to be getting louder. When I looked in the mirror I noticed that several Bees had either escaped or were on the bottom of the hive when I picked it up. I decided it would be a good idea to wear my suit while transporting the Bees. It was a interesting drive to my apiary at my Dad's allotment but I managed it without further incident. When I got to the allotment and met up with my Dad I carried the hive to it's enclosure that me and Dad built over the last few days (mainly my Dad). We then made up a mixture of syrup in my plastic feeder to feed the Bees made of 1kg or sugar to 1 litre of water and placed it in the hive. When I opened the entrance to the hive I expected them to all fly out angrily looking for who had moved them unwillingly to this new location but was surprised when none did. Probably because it was late by then and light was fading.

The following day (Thursday) after work me and my partner went up to the apiary, dropping the baby off at her aunts on the way. We only had a quick apiary visit and didn't use the suit. My better half even ventured into the Bee enclosure and she isn't the biggest fan of Bees. Thankfully the Bees were very well Bee-haved and Steph's opinion of my girls has been raised. She actually rather enjoyed it and would like to come more often.

This is a old door that the hive sits on allowing air to flow under providing ventilation

One of my ladies doing guard duty

Me stood next to the hive proving how brave I am

The apiary enclosure that me and Dad built (mainly Dad)

Just to the right of the apiary is the fruit trees that my girls will be pollinating next year


  1. Congratulations. How exciting! Excellent photos too. Particularly the one of the bee emerging.

  2. Thanks Ben. I will have lots more photos in the future hopefully. Next spring I may be able to explain the artificial swarm technique easier by adding photos.

  3. Hi I'm interested in your bee enclosure as I'm considering doing the same on my allotment. Has it worked well? Does it encourage bees to fly above head height? Have you had any problems with your bees on the allotment? What size would you recommend for the enclosure?

    1. Hi Andy. The enclosure has worked well and does encourage the bees to fly up and over peoples heads. So far I have had no real problems with the bees, there has been a guy say he's been stung but he is still friendly and I don't think he minds them being in the next plot to his. The size of the enclosure is upto you but if you try to leave a few feet between each hive that would be good as it leaves room for you to work around them. Another factor to think about would be how many hives are you allowed in your plot, I am only allowed 3 hives but when I have 3 I will also keep a nucleus hive or two there as well. I'm not sure of the exact measurements of mine but I'd say between 15 and 20 foot across and about 6 foot deep. The allotment comity told me it had to be at least 6 foot tall so that the bees would be flying over head height. Hope this answers your questions, if you have any more feel free to ask and I will try my best to answer them or redirect you to somewhere that can.