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.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers: Summer Apiary Visit

Yesterday was the third Summer apiary meeting, but only the first I have managed to attend due to work commitments. It started at 3pm, but I arrived a little early. It was held at Judy's house; she is a member of WPBKA. As we waited for everyone to arrive, I was chatting to a few other members. One thing I seem to be asked regularly is "how are your bees?". Unfortunately they don't exist yet, which is a shame for a Beekeeper! Hopefully, the next time I am asked that question I will have a better answer! Fingers crossed.

When everyone arrived, we suited up and headed off for the apiary, which was a bit of an adventure. We walked to the back of the garden, through an orchard and past the vegetable plot and into dense trees. After that we made our way through a patch of ferns, then up a path to the concealed apiary which was in a clearing in another patch of woodland. It must have looked strange to the group of kids that were playing in the area, as 20 ish fully suited Beekeepers walked past.

When we got to the apiary we all gathered around the first hive which is one I've not seen before called a Dartington Long Deep Hive but this one is unoccupied at the moment. This, to me, seemed like a cross between a Top Bar Hive and a British National Hive; to access the brood you lift the lid and then all the frames are in one long row like a TBH but they are made from frames with wax foundation like a British National. Due to the length of the hive it is possible to split it into 2 hives when the Bees are wanting to swarm. The supers in this hive are half the size of standard supers, therefore half the weight, which is why Judy is trying this design.

The next hive was a British National Hive that had a frame of wireless foundation in one of the brood frames to encourage the Bees to make queen cells. The method they were using was a little complex for me at the moment and I won't try to fully explain it but will mention the basics. To start with you use half a sheet of wireless foundation put into a full size brood frame; when the Bees have made the foundation into cells and the queen has filled it with eggs the next step was to move it into a nuc hive without the queen. This will make the Bees left on the frame make queen cells by feeding the young larva royal jelly. Then the queen cells can be cut from the frame and placed in to queen-less hives to save them. That's basically how the method was done. This method would be easier described with photos so if I try this in the future I'll take some. Unfortunately reading the description I've just written makes it sound more complex than it actually was!

The third hive we looked at was again a British National and again involved a process that I will make sound complex when I try to explain! When the hive was opened up there were queen cells found at different stages of development; one was capped and the others weren't. The queen was also found in this hive along with a large amount of Bees. Due to all these factors it was decided that there could be a possibility the hive was ready to swarm. To try to stop the hive swarming a nucleus hive was taken out of this hive. The frame with the capped queen cell and also the frame with the uncapped cells were removed and put into the nucleus hive. The capped queen cell was removed; this is done to stop the Bees creating a mini swarm or cast swarm. The uncapped queen cells were left; they are left because you know that by the time the queen cell has been capped and the queen has developed, then finally hatched there will be no more eggs left so the queen will stay and hopefully start laying. Also placed in the nucleus hive were a couple of frames of food. With this nucleus hive removed from the main hive there is now more room in the main hive so their urge to swarm will be lessened. Also if there is a problem with the original queen then there is a spare in the nucleus hive.

After the apiary visit we returned to the house and had refreshments. Judy had made lots of sandwiches and other snacks including home made cakes. It was good to sit and relax with cake and a cup of tea after all the complex hive manipulation that had been going on! I got talking to a few of the more experienced Beekeepers and a couple of people who were still on their first hive. All in all it was a good day and I was surprised that it lasted 3 hours as it seemed to pass so quickly. I look forward to trying some of the techniques seen at the apiary. I will include my own pictures where possible to try to make things make more sense!