Some basic articles to help if you are interested in getting started with beekeeping

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Bait Hive – Success As Swarm Takes Up Residence

I put a bait hive out for the first time last year but didn’t have any luck attracting a swarm, but then I didn’t have much luck with anything beekeeping related last year. The main reason for doing it was to hopefully stop swarms from my own colonies causing problems with the neighbours.

About 4 weeks ago I decided to relocate it from it’s westerly facing position on a  flat roof to the top of my south facing porch – about 3m off the ground. The bait hive consists of a 14 x 12 brood box fitted with a solid floor and a restricted entrance of about 30mm in one corner, topped with a crownboard and roof. Inside the box were a couple of old frames and a dummy board – as it’s a 14 x 12 box I wanted to make the internal volume appear smaller. All the research I did indicated that bees seemed to prefer around 30-36 litres so using a dummy board meant I could adjust the internal space to the recommended volume.

I smeared a couple of drops of lemongrass oil across the tops of the frames and put some on a wad of tissue inside a freezer bag that I placed in a corner on the floor.

Got back after being away for the week-end to find that a swarm had occupied it. As I hadn’t inspected  my own bees I was a bit concerned that one of my colonies might have swarmed whilst I was away. However, after inspecting my colonies it looks like it’s a swarm of somebody else’s bees.

From a cursory look I can see it’s a large swarm and has already started to fill the old combs and drawn a new comb down from the crown-board and the bees look to be good tempered. As it had been there for about 3 days I took it down and sited it in my apiary. I have added some additional frames of foundation and put in a frame feeder in case they are short of stores and to encourage them to draw out the new foundation. At the week-end I will do a proper inspection and look to put them in a normal brood box so I can re-use the bait hive.

Really pleased so far with the results as it’s always nice to get something for nothing, hopefully they will turn out to be a productive colony and expands to be able to take them through the Winter as a full size colony.

My advice for anybody contemplating setting up their own bait hive is go for it. Make sure that the location you choose is one that you can access easily as you will need to able to carry a box full of bees down from it. At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do this as I had originally set the hive up by carrying the individual components up a ladder one by one. It’s a different story trying to lug a full size box back down again.

Observations of a Warm Spring

After a number of seasons where the start of Spring has been either cold, wet or even both it makes a pleasant change to have a warm and settled period of weather to the start of a season. This year, 2014, looks to be about 4 weeks ahead of last year and about 2 weeks ahead of what could be considered an average Spring. The bees are certainly active when the mid-morning temperature gets above 12C and it has been getting to 17C on quite a few days. What has been interesting to observe is that my strongest colony, Aqua, has raced ahead of the others. It’s been expanding at the rate of one additional 14×12 frame of brood per week. So it has virtually doubled in size in the space of 6 weeks, which means I can add a second brood box and use it for queen rearing. The other colonies are expanding much more slowly, probably about 1/2 a brood frame a week.

Also what has surprised me has been the emergence of drones very early in the season, at least this means that if the bees do start to show signs of producing new queens they can get mated.

The other issue that appears to be one that will need to be tackled is varroa. As the Winter was very mild this means that the colonies were rearing brood over the whole of Winter giving the varroa ample opportunity to continue their breeding cycles in the larval cells.  I haven’t started to remove capped drone brood yet. I think that because it’s a bit early the bees have been drawing the comb out as worker cells rather than drone cells. I will put in the varroa slides to monitor the mite drop and see how bad the problem is likely to be.

Honey Extraction and Bottling

I have extracted the honey in the supers from my colonies. In all there were 12 supers but most were around half full, at least the majority were capped off. About 8 were uncapped and I didn’t extract these as the water content might lead to fermentation problems later with the bottled honey (don’t ask me how I know this!). I checked the water content with a refractometer and it gave a reading of 18.25 to 18.5 which is what I was after. This also means the honey will be ideal for creaming (more in a future post).

To uncap the honey I resorted to suing my uncapping knife which as it’s heated made short work of the job, but is a bit messy. I did try using a heat gun on some of the frames but the results were a bit patchy and there was quite a bit of honey left in these frames after spinning. The advantage of the heat gun method is that it’s a lot less messy and should be quicker. However, past experience shows that it only really works with frames that haven’t been previously extracted.

In all I managed to get around 75Kgs which is about 50% of what I had expected earlier in the season. But it seems that yields across the UK are down significantly. I also produced some cut comb for the first time. Found it very easy with the comb cutter and certainly not as messy as I had envisaged it would be.

Finally after a couple of days in the settling tanks I have started to bottle some of it into 454g and 227g jars. The cut comb goes straight into containers and is topped up to 227g with some liquid honey.

I have had some new labels printed up using one of my photos and I am really pleased with the way they have turned out.