What I learned in my third year...

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I thought I'd move it here, but without further ado.

  1. The best laid plans...
    It's well and good making lots of grand plans in advance but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
    This year I was going to expand up to 6 hives, have more honey than I knew what to do with and maybe experiment with queen rearing so I ordered loads of kit well in advance. 3 new complete hives, 10 more supers, frames and all the other bits and bobs I thought I'd need.

    The supers are untouched and two of the hives sit empty storing frames. Despite that I still count this year as a success. I took the plunge and ordered 3 nucs, all of which are currently doing nicely and I'll be trying to overwinter all three of them.
  2. There's no such thing as too much kit.
    The supers may still be sat in the garage, but all three of my full size colonies now permanently have an empty super in place. Very handy for storing things, my out apiary super has smoker fuel, a spare lighter, inspection notes.
    I've also invested in some spare crown/feeder boards which have come in very handy, especially when taking supers off.
  3. I'm only just scratching the surface
    I've gone for the exams with gusto, been to a few workshops, read some more books, cornered anyone who looks like they might know what they're talking about and it's clear the more I get into this just how little I know about my buzzy little friends.
  4. "The bees don't read the books"
    Just as well, a lot of them rubbish advice at some point. One of our local gurus and ex-Inspector is convinced that a lot of beekeeping myths are simply propagated via "the books". Some bit of guff gets printed in one book and it's then picked up and re-printed elsewhere simply because it was in that book so it must be right.

    I think this year is a case in point, somewhere the suggestion to leave two queen cells as part of swarm control cropped up and it's spread like wildfire including the BBKA newsletter. Across every forum it cropped up and the justification for generally ignoring subsequent advice to take down one of the cells to prevent a swarm leaving has been "well it's in the books/newsletters".
  5. Extracting really isn't that bad
    Last year was a nightmare, we got honey and wax everywhere, it took hours, I ended up pouring and filtering honey several times wasting a couple of pounds of honey at least in the process I'm sure. This year, with the benefit of last year's experience we flew through the extraction we've done so far. I reckon we can clear and extract a super in about 20 minutes and get most of it in the settling tank rather than up the walls, on the carpets, into the bedrooms, on the dog we don't own and everywhere but the kitchen.
  6. Varroa are nasty, insidious little buggers
    I've tried to take an educated approach to my IPM scheme but I'm still not striking the right balance, I have a colony very visibly struggling at the moment. I'll be throwing everything at them over the coming weeks but will be looking to requeen them from other colonies that seem better able to cope. While I won't be going more chemically intensive in terms of considering pyrethoids, for example, I'm far less squeamish about using, for example, Oxalic acid.

    I've had a few new beekeepers this year confidently declare that they're not going to treat because they "don't have varroa" mostly on the basis of not seeing any natural drop. Needless to say I think this is a mistake. I treated all my colonies with apiguard last autumn but didn't use OA. I'm still not sure I'll routinely use OA as I want to try and establish some sign of tolerance to varroa, but my struggling colony will definitely get a dose until I can requeen them in the spring (touch wood).

    All the swarms we've picked up this year (especially with a bunch of "natural" beekeepers close by) have been given an OA treatment after they've been hived for 48 hours.
  7. For the first time I'm anticipating rather than reacting
    Last year I was still chasing the bees, misunderstanding what I was seeing and generally not seeing the wood for the trees in many instances. This year, for the first time, I've felt more in control of the situation, spotted the signs; well apart from one colony that swarmed in march and took me by surprise.

    I've enjoyed my beekeeping a lot more as a result despite the somewhat shaky start to the year that I've had. The best thing I learned, to quote Douglas Adams, is "Don't panic". With few exceptions, there's little that can't be solved by putting the crown board on and having a think for a few minutes or even 24 hours before leaping into action.
  8. Porter bee escapes just don't work
    They don't, I swear there's more bees in the supers with them on that without. Useless bloody things, I've cleared supers more effectively just dumping them in a wheel barrow and wheeling them to the car and driving off with the windows open. Bah.
  9. They really can tell when there's a storm on the way.
    It was a nice afternoon when I started, a 3 frame swarm was the last colony to be looked at as the clouds rolled in and the air pressure noticeably changed, I got one frame in before they went for me, you've never seen a hive put back together so fast or a fully kitted up beekeeper get down a path so quickly they could have outrun Usain Bolt.

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Updated 31-08-2011 at 12:36 AM by Neils

Tags: musing


  1. Jon's Avatar
    I concur with most of that.
    Leaving 2 queen cells has got to be a contender for the worst possible piece of beekeeping advice. A swarm is almost guaranteed in my opinion.

    I have found myself worrying more about nosema than varroa, as varroa is easily controlled if you are not delusional about lack of mites.
    I posted earlier in the year about one of my bka members who did not treat 'as he had no mites' and he lost 27/28 colonies last winter.
    Apiguard (Thymol) and Oxalic does the job for me. I have hardly seen a mite all summer but neither of these treatments is too aggressive in my opinion. I am into the second fortnight of Apiguard on most of my colonies and will be finished up by mid September.

    PS. Porter escapes work for me.
  2. The Drone Ranger's Avatar
    Hi Nellie a Canadian clearer board (thornes) put on in afternoon and within a few hours (not longer) you can take off the super