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What's been happening at the club in 2015.

Photos by Nick Thorp.

Other years


Spring has sprung and the bees are collecting already for some.

Alan showing top bar hive wine cork to block enterance Group standing round empty top bar hive
Today started with Alan talking about the top bar hive, this one is currently empty meaning a great opportunity to see the construction.

opening hive for spring inspection a frame full of bees inspecting comb and brood
Graeme continued with some things to look for in the spring inspections such as Queen health, nectar collection, varroa levels and formation of swarm cells.
He aso reminded us to be on the lookout for uncharastic brood cells, anything with dark caps, having depressed caps or caps with holes in can be a sign of AFB and a second opinion should be saught if you are in any doubt.


A very mild autumn day today with a small crowd but still useful work to be done. Probably the last time we will open the hives on a club day till August or September.

seperating the 2 hives that had been in the same stack  ensuring the queen is in the top box
We reduced the hives to one brood box and one honey box each, placing the brood chamber at the top, then the queen excluder with the honey box underneath. This allows the queen a better chance during the winter by keeping her warmer.

reasonable level of honey in the outer frames  pollen peing placed in old brood comb
Checking the club hives for winter stores and noting how much feed they would need. Quite a surprising difference between the four hives, that's right we have four now, with one needing nearly 12 litres of feed and another only 4 litres.

Wrapping up with a cuppa and some honey tasting from a few different sorts of honey collected throughout the year.
Thanks to those who came and to the couple of volunteers who did the manual work :)


For those that didnt have an early Varroa inundation its probably time for an autumn treatment, while you're at it probably a good time to see how much in the way of winter stores your hives have.

puff of smoke over bees  moving frames apart to insert treatment strips  treatment in place with bee spaces on either side
Remember to use your smoker like a sheep dog, a bit here and a bit there to drive the bees where you want. Check frames for brood and place strips in brood areas, leaving enough bee space either side.

small red varroa female on comb  screwed up wings on a worker 
Here we can see the little red disk (at the end of the stick) that is the varroa female, followed by the resulting deformed wings caused by a virus they transfer to the bees during development.

coffee coloured sack brood larvae  german wasp drone and female
This coffe coloured prepupae has succumbed to the sacbrood virus. (left)
When removed by piercing with a stick, they will come out like a small sack of runny liquid, where as AFB will not stay together. Differential diagnosis is very important, ask for help if you are unsure.
A German wasp queen cannibalises a drone comrade that got squashed, (right) check out the wasps page for identification pictures.

using a hive tool to carefully scrape wax off the metal queen excluder  a thin board on top of the queen excluder to let the bees cluster with the queen
Cleaning one side of the queen excluder carefully so that an overwintering cluster board can be used. This will allow the worker bees to cluster with the queen under the excluder, rather than go up further into the honey box and potentially leave the queen under the excluder to die from cold in the winter, while allowing easy access to honey stores above. (remember to remove in spring) The board should be made of something hard such as thin ply, MDF or corflute for example, the bees will chew cardboard. These boards are good where all full depth boxes are being used or where the colony is a little smaller than ideal for over wintering.

Beekeeping members around the club hives
Thanks to everyone for coming along, we will be looking for others who are keen to help Graeme open hives and share their knowledge with the group to help the learning process.


Well the start of autumn has brought about a little rain and some cooler winds, the flowers coming out in the last few days have eased the robbing tendencies  a bit as well for us.

using the electric uncapping tool to remove wax cappings  uncapping knife closeup  honey coming out of a honey gate on the spinner
First honey of the season for some of our members, the electric uncapping knife makes life a little easier, very tasty.

a split hive, 2 colonies separated by a board in the same stack  breaking the hive apart for inspection  well mated and large queen
Looking for the new queen that had been placed in the bottom section of this hive, she has mated and is laying well (left picture). The old queen is still laying well after 18 months so we wont kill her, just run this hive as two colonies.

a single slightly darker capped cell  a closer view of the dark cell showing the minute differences  turns out the dark cell had polen and a little honey
Can you see the slightly darker cell at the tip of the finger shadow? The next picture is close up, just in front of the right hand bee. Turns out it was some pollen with honey over the top, but it could have just as easily been a disease of some form. Lift off the lid of any suspect cells (darker, sunken, chewed holes etc), remember you wont find any problems if you dont look. Some might say thats a good thing right? well no, finding small problems are more manageable, leaving it and hoping is just asking for trouble.....

a small wax cup  bees chewing their way out of their cells  shriveled winds indicate mite build
Sometimes referred to as an "acorn cup" these can be useful for making emergency grafts into. Some healthy bees hatching and a sorry, deformed wing syndrome worker (caused by mite build up)
Today we also checked for honey stores in the hives, most seem to be doing well and slowly starting to winter down, placing steadily more honey and pollen in the brood chambers.
Overall the hives have done quite well, partly due to the irrigation of the surrounding farmland.
Thanks to all who were able to make it today and wishing everyone who couldn't, happy beekeeping.


working hive quickley to reduce robbing  place boxes neatly and strategically to make life easier 
Today Graeme demonstrated how to graft queen cells in the field, along with warning about sloppy practices leading to robbing and personal injury.
Opening the hive for inspection and to graft queen cells can be problematic once the robbing season gets under way. Working quickly and neatly is important for your own health and well being as well as the bees health.

slowly working brood to not squash the queen  pointing out the extended abdomen of the queen
It is important to remember when working the hive, not to pull the first frame out too fast. Rolling bees, or worse squashing the queen can happen, lift the frame at the speed the bees can get out of the way. Once one frame is removed there will be plenty of room to work quickly.

inspecting the frame for suitable grafting grubs  graft with the sun behind you for better vision
Checking the brood pattern and looking for a suitable grafting frame. Once a good area of young grubs has been located, working with the sun behind you makes seeing inside the cells much easier. These grubs are being taken from a strong new queen and placed into an older hive for a better acceptance rate.

demonstrating how docile these bees are on an open hand 
Graeme demonstrating how docile these bees are and not getting stung, though some of us may disagree!
(It may be Graeme's mind control powers or his 200 years of experience coming into play as well) :)

a candle and wax block poured from a solar melter 
What do do with cappings and wax? Feed the cappings back to the hive they came from by placing a robbing board (a hive mat with a 20mm hole at one end) on the top box with a 1/2-3/4 depth box on top of that to enclose it, then place the cappings or sticky wax into an ice cream container or other something similar, for the bees to "rob" back into the hive. After a few days you should have a load of nicely chewed wax that is clean and ready to melt. (the brown on the top of the brick is bits of propolis, dust and other fine debris)

A box with glass lid for solar melting wax 
Not pretty, just functional. (the firewood is to stop the sheet of glass sliding forwards)
Making a solar melter is quite easy and pouring it into a container for making candles or bricks to sell/use is straight forward.
You need a bee proof box of some description (pictured is a hive mat on the bottom, a 1/2 depth box, a plastic feeder tray inside) and a sheet of glass to go over the top. Place wax in containers in this mini oven and it will melt away slowly. Just make sure its secure, cant slide apart or grant access for bees as they will die instantly if they get inside and its hot. Angle it slightly towards the sun for a faster melt (just remember to pour off the melted wax before the sun goes off and use an old sieve to catch big lumps)
Beeswax melts around 62-64C and starts to discolour above 85C, the melter pictured gets to about 80C in full sun after a while.


ensuring there is enough fuel in the smoker and plenty of green stuff to cool smoke   green grass getting added to smoker to cool smoke
Here Graeme has stuffed tightly the smoker 2/3 full with pine needles and is placing green grass on top to make the smoke cold.

Using a smoker in such dry weather has its risks, when emptying your smoker make sure its all out, wet down to be safe or empty into a metal container. Do not lie the smoker on its side on the ground, holding caged smokers between your knees or hooking them to a hive when not in use is a good idea. Be very careful with un-caged smokers.

use 2 rahter than 1 nail in frames   1 nail is not enough in frames  
Pointing out using two nails, or staples of about 30mm long, rather than one nail to hold frames together makes them much stronger.

Some of the frames that were made in a previous hive building day have unfortunately started to come apart with the weight of honey in them.

looking at the variation in bee space for a bottom rebate   bee space at the top of the frames
Having the correct bee space can mean much less brace comb and nuisance wax build up. 6mm is the ideal gap between frame and box, you can have this gap at the bottom of the frame (first picture) or at the top (second picture) just make sure all boxes are done the same way otherwise you could end up with a 12mm gap and heaps of rogue comb.
brood box getting packed with honey   full frames of honey
The club hive is gathering honey so fast they have put a fair bit in the brood chamber, Graeme under supeerd the hive to try and aleviate this somewhat.

5 boxes of honey on a hive
And there we have it, five boxes of honey that are just about ready for extraction! We need to extract them so they can go back on to get more.

Thanks to those who came along for our first meeting of 2015.

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