Beekeeping with Fabindia

All free living creatures around our Homes & Gardens - enjoying helping them helping us
Post Reply
User avatar
Bridgets Mum
Longlasting Laner
Posts: 557
Joined: 03 Sep 2011, 22:25
Gender: Female
Location: Wigan

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Bridgets Mum »

Hi, congratulations on your BBKA results. Bet you're feeling really proud! I have just finished another 6 week course run by a local lady who has both national and top bar hives. The more you learn, the more you want to know!
I only have the top bar hives, no others. I chose them partly for my own convenience - no lifting heavy boxes, and partly for the bees - so that they can build their own comb, decide on numbers of drones etc. I'll be interested to know how you get on with your foundation-less experiments. I also like that there is only ever a small amount of the hive exposed at a time if you are inspecting a vtb. This is said to keep the bees calm and so far mine have been totally charming. Time will tell!
Happily I now know several people running different types of hive, so I am following them all with interest. None have come up with a particular favourite hive and it doesn't seem to make any difference to the success of the bees overwintering. I'm watching nationals, horizontal top bars, warres, a log hive and a tyre hive.
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Bridgets Mum wrote:I only have the top bar hives, no others. I chose them partly for my own convenience - .......... - so that they can build their own comb


That's an interesting concept of the top bar hive system. It seems that bees are able to effectively communicate through the vibrations of the comb. Because the foundation in fixed frames is rigid, bees will often destroy an areas of wax at the bottom of a fixed frame, presumably so the comb is less rigid in that area.

Have you actually taken any honey off of your top bars this year? Do let us know how you get on.
Michael
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Books about bees
I suspect knew it before I started out on this beekeeping lark, that bees are probably the most import animal species on this planet. They have been around for millions of years and have influenced the evolution of flowers as no other factor has. They have developed an amazing synergy that ultimately means no bees, no flowers, no fruit. Whilst there are other pollinators, even other species of bees, bumbled bees, solitary bees, it is the honey bee that has been the real trigger in the success of flowering plants.

Here a couple of the most interesting books on honey bee behavior (not beekeeping as such) that I have found to date.

The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism by Jürgen Tautz
Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley

I can guarantee if you read either of them, you will be amazed. You might even be inspired to want to keep bees yourself, if not for the honey but to help save the planet.
Michael
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

2nd Year of Beekeeping
I have had my bees for about 14 months now, so just starting on year two. I won't get that much honey this year, I am planning on taking just about 6 jars of honey off them. The rest I leave to see them over the winter. Here's a summary of what I have learned so far.

1. This beekeeping lark is far from simple
You buy a hen coop, a few hens, throw some food in and you get eggs. My hens are so easy to keep happy. Beekeeping by comparison is rocket science. You have a steep learning curve if you are starting from scratch on your own. It might be easier if your dad or uncle keeps bees but don't underestimate the mountain you have to climb.

2. It isn't cheap
You can pick up a second quality starter kit, where you get a hive and frames, for about £150.00. I started with one hive but now have 3 plus a smaller nucleus hive. Then you need a suit, smoker, hive tool, bee brush, queen cage - list seems to go on and on. I haven't bought a honey extractor yet. I might be able to get a loan of one but if I want to buy one for myself, then I would be looking at least £150.00.

3. It requires commitment
Probably not problem to those of us who keep hens and have to go out each day to collect eggs, feed and water them whatever the weather, but just the same you have to inspect your bees weekly from April/May time through to Oct.

4. Bees swarm
I have a several swarms this year. An experience beekeeper can do much to manage swarming but I failed to find my old queen and remove her from the hive before she had swarmed with all the flying bees. On a positive note, I now have the experience of swarm retrieving!

5. Bees get ill
Commercial beekeepers with hives at a much greater density than the average backyard beekeep like myself probably sees a greater range of problems. However, varroa is the biggest problem for amateur beekeeper like myself. Keeping bees healthy is a bit of a juggling act, and modern beekeeping books talk about 'integrated pest management', a whole range of preventative and treatment measures.

6. Bee sting
Left till last, as it is an obvious observation. I am certainly not immune to bee stings, quite the contrary, as I do get a fair amount of localised swelling. Where people have to be very careful is if they get reactions and swellings a distance from from the actual sting or go into anaphylaxis shock. I've had a few dozen stings in the past year. They are fairly painful and you don't really get used to them.
Michael
User avatar
Richard
Lord Lane of Down...... Site Owner
Posts: 30035
Joined: 26 Apr 2007, 22:48
Gender: Male
Location: Ashford, Kent, UK

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Richard »

Still going great Michael - what special jobs are you doing around Autumn ?

Richard

BTW - I'm going to mention this thread in the Newsletter I'm sending out Monday, so I'm sure a few will come and have a look )t'
New Member? Get more from the Forum and join in 'Members Chat' - you're very welcome
User avatar
Mo
Legendary Laner
Posts: 14773
Joined: 30 Apr 2007, 09:39
Location: Cheshire (nr Chester)

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Mo »

fabindia wrote:

[b]1. This beekeeping lark is far from simple


2. It isn't cheap

3. It requires commitment
Probably not problem to those of us who keep hens and have to go out each day to collect eggs, feed and water them whatever the weather, but just the same you have to inspect your bees weekly from April/May time through to Oct.

4. Bees swarm
6. Bee sting


1. How true
2. & 4.How very true.
I never discovered how to keep bees without needing more & yet more hives.
3. Yes, and the thing that makes it difficult is that you can't open the hives in bad
weather - so I missed some queen cells. Leading to 4. leading to more 2.
6. Ah, that's the one that got me in the end.
When the swelling went from toe to knee I gave up
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
User avatar
Richard
Lord Lane of Down...... Site Owner
Posts: 30035
Joined: 26 Apr 2007, 22:48
Gender: Male
Location: Ashford, Kent, UK

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Richard »

I guess it's all winding down now Michael?

What's the Honey situation?

Richard )t' )t'
New Member? Get more from the Forum and join in 'Members Chat' - you're very welcome
User avatar
Bridgets Mum
Longlasting Laner
Posts: 557
Joined: 03 Sep 2011, 22:25
Gender: Female
Location: Wigan

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Bridgets Mum »

Hi Beekeeper and ex Beekeeper
Just thought I'd update on how my hives are doing. I originally had two colonies but one was a cast swarm which went queenless and I ended up combining it with my large colony. That seemed to go well and as far as I am aware there was no fighting. My next big event was moving the whole colony from a hive that needed repair, to another hive. The two hives are identical and I was able to move the original hive out of the way and put the new one in the exact place of the old one so I hope it wasn't too stressful for the bees. It gave me a chance to inspect the whole colony which isn't something I do regularly and I met the queen for the first time. All was looking well and it was encouraging to see at least 10 fully drawn bars stuffed with honey. They've made a couple more since.
The bees are still foraging and I occasionally see some in my garden now that the Himalayan balsam is going over on the river bank.
I have been lucky to be given a large bag of sheep fleece which I am using as insulation for the winter. At the moment it is just stuffed into a pillow case but I am in the process of creating a bespoke case. I started giving the bees a thick syrup a few weeks ago but the weather has been good and they have ignored it in favour of foraging. I've also got a store of fondant in ready for the colder weather although I am pretty sure their honey will last them.
Here's my beautiful queen. Please ignore the envelope/drinking glass impromptu queen cage!
Image
I haven't taken any honey this year as I want my colony to have the best chance of coming strongly through the winter.
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Sorry, I have been busy lately, hence the lack of updates.

I too haven't taken honey off this year. Somehow, I ended up with 4 weakish colonies, rather than what have would have been a better plan, two strong ones. I have combined two, so am down to three to over winter.

With the unusually warm weather, I noticed there were lots of bees out flying at the weekend, and bring back loads of pollen, and presumably, nectar. There's not a lot flowering at the moment but ivy flowers at this time of the year, giving the bees and other foraging insects a last boost before winter really sets in.

There won't be a lot to do with the hives till spring now, though I will treat for varroa sometime round mid-winter, at a time when the queen won't be laying. This is because varroa breed in with developing brood, so if there is no brood, there will only be adult varroa on the adult bees, hence the chance to attack them.

Be interesting to see how many colonies do survive the winter, I will update you all in April :-D
Michael
User avatar
Richard
Lord Lane of Down...... Site Owner
Posts: 30035
Joined: 26 Apr 2007, 22:48
Gender: Male
Location: Ashford, Kent, UK

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Richard »

Interesting Michael, I've noticed a lot of Ivy Bees still around but don't know anything about them.

Think it all may change this weekend!

Richard )t'
New Member? Get more from the Forum and join in 'Members Chat' - you're very welcome
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Nearly a disaster at the weekend
We live up in the North East but thankfully we didn't get the torrential rain and flooding as they did in Cumbria, or as they had in Corbridge, just 15 miles from where we live.

However, the storm whipped up gale-force winds, and as a result one of my hives blew over. I put it back together again pretty quick and so hopefully no too much damage has been done. I now have a large rock on each hive to weigh them down.
Michael
User avatar
Mo
Legendary Laner
Posts: 14773
Joined: 30 Apr 2007, 09:39
Location: Cheshire (nr Chester)

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Mo »

Good job you noticed.
Were they annoyed?
Dance caller. http://mo-dance-caller.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-i-do.html
Sunny Clucker enjoyed Folk music and song in mid-Cheshire
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Strange weather - a bit of a worry for the bees
What strange weather we have had lately. It never stopped raining Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and although the ground is very wet and there is a lot of standing water on the roads and paths, we have not had any flooding close by us, unlike what the poor folk of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire have had to deal with.

But the weather has been unseasonably mild and today was a lovely day to be in the garden. What I noticed was that two of my hives had bees out flying. You might initially think this isn't such a bad thing but I am worried that this could have disastrous consequences for the colony.

You see, at this time of the year, the bees should all be clustered together for warmth. This mild weather has resulted in at least some of the flying bees breaking from the cluster and wanting to be out. The problem is that there is not a lot of flowers out at the minute for them to collect pollen and nectar from, so in effect they could be using more energy, from their winter stores, than they actually bring back. Overall, this will result in the colony's food store getting depleted. In order to fly, a bee has to warm her body and muscles up to about 37 degree C and to do this she needs energy in the form of honey. Now for a singe bee, this will be a minute amount but if many bees decide to go of exploring, then over time these minute amounts will all add up.

Time will tell if this has been a really bad thing.

Michael
Michael
fabindia
Legendary Laner
Posts: 1842
Joined: 03 Oct 2010, 20:23
Gender: Male
Location: North East

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by fabindia »

Winter feeding and treatment
I am sure I am not the only beekeeper worried about this really, really mild winter. The bees should be tightly clustered together and the queen stopped laying at this time of the year. That's the time to treat the colony with oxalic acid to kill varroa. Unfortunately, the weather till last week, hasn't really been that cold.

It gone very mild again over the past couple of days and odd bees are still venturing out. But I can't really leave it any longer, so today I treated the colony and put some fondant feed in for them.

I still have bees in 3 hives, which make me worried, as a back garden beekeeper, that this is too many. So the plan is that I will combine the two weakest colonies in the Spring and just go into the Summer with two strong colonies. That's the plan but this beekeeping lark is far from predictable.
Michael
User avatar
Richard
Lord Lane of Down...... Site Owner
Posts: 30035
Joined: 26 Apr 2007, 22:48
Gender: Male
Location: Ashford, Kent, UK

Re: Beekeeping with Fabindia

Post by Richard »

Hi

The recent weather has thrown so many creatures into thinking it's the wrong, or right, time of the year.

I hope it all pans out OK.

Richard )t'
New Member? Get more from the Forum and join in 'Members Chat' - you're very welcome
Post Reply