Beekeeping – Smoking the hive & more to worry about

The BBKA news arrived today – this is the monthly newsletter of the British Beekeepers Association.  I thought it would be a wonderful antidote to newspapers and current affairs but this month’s articles include headlines like “Taking & Hiving A Swarm” with photos of giant swarms about 1m high and 0.5m wide (… interesting, perhaps something for next year); “Allergic Reaction to Propolis” (yikes, hope my skin will be alright); and a front page headline of “Neonicotinoid Effects on Bees” (hhmmm, let me guess, bad effects rather than how it makes them into bees with super powers … must read more).  Also, on page 24 are photos of burning pyres of beehives being buried in pits.  It’s like a scene from bee armageddon.  All terrifying to the novice beekeeper and surely off-putting for wannabee keepers!

I plucked up the courage.  It had to be done.  The plan:

  1. Open the hive
  2. Replace the closed floor with an open mesh floor (so the varroa fall out)
  3. Dust bees with icing sugar, so the bees clean each other and the varroa drop off (yes – that is what beekeepers do)

I managed to get the paper, cardboard and chippings to light straight away and off we set to the allotment with the smoker.  I just want to make it clear that I took Dad with me as I want him to be my Deputy (rather than hold my hand and protect me from the bees).

I’d read the books.  Been on the courses.  And was anxious to just get on with it and naturally the plan went out the window.  If you are a beekeeper, you might not want to read the next paragraph.

Before: me, pensivefirst time at beehive After: beehive without landing board and without entrance excluder (this was not the plan, eek)beehive without landing board

I puffed some smoke into the front and back of the hive. So far so good.  I lifted the roof and placed it on the ground.  The crown board was full of 1000’s of ants.  Hmmm – another worry to add to the list.  There did not appear to be ants inside the hive though.  The bees seemed really good natured and friendly, ie. they did not hassle us.  I put the super on top of the roof on the ground.  Picked up the Queen excluder.  Worried about the Queen hanging onto it, but felt powerless and relied on the fact that she probably wasn’t.  I lifted the brood box and put it on top of the excluder.  Removed the closed floor and replaced with open mesh floor.  At this point realised that I had now got rid of the bees landing board at the same time.  Hmmm – another worry to add to the list.   Reassembled the hive, trying not to crush too many bees, but everything might now be at right angles to what it was before.  Sprinkled 50g of icing sugar over the brood box.  Hopefully bees are robust.  Hopefully bees can find the entrance?

[If the language above is confusing please read about beehives.]

There seemed to be a bit of confusion and a lot of bees around the entrance for the next 30 minutes.  I left the entrance reducer out so there was a massive entrance for the bees.  Was not sure if this was the right thing to do. Another thing to worry about and Google.

I went back later to use secateurs to cut the grass below and around the hive and replaced the entrance reducer (based on Google evidence).  I studied the hive a bit to discover quite a lot of dead bees around and about 100 clinging to the bottom of the open mesh floor on the outside of the hive.  Hmmm – another two worries to add to the growing list.

So much to worry about.  So much to learn whilst making life and death, success and failure, decisions.   The best bit of the day was watching white bees flying around covered in icing sugar.  Magic! I’ll try and take photos next time.

If any real beekeepers are reading this, please give me some advice.

I feel over-whelmed and so am trying to break down what needs to be done into small steps.  So next time:

  • Do a varroa count on the board
  • Check they have stored honey in the supers
  • Check to see if they are building a Queen cell
  • Try and find the Queen
  • Dust with icing sugar

I think I can do this.

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Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

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