The Five Hour Beekeeper

The Five Hour Beekeeper

Traditional Approach To Beekeeping

To date I have basically been following what I shall call the “traditional approach to beekeeping”.  This is detailed in My Beekeeping Calendar and involves a lot of activity and time.  It can be summarised as:

  1. Inspections every 9 days from May-August to reduce swarms
  2. Integrated approach to varroa management, including swarm culling and use of chemicals
  3. Production of liquid honey requiring a day of extraction
July 2015 - Middle Hive - Brood Frame
July 2015 – Middle Hive – Brood Frame

I have found myself too busy to do any of this particularly well resulting in what I call the “Low Intervention Approach”.

Low Intervention Approach To Beekeeping

  1. No swarm inspections – just catch the swarms as they happen.  This has been 80% successful (I caught 4 out of 5 swarms in 2016).
  2. Same integrated approach to varroa management as previous
  3. Move towards section honey
Eight Ross Rounds Sections (the 2016 haul)
Eight Ross Rounds Sections (the 2016 haul)

The Five Hour Beekeeper

In my desire to reduce the chemicals, reduce the effort further and spend more time observing the bees, my approach for 2017 is described below.  This has been massively helped by the Thermosolar Hive team providing me with two of their hives.  As a reminder, this hive allows increases in the temperature in the hive to kill 100% of varroa. (links below)

Thermosolar Hive - Ceiling & Sensors
Thermosolar Hive – Ceiling & Sensors

The Thermosolar hives I am receiving will have a 14×12 National brood body (this is where I will insert 4 drone frames), 1 super that I will put below the brood body (to create more worker bees) and two Ross Round supers to go above the brood box.

The approach can be summarised as follows (and their are relevant links at the end of this post):

  1. Anti-swarm approach to reduce swarming
  2. Thermosolar hive to eliminate varroa and improve bee health
  3. 100% section honey using Ross Rounds
  4. Observing the bees to determine if they have a queen, any disease
  5. Open a hive only when I need to

My first year will be a bit different as I move over to the Themosolar hive but generally the interventions will be:

  • Intervention 1: The first day it is 15C in Feb/Mar: inspect for disease, add 2 new drone comb frames to hives and remove mouseguards
  • Interventions 2 and 3 (optional if we get an early 20C day in the year): Complete a solar treatment and again a week later.  Note: the important solar treatment is in August.
  • Intervention 4: April: Add Two Ross Round Supers
  • Intervention 5: End July: Remove Ross Round Supers and remove drone comb to ends of hive
  • Interventions 6 and 7: August: Complete a solar treatment and again a week later
  • Intervention 8: September: Feed if required (I am aiming to not have to do this by removing supers early and having healthy bees)
  • Intervention 9: October/November: Add mouseguards

And generally observe the bees and take action if problems are evident.

In theory, each hive will take about 5 hours of effort per year, including harvesting, and allow more time to observe.  Let’s see what happens in practice.

Any thoughts at this stage to make my 2017 beekeeping, using the above approach, more likely to be successful?


I have received comments on beekeeping forum and I wanted to capture my further thoughts and actions:

1. Thermosolar Hive – I am going to contact my local government bee inspector, to see if they want to get involved in order to work out how to best test the thermosolar hive and to give independent results.  I want results to show impact on varroa and on the brood (and on drone sperm if possible).

2. Anti-swarm method – I’ll keep count of the swarms over the years using this method.  Results will somewhat speak for themselves, though it will also depend on how well I time insertion of drone comb, weather conditions, etc.

3. Ross Rounds – Richard Taylor (author) had a few approaches to developing section honey, two of these were about using shook swarms and regular swarms and one of them was about swarm management and taking the approach we generally take to make regular supers of honey.  I am going for the low intervention, latter, approach.  However, if I do catch any swarms (mine or someone else’s) I will be putting them into a super with QE above and flat comb throughout.  The results will speak for themselves (kind of, as my honey production has not been great yet in recent years)

More Information:

Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

6 thoughts on “The Five Hour Beekeeper”

  1. Hi Roger,

    What are your plans for testing Varroa levels as for as methods and frequency of testing?

    All the very best for 2017!


    1. Hi Gordon,
      Good question.
      In years one and two I will expose some drone comb to see if there are varroa. Once I trust the solar treatment approach I will not test for varroa anymore.

  2. Hi Roger
    5 hours?! I spend that some weekends … and I think I’d get ‘withdrawal symptoms’ if I didn’t get a reasonably regular beekeeping fix.

    I’ve yet to see any peer-reviewed evidence that 100% of mites are killed by these hives … for example, in studies with known, quantified mite levels before and after treatment. It’s certainly an extremely strong claim and, if correct, it should revolutionise beekeeping. There are lots of positive statements on their website, but nothing I’d really define as independent. At the current $650/hive it’s quite an investment. I hope it works for you.

    As an aside, I’m not sure why it needs to use “thermo” heating. Why not simply have a plug-in heating element of some type for a well-insulated poly hive? These boxes can easily maintain an internal temperature of 47 degrees (I know because I used to use a stack of them as a honey warming cabinet) and it’s a trivial matter to prepare a heating element and temperature controller, together with a fan of some sort to circulate the heat efficiently. Of course, some don’t have power in their apiaries, but this would be a simpler and cheaper solution … and would be compatible with other kit.

    I’m presuming there’s no OSR in reach? It doesn’t make the greatest honey for Ross Rounds 😉

    Have a great year.

    1. Hi David
      Thanks for comments.
      I am a man of limited time – and I want to spend that time watching them – plus I do not enjoy DIY as much as yourself.
      The Thermosolar Hive has had a peer reviewed paper drafted – but it is yet to be published. I will share links as soon as I get a sight of it.
      They have kindly given me the hives – but I recognise the investment. But if you only have a few hives and it saves time plus oxalic acid sublimation equipment, it will save some money. Plus if you get more honey and healthy bees … that has to be good. I will do a full cost/benefit analysis at some point – this I can and will enjoy doing.
      For you it might be trivial to set up a heater and fan, but to me, it sounds far too complex and I don’t have an electricity supply handy for them.
      I have had no issue with OSR to date. I assume because (A) it is quite far away and (B) they blend it with other forage – the result is liquid honey.
      Let’s see how it goes!

  3. I believe you offered beekeeping services at the DLC luncheon this weekend. We’re in Dutchess Co and would like to get set up and maintained.. please call to discuss. 917-487-1335.
    Thank you.
    Bernadette Murray

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