Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Honeybee Flood & Starvation Alert

Flood
You will be aware that heavy rain throughout the UK has meant flooding in areas and riverbanks overflowing. The UK Bee Farmers Association have circulated a questionnaire to find out the extend of those members affected. It goes without saying that all bee apiaries that could be near a potential flood risk area should be moved now. It is generally known that moving bees in the winter is a bad idea. The disturbance make the bees active, alarmed and they will consume reserve food stores, much needed at this time of year. But in light of them drowning, move them to a safe area now.

Starvation

The weather is spiking warm some days, cold on others. This means your bees will go out of their hives on warmer days in search of nectar and pollen. However there is not much nectar if any to collect, so they could use up all their remaining honey stores for the energy to go out and look for nectar. Keep a close watch on each hive for food levels and feed frames of honey if you have them, or a slab of fondant as an emergency feed. Bees can look healthy and happily flying in and out of the hive one day and dead the next. They all share the remaining food equally and therefore show no sign of anything wrong until it is too late.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

One- Day Introductory Beekeeping Session May 10th 2014. Book Now Online


Want to keep your own bees and bottle your own honey? Well this one day special beekeeping session is just for you! Now in its 20th year, with many ex-students having gone on to write books about bees, head beekeeping associations around the country and abroad, after taking our course.

PREFECT GIFT IDEA! Gift Vouchers Available

The course will take place one Saturday in May 2014. This unique course provides a real hands on beekeeping experience. We are now taking bookings for the 2014 courses. 

Our one day course guides you through the practical side of beekeeping as well as the theory behind the art. Our Master Beekeeper will discuss how to keep bees in a city back garden or the open countryside. This course is a summary that will allow you to decide if you wish to learn more and take your interest forward. 

Our fun easy to follow session covers areas like:
History Of Beehives
Beehives & Beekeeping Equipment- What's Needed
Anatomy Of The Bee, What Goes On Inside A Beehive
How to Open And Manage a Beehive
Seasonal Guide From Spring To Autumn
Keeping Healthy Bees And Happy Bees


Under expert supervision you will get to handle our super gentle happy bees and look inside a live beehive. We provide you with all the protective clothes and gloves so you can relax and enjoy our bees without worry. You also receive nice refreshments and lunch! 

The course is on Saturday May 10th from 10:30 - 3:30pm at our lovely Bee Heaven Farm Teaching Apiary.
LIMITED 15 per course

Sunday, 3 November 2013

BUYERS BEWARE! The TRUTH about Buying Beekeeping Equipment


This article is long overdue. We have gathered evidence and the facts surrounding the pitfalls, cheats and cons in buying beekeeping equipment. Buying quality hive parts is a minefield, particularly for the novice, and we hope to help you navigate your way though the process with experienced advice, so your beekeeping experiences are happy ones!


We will show you what a mess you may be getting yourself into if you buy based on price only. Remember, you get what you pay for! While it’s always smart to shop around, this article will empower you with a bit more knowledge of how beehive parts vary, and what to look out for when shopping to protect yourself, and your bees!

An important question to ask yourself: Do you want to keep bees, or become a skilled carpenter? Any wooden bee equipment less than top quality will require you to have what amounts to a small carpentry workshop. So, if you own a router, jigsaw, bench saw, sander, and have lots of time on your hands, then second quality goods are for you!
For those of you who got into beekeeping to have fun looking after bees rather than learning the fine art of carpentry, read on…


Buying ‘SECOND’ Grade Goods: A Nice Way of Saying DEFECTIVE! 
Just when we think we’ve seen it all, we read that a UK beekeeping supplier is selling “third grade” equipment!

Really?

A number of beekeepers have reported back to us what these third grade items were really like. All agreed every item they purchased was unfit for use, and should never have been sold, regardless if they were reported to be “in need of attention.”

“Third Quality” is a poor attempt at clever marketing. Apparently, these shysters hope that if they can create a third level standard, and manage to sell this stuff on, it opens a door to predatory marketing aimed at beginning beekeepers looking to save some money.

So you ask, “But what is wrong with Second Quality hive parts? I’ve bought ‘second hand’ china cups and such, they just had tiny blemishes that were no bother.” Well, china cups and hive parts are a million miles apart. The reason for using only top quality wood parts for working beehives is because knots, splits and warped wood wreaks havoc for our bees.

Here is why:

Knots
Knots are created by a side branch off the main trunk of the tree. It costs more to get a complete piece of wood with no knots. Hence unscrupulous suppliers will try and sneak in hive parts with knots. They paid less for it and charge you more! Higher profit for them, terrible results for you. If you buy your wood in flat-packs, ask the supplier to cut the retaining straps so you can examine the wood for defects. If the supplier refuses, they may have a very good reason: poor wood quality!

The Problems with Knots in the Wood
Even the tiniest of knots will compromise the integrity of the hive. For example, Brood Frames are very important to keep intact. Since we will be handling them often, repeatedly pulling them out, pressing them back, they must be in sound condition. A knot near the lug handles will weaken the entire frame. We have had so many frames break at that weak point of the handle! Your bees will have worked so hard to draw a full comb and fill it, only to have it break, and inevitably, to be thrown away. Such a valuable comb ruined by a tiny defect! The stress that brace combs and propolis put on a brood comb is tremendous. The last thing we need is a substandard frame to begin with. That is a true false economy!

Brood Boxes and Supers
With your boxes exposed to the elements, wet, hot, and dry weather causes the wood to expand and contract. However, the knot will not! In time, it will work itself loose, and now you have an unwanted hole in the box. This will allow wasps, ants and robbing, not to mention making it easy for woodpeckers and mice to find your hive. Refuse knotted wood!

Splits
Look closely at the wood. Unfortunately, some suppliers might try to hide the thin cracks and splits by turning the wood around and strapping them together in a bundle. It is only when you cut the straps that the true condition of the wood is revealed! As a beginner, you may not appreciate just how badly this portends for the long term. Again, boxes exposed to the elements expand and contract. As water enters the crack, it will widen in time. A crack soaked with water, then frozen in winter weather, will expand by 40 percent! This will increase the crack, harbouring mould and providing an open invitation for insects to house in the wood. The life of your beehive is greatly reduced–but your “discount” supplier will not tell you this.

Warped Wood
When shopping for hive parts, this is a real problem. If you’re new to beekeeping you’ll likely blame your carpentry skills when the parts aren’t fitting together. Once you force a warped board into another the stress will cause the wood to split, and the box will not hold up over time, while again allowing free entry to wasps, ants, spiders, woodlice, etc within your hive!

Time is Against You!
It is very important to get the box parts glued and nailed as soon as possible, to lock in the form before the wood begins to move or bend. When you get your flat-packed hive parts, you have around 72 hours to nail them together to be certain no warping will occur. Natural untreated wood carries an ever changing level of moisture. Depending on the temperature and humidity at the production factory, that water content will be initially stable during its life as a raw wooden board. However, once the wood is shipped to you and you put it in a centrally heated room, it can begin to dry out too rapidly, leading to twisting and warping. 

You may notice that the supplier will double strap the super/brood box, hive stand, etc. This is to keep it all together for shipping, and help reduce the warping and movement of the wood. The wood undergoes quite a climate change from milling to packaged product, and if the wood has knots, splits, or soft grain, it will significantly increase the chances of it warping. It could be that the supplier made them in a cold wet warehouse, stored them in a mildly dry cool unit, and then shipped them from there to you.

Many of you will be thinking, “Hang on… Cedar Wood does not warp…”  Unfortunately, we have lost so many boxes in the early years that were made of cedar. They simply could not withstand hard daily use. If you use a hive tool to separate the boxes, and just slightly miss the join between the boxes, your hive tool will gouge and splinter the wood. If we should inadvertently drop a full super on the ground too hard, or knock the edge onto another super stack, the bottom edge splits away. Cedar just does not have the resilience that deal or pine has. We got so to tired of nailing bits back onto cedar hives, we got rid of them and now only use deal. We have deal hives from the 1930s still in operation today. The supplier will try and get you to believe that the great benefit of cedar is that they weigh less. This is true, but cedar’s relative lack of resilience makes it more suitable for a cabinet or shelving rather than a workable beehive.

Twenty years ago, it was the norm to get what we call today “first quality” hive parts. In those days, it was not highlighted since it was the expected basic hive quality. Only a small percentage of hobbyist beekeepers with great carpenter skills chose the “second quality.” Professional beekeepers would not waste their time on anything less than perfect, clean-lined wood parts. They understood the importance of a sound hive. Recently, with the surge in beekeeping interest, and so many new hobbyists trying their luck at beekeeping, the suppliers have seen an opportunity to pass on substandard hive equipment to those who do not know any better. Beginners, having little knowledge of what they should expect, are being taken for a ride. After all, to a “newbie,” all flat-packed supers look the same!

EBAY & Amazon – Good or Bad?
As little as five years ago, there were scarcely any hive parts on either Ebay or Amazon. Now the choices are overwhelming! Many of these items come from countries outside the UK, or even outside of the EU. What’s wrong with that, you say? Plenty!

A square box looks good in the photo, since the price is cheap. As a beginner, you are eager to start and perhaps short of money. So, you shop around, and as most hive parts look the same, you opt for the cheapest ones. Only after they arrive and you compare them with your friend’s beehive do the little drawbacks first appear. 

I have seen a major increase of beehive parts coming out of Eastern Europe, some good, many bad. Very few if any other countries outside the UK use the British Standard hive. But there is a market for it, so they do their best to copy what they think is correct. When you come to interchange those parts the problems becomes painfully clear. They might not line up properly, too big, too small, the inner dimensions of the box does not have the correct bee space, so your bees place brace comb everywhere. This will only become apparent once you use them on a working colony. The worst time to find out!

Below are some photos of the problems we have documented. If you have any bad experiences with suppliers please share them with us. We hope this helps as a buying guide and reference.

Happy Beekeeping
The Hive Honey Shop
All photos copyright protected The Hive Honey Shop Ltd- 2013©


Easy for the beginner to miss! Here the brood box has been joined with a different piece of wood. This is not a single board. It is cheaper for the supplier to glue small off - cuts together to create a single board. The problem is that they are far less durable than the higher quality single complete piece. This is another way an unscrupulous  supplier saves money, but passing the misery on to you!


Again, here is an added piece of wood glued in place. This point of the brood box is very important as you will be prying the box apart at this point. There is no doubt that this glued piece will come apart. When making your purchase, make sure the grain of the wood is going in the same direction,  with no obvious joints.

Here we see the split at the point of the dovetail. This is a stress point and will continue to split in time.

Another example of a split we have filled with glue. It is only a matter of time before the split gets bigger.

This supplier made some National Brood Box inner side boards too long, and some too short. In time, your bees will build brace comb in the gap, or fill it with propolis! Not good.

This supplier sold National Brood Boxes with an inner diameter that was 3 centimetres too large on both sides. Obviously the frames did not fit in the box, yet they sold these to the unsuspecting public. We had to router the sides bars to make them serviceable.

This is a close up of the photo above. You can see just how much wood we were required to remove. 

This supplier made the mistake of not keeping the same measurements for all their dovetail 'fingers'. Some boards had larger fingers, so if you hammer them together, you split the wood. We needed to chisel away approx. 2cm on each finger. It was a time consuming task to right the suppliers mistake. Note the finger on the right. You will see the wood buckling as we tried to hammer it down.

This large knot created a slit as we tried to join the boards. As the hardwood of this knot is within the finger of the dovetail join, if we hammer a nail into that finger, it will crack and break away.

Hoffman Self Spacing Brood Frame. This knot is in the spacer side bar. We were unable to nail it in place so we had to bin it.

More problems with knots. They are brittle hardwood that crack. This will create a spacing problem in time.

This suppler sold frames with  inner grooves that were too narrow. As we tried to slide the foundation in place, the foundation bunched up and torn . They had to be router by us to make them serviceable.

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Time To Protect Your Hives!- 5 tips keeping them safe.


Photo copyright© The Hive Honey Shop 2013


There are so many things that bees need to fight off, just to stay alive. You can help these little ones by providing some added protection in October. Heres a brief check list.

1 Wire Mesh Protection
Woodpeckers love beehives. They see the insects flying out and will peck the thin areas of the wooden hive ( mainly the grooved out finger grips) until they produce a good sized hole. They feast on the bees as they emerge one at a time. They will ruin your hive and kill your bees. I have had sites that for years never had any woodpecker interest- then out of the blue all the hives over night have holes. So we need to protect the hives in the Autumn until May time, after that there are plenty of other woodland insects in abundance to interest our woodpeckers and hopefully not our hives. We cover them with smallish chicken wire mesh. It’s easy to remove if we need to inspect a hive. It keeps the woodpeckers a safe distance off our hives. They can be used for many years.


2 Mouse Excluders
Even if you have never seen a mouse- they are out there and will find your hive! A mouse excluder is a strip on metal with holes big enough for a bee to come and go, but ‘excludes’ a mouse. If these are not put on in autumn a mouse will climb into your beehive, via the entrance, and nest there eating one bee at a time until none remain.


3 Paving Slab On Roof
Gale winds can blow a roof off and your bees will get drenched with fallen rain. We did tie the roofs down but found some roofs warped in the winter weather. So we use a heavy paving slab on the top and the weight keeps the roof shape in order as well as providing additional rain guard and wind weight.


4 Fencing & Screening
As hedges die back, hives are exposed. This can present problems. If you have animals near by, they can wander up, knock hives and disturb and stress your bees, who will in turn dwindle and die. Another problem is vandals and robbing of hives. In this current time of a shortage of bees, thief of hives have risen by 25%. It is important- ‘Out Of Sight, Out of Mind’. Screening by natural  means or artificial, provide wind protection, but allows an open air flow without condensation build up.



5 Match Stick Air Gap
Condensation within your hive is a bad thing! Bees die as a result of wet, dank, cold conditions. You can help them by providing ample air flow for them to expel any water vapor build up. A match stick placed across the four corners of the brood box, below the overboard provides a tiny gap, too small for wasps and other bees to enter, but large enough for a good flow through of air.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

October Beekeeping Advice- Plan for next year now!


You should have your beehives just about closed down for the winter. We always change the brood box, floor and coverboard for nice clean dry ones. We also change over as many frames with drawn new foundation that we prepared in the summer. We like to collect full brood boxes of honey and keep these back to feed to our hives in the run up to winter. They do really well with a full fresh honey feed in October.

So planning ahead is key to successful beekeeping. Now that you have a bit of quite time it’s a perfect opportunity to gather your thoughts on how you will strive to be a better beekeeper next year. What steps can you take to ensure the well being of your bees? 
Here’s a few idea:

Pro-active measures that can be put in place.

Here at The Hive Honey Shop we all sit down and write our ‘New Season Bee Planner’. We discuss what areas we could build on, what was lacking last year, what improvements could be put in place. We make a list of equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced. We look at apiary sites that need better securing, wind hedging, animal proofing. Can a site hold more hives, less hives. What hives need to be re-queened, how will we implement nuc building and keep our strains of bees pure.

Our planner has a sort of ‘wish list’ of ideas set out month by month. We aim to be as realistic as we can and work towards achieving those goals month by month in the new year. We find that by questioning our beekeeping management we are far better prepared for the year ahead, not letting it lead us, but we lead it.

In the end our beekeepers are happier and our bees are far happier too!


Photo copyright© The Hive Honey Shop 2013


Thursday, 26 September 2013

2 Most Important Bee Items to Keep Clean


The Beehive is obviously the main item that gets all the cleaning but I have noticed over the years two important items that get very overlooked. So its time to highlight these and in doing so I hope it will make your bees and beekeeping a more happy event.

Smoker

This is one of your most personal items, used every time you open a beehive. Whatever fuel you use to make your smoke, be it, bits of leafs, wood, cardboard, hessian sacking, all of those fuels will produce a build up of tar in the smoker chamber, lid and base. Over time this makes opening and closing the lid difficult and can lead to the seam of the lid splitting under force.

The tar build up also creates a smelly harsh smoke that your bees will not like and as the tar build up comes under heat will drip out of the funnel end of the smokers onto your bees and frames. I notice these dark brown patches all over the equipment of others and this is very easy to avoid.

Simple Cleaning Method

Don’t bother trying to scrap the hard tar from the inside and out of your smoker- it will take you days to clean. Just fill a large bucket with cold water and a teaspoon of soda crystals. Then place your smoker spout first into the bucket. Take care that the water level is not so high that it touches your bellow. If the bellow gets wet the wood could swell and split. Let this soak for 24 hours then using a soft washing up brush you will be able to remove most of the tar with ease. Any thick layers may need a bit of gentle scraping. Take care never to apply to much force to your smoker. Most smokers are made using a pressure pinch seam and not welded, so with force can come apart.

We clean our smokers in this way once a week. We have useable smokers over 30 years old.

Bee Suit

I visit apiaries around the country and find a common occurrence- bees following the beekeeper once they step outside their house. They tell me that their bees come up to them  straight away and bother them before they have even stepped near the hives. I ask ‘When did you last wash your bee suit’? They reply, ‘Well I don’t do a lot of beekeeping, its been a while’.

The problem they are creating is that any bee venom on the suit is a natural ‘Bee Alarm’, the bees natural defense signal to rally the troops. So after a session of beekeeping no matter how careful you believe you have been, there will be bee venom on your suit and that will stay there until you wash it. Days later when you put it on again and step outside your door your bees will be alerted to you and of course come flying in to investigate.

Also studies show that once the venom has dried on the material it turns to powder and is lifted into the air. You will breath in this airborne venom and have unnecessary expose to bee venom even though you have not been stung or secondary exposure to those around you. It has been known that beekeepers over time build up a toxicity level to bee venom, thought to be caused by too many bee stings, but taking in the fact of exhaled bee venom this increases the risk of over exposure even if the beekeepers is careful to avoid direct bee stings.

Simple Cleaning Method

One of the main reasons beekeepers are reluctant to wash their suits is the fear of contaminating there washing machine with beeswax and most importantly PROPOLIS! I have so many article of clothing with permanent brown stains due to the fact that a tiny bit of propolis residue was on the side of the washing machine drum and spread onto all my other cloths when I did a new load. So always hand wash your bee suit in a designated big bucket that will only ever be used to wash a bee suit. I use a 20 liter plastic builder bucket. This eliminates the cross contamination of wax and propolis within your clean washing machine drum. 

You can use any detergent, just don’t over do it. About one egg cup is enough to remove bee venom, dirt and sweat. There is a myth that bees will sting you if you use deodorant, perfume or washing powder. I have found that I aways use deodorant and it has never caused any problem with our bees over the past 90 years of beekeeping. Perfume I believe is not a must and could be applied after beekeeping to limit any possible problem. Washing powder I have always found the bees teat me with very little interest when my suit is freshly washed so I can recommend this highly.

Drying Your Suits

Again do not use your lovely clean home dryer for this. If you do propolis will contaminate your dryer drum and ruin many future load of your cloths. What I do is put the bee suit in a large old pillow case and seal the end. Then I put this in my washing machine and put it on the spin cycle only. This removes 80% of the water and I can then leave it to air dry in the room. Veils should only ever be hand washed in cold water and air dried due to the fragile nature of the mesh.

I have found that after a good cleaning of both my bee suit and smoker the bees seem far more relaxed and happy with me. And I hope this little info helps you too! Spread the word and sign up for alerts when we update this blog by clicking on the Subscribe to this Feed on the website. If you have any questions feel free to email me at info@thehivehoneyshop.co.uk

Cheers 
The Hive Honey Shop

Photo copyright© The Hive Honey Shop 2013

Friday, 12 July 2013

Hot Weather- bees need water too!

photo copyright ©-The Hive Honey Shop

Don't forget to top up your water source for your bees. If you don't have a water supply then shame on you! Get going now as your little bees get hot and thirsty too.

It's simple to make a water source. we found a disused child's sand pit lid, unturned it and filled it with gravel, old bits of wood, bit of soil and within a few weeks it was a desired water source for many bees around.

Don't make the mistake to give bees fresh water- they will not touch it. They prefer well mature mineral rich water sources. A bucket of tap water will not attract bees. So plan ahead and give your bees plenty of areas around the water to land safely on without drowning. We line the edges of all our water sources with moss, bees love it and use the moss to filter the water before drinking or filling up to take the water back to their hive.