Hive comb change begins – my first attempt

This weekend I started the process of moving my bees onto the larger 12×14 frames using a comb change process. But, I got off to an inauspicious start. I loaded the car up with the bits and bobs then drove to the apiary. However; once there I discovered I’d forgotten the key to the gate, this meant I drove home swearing.

Hive parts ready for the change.

Key picked up I lugged the larger brood box and ashforth feeder down to the hive. I have to park on the road and carry my equipment to the hives, I have seen people drive their cars down there but it’s on an allotment with a steep muddy road and anyway the walk does me good.

Hive with new brood box in placeThe process itself was relatively simple, I’ve got about five frames of brood at all stages in the standard box and a super with a little capped brood left over from my winter brood and half set-up. So I separated these and placed the new brood box between the super and original brood box. Once the brood have hatched from the super I’ll remove that.

These are really gentle bees so it was a drama free exercise that only took about ten minutes. I’m going to give them two weeks to build out the new foundation and then I’ll try to move the queen into the new box. Topping the stack off with an ashforth feeder and some syrup to get them laying and wax building meant my work was done.

Hopefully in three weeks I’ll be onto 12x14s just in time for swarm control and (fingers crossed) a second hive.

Eek! My eke.

Peak Hives EkeAs I’ve already mentioned I’m in the process of moving my hive from national frames to 12 x 14 national frames. This has meant I’ve got a handful of standard national brood boxes knocking around the garden looking dejected as they know they’ll never feel the warm embrace of a hive again. I felt a little sorry for them and I’m a bit mean so wanted to save some money by investing in an eke from Nick at Peak Hives to convert my standard national boxes into its chubby cousin.

Oh dear a gap!Beekeeping is probably the best smelling hobby in the World, opening the box from Peak Hives released that wonderful cedar scent. As per normal the workmanship from Nick was superb. However; when I placed the eke onto the brood box there was a large gap between the two. The runners were lifting up the eke leaving a space which was undoubtedly a problem.


A few minutes later I’d removed the runners using my Leatherman tool, if you haven’t got yourself one of these pocket marvels they are a worthwhile investment. With the runners removed the gap had narrowed considerably. There is still a smaller gap My trusty leatherman to the rescuewhich I’m going to spend a little more fiddling around with a wood plane making the box beetight.

On balance I think these boxes will probably me more useful as spares than full time bee boxes. The eke does fit nicely and because there are groves that slot into the where the frames normally sit it’s quite study byt it is still an extra part I don’t want in an everyday hive.

At least I want have redundant boxes nagging at me whenever I go in the shed, that’s worth a extra little effort.


First inspection

In hindsight starting a beekeeping blog in January wasn’t the smartest move, although, this is a rarely visited blog so no harm no foul. As a new beekeeper I didn’t really have much to write about over the winter. However; now the season has started I’m sure I’ll have plenty to keep you, the nonexistent reader, entertained.

Spring finally spring today and gave me the opportunity to get down to the apiary and crack open the hive. During the winter I’d left a super on and removed the Queen Excluder. The super provided extra stores and without the queen excluder I wasn’t running the risk of the cluster moving up to consume those stores and leaving the queen on the wrong side of the excluder.

Whenever ‘brood and a half’ is mentioned at my association meetings there is much frowning, tutting and muttering of disapproval. I never really understood why it was such a bad idea, however, popping the hive all became clear; it makes an awful mess.

The hive is already bubbling with bees and in the super there was already some capped brood with was a great relief to find the hive had made it through the winter. However; my girls had joined both boxes with comb and filled it with brood. It took a good ten minutes of work to separate to two boxes and slip a queen excluder between the two boxes.

I’m now waiting until next week to remove the super and slap a 12×14 brood box on top this, I’m hoping, will allow me to do a comb change and more the bees onto 12×14 frames.

This should mean no more brood and a half for me, so I can join the disapproving masses.



The first bee

The first bee ever found in the fossil record was melittosphex burmensis which lived 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.

the first bee .

There are reported to be 20,000 species of bee known to science. Therefore it seems appropriate that for my first ever bee of the week I choose  Melittosphex burmensis, the first bee.

Discovered in 2006 by Burmese amber miners it is the earliest specimen of the transition from wasps to what we would recognise as the modern bee. Scientists even found prehistoric pollen trapped in the bee’s hairs.

The discovery was described by the two scientists who found it, George Poinar and Bryan Danforth:

It’s exciting to see something that seems so different from what we think of as modern bees. It’s not an ancestor of honeybees, but probably was a species on an early branch of the evolutionary tree of bees that went extinct.

Measuring only 3mm (1/8 of a inch) this tiny bee gives the first glimpse of the modern bees we know and love. It then disappears not to resurface in the fossil record for almost another 40,000,000 years.

Melittosphex burmensis, the first bee.


Honeybee Democracy – a review

Honeybee DemocracyI’m sure like most beeks I have the strange obsession with beekeeping books. A brutal combination of Internet access and a credit card means I have a stack of books on various bee related topics I now own waiting to be read. Some of them naturally fall to the bottom of the pile. Others simply cry out for attention; Prof. Tom Seeley’s wonderful Honeybee Democracy is such a book.

Tom Seeley has spent four decades researching what he refers to as Swarm Intelligence. A process in which animals can solve problems they’d be unable to by utilising complex social interactions with a larger group; the ultimate team work.

In Honeybee Democracy Professor Seeley explains how honeybees swarm then find the best new home for themselves. Writing a science book is a tricky balance. Too much detail it becomes nerdy and dry but not enough it turns into a series of anecdotes; most of which you’ll probably pick up at your local bee club. It is such a delicate balance that although there are an awful lot of so-called popular science books on the market there are very few readable ones. Seeley has just the right combination of storytelling and detailed evidence to keep the book both entertaining and highly informative.

Honeybee Democracy describes how as part of his PhD studies Tom set out to investigate swarming and hive location. He started by analysing feral hives which allowed him to determine that bees overwhelmingly choose hives that were roughly 40 litres in capacity with a 15cm entrance. He confirmed this preference by setting up a number of bait hives of differing sizes and monitoring a single swarm as it selected it’s final home, 80% of time the bees choose a 40 litre box.

However; this book is not a how-to for building the perfect bait hive. Seeley narrates in a clear and entertaining way the processes from the swarm leaving the hive to finding a new home. It’s an amazing story.

Honeybee democracy isn’t just a great science book about bees, it’s a great book full stop – you should buy it.

I’ve embedded a video presentation by Tom describing his work. It’s an hour well spent, check it out.