When I first started beekeeping I was sure that there was a system, a methodology, some list of stuff I would have to do at predetermined times during the year. My adherence to this mystical list would result in a happy, productive and the calmest hives since Roger Patterson last popped a crown board.

What a numpty I was to think such a thing!

“bees don’t read books” - it’s a saying you hear often when recounting your latest beeking woes to friends, typically followed by knowing chuckles.

Although beekeeping does have a number of important activities which must be carried out during the season: disease monitoring, pest management and swarm control; it is more a tactical process than a strategic one.

Choosing the most appropriate tactics to overcome the many challenges keeping bees throws at you during the year is at the heart of the art of beekeeping.

Based on my experiences this season I’m going to be retiring some methods I’ve been using for the last few years:

  • Artificial swarms – this is swarm control method I was taught when starting. I’ve had awful luck with it this year and compared to simply moving the old Queen into a nuc when I find swarm cells, artificial swarms are lot of box juggling for little benefit.
  • MAQS strips – these are a great tool for Varroa control. However; I’ve found whilst strong hives can handle the treatment weaker ones can suffer. Next year I’m going to try some of the thymol treatments again so I can compare.

When I was a child my Mum would often say to me “you eyes are bigger than your tummy” as I piled roast potatoes onto my Sunday dinner plate. This weakness bit me on the arse this year when I took on two extra apiaries to help some people out. I like playing with bees so jumped at the chance to rummage in other peoples toy boxes.

Sadly my spare time wasn’t as accommodating as my enthusiasm. Keeping bees with no spare time turns into a frustrating series of dashes between sites over the weekend. I’ve managed to pass on one of the sites which should mean next year I return to a more relaxed hobby.

Next year I’m going to start learning how to raise queens using the grafting method. Spare queens raised from my own stock is very appealing to me and it’s something I’m keen to invest time into mastering.

As the season starts to wind down I’ve treated all my hives, fed them up and in the next few weeks I’ll be slapping the mouse guards on. My local association runs some great winter talks and if you’ve never attended any of these talks, I know a lot of people don’t bother, you should really make the effort.

Listening how other people manage their bees keeps me inspired during the winter and often influences my plans for the following season.