Chairman’s Chatter

Over the winter months I thought I’d re-read my bee keeping books to see just how much I’d forgotten ……checking on that incipient senility problem I mentioned in my previous Chairman’s Chatter. (I am of course only joking and don’t mean to make light of a serious medical problem.)

When I read some of these books the first time around I was nearer the bottom of the steep learning curve of bee keeping and when new to a subject important points don’t always stick without having the all-important context.

Sure, enough I re-discovered many interesting things that had fallen out of the holes in my memory.

I was reminded of one thing I’d intended share when I saw Malcolm at the talk last week on Swarm Management, and now that spring finally seems to be on the way it is particularly apposite.

I recall well, when I started, the difficulty of remembering how to do an artificial swarm, which box went where, when and with which bees in …… a bit like the three-cup trick… confusing. And then as a new beekeeper I quite often had hives where I had not manged to find and mark the Queen early enough in the season and now I’m faced with a brood box heaving with bees, about to swarm and with almost no chance of now finding the Queen …. What to do? Sometimes in desperation I would simply split the brood box in two taking half the frames off into another box. It often worked but was clearly sub-optimal and I’m sure I probably lost casts.

In the Green Guide to Beekeeping which we provide to new members taking the course we give, I re-discovered during my revision what they refer to as a ‘Simple Swarm Control Method’ on p145. It may prove useful to new beekeeper’s (and maybe even not so new ones too) who find themselves in that self-same position …. burgeoning brood box, about to swarm and un-marked / illusive Queen.

Simple Swarm-control Method*

  • Wait until you see unsealed queen cells
  • Move the parent hive to a new permanent stand at least four feet away
  • Place a new brood box (or nucleus box) on the original stand
  • Select a comb with a good-sized, unsealed queen cell
  • Gently brush every single bee from this comb and destroy all the other queen cells
  • Put the selected comb into the new brood box; the flying bees will find their way back to this box but the old queen cannot be present as no bees were transferred
  • Add at least two frames of food stores (and pollen) plus one frame of sealed brood — brushing off all the bees first
  • Fill up the new hive with frames of drawn comb or foundation and reduce the entrance
  • Replace the frames removed from the old box with frames of foundation; this will both improve the ventilation of the hive and give the remaining bees something to do apart from thinking about swarming, although the reduction in population should quell the swarming urge
  • Divide the supers between the two hives
  • Feed both parts as necessary

It will take about three weeks before the new colony has a functioning queen and it is very vulnerable during this time. Keep a careful eye on things without disturbing it too much.

I hope you may find this helpful.

*I’m sure this contravenes copyright law but hope they will not object on the basis it is good publicity for their jolly good book.

 I recently became Chairman of the High Weald Beekeeper’s Association, at the AGM Iast November (2017) in fact, and this is by way of a brief introduction. I do put this elevation purely down to deafness and incipient senility, such that when Helen, my predecessor, asked for volunteers to take a step forward, I must have been thinking about something else at the time, when everyone else took several steps backwards.

For those of you who don’t know me already, I took up beekeeping about 7 years ago, after an apiary visit with our very good friend Rosemarie Riley, where I was charmed by these fascinating little miracles of nature, the bees, and it was then I got the ‘bug’ …….a lame joke you’ve all heard far too often I’m sure. Shortly thereafter I bought some bees, did Keith’s most excellent course, struggled through my first two seasons of hot springs and cold wet summers but haven’t looked back since.

I was not only charmed by the bees, in fact, but also quite taken by the rather special folk who take care of bees, and, ever a soft touch for a good cause, I gradually became involved in the work of the committee. These are the special folk who try to take care of the people who try to take care of the bees, by laying on courses, taster days, offering expert help and advice 24/7, social occasions, collecting swarms, and by managing this website—all a considerable amount of work and a huge commitment. Talking of which, this website was the first task I picked up on behalf on the committee. Since then I have become involved in various other activities the committee support on behalf of the membership. Talking of which again, the membership, through the good auspices of the committee,  has grown considerably over the years such that the HWBKA are now the largest of the divisions within the Sussex Beekeeping Association.

We have a comprehensive range of activities planned again for this year, the beginners’ course, taster days, improvers’ group events, Bee Banter—our monthly support group in the pub, the summer barbeque, the honey show, talks, candle-making workshop, local fairs and fetes, our newsletter—The Apiarist and, no doubt, others which may come to light as the year proceeds. Please keep checking the events calendar on this website for times, dates and venues.

One new significant activity this year will be the drive to get a new permanent Association Apiary, with, hopefully a club house with appropriate facilities for storage, extraction and so on. Several possible locations have been identified and visited and fund raising to equip it has commenced in earnest. This will improve life for all concerned with organising events, rather than having to book halls and rely on the generosity of members to host events such as apiary visits etc.

We would welcome any suggestions for other events you would like to see, or any offers of assistance with those already arranged.

We wish all our members and friends a happy successful beekeeping year.

Peter Coxon

Chairman's chatter Feb 2016

I hope everyone has made their bee plans for 2016 and purchased extra beekeeping equipment in the winter sales. I have been cleaning all my spare bee equipment in the hope that I will be busy in a few months time. In a bid to be free of EFB we have been busy at the association apiary burning old frames and cleaning equipment. We will wait to have the seasonal bee inspector visit and then shook swarm all the hives. If you have any spare time please come and join us on the working party dates.

The beekeeping season has begun - here in the south the queens are only out of lay for a very short period. The days are now getting longer and I am sure my queens are laying a few frames of brood. The old bees are under a huge amount of stress and they are munching stores to produce energy and heat to keep the brood warm and feeding the young larvae pollen (protein) required for growth. Please heft your hives regularly and if in any doubt put a kilo of fondant and a kilo of pollen substitute on - this will avoid starvation. Also remember if it rains the bees cannot get out and collect nectar and fresh pollen which is so important for healthy brood.

We have made a few changes this year to Bee Banter. We have decided to go back to having one bee banter a month but alternating the pub venue. So the next Bee Banter is on 23rd February at The Rose and Crown in Mayfield then 29th March at The Crow And Gate near Crowborough. We can review this again in the future. Malcolm will bring a selection of bee books from the library. You can also look on the website and see the list of books we have and request to borrow a specific book.

Keep checking the website for events at our two apiary sites. This year we will be attempting several methods of queen rearing (yet again!). There are also some interesting open apiary visits to attend. Open apiary visits are a chance to visit members' apiaries which can be great for picking up tips on how to improve your beekeeping as we all do things in slightly different ways which makes beekeeping so interesting.

Can I please ask that you inform Rose Marie if you wish to attend any events - this helps us plan refreshments.

Helen Hadley

This is my first year as chairman and the committee has been working hard to organise events which we hope all our member will participate in. Our aim is to provide interesting , fun events covering all aspects of beekeeping for beginners and improvers.

Please keep checking events for what’s going on so you don’t miss out and please join us.

We will run our usual beginners course at our Cherry Gardens apiary. This runs throughout the beekeeping season. For the improvers we are running a Queen Rearing Group and hope to be able to raise local queens, best suited for our environment.

New this year we are offering a Taster Beekeeping Day, for anyone interested in bees. This will be held at our Rotherfield Apiary and will be a fascinating days insight into the world of bees and beekeeping.

We continue with our informal, friendly, social, bee banter evening meetings held on the second Thursday of the month at The Crow & Gate Crowborough and the last Tuesday of the month at The Rose and Crown Mayfield, where you can meet other beekeepers and ask any beekeeping questions. (Please see Events Page http://hwbka.org.uk/events/ for up to date information on events)

We will be attending the Heathfield show, Framfield village show, Horam fun day and Crowborough fair.

Finally we would like to invite all our members to a BBQ on 18thJuly at our Rotherfield Apiary, a friendly social event to chat and share any problems or successes around beekeeping.

We welcome any suggestions for future events and wish all our members and friends a happy successful beekeeping year.

Helen Hadley