Malcolm’s Topical Tips – 2019 May 15

“Shopping list for Heathfield” - by Malcolm Wilkie

Here are a few ideas for anyone who has just started keeping bees or has only been keeping bees for one or two years. It will help you plan for the season ahead. Perhaps also a reminder for those of you who have kept bees for a longer time.


  • Apiguard (a type of thymol gel) to treat colonies in August for varroa.
  • An eke for each colony (to apply the Apiguard). If you are good with your hands you can make one yourself.
  • Super frames and wax foundation (in the hope your bees will make you some honey). Make up the frames but don't add wax until you are ready. Keep the wax indoors in a dry but cool place but not near a heat source. Under a spare room bed is ideal.
  • A contact feeder. Everyone should have one. This is the feeder with the fine mesh covering a central hole. To use you need to have an empty super placed on top of the crown board.
  • 2 Queen clips. Make sure the spring works really well. If in doubt ask Helen or Keith.
  • A spare hive tool. As brightly coloured as possible.

What would be good

  • A polystyrene nucleus box. Contact Paynes beforehand so that they put it on their lorry. Specify size i.e. ordinary national, deep national, commercial, WBC. The owner of a nucleus box can get themselves out of so much trouble. Every new beekeeper should have one. They are not that expensive
  • A plastic rapid feeder for each colony. Never buy wooden; they leak and that causes robbing. Make sure the feeder you are buying is the right size for your hives!

What I would be cautious about buying

  • Bad quality equipment in the auction.
  • A honey extractor in the auction that does not work. Why do they allow them to go into the sale?
  • A colony of bees without a Queen. How can beekeepers allow a beginner to waste their money in this way?
  • A colony of bees on the wrong sized frames for the hive type you have purchased. Only a strong colony can be shook swarmed.
  • If you are thinking about buying bees at least check on the Internet what price a colony or nucleus usually is going for. Don't pay a lot more than you need to pay. Don't get carried away by the fact the bees are being auctioned.

As far as equipment to make increase is concerned, far better to wait until October and get the equipment at the national honey show, or wait until one of the autumn sales and buy the equipment at a fraction of the price at that moment (unless you have a strong colony and will have to divide it to stop swarming). But a nucleus box would get you out of this difficulty. Remember most beginners who manage to buy a whole colony at this time of year lose most of them in a swarm about a week after they have bought them. Your choice, but not having the possibility of dividing a colony will get you into trouble. Beginners you are warned.

Paynes 01273 843388

Ben and Maggi Pratt 01323 841249

And finally, some plants for the bees. Or just some plants. Keith always comes up with something quirky.

Malcolm Wilkie 15th May 2019

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