• John Preston posted an update 5 years, 9 months ago


    Firstly I’m sorry about the length of this article – this first post is catching up about 4 months of activity.

    This is a blog (or whatever you want to call it) of my attempt to introduce bees at the school where I work.

    I will try and be truthful as to my successes and failures during the season!

    Having been bitten by the bee bug in 2014 it seemed a natural progression to share my new found interest with as many people as possible and what better way than with a school community.

    A few quick words around school with staff and Friends of the school and the project was born.

    With input from the Science Department I put together a paper and submitted it to the Friends funding committee in October 2014.

    I was subsequently given the nod to go ahead with the project – to comprise of an observation hive for the Science Department, a small apiary of 2 hives, all necessary equipment and 10 children’s bee suits and gloves.

    Once up and running the aim is to give children a taster of looking at and working with bees – if there was sufficient interest then a beekeeping club or regular activity could be started in 2016.

    Purchasing began in the late autumn – the Thorne sale, the National Honey Show trade stands, eBay – all with the aim of getting good value for other people’s money!

    With my apiary siting criteria in hand I trawled the school grounds looking for the best site for the apiary – as always compromises had to be made. I have decided on a location away from frequent footfall, with a southerly, sunny aspect but with some shade during the middle of the day. Two downsides are that the location is a bit exposed to the prevailing winds and also it is approached by quite a steep downward slope. Time will tell!

    The site was cleared just before Christmas by yours truly (sorry bees – I had to remove lots of really established brambles!) and will need some leveling in the next month or two before the stands and hives are moved down there.

    In November an evening get together was held with a number of the association’s members to discuss various observation hive designs, pros and cons etc. This included looking at where in the biology lab the observation hive could be sited.

    With the input from the meeting I decided a full optical observation hive was the way to go rather than with one of the nuclei with one or two frames visible above it (these seem more aligned to single day shows and exhibitions rather than an ongoing display).

    Contact was then made with a beekeeper from another fairly local association who has kindly offered to lend me two different optical observation hives for the coming season – one being a standard static obs hive and the other being a rotating one. I am due to pick these up soon so watch this space for my final decision.

    One of my challenges I think is going to be how to easily load the obs hive with bees and how to maintain it easily should I need to add/remove bees and/or brood etc. This obviously isn’t a new problem to others but it will be for me!

    While researching this problem I came across the following link – – I’m thinking about trying to do something along these lines too. If you have any experience with this sort of modular obs hive please let me know what you think.

    January 2015 saw me making up two hive stands from decent 4×2 tanalised timber that a neighbour was about to throw away – I made them up in the school workshop – the end result is much better than the hive stands I made up last year – probably due to the nice large bench I had to work on and also the use of a good cross-cut circular saw! As the whole school site is home to roaming deer day and night and following input from Colin Stocks I will be securing these stands in the ground using 4ft long angle iron on two corners per stand and then strapping the hives to the stands. If the deer are still a problem we may have to fence off the apiary area but I think we will see how we go.

    I am going with 14×12 National hives – why? Because that is what I have at home. Why did I start my beekeeping with this size hive? Ask me another! Possibly to reduce the chance of swarming a bit? What is does give me of course is one size equipment for both apiaries that I will be maintaining. Now of course the obs hive is a different story as they are liable to be standard National – unless I go with making the modular type of obs hive!

    The flat pack hives (seconds) are almost put together – I’m just waiting on 3 replacement bits from Thorne and then they will be done. Overall these seconds seem like good value for money and I will probably go with buying seconds again in the future.

    I’ve started making up some frames (foundation to be inserted later) and have just noticed that I have two different width frame tops! I’ve been told that I ought to be using the wider one for the brood box frames as they reduce the creation of brace comb. I think I’ve already made up some BB frames with the narrower top member so it will be interesting to compare the two during the season.

    Outstanding preps are – hives to be finished, bee suits to be purchased (they are expensive when you are talking 10 of them!), apiary site to be levelled, hive stands to be put in place, obs hive to be decided on or made, Risk Assessments to be finished off, signs to be made, procedures to be put in place and advertised etc

    That’s about where we are at the moment (21/01/15) – I hope you haven’t fallen asleep!

    John P.

    • 17/02/15 – spent half a day working in the new apiary – stand areas leveled and hive stands installed – took a while to knock in the 18″ of angle iron on the stands but now it’s done the stands are rock solid ready to take on any deer! Nice to actually see something in the apiary!

      John P.

      • 27/03/15 – hives installed after painting them using Cuprinol Shades. Hives strapped to the hive stands – cheap and cheerful ratchet straps from Screwfix – seem to do the business! Painted the top and bottom edges of the hive parts as well as the sides – in hind sight not a good idea – when strapped up they stick together nicely! Rats! Used good old Vaseline on the joints today and looks like they will be OK after all. Bees next!
        John P.