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Seasonal Hints & Tips June 2018

Checking food levels

With the current change in the weather it will be well worthwhile checking that your super-large :-) colonies have sufficient stores and that you haven't removed too many supers.


Nine day Inspection routine

A paper outlining the reasoning behind the 9 day inspection routine can be found here.  


Egg to Adult chart

This chart reinforces the above paper and can be accessed here and from the main menu.


Demaree method

A paper outling a modified appraoch to the Demaree method is availble here.


Dealing with Spring Honey

Gleaned from a lecture given by Graeme Sharpe. Hints on taking off and dealing with Spring honey

Porter bee escapes.

If bees don’t clear in 24 – 48 hours question why.

1. Escape could be faulty – blocked, glued.

2. Queen could be in super.

3. No strong queen below.

It is advisable not to leave porter bee escapes permanently in the crown board.

When taking supers off.

Do not do it in the middle of the day when robbing can be started.

Do it last thing at night or first thing in the morning.  Block up the hive entrance with sponge to minimise flying bees.  Any bees that are on the frames can be brushed onto their own hive.

When putting clearing boards on make sure that there are no gaps. Use parcel tape and Blu tack if necessary.

Keep supers, whilst waiting for extraction, in a cool dry place, preferably at 10ºC. Do not put in a damp atmosphere so as to prevent fermentation after the absorption of moisture.

Separate out any sealed honey which may have already fermented i.e. willow herb which can be very wet and can ferment under the cappings, as this is of no use to us or the bees.  A high level of water content would be 20%.  17% - 18% is better. If extracted honey is judged to be around 20% moisture content, heat it and keep it at 63ºC for ½ hour to kill off yeasts and deter fermentation.  Leave honey for 24 – 48 hours after decanting from extractor through coarse and fine sieves to remove bees, bits, pollen, larva and crystals.  After settling, warm to go through a fine strain (muslin etc.)

Honey once extracted can be heated to 54ºC which will stop it from crystallising for 6 months or so.

To produce soft seeded honey.

Choose the ‘seed’ honey i.e. oil seed rape of which you will require at least 10%. The seed should be a honey which will set to a fine smooth grain therefore a quick setting honey.  Warm to a malleable consistency which will allow a liquid honey to be stirred into it.  Do not completely liquefy it.  Add the liquid honey and agitate it well.  Let it go solid at approximately 10ºC.  Reheat to about 25ºC with slight heat to loosen it again and mix it with the plunger taking care not to introduce air bubbles.  It can then be jarred and will keep its soft set.  This is referred to the “Dyce” method.

If storing honey in buckets for any length of time make sure the buckets are as full as possible to exclude air.  Honey stored below 10ºC will keep for years.

54ºC will melt cappings honey but not wax. It can then be put through a cappings drier. Crystals will clog the drier.

June Gap

Whilst it is exciting to be taking off the first honey of the year it is important to remember that once taken off, colonies strong enough to have produced a surplus will have very little room in the brood chamber for stores. Any reserves will go to feeding larvae and will quickly run out during a spell of poor weather, leaving little food for flying bees hence leading to Summer starvation.


Frames and Spacings

With modern day frames there should be no excuse whatsoever for beekeepers to get this part of their hobby wrong, but alas they do. Spacing is the most important part of the beekeeping craft and must be strictly adhered to.

So let us consider first the types of frames, their usage and any adoptions that can be made to facilitate the lack of the correct frames in an emergency. It would be beneficial to have pages 20 - 22 and 23 of the 2016 Thorne Catalogue (https://www.thorne.co.uk/download-a-catalogue) to hand to gain a better understanding of what all this is about. Two abbreviations are used, DN for deep national and SN for shallow national.

DN1 frame is a straight sided frame and needs plastic or metal ends fitted to make the necessary correct spacing,  usually it would be narrow ends, the wide ends being used in the super for 'chunky honey comb' but that can be a tricky method that I would not recommend for a novice beekeeper. Both plastic and metal ends are time consuming to use as every end has to be placed accurately in line. A better way if using DN1 frames is to use Hoffman adapters, these being fitted to the DN1 side bar using 3/8ths frame pin thus making the correct spacing automatic.

The DN4 frame is the most popular frame in use along with the DN5 the only difference being the width of the top bar. This is known as the Hoffman Self Spacing frame and is Fool Proof unless the frame is assembled wrongly. The SN4 used in the supers gives a good thickness for cut comb honey and again is fool proof

So my advice would be use DN4s (Hoffman Self Spacing) in all brood chambers and if you have DN1s fit them out with Hoffman converters in order that you can use them with the DN4s.

Manley Frames are for honey supers NEVER in brood chambers, and these should be built using wired foundation and on harvesting extracted on a centrifuge. However I do use Manley deep frames on the original German Poly hives as supers and as these are Langstroth hives the supering off these can lead to a beekeepers hernia as the weight is in excess of 120lbs.

Another method of spacing is by using castellated spacers, these are certainly fool proof, an 11 slot being the best for the brood and a 9 slot for drawn shallow frames and a 10 slot for undrawn foundation. Also these used with Yorkshire spacers make for the best set up for hives put to the heather as if the hive is kicked, or blown over the frames will not come together and crush either the bees or the queen.

Finally, you may come across the short lugged frame which is the perfect frame for the Smith hive but not for the National. If used in the National hive this should only be for some emergency and a side check on each end of the frame should be used to stop lateral movement that would cause an error in spacing. Remember too wider spacing and the bees will build brace comb and too little space will be glued up with propolis.

PLEASE NOTE THAT ONLY ONE TYPE OF FRAME SHOULD BE USED IN BROOD BOX AND THE SAME APPLIES TO THE SUPERS.

Assembly of frames.

This is an entirely separate subject and novices should seek a practical demonstration of how best to assemble frames with the use of the correct pins and hammers/punches.

Contributed by Arthur Hill, 26th July 2016


Harvesting honey for public sale.

Hopefully we are all getting to the stage of removing supers in readiness for extracting honey. However, there are a few matters to consider.

First: if there are uncapped cells on the frame the frame should be given a sharp shake over the colony. If drops of honey appear on the top of the frames then the honey is not ready for extraction and the frame should be returned for completion. The honey has too much water content and is liable to ferment.

Second: if the super has been on the hive whilst the bees have been fed sugar syrup, fondant and/or Ambrosia then there is a significant risk that the honey has been ‘contaminated’ by the sugar and its additives. Bees will naturally move honey/syrup around the brood box and into or out of the super to create space for the queen to lay. There are strict limits to the level of content of sugar allowable for honey on public sale and your jars might come to the attention of the Food Inspectors who are entitled to test your honey and come and inspect your premises and methods of extraction etc.

To reduce the risk of ‘high’ levels of contamination it is advisable to store the extracted honey into buckets and when bottling to mix early and later extractions.


Porter bee escapes.

Porter bee escapes should only be added to the clearing board at the time of clearing bees from the supers. The bees natural reaction to ‘foreign’ objects in the hive is to seal the gaps with propolis which also means the springs within the escape. This usually has the two-fold result in that the escape allows the 2-way flow of bees or a blockage and hence no clearance. If the clearing board is also used as a crown board then bee escapes left in situ can inhibit the flow of air around the colony. Contributed - Arthur Hill (Posted 25th July)


Hints and instructions to beginners in bee culture. (Which still hold good today.)

As published in “Beekeepers’ Supplies 1939” R. Steele & Brodie

1. To winter bees successfully, make sure in September or October that stores are plentiful, that the stock has a young queen, is sheltered from north winds, and above all, see that the hive is damp proof.
2. Thirty to forty pounds are required to safely carry a colony through the winter, also add a cake of candy.
3. Do not keep the bees confined to the hive on sunny winter days, but when snow lies on the ground it is safer to shade the entrance.
4. Prepare your hives, when possible, long before you expect to require them, and see that they have a good-fitting movable “dummy”, and that all hives have frames of uniform size.
5. Spring is the season when bees are in most danger of starvation and dwindling. Watch your colonies, and feed the destitute right on till the honey crop opens. Lessen the room in autumn by means of the dummy, and increase the space as required in spring.
6. Do not feed at the entrance or out of doors, as it causes the bees to rob, but always on the top over the brood nest.
7. When you see many bees hunting around and trying to get into other hives, be sure robbing is going on some where, or that loose honey as been left within their reach. Where stocks are weak, close up hive entrances to just sufficient to let a bee out, and sprinkle a weak solution of carbolic acid about the front of the attacked hives or where bees are crowding.
8. One bee, in March, is worth many in June, so do everything possible to forward breeding. Keep the bees warm – feed, if necessary – supply them with water and pea flour where pollen is scarce.
9. In early spring remove drone comb, and replace it with worker or full sheets of comb foundation as much as in your power. You will always leave more drone brood comb than needed. Too many drones mean a reduced crop of honey.
10. The bees require ten to fourteen pounds of honey to make one pound of comb, so it will always pay you to use full sheets of foundation even if foundation cost three times the price charged for it. In addition to saving the bees’ time and honey you can only secure straight, easy-handled combs by using it freely.
11. The honey harvest lasts but a few days, or at best a few weeks, so you must have the hives full of bees, and always ready to take advantage of it when it comes.
12. Improved methods and foreign competition have increased the supply of honey so much so that, to ensure a ready sale, it should be put on the market in as attractive a form as possible.
13. For home consumption, it pays to produce it in larger sections or shallow frames as the bees will store more honey in these.
14. By using wrought-out combs and the help of an extractor, 30 to 50% more honey can be produced than in sections. If you have three or four hives it will pay you to invest in an extractor, and a good one is cheapest in the end.
15. Honey, unless a Ripener be also used, should not be extracted until sealed over, as it is watery, unripe, and will become unfit for using. Give the bees time to ripen it, and keep them at work with sufficient room; supply them with empty comb if possible.
16. When bees are hanging out in front of the hive it shows that they are uncomfortable in it, and have no room. They should be given more air or more room according to circumstances. Shading the hive from the sun in very warm weather is beneficial.
17. If you give your bees plenty of room before the honey flow, and keep them comb building, they will rarely swarm. If once they find themselves crowded and get the swarming fever, nothing will prevent them from swarming.
18. Raise queens and drones only from the best colonies in your apiary.
19. A queenless stock will raise queens at once if it has eggs or larvae under 3 days old. The queens will hatch within a fortnight.
20. The old queen always goes with the first swarm.
21. By taking only one swarm, and with good management, you may secure surplus honey, but large harvests can only be taken from hives which have not swarmed at all.
22. To hive a swarm, first skep it, then place hive in position, frames being level across. Wedge up front of hive to form a large entrance, and place a large board or sheet, one edge resting on alighting board, the other sloping down slightly from it. Now shake the swarm out in front of the entrance, when, with very little guidance, they will quickly run under cover. If done towards evening very few bees will fly.
23. When you open a hive of bees, if you see any robber bees flying about, you may be sure that there is no honey in the fields and you must avoid leaving the hive open, or exposing the honey within their reach. A robber bee is easily recognised by its quick motions, and buzzing around the hive doors, and occasionally trying to settle on the floorboard near the entrance.
24. All bees will become robbers if tempted with exposed sweets in time of scarcity.
25. Decrease the size of the entrance after the honey crop is past, but be sure to have it very large during the honey harvest.
26. In seasons of scarcity your bees should be fed, and they will probably repay you tenfold the following one.
27. If bees have to be fed after cold weather sets in, soft candy should be given them.
28. Keep your colonies strong. That is the best safeguard against robbers and other evils.
29. A good bee smoker and veil are indispensable. They give a beginner confidence. The bees won’t tolerate nervous, jerky handling. Handle gently, with an occasional puff of smoke you can do anything you please with them. Smoke the bees a little at the entrance before opening the hive.
30. The middle of the day is the best time to handle your bees, as the old bees are then in the field.
31. When you get stung do not lose any time, but scrape the sting off. Do not pull it out, as you are likely to drive more poison into the wound.
32. There are about 5000 bees in a pound.
33. Before melting old comb into wax, it is better to keep it under rain-water for twenty-four hours. By doing so you get more and better wax.

Over manipulation will only disorganise the bees.
Never open the hive unless you have a good reason for doing so.

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