Decisions

It is now 5th August 2010, its getting near to further beekeeping decisions-

  • Is there sufficient honey stores for the bees
  • Are we going to be fortunate enough to harvest any excesses
  • Are we going to stay true to the Warre principle, or are we going to treat for Varroa, do we have Varroa?
  • Reduce the hive entrance, mouse guards
  • Combe honey, runny honey options, our daughter requires both
  • Honey jars, sieve, honey bucket and honey tap
  • Label design, Down to the girls to draw, seems appropriate as they claim to do all the work!
  • Honey Press
  • Solar Wax Extractor
  • Hive lift, prototype One  

Varroa mites?

1st August 2010 both our Warre beehives started pushing the Drones out, I looked at Melanie realising this was the anniversary of moving into our new home. I spent the day wondering if I should set up a Drone hospital and keeping on the right side of Mel, sorry Melanie, control of the house seemed to have slipped from my imagined grip.

Every time we have added a box we have swept the hive floor and studied it for Varroa Mite. Every hive will have Varroa, our count thankfully has been low, and close study of a selection of homeless Drones shows no mites, I can’t see any!

I got stung

In the last week of July we added what I expect to be our last box for the year, this time I got stung! A retreat was made to the house for peppermint spray to prevent further bee attention to my bare ankles (I was in my shorts again!|) and gather my full protective clothing.

The bees were certainly defensive, a lit bit more reading and I would have discovered this behaviour is normal as the hive prepares to extract the Drone bees.

Adding the next Warre box

I now enjoyed several weeks of tea breaks watching the bees behaviour identifying a continual flow of foraging bees, dancing bees, afternoon drone bee expeditions, evening fanning bees, its quiet addictive and you find yourself sitting quietly for longer and close than you might have expected with honey bees passing merrily and busily around you.

I have to say Melanie and I are very pleased to be using a Warre beehive, it feels right to not be pulling the bees hive / home apart each week to update a record card.

With this newfound confidence of being at home with the bees, our first additional box procedure was undertaken on a nice day in tea shirt and shorts, an operation that went well without a single bee lose, thanks to the help of a gentle feather and the action of sliding the boxes over each other. I really was feeling like a natural beekeeper.

We have added one box at a time, now totalling Five. The first time we added a Warre box was when the bees actually formed a beard at the hive entrance after just over two weeks of fine June weather demanding the need for additional space or else! They actually still had an empty box below them, we now add a box when the box above seems almost full.

If your hives are remote to your Monday to Friday residency you could set the hive up initially with three boxes, or add two boxes at the same time. We will also do this next summer to further reduce the number of hive interventions required.

The bees move into the Warre hive

Two days later, armed with table, garden tree choppers, bread knife and wire cutters we started our natural bee keeping!

Melanie explained to the bees what was about to happen, their transfer from nucleus  box to the Warre top bar beehive. They do say to be calm, polite and gentle when handling bees. I was at this monument open to anything that was going to help.

I did have the hose pipe around the corner, like a riot van / water cannon out of site   set on mist jet just in-case all got out of hand. The task before us, especially for armatures seemed anything but calm. This disturbance, once only for the bees I convinced myself, whispering this apology to the nucleus box.

Now I would recommended you watch Phil Chandlers video of this operation on his website Biobees, I watched it endless times (Its properly got record viewings by now) mentally practicing every step of the procedure so we could mirror the smoothest possible transfer of bees.

No options, the bees are in our care, we proceeded. I have got to say at this point it’s worth checking you’re tucked in, don’t rely only on the elasticized waist band of your bee jacket alone. It’s a bit disconcerting Melanie will tell you when a three / four bees are flying around inside your hood!  

How did we get on, well it’s certainly dramatic, there is a rush of adramlin and its bizarrely addictive shaking your first frame of bees into the Warre box, trimming the frames was at times a bit devastating, they were also less strong than I would have imagined and honey is sticker than you already knew. It was a full on experience!

Actually after our first hive we retreated to the house for a cup of tea and several slices of cake, really a mental rest was required. 

We were pleased with our success, thankful for rehearsing every step, shocked by the exhilaration of handling the bees, the intensity of the exercise, guilty for a number of grubs, guilty at understanding also why beekeepers simply have to keep dabbling in their hives. None of that for us however, the bees were now in their home, their hive, their nest.

I love our bees

Watching the bees is fascinating, the speed, the height they disappear into the sky, the numbers off, the pollen brought back, the sound… New to beekeeping like me then you will be amazed by how busy a hot afternoon can become.

Watching the bees, lucky me I work at home so I can spend my tea / coffee break watching, I would say this back yard bee talk needs a little pinch of salt. You’re going to need an area that really is going to be beespace, chose carefully.

Well we placed the nucleus travel boxes in the exact position we had decided for the hives. We put them on the Warre hive floor stand so they would also get used to that height and the Warre roof over the box to keep any late evening / night rain away.

Melanie had the honour of taking the bung out and our first bee immerged doing a textbook navigational climbing spiral above it nucleus box. All that reading seemed to be worth while. We let the bees settle into their surroundings.

Our bees arrive

At the start of the nectar flow, June 2010 we have two empty Warre beehives in the garden and I have just driven into the drive with two full nucleus boxes with frames, (We asked in advance for our queens to be unmarked by the way) that is less one lady bee who is flying around the car untamed, mild mannered the breeder said!

The hives are positioned to the side of our house that actually has a public footpath alongside; the garden boundary has a 7/8 foot high hedge. The hives face SE and catch the morning sun, it’s a semi sheltered site from the wind. It’s an area of the garden we do not have to pass through or frequent regularly.

For us this was the idea location, as with any average size garden there is going to be a compromise, ours was the footpath, but we hoped the high hedge would prevent any low flying bees in this area.

I felt a bit selfish about subjecting the walkers to this experiment, but to date no complaint, the hedge, not that the bees seem to need encouragement are flying high straight from the hives.

Welcome to our Natural Beekeeping website

Welcome to our Natural Beekeeping website and our blog.

This website is all about our passion for natural beekeeping and our Warre beehive.

Melanie and I decided on the Warre beehive and its methodology as our natural beekeeping approach. The facts that feral bee colonies survive in the wild without chemical cure intervention for modern hive diseases such as the Varrao mite is a big message to the bee world that we need to understand better and respect more.

We feel that more beekeepers both new and experienced need to adopt natural beekeeping. The more popular Warre beekeeping becomes the more likely it is that we will be able to prevent any further decline in numbers of the UK honey bee.

Please do feel free to express your own opinions in the comments sections on our blog.