Top tips

For part of one of the autumn branch meetings we had an enjoyable 20 minutes sharing those ideas and good practice that made things better for us and our bees. In no particular order, these are some of the ideas put forward by members:

  • Light your smoker before opening a hive, even if you were not intending to do much. You never know…
  • When making syrup (particularly 2:1) warm the sugar first by putting the bags in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. The sugar will then dissolve much more easily when you mix it with the (hot) water.
  • If you see a queen starting to be balled, powder heavily with icing sugar immediately (from the shaker you always keep in your bee box… 🙂 ). This often changes their minds.
  • Have a look at the National Honey Show’s channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiOtIebcpY0Zqqma0H5wLYQ), to see the great series of lectures by experts at past shows.
  • Don’t wash your hair just before going off to do a hive inspection. Some shampoo smells are not appreciated by bees.
  • Always wash (in soda solution) your gloves, hive tool, and the handle of your smoker, between hives.
  • The hood of your beesuit can go in the washing machine with the rest of your suit/jacket if you tuck it down into a sleeve (for the fencing type) or in the trunk of the zipped-up suit (if round type) first. Secure the opening of the suit with a safety pin and remember to tuck the velcro tab away from the veil as well.
  • A see-through/polycarbonate crownboard makes it easier to check how many seams of bees you have in the winter.
  • If you have a phone camera, taking some pictures up through the OMF in winter can provide reassurance that they’re still alive in there.
  • Luggage scales are very useful in monitoring stores situation in winter. Weigh either both sides or front and back at each visit and compare over time to see how much is being used.
  • A spray bottle filled with soda solution can be useful in rinsing gloves. Just be careful not to think it’s the one you filled with clean water for inspections in hot weather (when a fine mist of water can be more calming than smoke for the bees).
  • A wallpaper steamer fed down into a box of old comb on a solid floor can melt out the wax very well (and is what the Thornes’ Easi-steam system is based on).
  • If you go back to a hive after an inspection and having removed your beesuit, because there was something small you’d forgotten to do, the bees will not realise you were not intending to disturb them – “feeling lazy, I decided to quickly creep back and put my varroa floors in without putting my suit on. As I bent over the wind suddenly gusted and three poor bees got caught in the hair on top of my head and stung me. Later that day I looked like a dolphin.”
  • If you want to make some cut comb honey, don’t put the super you want to use directly above the brood box as that is where the bees often store some pollen. Always put your cut comb super on after the OSR season and only on a strong colony.
  • Dusting with icing sugar needs to be done regularly every seven days for a worthwhile drop in varroa levels over the season.
  • An old duvet cover makes a secure container for a boxed swarm in the car (making sure to leave enough ventilation).
  • Shaking a swarm into their new nuc/hive rather than running them in avoids having to deal with instances of them clustering under the new home rather than in it.
  • Always check to make sure you’ve placed the central cup back over the access hole when using a rapid feeder of some type. Otherwise, you risk finding 100s of drowned bees when you next check them and feeling like a mass murderer.
  • When doing a shook swarm, putting a single frame of uncapped brood into the new brood box along with the frames of foundation means that the bees are much less likely to abscond. Take it out and discard it after a week, when most of that brood has been capped, and you will also get rid of most of the phoretic mites that were on the adult bees.
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