Three day course on husbandry for bees!

This week, myself and Diane have attended a three day course in the art of husbandry for bees at the beautiful Wood Lane Countryside Centre in Sheffield.A suit to go and meet the bees in.

It was put on by our good friends Ground Work South Yorkshire as part of the Sheffield Bee Buddies Project which we were involved with last year.  As I’ve previously said, funding has now come through to continue the project, but at the end of this year, we’re on our own!

All the hives and equipment will be ours rather than the project’s, so to start to help us on our way, this three day course was organised for future ‘Hive Managers’, which means that Diane and I will be the first ‘port of call’ should there be any emergency -like a swarm, for instance.

Our tutor was a brilliant chap called ‘Bill’ who’s a senior member of the Yorkshire Beekeepers Association.

Sheffield Beekeepers Association is a member of the Yorkshire association, so when I join the Sheffield branch, I’ll automatically be a member of this.

Unfortunately, the weather recently has not been kind to bees -they really don’t like the cold and rain, but on the Monday and Tuesday we were able to spend some time out at the three hives actually sited at the centre.

Up to the right here you can see Diane all kitted out before I checked her zips.  Putting on a bee suit reminds a little of scuba diving!  Every one has to check their partner’s zips to make sure they’re all secure against any bees that might want to wander inside.Checking the brood frames.

As soon as we got outside, our head beekeeper, Charles wasted no time in taking off the hive-top, then the feeder and crown board then the ‘super’ which in a few weeks time -if the weather picks up!- will be full of honey.

You can see it on the left of this photo behind Charles who’s holding the queen excluder upside down having just taken it off.

Because she is a little larger than the workers, this excluder stops her going up into the super and laying eggs.  The supers are just for honey!

Starting at a frame on the outside of the brood box, he lifted it out, carefully shook off the bees -over the rest of the brood box, then inspected the frame.

And this is where it starts to get very complicated!

When you’re checking bees and their hives, you have to watch out for many, many things.Bees in their brood box.

Firstly is the condition of the bees themselves.  Do they have much varroa on their bodies?  This evil little mite is now endemic amongst all British bees, so you wouldn’t have to call up the regional bee inspector.

More serious diseases are American foulbrood and European foulbrood.  These are notifiable, so if you see these, or even think you see either of these, you’re straight on the phone: “HELP!”

Luckily, these two evil diseases haven’t spread this far North yet, so you’re probably more concerned with the look of the frames.

You should be on the look-out for drone cells (…they’re longer, and stick up out of the frame…) and also possible queen cells.  These are shaped like peanuts in their shells, sticking right up out of the frame.

Holding a frame of bees.

Anyway, this was meant to be a fairly short post, but I kind of got carried away.  Bees tend to do that to you.

Suffice to say that please don’t take anything I say as being ‘Gospel’ when it comes to bees.  As you can see, I’m just a ‘Newbie’, and probably will be (bee!) for years to come, but the Good News is that bees are the second most written about subject in the English language.  There are absolutely loads of great websites, millions of books written and you really could not meet a friendlier and more helpful bunch than your local bee keepers.

…But I’m scared of bees!

Well, so was I!

Up until going on Jez’s previous course for keeping bees last year, I would run a mile if I thought there was any chance whatsoever of seeing one.

Now, well, I’ve completely changed my tune.

Bees are great!