If you listen to the Beehive Jive podcast (and you should), you’ll know that Tracey and I are big fans of polystyrene nucleus boxes, by fans I mean borderline obsessed.
These cheap, lightweight and flexible little hives are the swiss army knives of beekeeping. Every year I put mine hard to work: catching and controlling swarms, splitting hives and queen rearing. April I move six poly nucs to my apiaries where they are invaluable throughout the season. I’m own four types of poly-hive: Paynes, Maisemore, Lyson mating nucs and this year the BS Honey 2in1 nuc.
BS Honey are the new kids on the poly block and late last season launched an innovative 2 in 1 hive; allowing beekeepers to run two, three frame, colonies in the same box – or use it as a simple six frame box. Sharing the same dimensions as the popular Maisemore nuc, you can use additional brood boxes and supers purchases for the Masie hive with the BS Honey boxes. I grabbed eight of them at last years National Honey Show and used them in queen rearing this year.
The nuc includes an integrated hive top feeder, dividing board and has an entrance at each end. The corex dividing board separates the two halves of the nuc box preventing bees, or more importantly, queens crossing between the two colonies. I’ve raised about twenty queens in these boxes and never experienced leakage between the two sides. As the bees start to build the frames out, the separating corex board often bends, and the frames become quite tight in the box; requiring finesse when removing the frames. In day to day use, I transfer the colonies to larger six frame nucs once I’ve established a mated and laying queen is present.
The corex board has two positions, either in the centre position for a two colony configuration or stored at the side if you are using the box as a traditional six frame nuc. I would strongly recommend using the stored position, or like me, you can simply lose a board by putting is ‘somewhere safe’ in the apiary and then forgetting where that is.
The bees do fill the board runners with propolis, I’ve had to scrape them out regularly to use the stored position – I’m only going to be using them for mating nucs next season and leaving the board in the centre position means no more runner scraping for me.
The hive top feeder is very clever; it separates each of the sides of the hive with a shared syrup reservoir; if you over-winter them as six frames nucs a silicon stopper can be removed allowing you to lay fondant in the feeder.
All season I’ve used these hives in my queen rearing program (it’s not a program, just me swearing a lot a being amazed I’ve got new queens – but program sounds like I have a plan) and in a small-scale queen rearing workflow three frame mating nucs are a joy. A frame of brood, food and an empty frame for the bees to work means that the nuc requires little care during the three to four-week mating process. After a year using the BS Honey 2in1, I wouldn’t be without them now.
BS Honey have raised the bar for poly-nuc innovation; I look forward to seeing how the other manufacturers in the industry react further feeding my poly nuc addiction.
You can find BS Honey at https://www.bshoneybees.co.uk/
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Tracey and Paul discuss what they are going to get up to in the season.
00:00 – 07:40 : Tracey’s leg and her honey bound hives
07:40 – 11:00 Winter mishaps
11:00 – 20:30 : Would you let weak colonies die
20:30 – 25:00 : Asian Hornets like cauliflower cheese (not really)
25:00 – 32:00 : Tracey’s bee safaris
32:00 – 39:00 : New apiary
39:00 – 41:00 : Queen rearing goals
41:00 – 53:00 : Things we want to do this season
Links to things in the poddy:
Tracey Bee Safaris: https://www.mayfieldlavender.com/product-category/experiences-vouchers/bee-safari/
Cool beekeeping log book: https://www.baithive.com/shop
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In this episode, we sit in front of an open log fire and discuss beekeeping with our friend Liz; the education officer of Epsom beekeepers association. Liz has delivered talks to thousands of beekeeper across the country on a range of topics.
The hygienic bees discussed are from the University of Sussex’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LSAI) – you can find them here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lasi/index
The sound is a little variable in this, mainly because we were lodging around on sofas, it was super comfy.
00:00 – 02:00 : Introducing Liz
02:00 – 07:00 : How our are bees over wintering?
07:00 – 22:00 : University of Sussex’s hygienic bees
22:00 – 28:00 : What type of bees do you select for?
28:00 – 00:41 : Oxalic sublimation research
41:00 – 47:00 : Foundationless & keeping bees on supers
47:00 – 00:00 : Cell sizes
50:00 – 58:00 : Top bar hives
58:00 – 1:04: Tracey versus the vegans
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The Beehive Jive beekeeping podcast
In this episode with chat about our experience at the National Honey Show and interview the show’s chairman Bob Maurer.
The honey show hosts a series of beekeeping lectures over the weekend, these were two of our favorites.
You can find all their videos on the NHS youtube channel.
00:00 – 0600: Introductions
06:00 – 27:00: Interview with Bob Maurer
27:30 – 33: 00: Other types of beekeeping events in the UK
33:00 – 39:00: Entering the competitions
39:00 – 1:00: Our pick of the lectures
1:00 – 1:26: Winter plans
Is a rainstorm the best time to take a beekeeping test?
I like the wet thump of a juicy raindrop smashing into a pane of glass. Rain is natures percussionist. An afternoon in the living room listening to a performance played on my window is time well spent, add coffee and cake it’s perfect. Rainy days, I love. Unless I’m taking the assessment for the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Basic, which I am. Bugger.
Reading University says it’s the third wettest July since 1941. I don’t know that trudging muddy allotment path humming ‘rain rain go away’. An unlucky hive is going to be opened by me. Unlucky for the bees because bees don’t like being wet. Unlucky for me, about to put my hands in a box of 50,000 grumpy wet bees. I’m sure there are other things I could be doing on a Saturday afternoon than beekeeping the rain. I’ve been coaxed into taking the basic by my beekeeping friends. Beekeeper peer pressure is a powerful force, that’s why we lie about regular varroa checks, and it has landed me here.
But I’m in good company. The BBKA began providing formal qualifications for beekeepers shortly after it was founded in 1874. The adoption of moveable frames allowing a more standardised approach to the craft. The basic assessment I’m taking today is the very first qualification in a comprehensive system and has been taken by thousands of beekeepers before me. I’m here to prove I understand the basics of keeping bees.
The basic is gateway drug into the BBKA educational system. If I want to take another course I have to pass this assessment first, then I’m on my way to the coveted Master Beekeeper qualification; well maybe not it sounds hard work. The basic tests my knowledge and skill in the fundamentals of the beekeeping craft: equipment, handling and keeping them healthy. The assessment is practical exam – no papers – just me, bees, the assessor and his clipboard.
Tracey, my podcasting co-host and tutor hands me a cup of tea then apologises for the weather – a very British habit. We chat about the day so far and how her other students have coped with both the assessment and the conditions. She has resorted to holding a large umbrella over the hives during the assessments hoping to keep both bees and humans dry.
I’m the last candidate of the day and my assessor is standing under the gazebo erected by the association apiary team. BBKA examiners have common traits. They want you to past, are helpful, have decades of experience, but, have a steely core forged in the heat of thousands of bumbling candidates that have come before me. He suggested we complete the oral part of the test first in the hope we’ll catch a break in the rain.
The basic has both practical and oral elements. The oral test is a series of questions ranging from hive types to the diseases bees may suffer from. Confidence is important when answering the questions. I start to answer a question about swarm control by saying – some people may .. my examiner quickly interjects – no Paul I want to know what you do, not other people. If you are taking the basic next year, keep this in mind.
I breeze through the questions, the evenings spent in the study group lead by Tracey pays off. I remember the life cycle of the different casts of bee, how to spot the most common of diseases, what jobs need to be done through the beekeeping year and how to extract honey. Making a frame is one of the practical skills I needed to demonstrate and just as I hand my completed frame to my assessor the rains slow to a mild drizzle – time to crack open a hive.
When you inspect your own hives there is a certainty to what you will find after you remove the hive roof. Opening someone else’s hives is like opening a birthday present from the serious aunt when I was a kid. I hoped it would be fun, but ultimately was disappointed after tearing the corner to realise its another education book. Walking towards my nominated hive I eyed it with the same mixture of hope and suspicion.
My lucky dip hive I has two brood boxes separated by either a crown board or queen excluder. I removed the roof and placed it upside down on the floor where it would provide a handy platform to store the other hive parts. On the crown board is a simple record card. The bees are a recently hived swarm, this is good news as newly hive swarms with a laying queen – in my experience – are easy to inspect. All the time through this process I’m explaining to the assessor what I’m thinking and doing. Being very verbal seems a good idea, he asks me some questions about the parts of the hive, what I notice about the bees coming and going from the hive entrance. I crack the crown board, as I lift it there is a problem.
Fresh wild comb is beautiful, it smells lovely and has that sunset yellow colour. The top broad box has no frames and the bees dutifully built five perfect combs from the roof. I’m rather pleased with myself manoeuvring the comb and laying the crown board on the roof with no damage to the wax.
Throughout the inspection the assessor asks me questions: can you see the Queen, what’s in the cell, what is that, where are the stores. All stuff you should be thinking about when inspecting. The rain was holding off and it is going when, he points to a hole in a cell capping and asks – what’s that?
Erm … err….. erm …… that’s me bemused. I’ve seen them before and never considered the tiny holes you see at the top of the capping. Ding! My brain snaps into shape, the bees are capping the cell. And with that answer the assessment is over. After our goodbyes my examiner went home, leaving me to hang around with the association members who’d kindly given up their free time to set up the apiary for our assessments.
If you’ve been keeping bees in the UK for over a year and are a member of the BBKA I would recommend taking the basic it. Your association will run a study group and I found that it crystallised all the things I’m meant to do throughout the beekeeping and when I carry out hive checks, but, sometimes don’t.
Don’t let the practical assessment dissuade you from trying – you’ll be fine.
More information regarding BBKA educational programs can be found here: https://www.bbka.org.uk/learn/examinations__assessments