Its been a very busy winter. When it been raining, which it has a lot, I have been in the workshop making equipment.
It was completely clear in my mind after last years successes, (and a few failures) that I was ready to move in to more serious bee work. I feel I have done well with my first year at 25 hives. Had good honey crops, two in one season, Carried out successful queen rearing and subsequent mating and learned how to make up Nucleus colonies.
So where to from now, well, this year I have 36 overwintering nucleus colonies that i won't sell this spring. These are the ones I made last summer from my existing stock, that will occupy the 50 hives I ordered in Kit. The remaining 14 or so empty hives will hopefully get filled up during the summer, with swarms I intend too make at the end of April/ early May when queen rearing will start.
I will also be putting out my usual swarm traps, which i said i wouldn't do again this year, but to me its an invaluable source of bees and i love the excitement off it!!
As well as catching swarms and taking some frames of bees and brood from my production colonies when i harvest in the spring, I will be brushing some of the bees off the frames and in to a holding box, which which i will then distribute in to our Mini-Plus polystyrene mating nucs, then give them a small frame of brood and a queen. These will make great Mini mating nucleus colonies, as well as being overwintering spare queens after the last round of mating this august. We hope to get four or five queens mated in each hive ( but its a push and very much weather dependant) and I've enough capacity to make up 30 Mini-Plus hives, although being realistic, it will take a while to get my numbers up. Like all things it takes time! Beekeeping is knowing how to work your bees to the maximum, so you have good honey crops, with minimal swarming. Also being able to take a little amount of resources from each hive, but not too much so that the colony won't give you a honey crop.
However, the nucleus colonies should grow enough this spring, so that after the end of spring pause at the middle of May and before the start of the chestnut flow, they should be full of honey in their new ten framed hives. Some colonies will be stronger than others over the next 8 weeks ,so i can take frames of bees and brood and give it to others that aren't so strong. This is called balancing up.
So Combined work should fill my hives and mini mating nucs. Give me two honey crops . Give me spare queens for re-queening lots for my stocks and at the end of the season make one final nucleus colonie with all of my stocks that will hopefully give me over 100 spare for next spring, when i hope to have another 100 hives ready, but thats a long way off.
So where are all these new bees and hives going to go, well part of your plan has to include your apiaries. Its all very well producing bees, but to make honey and bees you need good apiaries.
Apiaries need to have shelter from winds, Be in area of your selected foraging for your bees (whatever that may be), Sun for most of the day, be secure and out of sight and above all, have good vehicular access which is so important at harvest time. Hefting heavy supers that weigh over 20 kilos each if their full, is not fun if your fully kitted up, its stinking hot and you've still got 6 other apiaries to harvest!
Finally they must be in reasonable and economical distance to reach. 3 of my new ones are in a line and are on the route to one of my clients, where i also have apiaries. You have to be realistic as otherwise you end up traveling too much and your fuel and Vehicle maintenance bill is huge.
Over the winter I have been carefully planning places by using google maps and google earth, paying visits and also meeting landowners. The results have been good and i happy to say i have more than enough sites for my bees and all in the places i wanted.
The best way to show what I've been up to is just to show the pictures.
I will subtitle underneath each one.
If you want to follow me i am on Instagram as" Plenty Of Honey"
Putting together and painting up with exterior masonry paint, the bodies of the Mini-Plus hives.If you paint them as you put them together, you in effect, glue them together at the same time.
Making up the roofs, cutting the pine, rebating, glueing and screwing, Painting then an aluminium sheet finish for waterproofing.
Just for reference, a Mini-Plushive with frames in situ.
So on to the main hives. heres the 50 lids we made up.
Heres the first off the hives i bought in kit. They came from one of the larger bee companies near me, well 3hrs away. but when you order in bulk the price is better.
We use Nicot plastic bases, that are universal and are long lasting and easy to clean. only 9 euros per base
Ive also been making up Push in Cages with this No 8 hardware cloth. My very kind friend Zac in Vermont sent me this load of hardware cloth, so i have all the push in cases i will need for a very long time.
An interesting morning up in lower Normandy collecting this years sugar syrup . Delivered by tanker from Belgium to a collective of beekeepers, there was 6 of us. Again a much better price when you get together.
Finally my thanks to Christian. The man who can!. He's the best mentor I could wish for and been beekeeping professionally for a long time.and theres not much he dosent know!! So much work ahead, so much to look forward too!!!