Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Moving a swarm into your Warré hive

Catching a swarm of bees is normally achieved by shaking, knocking, or sweeping them into a container supplied by the beekeeper, then allowing them until dusk to settle in order to catch all the scout bees that are out on 'house hunting' visits. This is normally followed by a further move when they are either again shaken into their new hive or onto a cloth covered ramp to ‘walk in’ to their new hive - see pictures at the foot of this post. All this shaking is certainly not natural and can be quite stressful on them. Even during the hours between their initial capture and the subsequent transfer to their new hive they will already have expended considerable energy settling in and building some comb.

In order to try and reduce this stress I have developed a Warré catching system that removes the second stage of this process completely. Basically, at the initial capture the bees are caught straight into their final destination hive.

As a member of YABeeP we will try and source a swarm for you. In order to use this bee-friendly swarm system, when your hive is 100% complete and ready to receive bees (see this 'Finishing touches to a Warre' page) you need to let me have your top box - that's the one with the hessian sheet stuck to the top with flour/water paste. When I go out on swarm calls I will capture the bees straight into this box which is then placed onto a specially modified swarm capture floor.

This floor has swinging lugs which holds the front of it open to allow any returning scout bees to join the swarm. By dusk all the bees will have returned and be happily clinging to the roof of the hive box already busy settling in.


The new hive owner is then given directions to the box location and, once dusk has arrived, they can easily collect the swarm by swinging the 2 lugs to the closed position, gently closing the front of the box, securing it for the journey with the ratchet strap and then you are free to travel safely home with your new swarm.

Once at the final hive location the box is placed beside the hive, the securing strap is loosened and it is left to settle from the journey for about 10 minutes. While waiting make ready the rest of the hive by removing the quilt box and roof leaving one or two (no more) Warré boxes on the base. Once the bees have settled just gently lift the box and place it on top of your hive stack, add the quilt box and roof – job done! The bees will all be in the roof of the collecting hive box and no bees will fly out during this process provided it's done after dusk.

Not only does this make life gentler on the bees with only one move, it also means they ar not thrown out of their chosen home and it means that I can leave the evening collection visit to you – you can have the fun of collecting and housing your own bees – no experience necessary. Please return the floor and waterproof lid to me asap so I can reuse it for the next swarm.

Obviously, for this to work your Warré boxes need to be built to the Warré spec. of 300 mm x 300 mm1 internal dimensions or it may not fit the swarm capture floor. A tolerance of c. 15 mm each way is catered for.

© Robin Morris - YABeeP

PS: For those who choose to use a horizontal hive your bees will be collected the same way. You'll just have to accept that your bees will get a second disturbance when you shake or walk them into your hive - sorry.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Footnote 1 - Don't worry if you have built one of YABeeP adapted Warré hives as I also have swarm catching bases/roofs for these.

The less attractive alternatives:

Shaking bees in
(poor bees!)
Walking bees in
(they're still evicted!)






Also see this video of a 'walk in'.....
....and another.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Some more pic's from Saturday's swarm

Simon and Louise have kindly sent me some more images from the swarm/s we had at Saturdays meeting. Here's a selection:






video






video

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Dave's Bees

I'd just got back from town on Tuesday 16th when I picked up a message from Robin asking if I'd like to go with him to collect a swarm from Baildon Rd in Weston. After a moment's hesitation and - yes - see you there in an hour. Arriving in Weston I was greeted by Gary who had called North Somerset Council to ask for help with removing the swarm. Explaining that I was the trainee/assistant we chatted for a few minutes before Robiin and Sarah arrived. The swarm had lodged inside Gary's hedge and was a little difficult to get at.. After a few minutes struggle with Gary's massive bolt cutters the branch came away and the swarm was tapped into the Warre box. We needed to use another box to collect the stragglers but Robin soon had most of them and positioned the Warre box on its base by the hedge leaving it there for the roaming bees to settle down and put their feet up for the night. I had been feeling a little nervous having been stung by one of Jenny's bees the previous week (still have a small lump now) so I was pleased I'd bought the protective gear from Mike on the previous Friday.

It was a bright and sunny evening and I was a little unsure what time the bees would have all returned to base for the night but by 8.15 I decided to set off stopping at Robin's on the way to collect some shavings for my quilt. Arriving at Gary's about 9.00 all was quiet around the box and had it not been for the fact that he had been watching them all evening I would have been a little unsure about whether they were still there! So tightening the strap with Gary's help (that was a bit trickier than I anticipated) the box was sealed and off I went - leaving Gary behind who was, by this time, rather sad to see them go. Robin had given him the Yabeep blog address and he took my telephone number to find out how they are getting on in a week or two.

Arriving home it was fairly easy to put the box into position. The following morning I was a bit anxious that I would find they had all gone but they seemed quite settled and were already busy flying off and returning to the hive - I've been really surprisd at the speed they move. It's a week later now there's plenty of activity going on and things seem to be Ok despite my garden being rather small.


Thanks to Gary for his interest and help and of course continuing thanks to Robin who is doing a great job in promoting all this bee activity.

Nick, Kirsty & Jack's bees

There is an update with pictures showing the progress on Nick, Kirsty & Jack's bees posted here on the Natural Beekeeping Network (biobees forum). Pretty impressive for 3 weeks - they seem to be going great guns Nick!

Some examples:

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Peter & Sue's new bees

Peter popped around this morning with news of how well yesterday's swarm had settled in to their new Warré hive. He even brought round a film cip and some pics which I agreed to publish as he currently doesn't have internet access.
video
He also supplied some stills. We had all best watch out for Peter; he's obviously after the 'Best Architectural Hive of the Year' award - see those fancy balstrades and the wrought iron work. (click images to see full size).

All I can say is they better look after them as I reckon they have inherited at least half my bees!

Robin :-(




June meeting, live swarm & hive building

Well, hasn’t a lot changed? The last time we met four weeks ago everyone from the first tranche of members had built hives but not a soul had bees, When we met yesterday I am pleased to report that everyone who’s hives were ready and waiting had now become the proud parents – that’s 7 new beekeepers in the area and 2 more old beekeepers (!) with sustainable hives.

Meeting
Not everything had gone according to plan and the meeting was spent talking through everyone’s experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, plus others chipping in on behalf of those who had not been able to make this meeting. What a lot of learning had been packed into this last month – what with hive ‘walk-ins’, poisoning, a dead queen in a swam, collapsing brood comb, swarm collecting, installing swarms and a package and Jenny’s Houdini queen – well caught Robin - howzat?

The morning proved to be a really positive talk involving everyone this time (it’s about time someone stopped that Robin from prattling on) supplemented by the cake and biscuits that Sue and Ray had very kindly supplied – what a difference having bees makes to a thirst for knowledge and appetite!

All that was needed now was 2 more swarms to correct the balance in Andrew & Janice and Peter & Sue’s hives and a practical demonstration on swarm catching to reinforce the theory we had just discussed.

Live Swarm
Well, just as we finished and the group was starting to break up, with meticulous timing and right on cue, what should happen but one of the on site hives started to swarm. Unlike the last meeting when the swarm, from the same hive by the way, happened when half the group had already departed, everyone was there to witness it this time.
video
How fantastic, we all got to see the whole procedure - first the bees emerging and congregating in the sky awaiting Her Maj’; next they moved around a little seeking a pit stop - what a noise they make no wonder the general public are terrified!!! Then, again through further meticulous planning by Sarah & Robin, they all began to alight then settle on a bush in the garden forming two rather large clusters. The whole procedure taking maybe an hour overall.

The chance was too good to miss so we all set about either collecting the swarm or catching the whole thing on camera (please don’t forget to send me some pic’s). With a further demonstration from Robin on how docile a swarm is (you should have seen him running away like a total wimp - ouch!) the clusters were duly collected and, in truly democratic style, were left to decide for themselves whether they wanted to move to Yatton or Kingston Seymour by being a given the choice of two boxes.

The bravery award of the day must surely go to Gabriel who took a sting full on the face and acted as if nothing had happened – brave chap.

Hive Building
Once all the swarm catching shenanigans were over attention turned to the hive building and four groups spent the afternoon and some of the early evening getting 4 more Warré hives built – well most of the structure was completed for 4 x 4 box hives – no mean order give the late start. Again the weather was kind to us (how do R&S do it?!!) and a real sense of fun and comrade was experience which helped along the very hard work put in. The only skivers were Robin & Beanie who escaped the hard work for an hour to respond to a swarm call from Clevedon.

Not bad for a bee day eh? A really successful meeting, a live swarm demonstration and four new hives mostly built. How do we top that next time?!! Our thanks to all who took part and made this yet another enjoyable day.

Robin



Photos by Ray
Video by Jenny

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Jenny has Bees from a Box!

I was expecting to get bees as a swarm but instead Robin rang to offer me a box of bees that another member had ordered but no longer needed. So a big thank-you to Nick. And a big thank-you to Robin.


I hammered down the motorway to Taunton to be met by a very sceptical professional bee keeper, with 300 commercial hives. He was not impressed either by my knowledge (scanty) nor our methods. Armed only with Robin's confidence and knowing he was on his way, I took the large wooden box with several thousand cross hungry bees. They had been taken out of their hive only hours earlier, one they'd had no intention of leaving just yet. The queen was captured in a little plastic cage for her own safety. I drove back much more carefully with mad thoughts of accidents and large numbers of angry bees.

Safely home, Robin, with me watching, tapped the box to encourage the bees down to the bottom, then quickly lifted the lid and unhooked the queen's cage. We broke the tab securing her with the intention of wrapping newspaper around the hole it left, but she escaped! Oh no! But Robin managed to grab her, put her back and then we wrapped the paper round. The idea was to protect her for the time it took the bees to eat their way through the paper, by which time, accustomed to her smell, they will accept and not kill her. She was hooked onto a top bar in the top box of my Warre hive.

Next another box from my hive was turned with the top bars facing downwards and put as the bottom box of the hive. The box of bees was then tapped again, the lid taken off and the bees shaken into the upturned hive box. With the majority in, the top hive box and roof were quickly put in place. The remaining bees were encouraged out of the box by shaking and bees started to collect around the hive entrance 'fanning'. This is a sign to the others of a new home. Gradually the last stragglers went inside.


On the beekeeper's instructions, I fed the bees, using a mixture of 2lbs sugar to a pint of water in an upturned jamjar with small holes in the lid placed above the bees in the insulation box, and also closed the entrance overnight. [Edited to add: please see 'Note to Readers' in second comment below about feeding sugar to bees.]

Pleasingly they were still there in the morning. A few days later Dave helped me turn the upturned hive box the right way, and add two more, meanwhile also adding handles. So many thanks to Dave.


With good weather for two out of the first three days the bees took very little of the feed. A week later it is almost gone, but they have now built themselves their first three honeycombs which is wonderful to see. Thanks so much to Robin for making all this possible.

Bedding for bees

Greetings from Beanie.

Thought you might like to know that I bought today a bale of bedding material for my hens. It's called BLISS and it's impregnated with Citronella. I intend to use it as the insulation layer for my Warre hive that I am building at the weekend. The lady in the shop said it kept her hens free from mites! I thought that might be interesting re the Varroa mite. Anyway I'll keep you posted.

It was from a Pet Store in Shepton Mallet called Pet Place. It's a huge bale and cost about £8.

New Bees & Orientation Flights

I realise that I’ve failed so far to keep this blog up to date on the progress we have made in getting bees for new members.

New Bees
Well, with Dave getting a swarm from Weston yesterday I am happy to report that everyone who built hives either at the first hive workshop or on their own now has bees – that’s 10 new sustainable beekeeping families in the area – let’s give ourselves a pat on the back! This also includes Sarah & I who picked up a nice swarm from Nailsea to add to our tally - they are now happily residing on our garage roof.

We have a couple more making hives this Saturday so I’m guessing that by the end of the following week they will be ready to receive. There are also some from the first tranche who need a second lot, either because of problems with the first (Andrew & Janice’s swarm had a dead queen (!) and Peter and Sue had an unfortunate poisoning issue) or because they have made a second hive – didn’t we say it was infectious?!

We will continue to ensure that fresh swarms are distributed on a first come, first served basis. If you want bees either because you have just joined the club and built your first hive or have added to your apiary then you’ll be added to the list as soon as your hive is ready to receive. Please make sure that it is 100% ready – read the Finishing Touches post to make sure you are ready.


Orientation flights
Those of you with new bees or new to beekeeping may find the following of interest which was an answer given to a member’s query about new bees haphazard flying:

I'm guessing that the bees you were talking about with the indirect flight path were your new girls taking orientation flights. All bees do this either when first emerging from the hive when they are 'awarded their wings' for the first time or when a hive is moved to a brand new location because they have swarmed or we have moved them. When first emerging you'll see them turn around to face the hive as soon as they exit. They then fly apparently hap hazardous circuits around the front of the hive at first then further afield to get their bearings. Experienced bees just fly straight off as soon as they emerge.

Even with an established hive it's worth watching for this behaviour as it shows that you have new flyers emerging, part of the overall picture of a healthy hive. This is all part of the jigsaw of knowledge you gain in beekeeping that helps you check for a healthy hive - you don't need to open a hive to tell what's going on.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Natural Beekeeping

The Yatton Area BeeProject (YABeeP) is part of the fast growing and bee-friendly 'natural beekeeping' movement, unlike the majority of conventional beekeeping associations.

What is Natural Beekeeping?
You'll hear many terms used to describe the beekeeping we practice. Words such as as bee-friendly, sustainable, free range, alternative, top bar, holistic, apicentric, complimentary, the list goes on. All of these names are valid and could be applied to our methodology, we just happen to choose to use the labels 'bee-friendly' and 'natural'.

Whilst there are several definitions that attempt to describe what natural beekeeping is, probably the most important difference to note is that we practice a system designed to put the needs of the bee first and foremost. We strive to improve the bees welfare, to allow them to take control of their own affairs and we will only crop honey from our bees if we are convinced that it is surplus to their needs.

This an alternative approach to the established beekeeping practices which have been developed and honed over the last 150 years to meet the needs of the beekeeper and to maximise honey production. We see their 'conventional'  methodology as a form of intensive honey farming.

Natural beekeeping involves a different management/husbandry methodology and usually the use of alternative hives1 which allow bees the freedom they need to manage their own affairs. That said it is possible to operate very naturally using 'conventional' hives. Natural beekeeping is about taking most of the 'human' control out of beekeeping and allowing the bees more charge of their own destiny. After all they have been around for millions of years and have overcome many natural disasters in their evolutionary journey without the 'help' of a comparatively recent mankind.

Whilst it is possible to keep bees totally naturally, not many do so. Most natural beekeeping is short of being 100% natural. As soon as you interfere with your bees in any way, such as introducing a caught swarm, feeding your bees or opening a hive for inspection, you deviate from being fully natural. What we are endeavouring to do, however, is to keep bees as near to natural as we can, trying to replicate what bees would find in a natural colony as near as is possible. Most natural beekeepers are on journeys towards being natural, choosing for themselves how far they want to go along that route. It's back to that desire to put the needs of the bees first that really marks the difference.

Natural beekeeping - a simple definition
Basically natural beekeeping is about providing a near-natural environment and allowing the bees to control their own colonies as they would in nature; interfering with them as little as possible. We encourage the use bee-friendly hives based on the size of home that evidence shows they would select in the wild, allowing them to build their own comb, letting them decide for themselves on the mix of workers to drones (male) bees and letting them swarm as and when they feel the need.

Above all, our interest is in the protection and preservation of the bee as a wild creature rather than seeing it as a producer of honey. Whilst we may sometimes harvest small amounts of honey, we will only do so having ensured they have sufficient stores for themselves. We do NOT view them as a resource for us to manipulate and exploit just for our own profit.


Natural beekeeping - a fuller definition
My favourite full definition is from the Bees For Development website - you will need to Register (free) to see the definition as well as loads of really useful bee information which is on their excellent Information Portal. I copy it in full:

"Environmental sustainability demands that ecosystems are not damaged beyond their capacity to maintain their own biological processes, functions, biodiversity and natural productivity.

Sustainable beekeeping must first consider the place of honey bees within an ecosystem and their impact on its ecological services. The relationship between bees and people has become central to this understanding. People have the potential to disturb irretrievably the balance between bees and their environment, as the advent of exotic Varroa mites in many countries of the world has demonstrated.

At the heart of sustainable beekeeping is the welfare of honey bees: not just at the level of the individual colony or apiary, but at the level of the whole bee population of the region. Beekeepers have often focused effort on their colony and apiary, ignoring their relationship with the wider bee populations of the locality or region. Meanwhile our social, economic and environmental activities and policies may be damaging the fundamental relationship between bees and the ecosystems on which they depend.

The aim of sustainable beekeeping should be the protection and maintenance of viable populations of indigenous bees. To do this we must first protect and maintain the bees' habitat, not just around the apiary, but in the wider region. Everyone, not just beekeepers, can participate in the broader activities of environmental protection. Principles of wildlife-friendly farming and gardening, protecting wild areas and native flora, and other activities carried out at individual, community and policy levels can all work to ensure that bees have sufficient nesting sites, forage and protection to survive and thrive.

Sustainable beekeeping also depends on the suitability of bees to their local environment. Beekeepers can contribute to the genetic fitness of bee populations by keeping only indigenous species and races of locally adapted bees. Historically, the importation of other species and races has led to a dilution of genetic fitness in wild bee populations as well as spreading disease.

Natural methods for the management of bees for sustainability will be determined by the ways the bees themselves want to live. Consequently, there may be some conflict between what the bees require and what the beekeeper requires. For example, the reproductive strategy of honey bees is to maximise their population by division, while humans may want to keep the colony whole to maximise their harvest. Methods of beekeeping should be appropriate to the local environment and local bees, and should always strive to maintain honey bee health. Beekeepers should have a positive effect on their bees and on the surrounding bee population. Thoughtless and uninformed beekeeping can have unintended negative consequences."



As good as this definition is, at the end of the day it is only words, albeit very worthy words. What will really mark out a good natural beekeeper is their actions, how much time they spend learning about bees, studying and interpreting their bees behaviour; learning to identify the sights, sounds, colours and behaviour of their bees. This was a skill that most beekeepers used to have but seems to have got lost in the 'bang the bees off the frame and inspect the comb' teachings of modern conventional beekeeping where the number of hives managed and quantity of production provides their measure of success.

As natural beekeepers I firmly believe we need to get back to old values and learn to cherish our bees.

Robin Morris
YABeeP


1 Natural beekeeping hive types: Most commonly the various design of top bar hives - Émile Warré's 'People's Hive' and its variants, the horizontal (aka Kenyan, Tanzanian or log) hive, the Golden Hive (die einraumbeute) and the straw Skep. There are also other less common designs.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Why don't sustainalbe beekeepers use conventional hives?

This page has been added to explain why YABeeP uses sustainable beekeeping, rather than conventional beekeeping, practices.


Conventional beekeeping has developed over the last 160 years. Most of the practices and equipment involved was developed in the Victorian era when the thinking was that mankind had total dominion over the animal kingdom and could improve on nature by using science and technology. There was also the view that bees were a resource for us to 'farm'. As a consequence all the developments in conventional beekeeping have been made to either make things easier for the beekeeper or to maximise honey production. The needs of the bees themselves were not considered.


At first there was no apparent problem; the bees seemed to produce an apparently limitless abundance of free honey. Over time, however, the issues started to show and over time the various stresses on the bees began to compound until we reached the situation today where bees are in trouble.

Today conventional beekeepers tend to use the National hive (click on this excellent animation to see the parts of a National) - a development from the original box invented by the Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth in 1851, though some use slight variants such as the WBC or commercial hive.

Sustainable beekeepers recognise the following issues in these hives and their management practices:


  • Use of frames - Frames are used inside the hive to ease inspection, removal and reorganisation by the beekeeper. However these frames make the hives draughty for the bees as they prevent the bees building comb up to the sides. Indeed, when the bees attempt to join the frame to the hive side conventional beekeepers call it 'brace comb' and remove it.
  • Use of foundation - Inside the frames they place a manufactured comb template called 'foundation'. This is either made from beeswax or plastic and is used as an artificial building block to force bees to build comb to a standard size determined by man rather than in a variety of sizes they build in nature. The standard manufactured cell size used on foundation is larger than the natural cell size based on the premise that bigger bees will gather more honey. However, there is much evidence to support the argument that larger cells make things easier for the Varoa mite. In nature the bees vary the cell size depending on season and location in the hive.
  • Culling of unwanted bees - Conventional beekeeping practices encourages the culling (that is slaughter) of male bee cells in a belief that they are of little use in bulk honey production. Whilst the male bee does not collect food or contribute to comb manufacture or brood rearing they clearly have a role to play, maybe in keeping the hive warm and balanced. After all it is the bees that actively decide when to raise male bees and how many. This culling practice also extends to what the beekeeper considers to be ‘less productive’ queens. They will often kill a viable queen and replace with an artificially raised one just to increase honey output.
  • Large capacity hives - the National and variant hives are all based on what was available to the inventor at the time rather than on the size chosen naturally by wild bee colonies. Bees strive to maintain their colony at a constant temperature which is far more difficult to achieve in a large box. There is much evidence to suggest that the bees nest heat and scent is critical to bee health - for more info' download Johann Thür's 'law of retention of nest scent and heat' paper (374 KB).
  • Treatment regimes - the practice of adding chemicals, gasses and antibiotics to ‘treat’ for possible ailments. Whilst a sustainable beekeepers also treat sick bees they will tend to favour natural methods (eg sugar dusting for Varoa) or use chemicals when required rather than routinely.
  • Supering - the practice of adding honey collecting boxes above the colony forcing the bees to build comb upwards which is unnatural to them. In Warre hives the boxes are added below the bees which allows them to progress naturally downwards. Not only is supering unnatural but it means placing a drafty empty box above the brood thus screwing their natural air conditioning system - see Thür's paper above.
  • Use of a queen excluder – a man-made screen designed to keep the queen in the part of the hive where the beekeeper wants her. Designed to keep the queen from laying eggs in the beekeepers honey store it disrupts her freedom of movement.
  • Swarm suppression - wing clipping of queens and other invasive methods to prevent colonies from swarming – natures way of hive reproduction. A conventional beekeeper does all s/he can to hang onto their bees as they don't want to loose their workforce. Ina way this is understandable given they have spent so much on their expensive hive and its running costs - they are looking for a return on that investment.
  • Importing and moving bees around - this practice has been done for many years in an attempt to try and get a more ‘efficient’ stock by bringing in foreign, un-acclimatised stock along with their disease and parasites and consequently diluting the local natural gene pool. Our native British Black bee has been more or less wiped out by the importation of forcing stock. It is also this practice of importing bees that has spread bee disease around the globe and is responsible for why we have the dreaded Varoa mite today.
  • Artificial feeding - the practice of removing too much of the honey produced by the bees which they need for over-wintering and replacing it with unnatural alternatives. Bees make honey for themselves, not mankind, to see them through the winter. We are lucky in that in most years they produce more than they are likely to need. However, Sustainable Beekeepers err very much on the side of caution - we are in this for the bee, not our own honey production quotas!

Finishing touches to a Warré (vertical) hive (2011)

Having built the woodwork for your Warré hive there are still some finishing touches before it is ready for your bees:

[Please note: This page was written in 2011 for our 2011 class. It has been updated and improved for 2012 here - LINK]

1. Handles
Make sure that you have added robust handles to each side of your hive as per Warré's plans - make them from at least 1" (25 cm) wood. These need to be securely glued and screwed to the side of your hive. Remember, you may be lifting the whole hive using the handles on the bottom box and a full hive is very heavy! Over time the boxes rotate so any box could be the bottom one.

2. Weather proofing
You need to seal the exterior of the hive from the elements but do NOT paint the inside of the hive with any form of treatment - the bees will do this themselves with propilis.
The best external treatment is a probably mix of linseed oil and bees wax which you need to gently heat before application to ensure that the wax is melted and mixed. However, you can similarly use a non-poisonous shed or fence treatment - make sure it is one that can be spilt onto plants without damaging them. You can also paint with a breathable emulsion paint eg. a quality exterior emulsion or whitewash - be creative in your use of colours! If painting man-made weatherproofing ensure that none of it trickles inside the hive and allow a good couple of weeks for it to air before introducing your bees.

3. Quilt box
This provides the breathable insulation to your hive. You need to add a floor to this quilt box
to retain the insulation. Use Warré's design - a piece of hessian sacking with which you cover the base of the quilt box and wrap it up the sides using staples, tacks or flour paste to attach it to the quilt box frame. If you can't get hessian use any natural breathable loose woven material. Moisture needs to permeate through this layer so do not use man-made material. If you use recycled hessian sacking make sure that you thoroughly wash it before use as it may have been previously painted in insecticide to protect its contents. The hessian that wraps up the sides needs to be folded neatly so that it doesn't foul the hive roof. 

Now fill the box with a breathable natural material - sawdust, straw, wool, etc. Again do not use man-made material such as glass fiber, polystyrene chips, etc.. Check the condition of your insulation material each autumn when you manipulate your hive ready for winter and to take off the excess honey - replace any tired or mildewy material.

At first glance the quilt/roof system seems to defy logic as there is a wall of solid wood from the roof box which sits directly on this quilt box preventing the damp from dissipating upwards. However, his quilt design is very clever as the moisture in the quilt doesn't vent upwards like a chimney - this would create a draft for the bees. Instead it is wicked out by the piece of hessian below the quilt box which is protected from the element by the roof and dissolves into the atmosphere. Smart chap that Emilé!

4. Bee Proof Barrier
A second piece of hessian, or similar. is also stuck to the top of the upper most bee box. The best way to do this is to mix a small bowl of flour and water paste - make the mix quite thick and sticky, place the hessian atop the top most box then paint the hessian down with the paste. When it has dried you should find it has stuck to the top bars and upper surface of the sides. Trim off any excess and voila. This paste soaked top provides 2 functions - first the starch in the flour stops the bees from chewing through the hessian an second the stuck down roof to the top box can make it easier to pour in your bees when you get them.

The bees will regulate the passage of air into the quilt by filling or unblocking the pores in the quilt barrier dependant on the outside atmosphere and season - they had cracked home insulation long before man was invented!

5. Hive stand
Your hive needs to be stood firm, level and off the ground, away from the wet. I would recommend standing the floor on a leveled paving slab or similar onto which you place a couple of builder's breeze blocks. Make sure it is perfectly vertical and steady. If there is any risk of it being knocked by any passing traffic then use a ratchet strap to bind the hive together - thread under the floor, up the side and through the vent in the roof box.

6. Siting & Securing your hive
Place your hive where you will have access all around it. When you have to lift it in the spring or do your autumn manipulations you will need room to move. You may also need to fit a hive lift behind it and/or accommodate a helper as a hive full of honey and stores is very heavy!

If it is in a garden which will have other human traffic then face the entrance towards a hedge, fence or similar about 1 or 2 meters away from it. The bees will then be forced up over head level by the barrier. Bee traffic behind the hive is very minimal so unsuited passers by can happily move too an frow behind the hive.

Do not place your hive where cattle (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) can reach it as they will knock it over - to them it makes an excellent scratching post! If in a field with animals ensure that you securely fence it off. Similarly, make sure that your hive is away from public view. You'd be amazed what a great target it makes for stone-throwing vandals. Similarly, many members of the public (and your neighbours!) may be irrationally scared of bees. 'Out of sight, out of mind' is always a healthy bee keeping policy.

For additional security you can use a ratchet strap (see picture) to strap the hive into one unit. That way, if it does get knocked over it should not fall apart. I would recommend that you don't use the cheap straps as their webbing can rot in just a few months making them useless. If the hive is possibly going to get knocked by animals, children's balls, etc. you can either place it on a paving slab and tie the ratchet strap around that as well as a base weight, or use a couple of steaks in the ground either side (I use the corkscrew 
dog anchors - see photo) and strap the hive to those.
Strap the hive to dog lead anchors


And finally......
If YABeeP has agreed to supply you with a swarm of bees then once your hive is 100% ready drop the top box off with Robin - that's the one with the hessian stuck to the top with flour/water paste. When your turn comes the bees will be collected in your box using the YABeeP special swarm catcher. This makes installation simple for you,you just place the box with bees back on your hive and off you go!

If you have any other questions or queries, or think that other explainations should be added here please Email us
© Robin Morris - YABeePFacebook smileys