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by jstone

Personal Experiences Story by Jalboh

February 17, 2011 in ,

Leaving my ‘Beginner’s’ series for a little longer, (or maybe for good??) this month I’ve submitted another of my ‘Personal Experiences’ stories.

Once, when I was young and just starting to become interested in bees, or rather, started thinking about all the money I could make if I WAS interested in bees, my dad was asked to take some bees out of someone’s roof. A task he had done many times before and had got to the point where he could (generally) do it quite quickly and with little fuss. This, however, depended on the weather and time of day etc.

At the time he was the postmaster in quite an elite neighbourhood. He was always very chatty and had a good old chin-wag with most of the people who came into the post office. He targeted the ‘snobs’ and often took wagers with colleagues that he’d get them chatting and laughing within a week, month, or whatever. Anyway, eventually he became known as ‘The Bee Man’ by those who didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t remember his name.

He often had people, who had heard of his interest in bees, come around to pick his brains on the subject. One of these was our local postman, a young (at the time) man 10-15 years older than myself. On this occasion, when my dad was asked to remove the bees from the roof , the young lad came along for the experience. He had quite long hair (a style that was just beginning to become popular at the time). My dad used to call him ‘Bushpig’ because he had a rather rough, clumsy air about him.

A woman had come into the post office and told my dad that they were going to have a very formal dinner on Saturday evening and were expecting some important business associates of her husband to be there and, as the bees were attracted by the light, they would be a nuisance, so could my dad please come and get rid of them. As I was quite young, my dad was glad of Bushpig’s help.

Saturday came and we all set out on our rescue mission. We were led, through the dining room, to the trapdoor in the passage. Remembering that, in South Africa, terrace houses are found in the older, poorer areas and most houses, even very posh ones, are single storey (‘bungalows’ over here). The table in the lounge was quite long and had about a dozen places set with the best silver and cut-glass wine glasses, flowers and silver serviette rings and more other things than I’d ever seen before.

To be on the safe side we went in and out through the kitchen so as not to mess up the dining room. The whole job went very smoothly and quickly and without incident – until Bushpig’s foot slipped. He missed the rafter and went through the ceiling landing right in the middle of the dining room table!

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by jstone

The Hive – A Closer Look

October 6, 2010 in

Last time we started looking at what you need. Lets now take a closer look at the first and most basic thing that you will need to keep bees – and that is the hive.

When talking about hives I’ll be referring to 10 frame Langstroth hives, as this is what I have always used. This does not mean, however, that these are necessarily the best, but I would suggest that, whatever hives you use, make sure they’re all the same. It makes interchanging hive parts so much easier.

First of all we have the floor or ‘bottom board’. This is a flat board the same width as, but slightly longer than, the normal hive sections. It is bordered on three sides (two long sides and a short side) by a rim which will raise the first chamber about half-an-inch above the floor. The side without a border then forms the entrance to the hive. The extended length creates a ‘landing board’ for the bees to alight onto at the entrance. Then we have a ‘brood chamber’ or deep chamber. There may be one or more of these before we have a ‘super’ or shallow chamber. Some beekeepers use brood chambers as supers but, when full of honey these are a lot heavier than the normal supers and, if you are lucky enough to have a lot of these full of honey, they play havoc on your back. The number, of each of these, that you will need will be discussed later.

Next you will need an ‘inner cover’ to put onto your top super. The reason for this is that the inner cover covers the same area as the chamber on which it lies and is, therefore, flush with the top chamber. Very often the bees will build wax on top of the frame between the frame and the lid. This has the effect of ‘gluing’ the lid down (although that is not actually their intention). If this happens it is easier to get your hive tool between the cover and the top super and prise them apart.

Finally you have a telescopic lid or ‘outer cover’. This has a slightly larger area than the super and has deeper sides (an inch or two) which fit over the hive. This helps to keep the top weatherproof. The inner cover should have a smallish hole in the centre and a rim round the edge (of the cover – not the hole) so that there is a gap (half-inch or so) between the inner and outer covers. This is to allow ‘breathing’ which helps with regulating the internal temperature of the hive. It also helps to eliminate condensation within the hive.

There is also a piece that can fit between hive parts called a queen excluder. This is a frame, the size of the top of a super, holding a thin sheet of metal with slots punched into it. These slots are big enough to allow bees to pass through but too small to allow the queen to pass through. Another type is made of stout wires spaced far enough apart to allow the passage of bees but not the queen. Some beekeepers swear by them though I, personally, do not believe in them. We’ll discuss, later, why some beekeepers use them and why others do not.

Finally there are the frames. These should be wired and waxed. In other words there should be wires going from side to side or, I have seen, from top to bottom in a ‘V’ pattern. This wire must be taught and should be embedded into the wax sheet or ‘foundation’. This is to reinforce the combs otherwise, when you spin them in the extractor, they will disintegrate into chunks in your honey. We try to keep the combs intact so we can put them back into the hive to be refilled. It takes seven units of honey to make one unit of wax so, if we can help the bees to save time making wax, we’ll be rewarded with more honey.

We must have foundation in the frames to guide the bees when building the combs otherwise they will build them wherever they please, which would, more often than not, be across the frames, or diagonally from one frame to the next frame, and we’d end up with a solid mass of combs which would be impossible to manage. If you want to save some money you can put strip foundation into the frames. Wire the frames in the normal way and place the foundation, which has been cut into strips (about half the width of a normal ‘super’ sized sheet) into the frame.

The foundation needs to have the reinforcing wire embedded into it. This can be done with an ‘embedding wheel’. This is a ‘spiked’ wheel that looks a lot like a cowboy’s spur. The wheel is a few millimetres thick and, in some cases, the ‘spikes’ have a groove in the centre to guide you when you run it along the wire. Weave the foundation between the wires then run over the exposed wire with the embedding wheel. Keep the wheel hot by dipping it into hot water every little while.

Another way of embedding the foundation is electrically. You need to be very careful with this as I shall explain in a moment. For this you will need a car battery and a length of lamp cord (electrical cord that you would use for your bedside light). To one end attach two bulldog clips that can clamp onto the terminals of your car battery. On the other end have two little crocodile clips.

Clamp the bulldog clips onto your battery and clip one of the crocodile clips onto the beginning of your reinforcing wire. With the other crocodile clip just briefly touch the other end of the wire. This will heat the wire enough to melt the wax which will then solidify round the wire. Now this is where care must be taken. Just touch the wire with the second crocodile clip for no more than a second otherwise you’ll end up cutting the foundation into strips. I’ve done that often enough when I started using this method. It makes embedding a lot quicker and easier, but it does take a little practice to get used to it.

As mentioned before, one should also have a stand on which to place the hive. Although this is not considered a ‘hive part’, it is important to keep the hive off the ground and, as far as possible, away from moisture. An old motor car tyre can make a very durable and cheap hive stand. Beware: Too many car tyres, one on top of the other, will have too much give and may cause the hive to either stand skew or to fall over. Two should be the max.

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by ThePath

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May 23, 2009 in

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