Sunday, 24 July 2011

Tick, tock...

Well I'm still waiting for these bees. I'm reliably told they're on the way. Failing that (if 'G' can't get me a viable queen cell and colony that way) he'll give me a ready made colony of his own bees.

I've had a fair bit on the go just lately at grow fish eat so I'm not too annoyed about the delay but I'm conscious of the bees needing to get some stores for the winter mounting up and get to a healthy population, so the sooner the better for me.

Anyway, here's a few snaps of the Borage bed I sowed a few weeks ago. The bees (honey and bumble bees) just love it. Plus it has the added advantage of smothering any weeds growing around or under it as the leaves are quite broad.

The bees love this stuff...
...apparently you can eat them too...
...and they're extremely beautiful plants.
I'm going to sow a huge row. Borage honey is delicious I'm told.

Hopefully more news shortly...

Monday, 27 June 2011


It seems like ages since I completed my hives. They sit in the wriggly tin shed, patiently awaiting some occupancy.

The reason for the torturous delay has been thrift. Rather than going out to 'buy' some bees from an apiary, I have decided to acquire them from 'G' over at the adjacent plot.

His hives have had a hard winter and he's currently in the process of rebuilding them, getting in new nucleus's, queen cells etc, and allowing them to build up in numbers during this year to get his apiary back up to speed. He has six hives at the moment.

Anyway, yesterday I donned my virgin white bee-suit and broke out my brand new hive tool and smoker and ventured into G's apiary, more excited than nervous about my first close contact with so many bees.

Take me to your leader...
 You can laugh at the white wellies! 'G' didn't have wellies on, just sports shoes, and he paid the price. Bee stings all up the back of his legs! I stifled a laugh.

I was a bit amazed. As 'G' cracked open the first hive and I'd puffed smoke into the entrance and over the top of the frames, the pitch of the bees hum changed a bit. They didn't look or sound mad and I was remarkably calm (I wasn't sure how I'd react to be honest faced within inches of thousands of bees).

What we were looking for was the queen in this hive.

The idea, if I've understood it right, is this. 'G' has a nucleus hive (a small box containing up to five brood frames) into which he will place a couple of brood frames from a healthy hive. On these frames will be a queen cell and lots of eggs and grubs of other drone and worker bee cells.

(Left) capped off cells waiting to hatch, 
(mid) grubs in the making and 
(right) tiny eggs
We then take this nucleus, together with some bees from the healthy hive, over to my apiary and wait for the new queen to hatch. She'll then lay eggs for the new colony of bees. My bees.

A character trait to be bred out - 
gathering at the bottom of the frame
Unfortunately, there wasn't a viable queen cell yesterday to take so I've got to wait about ten days (checking regularly) to see if the bees in the hive will make one.

It was interesting to note that the temperament of the bees in each hive was slightly different. In one hive they were very placid bees, not really bothered by our interference, and in another they got very pissed off quite rapidly and bounced of the hood of my suit.

Despite the delay in getting my own little fellows, I realised that I have overcome what anxiety I may have had about handling bees. I was even putting my hands amongst them in the hive, gently touching them to get them to move so we could see the queen.

I've still got to clear Area 51 properly so I'll get onto that in the evenings this week to prepare for my bees arrival. Just got to be a bit more patient.

It's not like there aren't a million other jobs to do in the meantime.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Finally, after much banging of thumbs and cutting of skin, I've completed my first hive. Not perfect by any means, it's a start.

The stand with cedar ramp...
...and Varroa mesh base...
...then brood box...
...queen excluder on top of that...
...then a super...
...or two supers with the crown board above...
...and then the lid with metal top.
I'll probably bolt the stand to a suitably sized slab for stability. Most of the brood and super frames have been made up - then I'll just need some bees!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Between frequent heavy showers yesterday, I managed to get a couple of coats of paint onto the outside of the first completed hive.

Covered in paint afterwards, as usual!
I decided to paint the outside of the brood box, supers and lid with a couple of coats of water based timber paint from Wilkinsons which was much cheaper than the Cuprinol and pretty much the same stuff (£11.00 for 2.5 litres).
This hive is being painted in buttermilk (milky white) and is going to look great (until the weather gets to it after a season or two Ed.)
The general advice is not to paint the insides of the hive in case it affects the bees in some way so I've left that pure timber with no treatment. I'm told that a coat of petroleum jelly on the edges such as tops of brood box's and super's and crown boards etc. will make it easier to prise these bits apart later as the bees won't use propolis on areas treated with this stuff - so I'll do that when I'm ready to set up the hives.
The lid (pictured above) has half-blind box joints on the corners which I've also glued and pinned for strength. I deviated from the plans a bit here and caused a problem for myself. I had a bit of spare timber for the sides which was a bit thicker than the MAFF plans suggested. It has the correct internal dimensions but externally it's a bit bigger. This has meant that the galvanised lid I was going to get for it 'off the shelf' won't fit so I'll have to get one made bespoke (doh, more money! Ed.).
Still, I'm fecking up so you won't have to! More to follow...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Getting there...

I've been grabbing time here and there to make my first beehive. The workshop is now so full of tools and timber that I have to be ultra careful when moving about (I can see the blue flashing lights already Ed.)
So far I've managed to diligently keep to the MAFF plans I've transferred onto CAD drawings and things are looking o.k.
I've found that by far the best way of making these hives is to batch cut enough pieces to make at least two hives at the same time. It's a bit repetitive cutting these pieces which never seem to end, but whilst the tools are setup to cut this or that it'll save time in the long run. I wanted two hives to start with anyway.
I'll post some pics when I've completed one hive.
In the meantime here's a simple exploded view of the National Hive I modeled up on the Mac. The stand is my own design incorporating a small ramp up to the entrance block. Very basic but it looks like it'll work o.k.

Click on it to get a closer look

So far I've made up a brood box, two supers, a lid, and a stand with bits cut to make up another one of each later. Hopefully I'll get the floor and crown board done this weekend in time for my first colony of bees courtesy of 'G' who's going to show me how to divide a colony up (now that I would like to see! Ed.)

Onward and upward...

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Careful Major!

Been in the workshop today laboriously cutting wood to size for the hive / hives. I got hold of a Makita table saw in the week which is making short work of getting the timber from the lumber yard to the right dimensions.

A very useful bit of kit as you can 'batch cut' lots of bits ready to be made into hives at a later date. Just have to remind myself that it is also a very dangerous bit of kit so I'm being ultra cautious and careful using it.

I'm working from my own drawings which I've modeled up into 3D CAD and converted into 2D drawings with dimensions on so I can refer to them as I go.

I've decided to complete a hive in the next week or so before I post these so I know they're ok to work from (in case you've fecked up on the measurements eh? Ed.).

Found this today on the web - The WI Martha Kearney Beekeeping Blog - where the lovely Martha (from R4, BBC etc) shares her beekeeping adventures.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Just a quick post this one. The drawings for the National Hives are almost complete (been a bit busy? Ed.)

What I have done though is select the area on the plot for the bees. At the top of the orchard is where we usually park the motors but it's such a wasted area that it's ideal for a couple of hives. I just need to make a couple of flower beds and think of a way to screen this area off, out of sight from prying eyes.

It's actually a much bigger area than this!
I'm hoping to crack on with making some of the hive parts tomorrow. I'll let you know how I get on...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Making the Hives Part 1

I am spending quite a few evenings this week buzzing around ebay picking up various bits of kit I think I'll need for the bees and for me (to protect me from the bees!)

So far I have managed to acquire most of the basic kit; bee suit, hive tool, smoker etc., and I'll post a few notes on these later when I've taken some shots of this stuff so you can see what the heck they all are. There's loads of kit you can buy for keeping bees but I suspect that much of it is actually not really needed and is just typical paraphernalia you get with any hobby.

By far the most important item though (apart from the bees! Ed.) is the bloomin beehive!
Now I've filled the workshop with power tools of every kind over the past couple of months so I thought I'd have a bash at making my own hives.

There are loads of reasons why making you own beehives is a good thing.
Firstly, it's cheaper. A good quality National hive can set you back approx. £180.00 and you will usually only get the basic kit for that and will have to buy more brood boxes and supers as you need them - adding to the cost (I hope you are going to explain what all this stuff is! Ed.).
Also, I'm making my hives from Pine as it's cheaper and easier to come by than Cedar. Ok, even treated Pine won't last as long outdoors as Cedar will, but since I'm making my own hives anyway it shouldn't be a problem to replace them a few years down the line. The Pine will be treated with a bee friendly wood preservative, details will follow when we get to that part.

Secondly, making your own hives means that you can make a 'batch' of parts ready at a moments notice without having to wait for delivery, so you will be pretty much self sufficient.
Anyone with a bit of woodworking skill can make a beehive I'm reliably told by G. He's let me have a 'bought' brood box, in its component bits, to copy and use as a template which is great.

What I have managed to find on the internet though is also pretty good.  Found on the Scottish Beekeepers Association website, these pdf's of old MAFF (the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) bee hive plans are a bit dated (imperial measurements) but will help you get your head around the parts required to make one. I'll post these myself soon in raw PDF format but here's the link for those of you who can't wait Scottish Beekeepers Association MAFF plans
I'm working the National Hive pamphlet up into some basic line drawings and exploded 3d views this week and will post them later together with drawings in working metric measurements as near a I can get to the original imperial measurements.

The reason for converting these measurements into metric (mm) is that I've found it tricky to get hold of timber at local woodyards to the exact MAFF dimensions. When your dealing with measurements like 15/16" then I imagine it's critical to get it spot on if you can.
To that end I've ended up getting a small table saw to help cut the bits accurately. It's the internal measurements to the hive which are most important, creating the required 'bee space'.

There are a few improvements around these days to the 1970's MAFF descriptions of the design such as replacing the solid wood floor shown with a mesh floor section which ejects any falling Varroa mites through onto the ground rather than letting them crawl back up though the hive.

So much to think about. The next few posts will be mostly progress pics and the drawings so stay tuned...

Friday, 15 April 2011


Welcome to my new blogging adventure Bees Make Honey.

 I've got an allotment where I grow stuff to eat and keep and breed chickens for eggs. I've also resumed my fishing so I can catch fish for the dinner plate too. I blog about that on  but as that's getting rather full dealing with growing, fishing and eating (not to mention the odd moan), I thought I'd start a new blog about my first foray into keeping bees.

God alone knows how I'm going to fit this into my life at the moment, but hey, what's the worst that can happen? (Stung to death, heart attack through stress, over-doing it, bee stings etc? Ed.)

Now the guy over from me (G) on the allotment has kept bees for a while. Actually he also keeps Jacob sheep and turkeys too but even I know I would buckle under the weight of that lot. (Phhhew! Ed.)

So with his help, I've decided that I'll have a crack at beekeeping. There was a programme on the Beeb last year that got me thinking. Entitled 'Who Killed the Honey Bee' it was a rather gloomy documentary about the worldwide decline of Apis Mellifera, the European Honey Bee and the worry about what's happening to them. Here's a clip

 I did notice last year that, despite G having several colonies of bees just a few yards from my plot, I hardly saw any honey bees at all last year, or bumble bees either come to think of it. So I'd been wondering what I could do to help out in my own small way. Last year I pegged out chunks of the plot for wild flowers, sunflowers and lupins for example.

What initially put me off from actually keeping them (apart from being afraid of being stung? Ed.) was the complexity of managing them.
G, although seemingly checking on his hives regularly, had at least four swarms last year. Most of which flew over my plot. As I emerged trembling from the car / shed when the last of the exodus had buzzed away over the fields, I would see G giving chase over the hedgerows, hoping to catch them and start a new hive (catch a swarm? Ed.)

Apparently this was down to poor management and not keeping an eye on the queen cells, something he freely admits due to lack of time.

That is a worry but I'm going to have a go this year. Those of you who have stumbled upon my blog will have read about work slacking off a bit due to the bloody recession. So I've spent a bit of time in converting my old scooter shed into a workshop full of shiny new tools (another potential hospital trip? Ed.) This means I shouldn't have any excuse in building my own hives. In fact I'm going to start today!
So if you're curious about keeping bees and want to find out just how fascinating and rewarding it can be (not to mention downright dangerous? Ed.) then drop in and check on the progress of a complete beekeeping novice.