Recently spent a delightful couple of hours at Deryck Johnson’s garden and apiary listening to him give a talk on beekeeping equipment.
Over the years I’ve been drawn to various hobbies, and in that time have found the following to be universally true: the advice you treasure most is always of the, “now here’s a trick that’ll save you half an hour / 50 quid / sore thumbs” variety.
Deryck basically spent an hour giving us the benefit of decades of experimentation. I wish I’d filmed it and put in on You Tube. Instead, here’s the novice beekeeper’s print-out-and-keep guide to “25 beekeeping tips you will otherwise probably take years to pick up”. All credit to Deryck Johnson.
A national beehive (with eke to convert it to 14x12), placed on a milk crate stand, and showing coloured crown board, clearer board and queen excluder
Advice on beehives
Empty milk crates – of the type used by milkmen to store milk bottles – make ideal hive stands. Deryck gets a supply of old broken ones from his local dairy.
White catering trays (price £1) slide neatly between hive floor and crate to create a removable surface on which varroa will stand out for monitoring purposes.
Make it easy to ‘read the hive’. Paint the edges of crown boards, queen boards and clearer boards so that you can see at a glance from a distance how the hive is made up:
Crown boards = blue
Clearer boards = green, because workers can ‘go’ through them
Queen excluders = red, because they ‘stop’ the queen.
Use different coloured plastic frame spacers to quickly identify different age foundation (e.g. white new, yellow old).
Squares made out of Xtratherm building insulation make ideal winter beehive insulation if placed between crown board and roof.
In winter, prop open the corners of your crown board with matchsticks to improve ventilation and avoid mould.
Drape a net over the hive in winter to protect it from woodpeckers, being careful to peg the edges away from the sides of the beehive. The bees will still be able to get in and out, but the woodpeckers won’t get through the net.
Home-made bee frame feeder - holds around 3.5 pints of syrup
Car body filler works just as well as wood filler to repair beehives.
Advice on beekeeping smokers
Buy a stainless steel smoker.
Dry grass makes the best and cheapest smoker fuel. It’s cooler and less acrid than cardboard or egg boxes.
Attach a square hook to the back (bellows wide) of your smoker to hang it from your hive and because a square hook is easier to carry with one finger.
Useful things to have in your beekeeping toolkit
Apart from the obvious (hive tools, uncapping tool, marker pens etc) keep:
a laminated (photo)copy of brood timings (Ted Hooper’s Guide to bees and honey features a useful table);
a small tin of drawing pins for marking the top of frames (should they contain queen cells or anything unusual, for example);
hammer and nails (two nails hammered into the top bar of a frame makes a handy emergency lug if the wooden end breaks off);
an empty plastic container (to store any excess bits of wax);
Cheapest beehive mouse guard around:four nails
an empty matchbox (to keep bee samples);
matches (for testing for foul brood);
nail scissors (for wing clipping).
Miscellaneous beekeeping musings
Don’t bother buying propolis remover.
Fabi-Spray, on the other hand, is a good 5-10 second alternative to using a smoker, for quick manipulations.
Nails hammered vertically into a wooden entrance at short intervals make an ideal (and dirt cheap) mouse guard.
After every inspection stick your hive tool through the dishwasher.
Do you have any simple beekeeping tips that save money and hassle? Please share them by leaving a comment.