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Bee Time

The weather has started to warm up and the bees are starting to get out about daily instead of being trapped inside the hives. It is now time for me to check on them after the winter.

As you know I have two hives and with the amount of bees entering and exiting it looks like they have survived the winter. Can’t be 100% sure until I get in and check the queen is laying but in my opinion with the number of bees the hives must be expanding.

This year I have decided that I’m going to make some changes to my hives. Up to now I’ve used the Omlet Beehaus hives and they have been great. I’d recommend them for beginners for their ease of use and how simple they are. They are ideal for the inexperienced beekeeper and those wishing to keep bees in their gardens.

After using them now for an entire season I don’t think they are suitable for what I want to do with them in prepping. They have two limitations that are an issue for me.

First of all they are a fixed size and this sets limits on the size of each hive. I can have two in the Beehaus but when full I can’t expand any more. Secondly, the supers, areas that honey is stored in, are split vertically and it is possible that bees can have a super full of honey but starve to death because it is the wrong side of a partition. I hit that this winter and had to feed one hive while I had frames with honey in.

The reason they are issues for me now is I have a bit of knowledge, sounds dangerous, and I now know what I want to do with my bees. I want them to be more natural and I’ll only step in if they try and escape or need some help, either feeding or veterinary. They are wild animals and this species has looked after itself for tens of thousands of years with humans and animals robbing them of their honey all of that time. So they can look after themselves if we do not limit them.

Most beekeepers are in it for the honey. The bees welfare is second, maybe a close second but clearly second. I have listened over the last two years to keepers talking about their honey yield and at the same time saying they lost two or three hives out of six, one lost seven from ten. My thoughts are that I would rather get twenty pounds of honey from each hive and have three strong hives full of bees than sixty pounds from one hive no matter how healthy they are as I can lose two hives by predators or a harsh winter and still have a seed to restart from. Just one and I lose the bees.

I’m less into efficiency than resilience.

So, I’m going to move from the Beehaus and set them up using the Rose Hive Method using National Brood Boxes. National Hives are one of the most popular in the UK and many start with these as standard. The Rose Hive Method method allows the bees to live more naturally. You still have to make sure they don’t escape by swarming but it allows the hives to expand as much as they want and should make for stronger hives and resolves my first issue. In addition as there are no supers and the queen is free to roam naturally the hive is not artificially split. There is no vertical split anyway so the bees can move the honey around as they see fit which resolves the second issue.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to take the bees out of one of the two Beehaus and split them into two hives, both using Nationals. This will have one hive with a Queen and one without. The hive without will create a Queen from existing eggs and within a month I’ll have another fully working hive. If it goes well I’ll repeat that over the next few weeks with the second Beehaus and will have doubled my hives to four in total. I’ve bought some National hive parts already for this and am ready to go. Just waiting for the right weather.

I’ll then manage them using the Rose Hive Method and see how it goes.

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