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2017. A trip around the apiary - part 1.

Today - the 9th of August - is a typical British summer's day with continuous rain, and I find myself stuck inside the house (yet again) ... and so I thought a virtual trip around part of my apiary might be of interest to other beekeepers, for as some of you know, I run an experimental apiary here in Lincolnshire, England.


This is a picture of one experiment I'd hoped to start earlier this year, but unforeseen events were to overtake that plan. This being to run a stack of two 5-frame nucs accommodating 12" deep frames, with each having a string of small holes down one side - the idea being to try and shed some light as to where the bees would choose to select their hive entrance, should they be given a free choice in the matter:


I posted about this experiment on a British beekeeping forum, where the idea of providing multiple 11mm entrance holes was ridiculed - the view expressed there was that such holes are absurdly small. Really ? Then take a look at this picture, which shows what I found a few days ago after performing a box-swap:


The diameter of the two central holes has been reduced with propolis from 22mm to 10mm, the righthand hole is oblong, some 11/12mm, and occlusion of the lefthand hole has just been started. This really is quite extraordinary, as the base board (included in shot) was solid, and there was no other means of providing ventilation - but those bees are quite clearly telling me that four 22mm entrance holes are excessive. (despite my reducing the entrance area from time to time by 'corking' some of those holes)


Anyway, here's a shot across one area of the apiary, showing a variety of different hives:

apiary view

The two blue hive-stands in the foreground normally support a pair of 'Joseph Clemens' Queenless Starter-Finisher hives - a technique employed by Harry Laidlaw, cleverly reduced to nucleus hive size by one Joseph Clemens. I've reversed that reduction a little by employing 12" deep combs, a size which then provides more than an ample population of nurse bees.
But, because I'm getting on in years and becoming forgetful, from time to time I fail to 'top-up' these hives with new brood combs, with the result that they sometimes develop Laying Workers. But - as I've tried to convince others (without too much success), this is NOT the problem it's often made out to be. I dump-out all of the bees into the long grass (of which I have plenty) and simply carry-on as usual, as any bees which have ventured outside of that hive will immediately return to it.

The colony in the foreground somehow acquired it's own mated queen (which is one other problem that this type of hive can develop), and so as you can see I took the opportunity to begin the 'multi-entrance hole' experiment with that colony, as we are almost at the end of the queen-rearing season for this year and so are at a time when I would normally make any queenless colonies queenright before building-up for winter anyway.

Ok - so immediately to the left of what has now become the 'multi-entrance hole' experiment is the second of the 'Joseph Clemens' hives, currently configured to accept 14"x14" frames, in order that I can begin to remove this size of frame (once they're cleared) from the apiary. I found that although 14"x14" does perform better than 14"x12", the improvement is not sufficient to warrant having a third size of brood comb within the apiary. Having two is more than sufficient !

Behind that (grey) hive is a Long Hive hidden from view, and to the right of that is yet another Long Hive with a yellow feeder shell. That hive is being run with a split-level floor - Layens-style - housing both 12" and 9" deep frames.

(continued on the next page ...)


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