Beginning Beekeeping

Submitted by: Scott Gatman - 24/05/2017

I have always been fascinated by bees and how they benefit the eco system and pollinate plants.  So when in April 2017 I took on an allotment where I was allowed to keep a few bee hives i got very excited.

I studied beekeeping in more depth reading articles in magazines and on the internet.  I read about top bar hives and how they are allegedly a more natural way of keeping bees and the fact that they can be made rather easily.  I set about making my first ever hive which was based on a design I found online with a few added differences.  I then painted the top bar hive white and after I had finished I was pleased with the result. 

I made a bee garden on my allotment which is enclosed by raspberry and currant bushes to act as a wind break and have planted bee friendly plants and herbs within.   I then placed my topbar hive in the middle and hoped to attract a swarm of bees.  It was about this point that i joined Barkston Ash Beekeepers Association,  I thought it would be of benefit to learn from experienced beekeepers.  Chriss was great right from the start emailing me and offering me advice and then inviting me to his apiary so I could experience a hive close up.  Chriss had such enthusiasm which helped make me even more keen to progress.  I had some interest from scout bees at my hive but then nothing.  

Due to this, Chriss advised me he had a swarm with a virgin queen that I could have and provided me with my first swarm of bees in May for which I am really grateful.  I placed them into the topbar hive and kept my fingers crossed that they would stay and the queen would have a mating flight.  To my delight they stayed and are doing really well.  They have been really busy and have made lots of comb which they have filled with brood. 

That was it - I was hooked.  Then a few days later acquired a lot of beekeeping equipment from a former bee farmer which I set about sterilising and cleaning up.  I got two commercial hives and 2 national hives along with an observation hive.  They all need some TLC but that did not put me off.  I kept one commercial and the nationals and painted the commercial Cottage Green and the other I gave to my sister in law who also wanted to keep bees.  I will do the national hives later on. The commercial hives joined my topbar hive at the allotment. 


Then on Monday 22nd May 2017 I noticed a huge swarm of bees on the allotments and so took my bee suit and a box and captured the swarm which was not easy as they had settled in a tree.  I managed to get the majority in the box and then left it till night fall.  The swarm was so big that they didn't all go into the box and it was a struggle to get them all into my commercial hive but I managed and they seemed to be settling in well.  However, 2 days later I noticed a lot of the swarm had left but on looking there appeared to be a virgin queen still in the hive and also a dead queen.  When the swarm left they were caught by a friend on the allotments and he kept them.  This makes me think that there could have been 3 queens in the initial swarm?? Which may explain why it was so big. I think its safe to say I am off to a great start either way.  I think the fruit and vegetables on my allotment will also benefit greatly from the bees.

© 2017 by Barkston Ash Beekeepers (BABKA)

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