Intermediate Beekeeping Course

I always enjoy the Introductory courses as it’s great to see the wonderment and interest as people begin to understand the workings of a bee colony, but these Intermediate courses are equally enjoyable as it’s a chance to evaluate what our bees are doing and share observations on behaviour and experiences.

This course gives beekeepers a chance to discuss what we have done and learnt from our bees so far, and what we can do to benefit the bees with our respective beekeeping projects. Hearing what other beekeepers have seen or done gives a greater understanding with what can happen over the course of a year, and if you only have a small number of colonies, it’s a way of increasing your knowledge via shared information. Knowing the variables is so important with bees as they absolutely have not read the textbooks…

The sessions vary according to the time of year, so this time we spoke about swarming and bait hives, and we made up some old propolised brood frames with starter strips of foundation, to prime the bait boxes.

We also discussed supplementary and stimulative feeding, and how it’s so difficult to trust that our bees have enough stores to last them until spring has properly sprung. I don’t feed my bees, ever, and have never lost a colony to starvation, but then again I take honey little and often over the summer, and rarely any from below the second super. I then make they have enough stores – at least a 3/4 full super – by mid-August, and don’t bother them again until March.

We looked at the inspection board from under the WBC in my garden, and saw a few brown cell cappings, signifying brood is still hatching, and a few varroa mites too. I don’t treat for mites, as I feel it is better to allow the bees to develop their own strategies and there is no way of treating for mites in a way that isn’t also severe on the bees themselves. I don’t push my bees too hard so I figure they have enough in the tank to deal with varroa; bees under more pressure to perform may not have so many resources to do so.

Spring checks, signs of swarming, spreading the brood or checkerboarding, and general planning with regard to hives and colonies brought the session to a close. I’ll be running another spring-oriented course in a few weeks, and then a couple in the summer looking at honey harvest and winterising.

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