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Our Panel Team

The club has many beekeepers with decades of experience and dedication to the craft of beekeeping as well as many members starting their beekeeping journey - four have agreed to provide their opinion or approach to different aspects of beekeeping - everyone has their own philosophy and many approaches work. Each month - the panel will be asked about a new topic.

Image by HiveBoxx

Jan Cervenka

Beekeeping since 2017

David McIntyre

Beekeeping since 1978

Celine O'Hara

Beekeeping since 2021

Sam Laverty

Beekeeping since 2009

Image by Geraldine Dukes

Do you have a water-feeder or bee-bath?

Jan

Water Source

My apiaries are close to water sources - a lake and a river, so I do not add other sources.

Dave

Water Source

I keep a couple of bird baths in the garden.

Water Source

Bird baths filled with stones and a fountain with a ledge for bees to rest.

Celine

Water Source

The hives are 50ft from a garden pond, so no feeder or bee-bath is needed.

Sam

Image by Tim  Tiedemann

Do you insulate your hives?

Jan

Insulation

During winter, I put blankets under the hive roof, made of a material that absorbs water, keeping the hive dry.  For smaller colonies, I reduce the empty space using polystyrene, but try to go into winter with strong colonies so they can keep themselves warm.

Dave

Insulation

I use King Span on the roof of the hive.

Insulation

No insulation is needed where my hives are as the area is quite sheltered.

Celine

Insulation

I use a silver foil under the roof..

Sam

Image by Bermix Studio

What is your best tip/hack?

Jan

Best tips

Never have fewer than 2 colonies.

Dave

Best tips

Leave your bees alone during winter.

Best tips

Listen to the advice from experienced beekeepers and ask for help if you are in doubt.

Celine

Best tips

Stay out of your hives unless you have a good reason to open them, especially over winter.

Once per week in late spring and during summer is sufficient.

Always have spare equipment ready - boxes, frames and foundation.

Sam

Image by Annie Spratt

What if anything, do you smear on the Varroa board?

Jan

Sticky Board

I use vegetable oil.

Dave

Sticky Board

I coat my Varroa boards with vegetable oil.

Sticky Board

I smear vegetable oil on the Varroa bord.

Celine

Sticky board

I smear the Varroa boards with cooking oil, so that mites cannot crawl off.

Sam

Image by Simon Berger

What is your approach to feeding bees in spring?

Jan

Spring Feeding

Around February 20th, I start stimulation , using 3:2 sugar syrup, in glass jar contact feeders with 5 holes in the lid. This approach simulates nectar flow and the queens increase the number of eggs laid per day. I continue feeding until the temperatures remain above 12 C. When supers are added, I stop feeding.

Dave

Spring Feeding

I start a liquid feed in April to stimulate the queen to lay.

Spring Feeding

I do not feed in the spring as my area has plenty of forage.

Celine

Spring Feeding

I start feeding syrup when I want to stimulate the queen to lay.  The weather, especially temperature is a major factor; with a warmer spring, I will start earlier, with a wetter, colder spring, I will start later.

Sam

Bees at Work

When do you do your first spring inspection?

Jan

Spring inspection

I always wait for a good sunny spell where the temperature has reached 12 C and the bees are flying.

Dave

Spring inspection

As a rule, spring inspections start in April, weather permitting.  I choose a bright day, when the temperature is above 14 C.

Spring inspection

Weather permitting, before the end of March, unless it is wet and cold.

Celine

Spring inspection

Depends on weather, especially temperature. 2023 was cold and wet, so first inspections did not happen until April whereas 2020 had a warm March and first inspections were completed earlier than usual.

Sam

Image by Lauren Forando

What spring varroa treatment do you use?

Jan

Spring Varroa

Starting around January 1oth, I vaporise with Oxalic Acid, 3 weekends in a row.

Dave

Spring Varroa

I vaporise with Oxalic Acid in January and May (as well as September).

Spring Varroa

Treat for Varroa 3 weeks in a row, before the last week in January.

Celine

Spring Varroa

In spring, I use Oxalic Acid with a Vaporiser, as well as blue paper towel (the type used by mechanics), soaked in Oxalic Acid.

Sam

Image by Beeing

Do you use any technology?

Jan

Technology

No.

Dave

Technology

No.

Technology

No.

Celine

Technology

I use an FLIR camera when detecting swarms in ceilings of buildings.

I also have security cameras on all my hives.

Sam

Image by Pass the Honey

What is your approach to feeding bees in autumn?

Jan

Autumn Feeding

As soon as honey is harvested in autumn, I remove the supers and begin heavy feeding, averaging 15L of sugar syrup in batches of 3kg sugar to 2L water and check stores after 2 weeks to make sure there is space for ivy nectar. I regard autumn feeding as preparation for next summer's colony strength and crop.

Dave

Autumn Feeding

I heft the back of the hive, and if it feels light, will feed sugar syrup at a strength of 1 pint of water to 1kg of sugar, until the heft tells me the colony has 30-40lbs of winter stores.

I recommend adding Hive Alive to the winter syrup feed to help keep the winter bees healthy.

Autumn Feeding

Started sugar water with Hive Alive on two of my weaker hives around the 24th of September and will start sugar water with my other hives around the 1st of October.

Celine

Autumn Feeding

I start feeding after all the honey has been removed, usually mid to late September, with a thick sugar syrup solution of 2kg sugar to 1 kg water so that the bees have less water to remove.

Sam

Image by Meggyn Pomerleau

What determines when you put mouseguards on your hives?

Mouseguards

Depends on presence of drones and the weather. If nights are getting cooler, small animals begin looking for shelter and food. Usually, most drones are gone by this time and I put the mouseguards on and check them every week for blockages to make sure there is enough ventilation and the bees can get out.

Jan

Mouseguards

Mouseguards are fitted the first week of October when the weather starts to get cold.

Dave

Mouseguards

I will fit mouseguards when the temperature drops, probably in early October.

Celine

Sam

Mouseguards

I use mouseguards for all my hives and add them when the temperature has dropped, typically at the start of October. Putting them on sooner than this can scrape pollen off the workers legs and also obstruct the ejection of drones.

Give a sharp knock to the side of the hive before fitting, in case a mouse is already inside.

Image by Pass the Honey

When and how do you use fondant?

Jan

Fondant

I put on a bag for each hive around Xmas, over one of the holes in the crownboard, with the bag open to the crownboard hole.

Fondant

I put on fondant at Christmas or in the early spring as a stand by.

Dave

Fondant

Last year, I used a Vitamin fondant in mid-Novemebr and bee fondant in December.

Celine

Fondant

I made a gadget for measuring the weight of hives as hefting is not easy. 

This means that I do not need to lift the roof in winter to check stores. If the hive seems light, I place 2 bags of fondant, with holes cut in the bags, one over each crown-board opening and have a piece of wood under the crownboard to improve ventilation.

Sam

Image by Marcus Urbenz

What autumn varroa treatment did you use?

Jan

Autumn Varroa

I vaporise with Oxalic Acid, 3 weekends in a row and have found this to be the most effective method and less harmful to my bees and less expensive.

I do this after the honey harvest so that autumn bees can emerge free of Varroa.

Dave

Autumn Varroa

I prefer vapourised Oxalic Acid  instead of chemical treatments, as it is a more natural remedy.

Autumn Varroa

I will use Oxalic Acid for the first varroa treatment in early October and will repeat after 3 weeks.

Celine

Sam

Autumn Varroa

In autumn, I use Oxalic Acid with a Vaporiser, as well as blue paper towel (the type used by mechanics), soaked in Oxalic Acid.

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