As I am always keen to try non conventional forms of beekeeping, top bar hives and foundationless beekeeping I jumped at the chance to keep a hive in a bee shed with the added advantage of the shed positioned within a wonderful nature reserve, Perivale Wood Local Nature Reserve owned and managed by The Selborne Society and my description could not give this place justice, its just the most wonderful oasis of native woodland and with the added advantage the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union canal runs to the north of the reserve so I could moor my boat right next door.The nature reserve was founded in 1885 and the reserve “managed for wildlife” in 1902, purchased outright in 1920 and is one of the oldest nature reserves in the country and as a natural minimal managed woodland and grazed pasture is a truly wonderful place within a big capital city.
The Reserve includes a rich variety of habitats
- 18 acres (7.3 ha) of ancient mixed oak woodland
- 5 acres (2 ha) of grazed pasture land
- 2 acres (0.8 ha) of damp scrub
- 2 acres (0.8 ha) of relatively recently disturbed land, which has a very different vegetation from the rest of the wood.
- There are also three ponds and two small streams
- As well as the hedgerows that we now think of as enclosing the wood, but which would originally have enclosed the pasture land.
Within the Reserve you can find:
- 600 species of fungi
- 544 species of moths
- 30 species of molluscs
- 17 species of mammals
- 24 species of trees
- 350 species of vascular plants
- 36 species of mosses and liverworts
- 115 species of birds, of which 40 breed regularly
As a country boy now living in a big, noisy, busy city I am going to look forward to my visits to the bees and a nice walk back through the woods with the peace and quiet also the cool of the shade will be welcome following a hot sweaty inspection.
I don’t know why the bee shed was first erected, but suspect it was down to the field it sits in is frequented by horses and would cause protection for the hives and if an accident was to happen protection for the horses. The horses don’t seem to mind the bees despite books saying the two don’t mix. In the past when I have visited some of the horses have walked right in front of the shed without concern from both horse and bees.
The beeshed is basically a shed with beehives inside, four hives in this case. The hives sit on a low platform and the floors are fitted with a short 80mm extension lining up with an entrance in the shed wall. The extension to the floor keeps the face of the hive away from the wall of the shed and makes for easier inspections.
The bees exit and enter the hive as normal, but during inspections bees will be flying around the shed and they need to get out so they can re-enter the hive through the entrance. To get the bees out of the shed it has a row of windows and each window is made up of two pieces of glass. The first and outer piece of glass extends all the way from the bottom and stops short of the top by approx 25mm to create a gap. The 2nd piece of glass is on the inside of the shed and fitted from the top down approx 100mm with a gap of approx 20mm from the outside piece of glass. The bees naturally fly towards the light and move up the glass and eventually reach the gap and fly out of the shed.
The three other hives in the shed are owned by three other beekeepers, Liam Green has the hive furthest from the door then its Any Pedley, Ken Roberts, a hive I have helped out with for a couple of years now and finally the new boy by the door myself.
Once installed and allowed to go through reorientation managing the hive should be similar to any other hive, although artificial swarm control may have to be removal of the queen in a nuc to allow the hive to requeen.
Over the past couple of years working with Ken on his hive I have noticed a few advantages and disadvantages to having bees in a bee shed.
The advantages as I see them are
1 you can inspect the bees in conditions you would not dream of doing with bees out in the open. Although you would not do this in a thunderstorm but overcast, windy and light rain seem to be no great problem.
2 In the spring and late summer when early and late inspections are required its can be nice and warm in the shed with a little sun on the shed.
3 The hives don’t have to be as robust and durable as with hives out in the open simple ply boxes could work or even really old on their last legs equipment would do the job.
4 As the bees are drawn to the light of the window and then make their way out of the shed you don’t get as many bees flying as you inspect.
The few disadvantages as I see them
1 As mentioned earlier AS is perhaps more awkward and difficult
2 In the summer it can be very very hot and sweaty and perhaps a max of two hives is possible before you need to cool off.
3 Despite the windows it is a bit dark and dingy and spotting eggs very difficult and you have to take frames out of the shed to look closely at the combs.
4 Debry from the hives end up on the floor of the shed and also some bees for whatever reason find themselves trapped in the shed seemingly unable to get out and die and are very noticeable, so shed hygiene is a chore that has to be done.
Finally, perhaps not a general problem for bee sheds, but for the last two years ken has had a bit of an interesting situation. I think it’s lovely, but Kens not so sure. Bizarrely, on my last inspection ,they have all gone every last one? Link