Spoon carving update


The spoon carving has been progressing nicely and have found time to carve in spurts when the mood takes and in that time I have been concentrating on styles, forms and improved techniques.


Large serving spoon in cherry

I have two great beekeeping friends and spoon carvers Bill and Jude and we have been meeting up approximately every few months to have a good chat and carve the odd spoon. We all like these crafty days and looking to start a small club meeting on Horsenden Hill and also have gone as far as a name Middlesex Spoon Carvers (MSC) only the three of us at the moment but will welcome anyone along to join in. The emphasis is light hearted fun and enjoying a nice chilled day in the open.


Two spoons started during one of the MSC 🙂 days a small coffee scoop in burr sweet chestnut and a japanese rice serving spoon from sweet chestnut

I have also enjoied popping round to friends houses for an afternoon showing them the techniques and carving a spoon. One such friend was my good neighbour and beekeeping buddy Sara Ward at Hen Corner whose husband Andy was keen to expand his spoon carving following a day in the woods carving spoons recently. We had such a good time that Sara who runs loads of great workshops suggested we do a spoon carving workshop next year from her wonderful garden with me doing the carving and a plan was formed and can be booked here.


There is something very relaxing and therapeutic working a small piece of wood with simple hand tools creating a simple but very practical and useful utensil and definitely taps into a part of the brain that all crafts do and modern life supressess.


It’s not all spoon carving as I have started on shrink pots!! yes the first time I heard the name I thought what are shrink pots? and once I found out what they are knew I will be making them in the future. They are lovely and relatively simple storage containers or pots. Probably would take too long to go into the fine details of making them and best for their own post in detail at another time.


Very simply they are a section of a branch hollowed out to form a sort of cylinder, a groove is cut into the base about half an inch up from the bottom and a thin piece of timber fitting the bottom of the pot is moved up and left inline with the groove. You then put this to one side for a few weeks and as the pot shrinks it tightens onto the base and it locates in the groove. You then have a container that can be decorated fitted with a lid if you want to and finished.


One of the more satisfying bits apart from creating a new spoon shape has been the selling of the spoons and just lovely and a bit surprising at first when people pick them up say how wonderful they are  and want to buy them. I have not pushed the selling of them but have displayed them alongside honey when doing small fayers and table top sales  and people clearly like to hold them and a few buy them.


My shared honey stall and spoons at the Brentford festival on a lovely day and great honey and good spoon sales.

Something else new along with the shrink pots is some decorate the spoons with a type of decoration called Kolrosing. Kolrosing is a very old method of giving fine line surface decoration to wood.  It started centuries ago by simply using the tip of a knife to make fine cuts and then rubbing charcoal or more popular these days ground coffee into the cuts to bring out the pattern and finally sealed with oil. Kolrosing is an old Scandinavian tradition dating back to Viking times and was quite common on spoons and wooden ware with geometric designs very popular and can give big impact to a spoon or other wooden ware.



My first finished piece of Kolrosing, a scoop from cherry with its younger brother waiting to be finished and decorated.



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Honey harvest 2015

Way behind with updating the blog and not helped with a laptop break down with a long repair and eventually the manufacturas admitting defeat and refunding me my money. So with new laptop it’s time to catch up on back posts.  

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The honey harvest is a strange time of year for me as I don’t enjoy it one bit and once I get to the point of removing supers I start to feel as I could dislike beekeeping and often think honey gets in the way of a good hobby. It’s also not a good time to ask me for a beekeeping favour as I could be a bit short tempered. But there’s that deep seated male competitive gene that also has me trying to increase the crop each year without compromising the bees that only makes this time of year more difficult.

So regarding my honey crop this year my bees have performed well and supplied me with a similar surplus to last year and unlike last year where I was very slow to extract this year with my new 2nd hand shiny nine frame radial extractor I made a big effort to get it all extracted earlier and either jarred or stored in honey buckets for later sales.

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I like to separate my honey from various apiaries so it requires a bit of organisation keeping supers stacked in groups depending on apiary and after  extracting marking the buckets to specific apiaries. This way I can adjust each label showing a more precise location to the hives and sell as local as you can get to that apiary.

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So after extracting and calculating I have extracted 630 lbs of honey  from 11 honey producing hives at an averaged af approx approx 57 lbs per hive. I had a few of hives that produced approx 125 lbs and obviously others less.


It’s important to me to only try and take a surplus of honey but as we do this towards the end of the year judging the best time can be a gamble and weather can play a big part. Get the timing wrong and take the honey to late with a turndown in the weather and you will have to feed or give back some of the honey. Take the honey to early and the weather and forage is good you could run the risk of cramping the hive for space and risking a late swarm. Thankfully I only had to feed two hives but the goal is zero. I may have to give some hives some fondant in the new year but will only know closer to the time. 

Overall very pleased with this year and quantities are not the best way to judge a season as there are so much more enjoyable parts to beekeeping and a big highlight for me this season was the queen rearing and watching the virgin queens on orientation flights and very much looking forward to building on the success next year.

Another late highlight the bees from Northfield Avenue allotments produced an award winning honey with a third place at the National Honey Show Middlesex class for two jars of medium honey and with luck the bees may improve on that next year.



Ok following MerryBee and Emily’s request to see my other “Highly Commended” award for a practical invention related to bees or beekeeping at the National Honey Show I have added it to this post.

It’s not strictly speaking an invention but then it’s hard to think of anything that can be invented that is new in beekeeping.


So basically its a jig to help attach labels to various sized jars all level and in the same position. It is designed to accommodate six of the most popular sized jars with the three different levels on the jig. The first and raised section for the 8oz hexagonal, 8oz square and the 8oz traditional honey jar The middle section for 12oz hexagonal and 12oz square jars. Finally the recessed section for the standard 1lb honey jar.

The perspex straight edge is first set to the correct height from the bottom of the jar to the bottom of the label and then the selected jar depending on size is positioned in one of the three areas so the jar is sitting just behind the perspex straight edge and you simply align the label along the straight edge and stick it to the jar. To centralise the label I simply go by eye but it is very easy to put some marks on the straight so as to position the jar and edge of label so they will be perfectly central.


Without doubt it speeded up my  fitting of labels to jars and turned a fiddly awkward time consuming job into something enjoyable and an ability to daydream and think of other things also nothing more rewarding than seeing a whole line of jars and labels all the same and level.

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Queen rearing 2015

So a little late in the season I started my 2nd serious attempt at queen rearing following last year’s first attempt and something I am keen to get to grips with over the coming years. There are several methods of queen rearing but the method that interests me is known as grafting and it’s where you graft the tiny no older than 24 hours larvae into a specially prepared frame fitted with small plastic cups mimicking natural queen cups.  You then place this frame into a queenless hive with lots of young nurse bees and no other young larvae to raise themselves any queen cells other than your frame of grafts

Queen cells empty after the queens have emerged

Queen cells empty after the queens have emerged

You cannot do any of this queen rearing without following a strict timetable as certain processes have to be followed and performed on specific days even am and pm can come into play. Obviously you are following a queen’s development from egg to emerging queen that is nearly always 16 days. Also mixed in with this timetable you have to start and prepare mating nucs and have them ready for the ideal time 24-48 hours before the queens emerge so you can safely handle the cells and place them into the mating nucs to continue their development to mated queens. I won’t go into the processes of setting up the mating nucs this time but basically they are a very small nuc’s containing a mug and half of bees and just enough to look after themselves and the virgin as they develop into mated queen.

To help me work out the timings and work to a calendar I found this website and their queen rearing chart a great help you simply enter the date you wish to start and it does the rest although I have made one alteration to it and transfer the cells a day later to the mating nucs as I think they are a bit early with their timings.

Three of my mating nucs and I have three different designs two bought apideas and two different homemade designs and in total I have nine mating nucs and wonder in time if they will increase.

Three of my mating nucs and I have three different designs two bought apideas and two different homemade designs and in total I have nine and wonder in time if they will increase.

The biggest worry I had last year on starting this was how do you know what a larvae 24 hours and ideally less looks like. Select larvae to old say 30-48 hours and not only will your timetable be out you risk queens emerging early and killing the other queens or possible cast swarms but also and importantly your queens will have a reduced time to be fed royal jelly and therefore not the best possible queen the bees can produce.

The way I overcame this problem of teaching myself the age and size of larvae 24 hours and younger last year was to place a nice drawn ideally new comb centrally into the hive I wanted to graft from four days before I intended to graft. The idea is the bees first clean and prepare the comb and the queen is attracted and starts to lay in it so on the fourth day you remove the frame and you are presented with a frame covered in eggs and a small patch of tiny larvae and a few slightly larger and you know none of them can be more than 24 hours old and assume the very small ones are only a few hours old. Basically I have learnt that if you can easily see the larvae in the bottom of the cell then it’s probably too old.

So after selecting a suitable frame with the right sized larvae from the hive I wish to breed from and my best performing and gentlest hive I sat myself into my van with brood frame resting on the steering wheel that just so happens to be a good angle and height for the job in hand. With torch in one hand and the tiny artist brush in the other it’s possible to lower the brush into the bottom of the cell carefully slide the tip under the larvae and lift it out and transfer it to the bottom of the plastic cup on the cell raising frame. I have found it helpful to slightly push away the side of the cell wall allowing for a better angle so as to pick up the tiny larvae.

Sorry a very bad photo the brush is way to close the  camera giving an oversized impression of brush and larvae.

Sorry a very bad photo the brush is way to close the camera giving an oversized impression of brush and larvae.

Once you get the hang of transferring the larvae it only takes a few mins to do the 14 grafts and then placing the grafted frame into the cell raiser colony and replacing the donor frame back into a hive.

After four days you can check the grafts and if they are accepted the bees would have started queen cells and thankfully out of the fourteen I had nine accepted.  I was very happy with the nine as I was only wanted about five to six queens so had a few spares. In time with more practice I should hope for a better acceptance rate as my handling of the tiny larvae will improve.

Nine queen cells started but to delicate and risky to brush bees off them

Nine queen cells started but to delicate and risky to brush bees off them

So the frame is placed back into the hive to continue their development and when they are 24-48 hours (I estimated I did this at about 30 hours) to emerging you remove the frame and place one queen cell into the prepared mating nucs to hatch and then continue into fully mated queens.  It’s at this time that your timings have to be accurate, move the cells too early and you risk damaging the underdeveloped queen and too late and a virgin could emerge and kill the other queens before you transfer to the nucs and especially as my plastic cups don’t have allocation to fit plastic cages to hold and keep separate any early queens attacking the other queens.  I am thinking about changing my cups next year so I can fit the plastic cages for added security.

The nine queen cells capped and approx 30 hours before emerging

The nine queen cells capped and approx 30 hours before emerging

The mating nucs are small and vulnerable and ideally want to be away from large colonies so this year I placed them in the garden at Brentford as I had moved a large colony I had in the garden a few weeks earlier. They were still at risk from wasps or larger colonies close by but I could keep an eye on them and I also wanted to watch them closely.

Queen cell removed from the frame ready to be placed into a mating nuc

Queen cell removed from the frame ready to be placed into a mating nuc

From the nine queen cells I left one in the cell builder hive so as to requeen that hive and then placed seven into the six mating nucs. The reason for seven was I managed to drop one of the queen cells into the bottom of a mating nuc so gave this nuc a 2nd. The last queen cell I performed an autopsy so as to look at the queen’s development at approx fourteen days.

A bit sad but if my timings are right this should be a queen at approx fourteen days

A bit sad but if my timings are right this should be a queen at approx fourteen days

So a few days after the estimated emerging time and watching the nucs I started to notice something different at the entrances. I have been use to seeing three or four bees hanging around the entrance and the bees foraging but on a couple of hives I noticed about 15-20 bees outside the entrance looking rather excited and challenging the returning foraging bees.  I kept watching to see what they were up to when I noticed the queen walk out and around the front of the hive and a real thrill to see.  Sometimes the queen would walk straight back into the hive and then a few minutes come back out and then take to the air for a short orientation flight and really exciting to see. Over the next couple of days I was able to watch five out of the six queens take increasingly longer orientation flights up to about two to three minuet’s and just lovely to watch.

Not a great photo but a queen resting on the bit of foam blocking a ventilation mesh after returning from a short flight

Not a great photo but a queen resting on the bit of foam blocking a ventilation mesh after returning from a short flight

A few days later and the nuc entrances  changed once more with a good amount of pollen entering the hives so it looked as though mating had taken place and another week should hopefully reveal all.

So about a week later I decided to check for eggs and glad to say all six nucs had laying queens and one with larvae. Just another six days to see the brood capped and confirm worker brood and the queens can then be moved into larger nucs to overwinter or colonies I want to requeen.

One of the laying queens and a beautiful looking queen she is to

One of the laying queens and a beautiful looking queen she is to

And a frame of eggs from one of the apideas

And a frame of eggs from one of the apideas

Overall its felt like a great success and a real thrill especially watching the queens on short flights and looking forward to next year already with a much earlier start and perhaps a couple of attempts but don’t know what I will do with all the queens. I have a few adjustments and improvements to do that will hopefully make the process a bit easier and plans to set up the mating nucs so they are reasonably close to each other and easier for me to watch them with the hope to get some good photos and even try for a short video or two if lucky enough to be present when the queens take to the air.

If the queens I have raised this year go on to be half as good as their mother then they will be lovely to work with and only time will tell on that as I know I have little or no control on the drones they have mated with but time will reveal all.

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Beekeeping not afloat


Actually not afloat for one week as I did my two year cycle of taking the boat out of the water to politely ask its permission to black its bottom with bitumen paint.

It’s a task I undertake every two years as a matter of good hull maintenance as it matters not one dot how nice your boat is inside or above the waterline it’s that bit of steel sitting in the water that is the most important part neglect it and you could wake up with wet feet.

So this year I have taken my boat out of the water at Harefield Marina West London on their slipway and it’s a lovely location but you are exposed to the weather and I had to endure a few days of 35*C with little or no shade and that was hard work for this typical brit but three days of rain would have been far worse to deal with.

So how this slick operation works is there is a set of railway tracks running down into the water on a gradual slope and sitting on the tracks are two sets of buggies separated by a heavy chain. You are called into the marina and position your boat alongside a pole sticking up out of the water attached to the front buggy. The marina people take over and fine adjust the position of the boat. I jump of and watch.


The technical bit the JCB has a rope fixed to it and that goes through a couple of pulleys and then connects to the front buggy under the water. The JCB starts to reverse and the buggies start to move forward and as they move up the slope they connect with the bottom of the boat and it starts its slow climb out of the water.

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I have seen this a few times but it’s still a surprising how much of the boat is actually underwater as the boat continues to grow in front of you. The section of the boat under the water is known as the Draft and the measurement from waterline to the max height of the boat is the Air Draft.


Eventually it’s all out of the water and secured and you are able to assess the hull and see most of it for the first time in two years.


You always have weed growth but this time quite a few freshwater muscles, I have seen them before but this is more than usual and an indication the water I have been moving in has to be reasonably clean.


The business end well actually the back or the correct term the stern. You can see from the photo the lower part of the boat tapers towards the prop and this tapering is known as the swim and the flat underside above is the counter. The thick bar extending out from the bottom of the boat and supporting the bottom of the rudder is known as a skeg. You may notice a slight overhang to the base plate and sides of the boat and is known as the chime and its overhanging is to allow for wear over the years. The larger chunky pieces of steel running the length of the boat are the rubbing strakes and they help protect the hull of the boat and you are happy for them to get scratched first to protect the much thinner steel hull.

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So the next job is for me is to sit back and watch someone jet washing the hull of the boat with the most powerful jet wash you can imagine a real piece of industrial kit and something out of the ark from the look of the machine and probably why this particular place does not allow you to use it yourself unlike other boat yards who are happy to let you use their jet wash but at least this way I get to stay dry. The photo does not do the power of these machines justice and just holding the nozzle steady takes reasonable strength and your arms are aching afterwards.


So this is what you are left with everything stripped back to bare metal to approx five inches above the waterline and shows up all the scars and pitting that has accumulated over the years. The pitting on my boat is not great, it’s not the worst but it’s not great with one or two areas giving me some concern and something that may in time need attention but regular blacking and good maintenance should delay any re-plating for many years to come.

The cause of this pitting is partly down to electrolysis in the water. Very simply the water can carry a small electrical current this can be caused by shoreline boats with 240v electrics not properly earthed. Moor in a marina close to one of these boats and your hull can be in serious trouble and many a brand new boat has been irreversibly damaged in no time with no fault to the owners. Or from your own boat having poor 12v electrics and putting a charge into the water causing damage to your own boat. Finally by having three different metals in the water, bronze prop, high carbon prop shaft and a steel hull it creates a slight current similar to a battery and there’s not a great deal you can do about this one as the three metals are part of your boat .

So what happens is the electrolysis attacks the softer metal and it’s the steel hull that’s attacked as its the softer metal and starts to create pitting in the steel. So to try and prevent it we weld to the hull sacrificial anodes made of magnesium and as it’s a softer metal than the steel hull the electrolysis attacks them instead. You can see from the photo the anode on the left is almost eaten away and the other fitted two years ago has some pitting. Thankfully since I have owned the boat I have only seen electrolysis in the early years but hardly ever since and partly down to my regular blacking and the fitting of plenty anodes.

The blacking of the hull has two purposes it first protects against rust but also it insulates the hull from electrolysis. It’s important not to black the sacrificial anodes as you want them exposed. Blacking also has one other advantage your boat goes so much faster in the water for the first few months as it’s all slippery and smooth and if you wanted to a good 5mph could be possible.


So after the hull has dried the next job is to use a grinder with heavy duty wire brush fitted and go over the hull removing any stubborn bits of old bitumen and bits of rust. Thankfully as I do my boat quite regularly this part of the job is a reasonably easy one.


Wire brushing over its time to apply the first of three coats of the bitumen and this first coat you apply by brush working it hard into all the pits, nooks and crannies. You only apply the first and the 2nd  coat to approx six inches above the waterline and the third coat you do all of the hull to make it all look nice and shiny, well for a few months at least. You aim to apply the three coats allowing 24hours between each coat and ideally the last coat 48 hours before you go back into the water so you have the best drying times available. The 2nd and 3rd coat is applied with both brush and roller.

I am only concentrating on blacking the sides of the boat this time and only do the actual bottom of the boat every fourth year. It’s very strange but the bottom of boats just don’t degrade in the same way as the sides and it’s also extremely difficult to do the bottom of the boat given the height they are off the ground when out of the water. So what I do is alternate every two years between Hairfield, lovely location a bit exposed but lovely environment and Uxbridge Boat Yard, dirty, noisy, undercover but higher off the ground and possible to black the bottom of the boat.

A week is plenty of time to simply black the boat and it is possible to do half days and then go off and do some work but most people try to do a few extras and I opted for this approach this time. The first and most important was dealing with the topside of the counter as this is my boats achilles heel I have tackled this area a few times and the problem persists. The problem is the so called self draining decks don’t completely self drain and water runs down onto the top of the counter. This would not be a major problem if the counter then drained into the bilge and then could be pumped out of the boat. What actually happens is the water puddles on top of the counter and sits there unless I mop it up and inevitably not going to happen every time it rains. The problem is rust forms under the paint and all looks ok until one day you have a scrape around and you have big flakes of rust. This is a potential disaster as the next flake of rust could expose a pin hole in your boat below the water line. I know from my eleven years on this boat this is not a new problem and they say 7mm of rust is about 1mm of steel but how many times has this rust problem happened in the past thirty years with obvious signs of neglect before I got the boat, how thick is the remaining steel???  when the original steel thickness was only 6mm.

I have no option but to go hard at the rust out of the water and deal with any possible problems and remove all of the rust so as to treat the remaining steel and then paint over once more in the hope that the steel has sufficient thickness so that I can plan to have the hull surveyed in the future and get an accurate steel thickness and then decide if over plating is necessary.

So I attacked the rust and squeezed myself into a tight space in 30*C+ full sun chisel in hand and grinder at the ready. First hit and scrape at the loose rust flakes and then face mask and goggles start grinding and only a few seconds and it’s impossible to see what I am doing the air is thick with dust and I have to stop but keep the grinder running in the confined space to clear the rust dust. The dust clears and I target the next patch to attack and keep repeating for about six hours with breaks every 40mins to drag my poor aching body into some shade to try and cool down and drink some needed water.

Once I am happy with the grinding and confident I have removed all of the rust I can then treat the rusty surface with a chemical to try and prevent it starting again and following that two good coats of a red oxide primer followed by two coats of bilge paint. My next priority over the rest of the summer is to get to grips with the self draining channels from the back deck, get these working right and it could eliminate the rust forming on the counter top and from now on make this area a yearly maintenance priority. Since going back into the water I have been keeping a close eye on the counter tops looking for any sign of water seepage or lifting of the paint as you can imagine a leaking roof is bad news but a leaking bottom of a boat is somewhat a bigger problem but thankfully all looks dry.

looking down onto the counter top with the deck boards removed looking nice and shiny. The hole in the boat is the removed for painting the weed hatch. It's a bolted plate that can be removed so you can remove whatever has wrapped itself around your prop.

looking down onto the counter top with the deck boards removed looking nice and shiny. The hole in the boat is the removed for painting weed hatch. It’s a bolted plate that can be removed so you can remove whatever has wrapped itself around your prop.

My other extra was to repaint the back of the boat and as I painted the topside of the boat last year (missed posting about that and may catch up later) and it’s almost impossible to paint this area without getting wet so most people do it when out of the water.


It was a hot sweaty week and the work on the back counter made it a very hard dirty week but I had the company of the ducks, moorhens, coots and mum dad and the five signets to keep me company and especially the visits from the signets made the hard days not so bad.




So the week over and afloat once more say good bye to the signets wish them well and out onto the cut 🙂


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Beekeeping tool box

Every beekeeper  will have a tool box or some sort of bag to carry much needed equipment around with you when visiting apiaries and inspecting hives and it’s all the more important if you have out apiaries.

So for a few years I struggled and became increasingly frustrated with a good old plastic bag and nearly every time I wanted something I had to rummage through the pile of stuff at the bottom and regularly found my crown of thorns first (ouch) so it was a good day when a beekeeper collecting some hives and equipment showed me his tool box that just so happened to be a light weight nuc that he said was an old travel box he adapted but was also handy in an emergency and got me thinking on a similar idea.

A couple of hours scribbling on a piece of timber and I came up with my take on the multifunctional beekeepers tool box.


Very simply it’s a light weight five frame 14×12 nuc with removable tray but also leaving room for a spare frame and dummy board. The outside has two hooks one for the smoker and a 2nd for a small water spray bottle.  The carrying strap is simply an old strap from an old sports bag and works a treat.

The construction is very simple and makes the box very light when empty. It is simply constructed from 7mm ply and stapled together it is strengthened in the corners with triangular glue blocks. The glue blocks are the key to the strength of the box and it has needed to be as I have sat on it a number of times especially in some welcome shade trying to work out what they are up to this time. It has a hole cut in the bottom and a piece of mesh fixed over the hole for some ventilation if needed. The outside is finished off with a simple hole to act as an entrance if ever required and a roof.

It can be use it to collect a swarm or create an emergency nuc and holds a surprising amount of useful equipment inside.



Marking pens, Tweezers, Matches, Lighters, Secateurs, Goose feather, Penknives, Serrated  kitchen knife, Screwdriver, Pencil, Elastic bands, Uncapping fork, Hive tools, Magnifying glass, Crown of thorns, Drawing pins  and some insect creams.

Lower box

Gaffer tape, Rope, Soda crystals, Straps, Plastic bags for bee samples, Newspaper, Foam entrance blocks, Bag of smoker fuel, Disposable gloves, Marigold gloves, Bits of cardboard, Piece of mesh, Container for wax scrapings, Scrap of ply, Spare frame, Not this time but room for a dummy board. Also missing a bag of plastic ends and will be the one thing I will need on the next inspection.

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Bait hive success

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Result the bait hive enticed a big swarm into it and it took a few days from the first scout bees to them arriving on mass, seven days to be precise.

Monday the first couple of scout bees arrived at the hive and I took no great interest at this as this can be quite common but an hour later I noticed about a dozen and this got my attention as that was a reasonably rapid increase and at first thought things would advance at a pace.

Tuesday and the scouts returned and increased to about two dozen getting very excited checking all round the hive, hovering in front of the entrance and investigating the inside of the hive.

What the scouts are doing during this investigation and looking at the hive, well it’s not a hive to them it’s just a convenient potential nest site and could be any cavity. What they are doing is actually very calculated and deliberate looking for questions to a list of requirements they have.

They are looking at the height from the ground, not perfect in this case as they prefer something higher as it gives protection from bears.

They are calculating the size of the entrance not too large to cause a draught and hard to defend but not to small that it would cause congestion at busy times.

They are looking at the direction the entrance is facing and prefer south facing.

They are checking all round the nest site looking for any other entrances.

They are assessing if the cavity is dry

When they venture inside the potential nest site they are assessing the position of the entrance in relation to the cavity as they prefer a bottom entrance.  Over a series of trips inside the hive they are calculating the volume of the cavity and they prefer a 40L cavity. To the bees this could be a reasonably long thin cavity as common with tree cavities but just as happy with a short fat cavity and just so happens a standard national brood box is approx 40L.

If the potential nest site ticks all or some of the boxes to the scout or scouts looking at the nest site they return to their original site or swarm and communicate the location of the site with the other scouts using the same bee dance as they use for locating forage and those scouts go to see for themselves but also may have been looking at a different nest site themselves in the opposite direction and so they communicate this to the other scouts and they go and check out that site. So the scouts are checking out each other’s potential nest sites and if one scout thinks the site chosen by the other scout is better than her site she will join forces and perform the same dance favouring the other site. This can go on for some time until hopefully the scouts are in agreement that they have found the best available nest site for them to swarm to.  So the bees are communicating to one another and debating what is the best site to move to.

During the rest of Tuesday the scouts continued but increased to 30+ as more were starting to favour my bait hive and I then set up a time laps camera as I was not going to be at the garden all the time I wanted to try and catch the swarm arrive and at the time thought it looked imminent but nothing on Tuesday.

Wednesday started off the same but now perhaps 40+ scout bees at the hive but this time they were showing signs that they were guarding the hive. Not aggressive guarding but definitely bees hanging around the entrance gently challenging bees as they entered the hive. At approx 12.30 I noticed the hive go quiet for about 35-40 minutes and thought either the beekeeper has inspected and found the hive on the verge of swarming and performed an artificial swarm or the swarm is on its way as the scouts leave to guide the swarm to the new nest site. So camera ready looking up to the sky hoping to see this wonderful spectacle unfold in front of me and all that happened was over the next hour the scouts returned and built up to force once more. After this I had to go and do something away from the garden but was called by my good beekeeping neighbour Sara Ward informing me a swarm has been seen hovering over the school playground heading my way. I went back to the garden expecting to see the swarm but nothing just the same amount of scout bees.

I now think the swarm over the school could be the swarm that eventually moved into the bait hive  and the bait hive going quiet was the time that colony swarmed but for some reason the swarm relocated when the scouts were at my bait hive.

Thursdays forecast was for heavy rain most of the day and boy were they right as I planned to move my boat that day and a long move with a couple of good friends Bill and Jude and we got pretty wet over the cause of the day. Thinking about it if the swarm was clustered in a tree or similar then it to would have had to encounter the rain but then the way they naturally cluster would cause some protection. One great thing about the European Honey Bee is it has developed coping strategies to deal with problems and swarms getting caught in bad weather is perhaps just one problem they have evolved to deal with providing the bad weather is not extreme.

Friday was going to be the day as I was convinced it was going to happen although in the past it has taken five days and this was day four but I thought the high numbers of scouts must be positive but once again it was a no the bees  were just not ready.

Saturday was the same as I started to doubt if it was going to happen.

Sunday started the same as previous day’s loads of scouts at the hive and the guarding of the entrance. I set up the camera and went to check my bees. I thought I would check the hives at Brentf0rd first just as it could be rather embarrassing if the scouts turned out to be from one of my hives. I had just finished them and thankfully all behaving themselves when I got a message to call the house.  It was my good friend Gus who owns the house and garden the bait hive is in rather worried as there are 1000’s of bees flying all round the garden. I shot round to catch the last of the bees landing on the hive marching in through the entrance and forming a large cluster under the hive. Even though I missed the arrival it was still a magical moment and thankfully had some of the action on camera and the time laps camera.

The first scout bees arriving at the hive

The swarm settling on the hive

Time laps of the whole event. You can see scouts at the entrance and at 35 seconds they start to reduce and by 50 seconds the hive is virtually quiet as the scouts have gone to collect and guide the swarm to the hive and a few seconds later the swarm arrives.

There is one problem with swarms and it’s you just don’t know what you are going to get regarding temperament and health but thankfully the bees seem rather nice as I have stood very close to the entrance and they have not bothered me and fly around me and a large swarm must indicate a healthy colony. I will let them stay in situ for a couple more days and then move them to one of my apiaries so they can be transferred into another hive and I can reset the bait hive and more importantly see what I have, a prime swarm with a marked or unmarked queen or a very big cast but more likely a prime swarm.

I don’t know if the swarm is from a wild colony or a managed one but if from a wild colony in another six days a few cast swarms could be about or there is always the chance and plenty of time of another big swarm from another colony 🙂




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Bait hive

So it’s that time of year again fishing for a swarm. Just going to set the one hive again this year and in the same location as last year very close to my small workshop so I can watch it during the days I am at the workshop. I have even gone to the trouble of sprucing the hive up with a bit of coloured preserver especially as it is now sitting close to my fancy bug hotel.


Last year the bait hive had a good bit of interest from scout bees throughout the year but sadly no takers. However early on I had to close the hive for a week as I spotted a queen wasp showing interest and at the end of the year when I took the hive down I found the efforts of her attempts to build a nest and just hope she was able to establish her own colony elsewhere. I also had a couple of long tailed tits showing interest and did wonder if I was going to have a birds nest come the end of the year but they lost interest after a while and left rather a lot of bird poo in the hive, a bird public toilet the very cheek of it.

20150411_124933After the interest of the queen wasp and the birds the hive settled down with typical interest from scouts and on one occasion lots of interest with very excited scouts and I was expecting a swarm with camera at the ready but had to go out to inspect the bees at Kew and hoped I would not miss the excitement. When I returned I noticed the scout bees were still at the hive but their mood had changed they were just sitting at the entrance with occasional flights at the hive. This activity continued but with dwindling bees over about seven days. All I could think to explain this activity was that there was a swarm out close by and perhaps collected by a beekeeper who removed the swarm when the scouts were at my bait hive and the scouts returning to the swarm and finding it gone returned to the bait hive hoping the swarm would arrive. I guess I will never know but for me another example as to the fascination in bait hives.


This bait hive is part made from a hive I made nine years ago and made in a panic as a new beekeeper as my hive had swarmed and I had to make one in double quick time. So this hive is quite appropriate to be used as a bait hive. It’s also made with no joints and is simply screwed and glued together with stainless steel screws and is almost as good as the day it was made and goes to show you can make good hives from very simple construction.


Ok so the setup of the hive it’s a solid floor with small entrance. A full complement of  12 frames not all the same and a mix of various frame spacing styles including a couple with part built comb and two odd frames I was given with super foundation fitted in them and think they ran out of deep foundation. To hold the super foundation in place I simply ran a wire across the frame picking up the two loops in the bottom of the foundation wire, crown board with feed holes covered with mesh. The mesh it there just in case I pick up a swarm and want to move them I can block the entrance with mesh and with the mesh in the feed holes will give the bees some ventilation during the move  and finally a roof. The floor and crown board are both screwed to the brood box just to keep everything together when I have to move it. The hive is also screwed to the two wall brackets.


That’s it and all I have to do other than keep an eye on the entrance  is put a couple of drops of lemon grass oil onto a bit of foundation roll it up and slip it in the entrance every few weeks to help with attracting scout bees. I think to sum it up you either like fishing or you don’t and this is bee fishing.

I have a small time laps camera with waterproof case that I intend to set up to watch the entrance hoping to catch a swarm arrive once or if I get some interest, I can set it to take a shot every few seconds so it will be a similar video to some of my boat moving videos but the real joy will be actually watching one arrive. Fingers crossed.


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