Write-up by Helen
On Monday evening, 20 October, seven beekeepers gathered at Helen Nunn’s house in Headington. Two were new to the group – Adam, from the Bicester area, and Helen Jukes from Cowley. There was lots of discussion about hive construction, with Paul showing us his TBH feeder, and describing his Warré feeder which is easier to fill without disturbing the bees. We also looked at a natural comb and he pointed out that when bees are left to their own devices they will build comb with slightly smaller worker cells, giving smaller bees which have a better range for foraging. They may also, possibly, give less room for varroa to breed. Helen N described her hybrid (between TBH and Warré) hives, which appear to be functioning well. We talked about the different types of roofs and other details of TBH construction and showed Adam / Helen a Top Bar knife. We chatted about the following:
Helle and Robin were concerned that their bees had moved up into the feeding section of their Warré hive, hanging comb from the cloth cover.
Sarah’s bees had swarmed four times in the early summer but appeared to have built up strength again. Helen N had also had four swarms from her two April-swarm colonies! Paul commented that this year had been a great one for bee reproduction – though perhaps at the expense of honey. He added that the ideal is perhaps one swarm per hive per year.
- Helen Jukes, who had previous experience as an apprentice to a conventional beekeeper, is now hoping to return to beekeeping after a break, and would like to try a TBH. She was very surprised that anyone could view a swarm as a positive thing!
- Adam, who has a young family, had brought a photo of his garden and we discussed the possible siting of a hive, and the advantages of having one with an observation window.
- Sarah and Helen N had both been stung and Paul said that bees can be extra defensive due to lack of stores. Helen had been weeding amongst some very pungent catmint, so maybe the bees got alarmed by the smell.
Paul described some bee-related incidents from his recent visit to the Amazon. The bees there are exceptionally calm, and often kept in logs on a verandah, or underneath the houses (which are built on stilts).
Fortified by coffee, tea and biscuits, the meeting broke up around 9.30pm with agreement that the next meeting would probably be in February.