This was the first ONBG gathering this year as our normal annual cycle of events was interrupted by lockdown. Our last meeting was in October last year! Precautions were taken: access to handwash, masks, social distancing, everyone took their own mug etc.
11 of us gathered for a lovely day with tea, cake and bees in the delightful Oxford garden setting of our hosts Jane and Patrick (thank you!)
Many of the group had done an orthodox beekeeping course but had gingerly stepped back from the process of serial housebreaking of their hives.
Everyone admired Patrick’s construction skills: his bait hive, Freedom-style hive, Top bar hives. We were allowed a peek into his Freedom-style hive and its colony indeed compared favourably with photos of Matt Somerville’s Freedom hive at Waterperry.
We discussed the perennial problems of cross combing and Jane showed us some comb where the bees had somehow dragged up long pine needles/sticks she had packed deep in to the ecofloor of a TBH. They had incorporated these as reinforcement into one of the combs at its lowest part. Clearly this had been a team effort to drag the sticks up and embed them into the comb. We were enchanted by their ingenuity.
It was agreed that removing only a few frames from a Warré led the bees to create extraordinary comb, reminiscent of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. The take home message (as Paul has already reiterated):
- If harvesting a comb or two at a time: use the TBH.
- But if taking a whole box: use the Warré.
We discussed the ancient practice of “tanging” i.e. banging loudly and rhythmically on a metal object (like clapping the NHS!) for swarms.
Several of us noted its use to (apparently) settle a swarm or even encourage them back into their hive, if caught early enough. This is not something we are likely to wish to do. The suggestions were made that it might be to claim ownership of the swarm or simply warn the neighbours.
This led to the discussion of drumming a swarm of bees up into a skep, etc. Gareth does this successfully but even the legendary Helen said it had failed for her.
Helen explained how her modifications to her TBH and its “Warrification” i.e. Warré cloths above plus an eke had made for a more tranquil life both for her bees and for her.
Zsolt regaled us with tall tales but true of his father’s and his grandfather’s industrial level beekeeping back in Hungary and their harvesting pollen using a screen, a little like a queen excluder allowing the pollen to fall into a small box below.
Bait hives including Patrick’s were discussed. Jane told us that theirs, placed just over two metres off the ground was often inspected by scout bees but never actually populated. We noted that the Great Beasts of Homeopathy had advised they should be five metres off the ground, as in nature. This was a ”hive too far” for the group to contemplate..
A lovely day and a great meeting.
Posted on behalf of the author, Eric