Week 1: First Inspection
The first week of the practical course. Time to start putting the theory into practice.
It’s all well and good sitting, listening and learning in class but being able to have a try with the Apiary bees and equipment is a valuable lesson in beekeeping. The course lasts for 6 weeks and many techniques of beekeeping are demonstrated and we can have a go as well.
After putting on bee suits – there is an art to doing this – making sure all zips are done up, velcro stuck down, wellies and gloves on, it was time for first lesson. The all important smoker.
The smoker is a beekeepers friend, you might not always use it when attending the hive but never go without it.
It was then onto inspecting a hive. The first time when you lift a roof is amazing, so many bees, so much to look at. It’s quite hard to concentrate on what the purpose of the lesson is, but learning how to use the tools, lifting frames, keeping calm and enjoying being with the bees are all very important.
Week 2: Shook Swarm & Disease
Keeping honey bees is a responsibility of the beekeeper and its very important to know what diseases your colony might have and how to treat them correctly. Sometimes it’s by transferring the colony to another correctly prepared hive other times it might be to treat the colony.
So todays lesson was learning how to carry out a Shook Swarm. This is the method of transferring a colony from on hive to another and leaving the disease behind.
Knowing the importance of hygiene within your apiary will also keep your bees happy and healthy.
Being in the association apiary is a great way of learning techniques that you might need to use later on when you have your own colony.
Week 3: Queen Marking and Frame Making
The all important practical course continued with training on how to mark a Queen. As Queens were in short supply drones were used! Although most were uncooperative! It seems like an easy task until you have to do it and practicing on drones is a better option than your first go being the marking of your very important Queen.
As none of the Queens in the apiary are marked pink this was the colour used, pink drones are all the rage in this part of Hampshire and if one comes to visit your garden you will know where it has come from!
While half the group were on drone marking the other were honing their skills on frame making. You might think you don’t need many but it’s surprising how many you can use in a season and you should never be caught out and not have any built ready to use.
It’s a skill everyone should be good at – Jean reckons she can make enough to fill a brood box full while listening to the afternoon drama on the radio, which is an hour long, I have to say I couldn’t do that yet but practice does make perfect!
Week 4: Wet Day and a Swarm!
Well today’s practical started wet and horrible, you can never trust the English summer to always shine, so with a cupper and a slice of cake the afternoon started with question and answer session. As the weeks go by new beekeepers think of many questions, some because they now have bees and some because they are checking whether keeping bees is for them. All questions are good questions and most probably if your asking them someone is thinking about them.
Checking out the shed is also very handy, you never know when you might get called upon to get an item from it.
Just as everyone was leaving, a Swarm was spotted hiding under a hive. This brought a great flurry of activity and yes we had to collect items from the shed, good job we had been told where everything was kept.
Working as a team the Swarm was collected and made comfortable in their new home. Everytime a visit is made to the Apiary new skills are learnt this builds confidence and leads to enjoying beekeeping.
As the photos show you would never had guessed where the Swarm was. The beautiful comb they had made. A close up of the comb carrying eggs the queen has laid.
Week 5: Wet Day and a Swarm!
The bees might be quiet snuggling in hives to avoid the rain but learning new techniques never stops!
Today we were treated to a demonstration of how to use the Snelgrove method to stop your bees swarming. A fascinating method, which I’m sure quite a few of us will one day give a try. It sounds complicated when reading about it but when you have an experience beekeeper to show you how it works, it all seems very clear.
It’s great to have hand on knowledge passsed from experienced members of the Association when your new.
Only one week left of our practical course, next week we’re all off on a bee safari!
Week 6 – Apiary Safari with a Bee Inspector
Today the sun shone brightly and after the week we had had we felt very lucky. Safari day marks the end of our practical course. The day takes us on a trip looking at members of Meon Valley Beekeeping Association apiarys. Joining us was an ex bee inspector, who has many years experience. He was able to talk us through each hive telling us what he could see and was showing us all how it should be done.
As well as traditional hives we also were able to look at a Top Bar hive and a Flohive.
All hives are interesting and having such an experienced beekeeper giving his time to a group of novices is really very special.
As the practical course comes to an end the group has been able to experience many aspects of beekeeping all of which are valuable to carry us on our journeys of beekeeping. Being part of the Association will mean there will always be a knowledgeable beekeeper to offer advice.