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  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #4472  by Buckfastbee
 12 Aug 2019, 13:46
Hello everyone, I am new to beekeeping and have made a kenyan top bar hive, I also have an empty Heather Bell nucleus, I just wondered what the chances of getting it populated this late in the season if I use pheromones? Also with the Heather Bell nuc, what is the best hive to use that is compatible frame wise for me?
If this season is not an option for a North Devon swarm what can I do to get things ready for spring? gentle with me
 #4473  by Patrick
 12 Aug 2019, 15:19
Hi there Buckfastbee

Welcome to the Forum! If you are in North Devon you are about the same latitude to me in South Somerset but a bit more West.

I generally reckon on reproductive swarms having effectively done their thing by end July around me and as such have already stopped swarm inspections by now. But that doesn't mean bees necessarily take heed of what I do, so never say never..

Regarding the Heather Bell nucleus, i googled it and that takes me to a company website in your neck of the woods and they seem to described as National nucleus boxes, in which case they presumably use a British Standard (or B.S.) "deep" or brood frame and that commonly fits either National hives or the arguably prettier WBC hives. It is probably used in some other types but they are the common ones.

As to which is "best"... well, hive type preference is very personal and can generate quite strong opinions. I am sure some will already have whistled through their teeth at even the mention of Kenyan Top Bar hives..

The honest truth is that bees will thrive in a number of different configurations of hive space so the choice is down to a number of things - maybe one of the main ones being how easy it is to manage the bees in your care. Regarding WBC vs National - lost of pro's and cons but for cost, ease of transport and simplicity don't disregard the National just because it is the most commonly used hive. The National boxes can also be used in a variety of configurations and dimensions are compatible with a larger Commercial brood box.
 #4475  by NigelP
 12 Aug 2019, 16:00
If I had any advice to give you it would be to start with two national hives.
Top bar hives were designed for use in Africa with African bees., the clue is in the name (although they were designed and tested in Canada by a Kenyan researcher on the request of the Kenyan agriculture department. They are rather specialised and require a skill set that is not readily taught.
Your biggest problem is inspections of the bees as the comb has no support and so requires handling very very carefully. Also, as the benefits to the bees of having insulation become more widely accepted then it's a major task to insulate. Varroa treatments are problematic....I could go on but shall stop whistling through my teeth......
 #4480  by MickBBKA
 13 Aug 2019, 00:26
Sorry I am no help, just sat here whistling :D

Good luck though in your efforts, I hope they work out for you.

Cheers, Mick.
 #4485  by Buckfastbee
 13 Aug 2019, 09:49
Thanks very much, I knew if I was silly enough to read something on the internet and approach a pile of wood that was bound for the tip, I could occupy myself with some futile exercise, this resulted in a kenyan top bar made in the Blue Peter style... apart from sticky back plastic :-)
What it did do was stimulate an interest, I have long been an owner of the Andrew Davies "Beekeeping" book obtained by my parents from a national trust shop, no doub't as they were trying to escape without buying lavender coat hangers!
So I've added beekeeping for dummies to my bedtime read and I am hooked.

Thanks for all your help, I'll spenb the winter getting the Heather Bell nucleus kitted out with frames, probably elbow the kenyan top bar to the recycling centre and look at getting a National hive from ebay then.
Is there a list for idiots on here somewhere that I can start coveting?
 #4486  by AdamD
 13 Aug 2019, 10:31
Swarms DO occur in August and September although they are fairly rare - so you might be lucky if you have a hive or a suitable box available for bees to discover. I believe that lemongrass oil is a good attractant - as is old comb although you don't have any of that yet.

We are a 'gentle' forum so you are in a good place!

I had a call from someone yesterday who wanted to find a colony or nucleus to buy. I suggested that it was probably better to wait until Spring and obtain a nucleus at that time. I also had a call from someone else a couple of weeks ago who wanted a family of bees with some 'bee babies' That worried me a lot!

Spring is a good time to buy bees. There are lots of books to read between now and then - some you may find in your local library. Some may be quite old but still worth reading.

I found an old book at home yesterday, as it happens. Written in 1888 and revised in the 20th century, (Simmins A Modern Bee Farm) it was the days of skeppists and us modern 'keepers with moveable frame hives were referred to as "bar-framers" which tickled me. So - some books might be just a little old! The BBKA is generally a "Bar Framer" society - mainly because it works as a system that suits both bees as well as beekeepers. The 'National' is the most widely used hive in the country and those frames (which suit WBC's as well) will be the size most easily obtained with bees on them. I have no problem if you want to keep bees is something different - it just makes life a little more awkward that's all.

There are some good Youtube videos out there - and also some atrocious ones - so beware!
 #4487  by Alfred
 13 Aug 2019, 13:23
"Is there a list for idiots on here somewhere that I can start coveting?"

Not as such, but rather one 'idiot-on-demand'-you can learn from my mistakes,just ask..... :roll:
 #4488  by Patrick
 13 Aug 2019, 15:49
Hi Buckfastbee

No worries, maybe just put the top bar hive aside and maybe revisit again later down the road. I certainly know of several people who have tried to work bees in them in the UK and not found them nearly as straight forward as some beguiling advocates suggested. There was so much whistling going on I thought Roger Whittaker had joined the Forum for a moment there :lol:

What are you after - a list of stuff or books?

Just a suggestion but if you after a decent national hive consider the main manufacturers winter sales of "seconds", especially flat packs if you handy with a hammer. Make sure to go for cedar and don't get caught out with pine or deal - its okay but a lot heavier. Main dealer seconds are the source of much of my stuff and should be good for another few decades yet. A much better prospect than auction sites unless you really know what you are after - sadly the boom in beekeeping interest since 2010 saw a corresponding influx of folks seeking to make a quick few quid knocking up any old stuff to flog as "bargain" hives.

There may well indeed be good stuff out there but there is also deceptively cheap softwood versions, inaccurate dimensions unfit for purpose, recycled rubbish and inadequately assembled tat. At least to start with, buy once from people who make hives their main business, rather than being driven half loopy by trying to work with poor kit. Same goes for a bee suit and smoker. Good ones last years, poor ones last months.
 #4490  by NigelP
 13 Aug 2019, 16:41
Buckfastbee wrote:
13 Aug 2019, 09:49

Is there a list for idiots on here somewhere that I can start coveting?
You need more kit than you can ever imagine. Lots of companies do starter kits which give you the essentials in one hit. Check out the Abelo stuff at £315 including hive/frames/foundation 2 supers bee suit, smoker hive tool etc.
Of course you need to make a decision if you are going to use wooden hives or Poly. I've used both over the years and have settled on Poly hives as 1. they are far cheaper and 2. My bees seem to fare better in them than in wooden hives. But it can be a contentious issue....
Oh and the best bit of advice is have 2 hives with bees in and at least 2 spare nuc boxes or hives. It will save you endless trouble. with your own swarm management and also, sa,y you lose a queen and only have one hive where are you going to get another queen from...dead easy you place a frame of eggs from your other hive into the queen less one.
Also sort out where you are going to keep your bees. Gardens with nearby neighbours is a disaster waiting to happen unless you have a second apiary. to move an aggressive colony of bees to.
But good luck, you will find it a fascinating pursuit to which you can adapt to do your own thing .
 #4494  by Alfred
 13 Aug 2019, 20:53
Check out the Dave Cushman website for a solid experience-based info-base.
It's pleasantly dated and low-tech and the guy was clearly a genius with bees.

I'll second Nigel's point about kit-you'll need a complete spare hives-worth at all times ,at the least.
Nucs and ekes can be lifesavers and a dozen extra crownboards and qxs too...