Helping out with bee hive maintenance (and possibly gaining a second hive)

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The Warré hive at Jason and Gloria's house
The Warré hive at Jason and Gloria’s house

Earlier in the week, Gavin Smith (one of the elders of the Sydney beekeeping community) put out a call for help to the Natural beekeeping in Australia list. Eager to learn more, I volunteered to help.

The first stop was Jason and Gloria’s house in Hurlstone Park, just 10mins drive from our house. They have a lovely Warré hive in the back corner of their incredibly productive garden.

Jason and Gloria's bountiful back garden
Jason and Gloria’s bountiful back garden

The task at hand was to harvest a box of honey from the top, and to place an empty box at the bottom (‘nadiring’).

Gavin getting ready to open the hive...
Gavin getting ready to open the hive…

The bees were very gentle, and quite unconcerned even when we opened up the hive. The hive was very strong, with no hive beetles to be seen. It all went smoothly, until we looked into the top box we were harvesting.

Bees will grow comb however they like, when it comes down to it
Bees will grow comb however they like, when it comes down to it
(photo showing the underside of the box).

The bees had started following the orientation of the frames, and then decided to grow comb in completely different directions. As they say, bees will do whatever they want to do.

After separating the outer four frames (with some judicious cutting of comb), we were left with three heavily cross-linked frames.

Voila, a second hive!

The three-ish combs that will hopefully form the start of a viable new hive.
The three-ish combs that will hopefully form the start of a viable new hive.

After spotting a queen cell in amongst these three frames, Gavin declared this would be a viable ‘nuc’ (nucleus), which could act as a starter for a second hive on my roof. So that got boxed up, and taken home. Ten minutes of transferring the frames, and I had a second hive in place. Not what I was expecting, but I’m hardly complaining!

The next stop was Michele Margolis’ house, where a traditional Langstroth hive also needed attention. With the constant guidance of Gavin, I took the hive apart frame by frame, checking it as we went.

Gavin had been trying to convince the hive to migrate from Langstroth boxes into a Warré box, but it just wasn’t happening. Taking away the one Warré box, Gavin then decided this would be an excellent second box of bees for my new hive.

I did get three bee stings during the day, but only one really hurt (the bee got me on the ankle, through my sock). I learned a lot, and now have a second hive. All in all, a very worthwhile 3 hours! Many thanks to Gavin for being such a patient teacher.

(PS. I won’t know for another month or so whether the second hive will survive. The queen needs to be hatched, and then she needs to fly out, mate, and return. Fingers crossed it all works!)

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2 thoughts on “Helping out with bee hive maintenance (and possibly gaining a second hive)

    Gerry Heaton said:
    October 11, 2013 at 4:47 am

    James

    Sounds really good. Great photos too. Wish I could have been there. Gavin is very generous at sharing his time and knowledge.

    Cheers

    Gerry

    >

    solarbeez said:
    October 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Fingers crossed…hope it works!

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