After 2 postponements approximately 30 members were finally able to meet at the Beehive pub in Egham where we were greeted by the sight of Richard Emmett’s hives at the back of the car park, including a WBC hive containing no less that 9 supers of honey (a 10th having already been removed a week previously).

Richard explained that he had kept bees at the Beehive for about 10 years and now had 3 hives on the site. Two of the hives had not performed so well and he would not be taking honey from them this year, but the one hive had been growing at a rate of a new super every 2 weeks throughout the season.

In addition to the 3 WBC hives Richard is also mentoring Leonard, a new beekeeper who has a polystyrene hive on the site which members were invited to view after the ‘main event’.

David Parker discussed and demonstrated the various devices available to the beekeeper to ‘encourage’ the bees to move out of the supers to enable the beekeeper to remove them quickly and easily. He covered: Porter bee escapes, Rhombus bee escape, Canadian clearer board, metal mesh rhombus escapes and Canadian escapes which resemble red bee-sized traffic cones.

He also covered chemical methods of clearing the supers such as the use of almond essence or proprietary branded products. Lastly there was the option used by large scale beekeepers which is the blower.

After a few pertinent questions the meeting moved to the hive itself with Richard using a step ladder to reach the top of the hive. Although Richard and David had put a clearer board and additional empty supers (to allow the bees space to move down from the honey supers) on the hive earlier in the day it was found that there were still some bees in the supers and so the blower was used to clear them before loading the boxes into Richard’s car.

There was a brief discussion about the blower method of clearing the bees and it was pointed out that hobby beekeepers are very unlikely to use this method, which is probably best kept for large volume beekeeping and meetings like this where there are a large number of supers to be removed in a short space of time.

Once extracted, the wet supers will be returned to the hive for the bees to clean up before they are stored ready for next year. The group discussed the various methods of returning and storing the drawn comb to keep it in best condition. David pointed out that there will probably still be up to 10% of the honey in the wet super so allowing the bees to clean the comb is a valuable method to retain this honey.

In addition to his ‘super’ hive Richard demonstrated another WBC hive that he runs with National boxes inside, which gives him 12 frames instead of the 10 frames in a WBC box and with the double wall insulation (both summer and winter advantage) of a WBC hive.

The timetable of removing honey in July and them beginning treatments (Varroa) in August before removing the queen excluder to allow the bees to prepare for winter was also discussed.

Please see the attached pictures from the meeting.

After the meeting a number of the members retired to the pub to enjoy food and/or a drink, and to enjoy a social time together. 

With thanks to everyone involved in presenting the meeting especially Richard Emmett and the landlady of the Beehive pub for their hospitality.

Alan Whitehill

Many thanks to Alan for his report – more contributions, please!

 A couple more comments on the meeting

  1. I am not sure that beginners should have had a demonstration of working on a ladder to remove full, heavy supers stacked nine boxes high. It’s a bit dangerous! Also, the bees have an awful lot of work to do, and energy to expend within the hive, when working on the top box. 
  2. There were a number of very unhappy people and critical comments about the ‘blower’ method of removing the last bees from the supers. After the demonstration, small clusters of bees were found huddled on the ground; probably this was not the main reason for the people’s discomfort – I suspect it was ethical issues. Michael Main took a kind approach, collected them up and returned them to their hive. A number of the members moved away from the action, declaring themselves to be ‘Conscientious Objectors’. I have to say that I see no need to treat living creatures in this manner even if it is what the bee farmers do. What do our readers think? Please let the editor know. 

Geoff Cooper

If you contribute to this, but would prefer not to make your name known, I suggest that you sign your message ‘Anonymous’ or something similar. I very much hope that there will be some in favour of the blower method, and some who disagree, but please don’t make it personal, the last thing we want is to set up friction between members. – Ed.

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