Beekeeping - Short and Sweet

By Stewart Spinks

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A Beekeeping Podcast for the Inquisitive Beekeeper with a Short Attention Span! BeeFarmer, YouTuber (The Norfolk Honey Company, Patreon Host (, Beekeeping mentor to 1000's of beekeepers worldwide via my social media channels, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Episode Date
Episode 66: First Spring Extractions

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 66 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. It’s been a busy week as we clear some of the supers ready for extraction and begin the process of moving hives to field beans.

Join me each week for my latest podcast

This has to be one of the more exciting weeks of the year, as if beekeeping isn’t exciting enough, of course. We’ve been through the long, cold Winter……. well, it wasn’t that long or cold really and that seems a distant memory now. And I always get excited about the start of the new season, but then we get really busy and this year seems to have been quite swarmy, to say the least. I’ve managed to use that to my advantage and have seen a significant increase in colony numbers by making quite a number of splits and collecting several swarms that I missed from my own colonies.
 I’ve had an above average number of phone calls relating to collecting swarms, the majority of them being bumblebee nests. It always surprises me that more people struggle with the simple identification of our bumblebees. That said I guess people aren’t quite so connected with the natural world perhaps as they once were, I was very lucky growing up as my grandparents lived in the countryside, we visited regularly and I didn’t have the distraction of technology in quite the way that young people have these days.

Anyway, back to the excitement of this week. Firstly, my thanks to Steph and Pete, without whose help I’d really struggle. It’s always nice to have someone to lend a hand but also someone to chat to about beekeeping, it can get quite isolating if you are on your own beekeeping. I think it’s just that we get so busy we don’t normally have much time to stop and strike up conversations. I have to acknowledge here that technology really helps bridge that void sometimes, so I’m not averse to using the mobile phone when I’m out in the apiaries, as long as I can get a signal that is.

So, I have my willing helpers on hand to assist with the lifting and being on Oilseed Rape we certainly need a helping hand. Some of the boxes were very heavy indeed.

What I thought I would do today is explain the process that I use to go from a hive full of bees to honey in buckets. I think my methods for handling the various parts of the job can be adopted and adapted by most new or growing beekeepers, and I’m changing and adapting my various methods myself as our business grows and develops.

I was chatting to Pete yesterday and describing one of my funniest extraction day memories that I had when my brother came over to help me. This was many, many years ago now and shows how we have taken some fairly large steps to get where we are now. We had removed the supers from the few hives we had, I think there must have been maybe 10 supers of honey to extract so you can see we were a very small enterprise back then. I had an old, galvanised extractor and settling tank, not something you could use these days, everything has to be stainless steel or food-grade plastic but back then we were both a lot poorer and a lot more naive about the ways of extracting honey.

Anyway, I was living in a semi-detached house with a very nice but small sun lounge on the back of the property, south facing and lovely to sit in and have a glass of beer in the late evenings. This, however, was turned into our honey room and piled high with equipment and honey boxes. We had picked a lovely day for extracting but of course, we had to keep the doors and windows shut to prevent any bees from sniffing out the honey and invading our workspace. Well, by the time we had really got started the sun was up, the room was hot and getting hotter by the minute and we were stripped to shorts and t-shirts. I think that’s probably as much detail as I should go into regarding personal items of clothing but being keen to maintain a good

Jun 14, 2019
Episode 65: Queen Rearing Selection Criteria

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 65 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. I’m gearing up to start my queen rearing program at the end of this month and so I thought I’d go over my selection criteria and maybe this year we’ll get some fantastic new queens.

The books I refer to are available here:
Queen Bee: Biology, Rearing and Breeding by David Woodward
The Principles of Bee Improvement by Jo Widdicombe
( These are affiliate links which cost you no more than you would normally pay for the books but I get a very small commission should you choose to make a purchase).

There’s an old beekeeping saying that goes something like “A swarm in May is worth a load of Hay, a swarm in June is worth a Silver spoon and a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly”.

I guess the meaning of the proverb is the earlier the swarm the more productive they can be. That’s not to say July swarms can’t be built up and be ready for the following Spring but May swarms can easily grow into full sized colonies and give a super of honey if everything falls into place.

Thinking back to the proverb and swarms in May, I’m going to need a barn to put all that hay in because my bees have really been going for it this Spring.

I’m not complaining, I’ve managed to either split colonies or collect swarms and have reached my target number of colonies for the year with plenty of time still to come so it’s currently looking quite positive. It would be easy to get pessimistic with all the posts by beekeepers proclaiming they’re having the best Spring ever with no swarming and more honey than they’ve ever seen before but just remind yourself that these are the exception and if you’ve seen my latest videos on Patreon you’ll see how things can quickly go sideways.

I had lots of good intentions for a bumper Spring honey crop and certainly the bees on the oilseed rape have been doing a fine job, it’s just they also decided they wanted to take advantage of the early windfall of resources and get their reproduction in early and who can blame them. Those swarms now have really good chance of building up strongly to see out the Winter to come. I can’t believe I said Winter already, oh well, always looking forward.

And that brings me on to today’s topic of my queen rearing plans for this year and how I intend to select my colonies firstly for the queen mother colony, that’s the donor colony that will supply the young larvae that will become new queens. And then the equally important colonies that will supply the drones to mate with the newly emerged virgin queens.

I’ve got quite a number of queen rearing books now, some of them really quite old, but my two favourite books for queen rearing are David Woodward’s Queen Bee: Biology, Rearing and Breeding, this is my “Go To” book when I need to remind myself what the heck I’m supposed to be doing.

The second book is a relatively new book by Jo Widdicombe called The Principles of Bee Improvement and I particularly like the simple Five qualities for selection used in the book from the Bee Improvement Programme for Cornwall or BIPCO for short.

I’ll leave full details of the two books in the podcast notes beneath the podcast on my Patreon page if you’d like to take a look at them.

Looking back at my experiences this year so far, they haven’t much different from other years in that colonies will swarm but it’s been the cocktail of that very mild Winter, the early warm Spring weather, followed by a rather chilly period in early May that we are just coming out of.

I think all of this helped the bees decide to swarm and regardless of how many swarm cells I removed the bees were building them up again faster than I could tear them down. The result has been quite frantic. Like I said, it’s a positive outcome for me as I’m now filling brood boxes and nucs with bees I would otherw

Jun 07, 2019
Episode 64: Questions and Answers May 2019

This week is my Questions and Answers week, for those of you listening for the first time, it’s where supporters from my Patreon page can post questions to me that they have maybe encountered and I’ll do my best to give an answer. If you’re listening via Patreon, my thanks for your continued support and for those of you listening to the later release of the podcast, don’t miss out on the latest podcast by simply signing up on my dedicate web page.
Get the very latest podcast by visiting my web page HERE

Well, it’s been an eventful week! I collected more swarms and promptly lost the biggest one, I posted a picture of it on Twitter and Instagram, and someone commented I would need a triple nuc to fit it all in, well, I only had a single nuc box  on board the truck so they went into that overnight and when I returned the following morning they had decided they didn’t like the new location and had disappeared. What was really sad was there was just one single drone left behind wandering around on the floor of the nuc trying to work out where the party had disappeared to. It reminded me of my teenage years, but that’s another story entirely that isn’t for this podcast!

Moving on to a slightly different topic it’s been a tricky week for inspecting, cooler temperatures again and some quite rainy days, interestingly, when I have been out to check on the bees, and I have to say I’ve not looked in many colonies this week, I’ve seen quite a few queen cells torn down. I suspect this is probably down to the weather and the bees not wanting to put effort and resources into queen cells during the colder weather. But, how do they know what the long range forecast is going to be? It’s not like they have the internet or access to the met office. Maybe it’s down to air pressure or something, I really don’t know. To take my mind off such complex thoughts I’ve just spent an hour or so at the workshop making up some clearer boards with Pete, another job done so at least the time isn’t wasted.

Lets get started with this weeks burning issues, first up is Paul Andrews who asks

“Hi Stewart,

How do you get the bees to read the books! This year has been manic, all going well until 3 weeks ago when I saw swarm preparations. I had given space and already split 2 hives, I moved the best queen cells into new nucs along with brood and left the queen behind in brood box. Phew, all done, shut up and did same in the rest of the hives. The next week all again! I cut cells out placed in mating nucs I had just bought after setting them up with bees. Then on Sunday Oh no, queens gone and no eggs, set up boxes with the best remaining cells and shut up. All hives had space in brood and in supers and queen, only a year to 2 old. Any ideas? Paul

Hi Paul,

Your tale of swarming colonies is not a solitary incident and I’m sure many beekeepers will have experienced exactly the same issues. I like that you took action and I’m sure you’ll get some really nice queens from the splits that you’ve made so not all is lost.

You questions seems to be asking having split the colony and reduced it’s size why did the queen still swarm?

I think the one thing that you don’t mention and I’m making an educated guess here, is that you left the queen in the original hive with the flying bees and some brood and  that I believe is the problem.

By leaving the queen with the flying bees and brood, albeit a reduced amount, you’re still giving them a chance to swarm. I would suggest if it happens again, removing the queen and leaving a single queen cell with the flying bees would be a more controlled way of splitting them. Reduce the number of queen cells to just one and the flying bees can’t swarm. You can still split nucs from the colony with queen cells if you’re looking to increase or reproduce queens but I would remove the queen and let her continue in a nuc building u

May 31, 2019
Episode 63 My Very First Swarm

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 63 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. The bees have exploded into Spring and I’ve been out collecting swarms from various locations. Today I thought I’d share my memories of a very Special day back in the late 1980s when I collected my very first swarm.

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Here's the picture of my very first swarm running up the board into the hive: First Swarm

Swarm collections, some beekeepers love them while other beekeepers don’t want to touch them with a barge pole, and I can see both views. If you’re new to beekeeping and only have one colony, or maybe you don’t even have one colony as yet and you’re waiting to be able to collect a swarm to put into your hive, then, when the phone rings, your pulse quickens at the anticipation of heading out to collect a ready-made colony of bees nestled in a hedgerow somewhere.

However, if you’ve got as many colonies as you want and are not looking for more swarm call outs, the ringing phone can be an almighty pain in the backside.

Let me explain both perspectives as I’ve encountered both emotions over the years.

Collecting swarms and rehousing them to start a new colony is something I think most beekeepers will experience during their beekeeping adventures.

It’s a simple task that most beekeepers can tackle, you need a minimal amount of equipment, a little patience and a steady hand, and that’s it really.

I’ve collected swarms from all manner of different locations over the years and each one has provided a range of challenges, laughs and frustrations.

Thinking back over the years I can actually remember the very first swarm that I collected way back in the late 1980’s.

At that time I only had three colonies and we had moved house from a small country mid-terraced cottage to a traditional terraced house in Norwich. We only had a small back garden, perhaps 8 metres wide by 20 metres long and the bees were on a concrete pad next to the shed at the end of the garden. I arrived home from work one afternoon to be told that the bees had swarmed and were now hanging from a cherry tree that was in full flower a couple of houses further down the road.

At this time in my beekeeping career, I hadn’t actually got a great deal of beekeeping equipment. My bee suit was an old boiler suit that had previously belonged to my father, slightly comical as I’m 6’3” tall and he was 5”8”, the legs were, needless to say, a little on the short side. To this I added a wide-brimmed hat with some net curtain pulled over the top and tucked into the boiler suit collar, some washing up gloves and a pair of wellington boots. I really looked the part.

Anyway, back to the swarm, They were about 8 feet high in the cherry tree and the weight of the swarm pulls the branch down to a point just out of my reach. Not to worry, I had a pair of step ladders in the shed. Now I’d never seen a swarm being collected or ever collected one myself at this point, all I knew came from reading books, no such thing as google or youtube to see what to do. It all sounded simple enough, shake the queen into a box and the rest of the bees would follow it said. So I found myself up a ladder with a cardboard box and a rather large prime swarm the size of a small torpedo hanging down nicely positioned to go into the box. I was all ready to collect them when I realised I had suddenly got myself an audience of friends and neighbours, there must have been seven or eight people standing around watching me, it suddenly felt quite intimidating.

Oh well, what could possibly go wrong. The important thing is to take a deep breath and go for it I told myself, be firm and shake all the bees into the box to make sure you get the queen, I rehearsed the whole process several ti

May 24, 2019
Episode 62: Buying a Nuc, Oil Seed Rape and Spring Update

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 62 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. 

Oilseed Rape and Bees by Allan Calder

BBKA Guidance Sheet on Buying a Nucleus Colony

With May just around the corner, it’s a timely moment to talk about jobs for the coming month and also a little update on what my bees have been up to.

The end of April and into the beginning of May sees a lot of colonies building up strongly which inevitably raises concerns about swarming again. We’ve had some remarkably fine weather, some very warm days and a lot of colonies are well in advance of where they would normally be at this time of the year. On social media, I’ve seen reports of swarm cells in colonies and several beekeepers already being called out to collect swarms from colonies that have jumped at the chance to reproduce during this lovely spell of weather. And that reminds me to mention a word of caution to any beginner beekeepers out there who has one of those, month by month beekeeping guide books, remember they are just a guide, beekeeping is all about managing your bees in the prevailing conditions that you have. This time last year I was coming to terms with a long cold blast of icy weather from Europe and working out how to get cleaned up and start the beekeeping season proper. This year everything is a good three weeks ahead but I’ll come on to my beekeeping in a bit. I think most beekeepers here in the UK have enjoyed a very productive start to the season and most have supers added to their colonies as the brood nests expand and colonies grow larger day by day. That said, I’m looking at the forecast for the coming week and we’ve got rain and cooler conditions to come so things will slow down a little no doubt.

If you’re just starting out in beekeeping May is a great time to get started and is the month I recommend to beginners they should look to being their beekeeping journey. The risk of severe cold weather is usually long gone and nucleus colonies that have over-Wintered as bursting to get out of their nuc boxes and be transferred into a full sized hive. Of course, this year you could have started a few weeks earlier and had a very fast start. The key is to order your first nucleus colony well in advance in the Autumn of the year before you get going or you’re likely to have to wait until late May or even June to get a nice sized nucleus colony.

If you’re unsure of what you should be getting there are guidelines set outbid the British Beekeepers Association in the form of a useful pdf. I’ll post a link to it should you want to take a look.

Generally speaking, a nucleus colony should be around 5 or 6 frames in total and consist of at least three good frames of brood. It will have a good laying queen that has been marked and from either last season or this season so it’s important to know if the queen is marked and what colour mark she has.

Most suppliers of nucs will use the internationally recognised queen marking colour scheme which can be remembered as the acronym Will You Raise Good Bees, standing for White, Yellow, Red, Green and Blue. Each colour covers two years so for instance, last year was 2018 and the colour used was Red. This year 2019 is Green, 2020 will be Blue, 2021, White and 2022 Yellow. Then we start all over again.

Of course, if you don’t want the queen to be marked you can request this from the beekeeper selling you the nuc but for beginner beekeepers, it does make the whole experience less stressful and more fun when you get to spot the queen in those first initial inspections.

If ever I’m selling nucleus colonies I always like to give out nearly new frames. It isn’t necessary but most regular suppliers of nucs will be rotating their frames anyway so the frames will be nearly new, maybe one or two

May 17, 2019
Episode 61 - Swarm Season is Here!

 It’s Easter weekend, so a very Happy Easter to you all. Here in Norfolk, we’re expecting temperatures to rise to nearly 20 degrees centigrade, that’s around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s definitely T-Shirt weather and time to get some decent Spring inspections carried out.
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We’ve been waiting patiently since late Winter for our warmer weather to kick in, it’s been a little up and down with only the odd day warming up before dropping back down to what, in reality, is actually closer to the more normal, average temperatures for this time of year.

With the rise in temperature comes the inevitable start of the swarm season and it’s something we can all work with to ensure, for the most part, we don’t lose swarm after swarm from our hives and miss out on an early Spring crop of honey.

Today I wanted to take a look at the swarming process and look at opportunities we beekeepers can take advantage of, rather than viewing the coming weeks with dread and worry.

For the beginner beekeeper, understanding the process of swarming and knowing key features will allow you to gain control of the situation by knowing what is happening within the colony and how you can affect the outcome to best suit your beekeeping priorities. Now this may simply be that you don’t want any swarms or increases, perhaps you have a couple of colonies and that suits you very nicely. Alternatively, you might be looking to increase from a single colony that you purchased last year as a nucleus colony and you’re looking to grow the number of colonies you have this Spring. Of course, for the more experienced beekeepers out there you’ll already have a good handle on what’s likely to happen over the coming weeks and you’ll obviously have a plan and all the equipment you need at hand and prepared ready for one of our busiest periods of the beekeeping season. It doesn’t do any harm to just recap on the various factors with swarming, so I hope all you seasoned Pro’s out there will keep listening too, who knows I might say something that helps or you might find yourself dropping me a message to tell me a better way of dealing with swarms.

May 10, 2019
Episode 60: April Q&A

Another week another challenge here in Norfolk. I’ve managed to tweak my recurring back problem again and that’s causing some fun issues for me, particularly putting my socks on, however, it happened after we moved around 50 of our colonies to the Oil Seed Rape pollination and I think it was probably just tiredness and no doubt laziness that caused it so I’m resting up for a few days and hopefully it will be fine. I really must look into some lifting gear to help move hives around more easily, perhaps that will be something I can report back on in a later podcast.

So this week is my regular Questions and Answers session, thank you to everyone over on my patreon page for submitting some really great questions for this month, and there’s lots of them so let’s get stuck into them straight away. First up with have a question from Ben Hoen, Hi Ben, thanks for the question.

Ben asks:

I have heard the reversing deeps (in a 2-deep 10-frame configuration) can help reduce swarm tendencies.  True?  If so, when's a good time to do that? And any advice on how best to do it and what to watch out for?

Context: I have 2 very strong hives (out of three) coming out of winter (they have 8 frames wide of bees in the top box).  My concern is that they might not fill up the lower box and think they are out of space.  One hive is not using the lower entrance at all currently.  Both are 2 weeks into drone rearing and still appear to be fairly light when hefting them.  I heard that by reversing the boxes you can encourage them to build up, filling up the less-full what would then be the upper box (after reversing it from its lower position), and therefore discourage swarming.

What do you think?

Hi Ben, I think you have almost answered the question for me. I’ve heard beekeepers talk about this as well although I’ve never practiced it myself. I think a lot depends on the type of bees you have and whether they fill the brood boxes fully or if there is additional available space that the bees can utilise. I would also say that a lot depends on your reasons for keeping the bees in a double brood box set up. For me, the vast majority of my bees are very happy in a single commercial brood box and I only double up if I intend splitting at some point during that season.

Focussing on your specific question and I’m in agreement with your comments, I suspect it may help with swarming if the bees have plenty of space in the bottom box because the brood nest will naturally move up into the top box and expand there, this will leave the bottom box relatively empty with stores in just some of the frames, the rest being put above the queen excluder in honey boxes or supers. By reversing the boxes you immediately give the brood area more space and the queen can move up and continue to lay in the newly available cells above. I suspect that’s the reason people say it can help reduce swarming. I hope that helps Ben.

Next up is a question from Charlie Edge

Charlie asks;

when would be the earliest you would commence splitting? 

Also if you did an artificial swarm is there anything wrong with splitting the queen cells down into 2/3frame nucs instead of leaving 1 cell in the original brood box? 

Hi Charlie,
 That’s such a good question and perfectly timed for a lot of beginner beekeepers out there. Unless you have a specific set up for breeding and rearing bees I would say wait wait wait.

So many beekeepers attempt to split colonies way too early and they get set back by cold weather which almost seems to cause a bigger delay that if they’d left them a month before splitting. Smaller colonies, that’s the splits you’ve made, have to work so much harder than full sized colonies at regulating colony temperature and this early in the Spring the weather fluctuates so much that small splits can get dangerously cold at night, so my advice is to wait until t

May 03, 2019
Episode 59: First Spring Inspections Get Started

Hi, I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to Episode 59 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. We’re finally into some early Spring inspections and I’m gearing up to move some bees to their first nectar flow of the season.

Welcome back and this week has seen that lovely warm early Spring disappear down a rabbit hole and we’re once again back down to more normal temperatures for the time of year. A lot of days over the past week have been down into the single figures, temperature wise and the last couple of days have seen frosts on the truck windscreen which is as much frost as I think I saw all Winter.

I’ve been able to carry out inspections on all of my colonies during that warm spell and I have to say on the whole they are looking really strong and healthy, I have colonies with as many as eight frames of sealed brood ready to explode into life and with our main early nectar flow of Oils Seed Rape just starting to flower it looks as though we might see an alignment of good fortune and a decent early crop of honey.

That said, it’s way to early to be counting jars of honey on the shelf from a crop that’s not yet past 10% in flower, a lot can change between now and then and we have to be careful not to get too far ahead of ourselves.

I posted a lengthy video to my Patreon page showing my first inspections at the University apiary, overall it was a really good inspection but it did throw up a number of questions that I’d like to go over and hopefully give some explanation as to why I did some of the manoeuvres with the hives that I did.

If you haven’t seen the video, it’s available on my Patreon page, check it out here.
I carried out inspections on three very different colonies on video to show my approach to each one. The first was a straightforward single brood box colony, the second was an overWintered nucleus colony still in a nuc box and the third was a colony that had been under-supered for the Winter.

I obviously inspected all of the colonies in the apiary but these were the three I chose to show on the video.

The first colony was the one that had a massive varroa drop when I treated with Oxalic Acid in the Winter, they looked really well and were building up strongly. One of the benefits of this apiary site is the huge amount of early season pollen that’s available to the bees, this means strong, healthy brood and this year the bees were able to get out very early because the weather was so mild. This brings me to the main question that I’ve been asked since posting the video and it revolves around when to add a first super to a colony after Winter.

As with most things in beekeeping it boils down to a judgement call but you can make some initial assessments of the colony and that will help you in making that decision of whether to add a super and queen excluder or not.

When I inspected this colony it was obvious they had grown and were doing well but that alone isn’t enough to make me add a super. What I did notice however, was the large amount of sealed brood that was already present in the brood box which already had a large number of adult bees in it. With so much sealed brood it’s important to remember some of the time lines and numbers. A single frame of brood will produce enough bees to fill a couple of seams between frames so if they emerged over a few days apart they would quickly become congested in a single brood box. It’s easy to see in this colony that the brood had been sealed  for several days prior to me inspecting so I would expect the workers to emerge around the time of the next inspection if I were doing weekly inspections. However, with the possibility of the weather preventing an inspection a week later it might be the case that I would inspect for nearly two weeks and by that time the bees would have definitely emerged filling the brood box, becoming congested and potentially triggering a

Apr 26, 2019
Episode 58: The Month Ahead - April

Welcome once again to my weekly podcast, That week seemed to fly by. I’ve been busy again at the workshop and when this podcast comes out to you on Friday I’ll be gearing up to head out to carry out first inspections on the remaining colonies I’ve not yet checked up on.
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I’m hoping the queen failures I encountered last week are the last of any immediate issues with our colonies. That will make a total of three failed colonies over Winter which is pretty good really in the big scheme of things.

Before I talk more about the colonies and my plans for the coming month I thought I’d update you on the progress out at the workshop.

Well, I seemed to have filled most of the available space pretty quickly. It’s starting to get a little cramped and I need to get a bit more organised. My main reason for taking so much equipment over there was to get it out of the rain. I need to make some repairs to a fair bit of very old equipment, mostly stuff I acquired when I first got started and is now starting to show it’s age. I have some old Langstroth floors that i bought as part of a job lot of Commercial beehive parts, what the beekeeper had done is screwed a piece of timber to the outside long edge on both sides and converted it to a square footprint to allow commercial and national brood boxes to sit on top. They work fine just like that but they are a little on the old side now and some of the wood had started to rot because water seeps in between the added pieces of wood and the main floor. It hasn’t helped with them being sat outside through the wetter months, although this Winter hasn’t been particularly wet or cold, even so, to sort them out I need them to dry out, hence I’ve moved them to the workshop where they are now sat prior to being repaired. There’s no point throwing them away only to have to buy new floors for my expansion plans.

I’m beginning to cultivate that “make do and mend” attitude lots of my fellow bee farmers have and I now understand why with the prices of beekeeping equipment seemingly increasing year on year. Even with price rises we could probably all do with a change in attitude regarding our throw away society, don’t repair it, just dump it and get a new one. We seem to have lost some of the skills in taking a broken thing and repairing it. Not everyone of course, Pete was telling me about an electric drill he managed to salvage because the battery had died and it’s previous owner just dumped it. Pete, for those of you who don’t know, has just started beekeeping and I’m mentoring in exchange for some help around the apiaries and at the workshop. It helps that he can bring hot coffee across the road to the workshop on his way to work but together we’ve made up a heap of kit recently and I’m excited to help him learn more beekeeping skills as the new season progresses.

If you’ve not got a mentor and you’ve only just begun beekeeping have a chat with members of your local association and see if you can go along to help out with a more experienced beekeeper some time. Stand, watch and listen, don’t be in too much of a rush to get your hands on frames, it’s amazing what you can learn from a more experienced beekeeper by watching how they handle their bees.

Anyway, back to Pete and the Drill, Pete managed to buy a replacement battery and the drill works just fine and it’s a decent brand too, so well done Pete for your “Make do and Mend” attitude.

It’s going to come in handy as I have a number of boxes that need mending too.

The workshop is about 10m by 12m so it’s nice size, some of you might have seen the recent videos shot in the workshop. I think it will become a makeshift studio when rain or cold stops us from getting into the bees

Apr 19, 2019
Episode 57: Selecting and Using a Smoker

Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to episode 57 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. I’ve been inspecting this week carrying out first Spring checks on some my colonies and it got me thinking about how I use a smoker, so here are my thoughts.

Websites mentioned in today's podcast:

My Website:
My additional videos and up to date podcasts Page: Norfolk Honey Co at Patreon
The smokers I currently use available from Bee-Equipment online

Welcome once again to my weekly podcast, If you want to catch up with the very latest podcast do check out my Patreon page where you can get up to date with all of my content as we head into the new season.

The last couple of days have been lovely, Spring days, each day has that characteristically chilly start but as the sun burns through the clouds so the day warms up and around lunchtime I’m talking T shirt weather and that’s just fine for checking the bees. To be specific I’m looking at something like 14 degrees, it’s on the edge for beginner beekeepers, but most experienced beekeepers who can inspect relatively quickly can get into a hive see what they need to see and get out without too much disruption.

Also, and I know I’m repeating myself here but know exactly why you’re checking your colonies. Have a check list in your head or even write it down if you need a reminder.

Size of colony, Large or small?, Food, Do they have enough? Brood, Is there a nice brood pattern forming, Eggs, Can you see eggs in any of the cells? Drones, are there any drones or drone cells? Queen cells, Unlikely in early March but keep an eye open, it’s been warm! Queen, but only if she’s spotted, don’t waste time searching for her.

That’s probably all you need on your list to start with, you can see most if not all of these things as you move through the frames with bees on, quickly and quietly, causing the minimum amount of fuss as you go. Finish off by moving all the frames back in place and close the hive down again. 

Remember to write up your inspection notes and grab cuppa while you think back to what you’ve seen and plan out the next steps.

Of course, you’ll already have checked over your notes prior to inspecting the colony so most of what you see shouldn’t be a huge surprise for the most part.

I’ve already picked out just three colonies that I intend to select as my queen rearing colonies. You have to be ruthless when selecting to raise queens, even if you have just three or four colonies, more often than not, one will stick out as a favourite or something about them will set them apart from the rest. It may be that they are super calm, or perhaps they produced more honey than the rest of your colonies put together last year. Whatever it is, if you just have a few colonies try to be very selective about the one you choose to raise new queens from. It will pay dividends in the end.

I have inspected a few hives this week, and for the most part all of them are doing fine, the warm Winter has allowed colonies to begin building up strongly and some colonies are filling with bees nicely. That’s not to say I’m going to rush out and add a couple of supers and a queen excluder, for me, it’s just too early still. There’s heaps of pollen coming in, mostly from willow now, bright yellow and covering the bees from tip to tail.

What I’m seeing are colonies with maybe 8 or 9 seams of bees and 4 or 5 frames of brood, a lot of that brood is capped and so when that emerges the colonies will have a sudden increase in bees and that’s when they are likely to need a little more space. That’s the point I shall add a queen excluder and super. Around 10 to 14 days time I would think and that’s way earlier than last year. We may be in for a good Spring, who knows?


Apr 12, 2019
Episode 56 - BeeTradex 2019 Visit

Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to episode 56 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. The start of the new beekeeping season is almost upon us and last weekend I travelled out of the County to the first major Trade show of the season, BeeTradex.

Links for this week's podcast mentions;

So, last weekend was the first of the major beekeeping trade shows here in the UK, BeeTradex, it’s held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire here in the UK, although it’s becoming much more than that with various lectures, AGM’s and business meetings also being held at the venue. The weather was much warmer this year and this resulted in a huge turnout of beekeepers and the show hall was constantly busy. The really nice thing was that the hall was large enough to accommodate everyone with room to move about and around displays without constantly bumping in to each other.

The weather was a bit bright and breezy, heavy rain showers blew across the event fair frequently so it was great that everything was under one roof. Those people who were smart had bought advanced tickets as the queue for buying tickets at one point must have been 100 beekeepers long if not more. The main hall was bright and roomy as I said and apart from wanting to chat to equipment suppliers and manufacturers I was also there for the Bee Farmers Meetings which were being held from midday so my morning was a little bit of a whirlwind.

It was great to stop and chat with a few beekeepers who had seen my videos, particularly those who are supporters on my Patreon page, particularly Gregg and Jackie Palmer who were lovely. It was nice to hear Gregg’s plans for the coming season and chat about how he was enjoying his beekeeping.

I was funny to hear how many people were really surprised that I was so tall, I’m 6’3” but I assume you don’t get to see that on the videos, for those of you who did stop to say hello, now you know why I have back problems!

The actual trade show itself was well attended by suppliers, there must have been 50 or 60 stands and i would think there were well over two thousand beekeepers passing through the main doors. Add to this the lectures that were available it all added up to a great day out for everyone.

Some of the highlights for me on the day were actually meeting some old friends  as well as making new friends as I wandered around the stands. I have to wish good luck to my very dear friend Sandra Gray who has just taken up the post of National Bee Inspector for the National Bee Unit. Sandra and I used to work together as seasonal Bee Inspectors and she is not only a fantastic beekeeper and inspector but a great administrator too so I’m sure she will do a fantastic job and with the ongoing challenge of the Asian Hornet incursion I’m sure she will have her hands full.

I also stopped at the Modern Beekeeping trade stand to chat with Paul Beardmore. Paul supplies the Honey Paw hives and the Zukan Apipasta that I’ve been using with very good results. It looks like he is expanding and has taken on the Modern Beekeeping business who sell the Paradise Honey Poly Hives and this will compliment his Honey Paw Langstroth hives as well as the various Zukan feed products and other bits of kit.

I tried to get a moment with the very nice people at Maisemore Apiaries, you’ll possibly remember they applied me with their own Commercial Poly Hives to try out in 2017. Those hives are doing great so far and the bees in them have come through the Winter strongly. I say I tried to chat with them because they were so busy I just couldn’t get anyone to stop for long enough to say hello, even Caroline was so busy she didn’t even see&

Apr 05, 2019
Episode 55: Monthly Q&A March 2019

This week sees the return of my regular monthly Questions and Answers podcast and we have some cracking questions as always.
Web addresses and links mentioned in todays podcast:
My Support page;
My Website;

David at Buzzed Bees;
Near Native Bees - Bibba
Apipasta Syrup and Fondant -

Mar 29, 2019
Episode 54: Winter Losses and How To Rebuild

Having just discovered my first overwintered queen less colony I wanted to discuss Winter losses and how to bounce back this Spring.

For the very latest Podcast check out my page here
You can also sign up to my fortnightly newsletter via my website

Well, It’s been another week for record breaking temperatures here in the UK, we’ve hit temperatures in excess of 20 degrees centigrade where the seasonal average should be more like 6 or 7 degrees.

A lot has been made of the fact that last year we were in the grips of a very Icy blast from continental Europe which was named “The beast from the East” with overnight temperatures down in the negative double figures and snow and ice covering the hives, what an incredible change. It has given beekeepers a fantastic opportunity to get out and check colonies way earlier than anyone would normally suggest and this is where a dose of common sense is required. Temperatures are once again falling and the forecast is that there may even be snow next week in some parts of the UK.

I grabbed for one of the beekeeping books from my shelf that has a month by month guide for beginner beekeepers, each month has jobs to do and what to look out for. In the section for February it suggests hefting to gauge the weight and making sure the entrance is not blocked by dead bees and snow.

Sensibly, there is no mention of inspecting bee hives as you might expect.

If you’re a beginner beekeeper and have such a book or you’re looking online at what to do each month, remember it’s just a guide, you must take in to account the local conditions that you face and not just plow on with instructions without giving it some thought.

I’ve had probably the best Winter I can remember in a very long time, just one colony that appears queen less and without brood, all the rest are alive and well. Some of those colonies are a little on the small side and would possibly have succumbed in a harsher Winter but this year with the very mild weather and the addition of some fondant to help them along they have seen out February and now head into March.

They are a long way from being safe, March can be such a fickle month, one day warm and inviting, the next cold and harsh, so we have to be wary and not relax our guard but for the most part they should cope. Last year I wasn’t so lucky and suffered the lose of far more colonies, and it occurred to me that this can be such a very difficult time for beekeepers regardless of the number of colonies.

I’m always devastated when I lose a colony of honeybees even though I have nearly 70 and I’m sure it feels  as bad if not worse if you are a beekeeper with just one or two colonies and suffer the lose of one or both.

Very often it’s not the beekeepers fault, colonies die out for a number of reasons and I’ve talked about these previously. Sometimes it is the beekeepers fault, maybe through lack of experience or bad timing but as long as it is learning experience and you’re able to take steps to try to prevent it happening again it can be viewed as a positive learning experience.

So having suffered this loss what do you do. Firstly, the hive or hives need to be blocked up and moved to a position ready for cleaning, whether it be one hive or ten hives, get them away from the apiary ready fro cleaning but first remember to block up the entrance, you really don’t want other bees robbing out a dead hive, again, I’ve discussed the reasons for this in previous podcasts but disease in honeybees spreads very quickly so don’t give it a helping hand by leaving the lid off the cookie jar.

Once you have the hive in a location for cleaning out the first step is to check out what was going on inside, it’s time to turn detective and try to work out what happened and why the colony failed to get through the winter.

When you take off the roof and crown board you may det<

Mar 29, 2019
Episode 53: Crazy February Weather

Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to episode 53 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. As we head into the last week of February we’re expecting to be wearing shorts and T shirts as the crazy warm weather continues, the bees enjoy an early break from the Winter’s cold and I’ve finally found somewhere to expand and build my beekeeping business.

Welcome back to the podcast, the crazy weather continues, average top temperatures for February in our region are historically around 7 to 7.5 degrees C according to the Met Office data I was checking this morning and it looks likely we’ll double that this week with temperatures hitting 14 and possibly 15 degrees or higher. Winter hasn’t finished with us yet I’m sure, but I always look at February as the month where the Snow and Ice takes hold and we freeze our way into March but this year it looks like we’re on a mini heatwave as warm air is being dragged up from the Canary Islands and I’m sure lots of beekeepers will be jumping at the chance to have a look in their beehives.

This is where you expect me to say don’t inspect but I know some of you just can’t help yourselves so what I would say is make sure you’re going in with a plan and know exactly what you are looking for and why you’re inspecting. I’ve touched on why and how to inspect this early in the season before so I’m not going through all of that again today, just be sure to go carefully and quickly with your goal in mind.

I’ve been round all of my colonies and put fondant on the ones I wanted to feed. Everything’s looking good and with just the one colony currently being queen less we appear to heading out of February with plenty of strong hives for the start of the new season.

So I won’t be inspecting any bees this weekend, although I might have a quick look at the CBPV nuc I have at my allotment. I saw the bees flying from the nuc yesterday so they are still alive but I think the virus still has a firm grip on them. One of the benefits of living in the UK is we have a very active core of beekeeping associations all helping their beekeeping members to improve and develop their skills as beekeepers. One such association is the Cambridgeshire Beekeeping Association who hold an Annual one day event in March with guest speakers talking about a range of topics, this year I’m particularly interested to listen to Professor Giles Budge from Newcastle University who is talking about the ongoing research into Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. This is the research to which I contributed a sample of my bees. Hopefully they can come up with a plan to help beekeepers who find this infection in their colonies.

The other reason for heading to the Cambridgeshire talks is they always provide a fantastic lunch! Food is never far away from my thoughts. On the subject of food, particularly food with honey as an ingredient, I saw a fantastic recipe for honey and peach pie on the tv last night. One of my favourite tv celebrity chefs, Rick Stein made this really simple dish so I’m going to give it a try and will post my efforts on video to the patreon page as normal. I hope those of you that have subscribe to the Patreon page have enjoyed my cookery exploits this Winter, I’ve certainly enjoyed making them. The Honey and Peach Pie looks really simple to make and has very few ingredients, I’ll post a blog with my efforts and recipe in the next couple of weeks so you can have a go too if you want to.

It’s going to be a busy couple of months coming up as I’ve been putting off some essential preparatory work for the new season. I’ve still not made up all of the frames and hive parts that I’ve recently bought and there is still some cleaning to be done. The reason for the delay is also the reason I have some exciting news to share this week. I don’t very often share personal stuff but it’s all relevant beekeeping challenges and I’m sure I’m not alone in the frustrations I’ve faced over the past few years.

As yo

Mar 22, 2019
Episode 52: One Year On

Today I’m celebrating my podcast’s first birthday! Fifty Two podcasts recorded and published.

I’ve covered quite a varied number of beekeeping topics over the past year and also attempted a few interviews which have been a little nerve wracking! I’m not a journalist or professional presenter, just a beekeeper looking to share my knowledge and views with other interested listeners. Hopefully I’ll be able to try out a few more interviews in the coming year.

You may be aware that I am sending out a fortnightly beekeeping newsletter with the same name as the podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet, it’s early days at the moment and I’m trying to keep it light and image rich, so no massive pages of text to trawl through just a few interesting pictures with hopefully some useful links. I’ll be promoting various events and offers through the newsletter too, so do sign up, it’s quick and easy, just go to my website and leave your details when the sign up pop up appears.

Websites I referred to in the podcast:

Talking of events, we are fast approaching the Spring Sales events here in the UK, The first major event on Saturday 9th March is called BeeTradex, billed as The Biggest Beekeeping Show in 2019 it is a one day trade show with various lectures and talks being given. It’s held at the agricultural show grounds at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. It’s also a chance to pick up a bargain from one of the beekeeping equipment manufacturers or suppliers as they usually have discounts available. One of the nicest things about BeeTradex is that it gives me the chance to catch up with friends within the industry and also chat with fellow beekeepers who I would not normally have a chance to get together with. If you’re going along please do stop me and say hello. I’ll pop the Beetradex website link in the show notes.

With the temperatures on the rise, the bees have certainly been getting out and about, clusters have been breaking up, not that we’ve had many very cold days but the nights have been chilly falling to below freezing. I was out putting some fondant on some colonies a few days ago and was happy to see so many colonies with large numbers of bees, I would say an average of six seams of bees but some were around 9 seams which is excellent. That can obviously lead to a food shortage, particularly if the colony gets quite active in the warmer weather but fails to find any early food source. We’ve had lots of snowdrops in flower locally and now the crocus is exploding into flower with this milder weather. A vital source of food and we’re very lucky to have so many crocus plants flowering near our apiaries. It seems to be the number one Spring flowering plant of choice for our Norwich City council who appear to have planted millions of bulbs over the last few years all around our fine City.

That said, it is still February and the weather can as easily turn cold and wintery again so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I spoke to a beekeeper a couple of days ago who said if the weather stays warm he was going to inspect at the weekend, I think this is a little too soon, I’m certainly not going to be inspecting my colonies although there are a couple I’m keeping a close eye on.

The first colony is the nuc I have in my allotment apiary, that’s the one with the Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, I popped some fondant on them last week, they’re still alive although the entrance was badly clogged up with dead bees so I think they are still suffering. I’d like to get into them as early as possible and see what’s going on.

The other colony is at one of my out apiaries, I was out treating with the Oxalic Acid trickle method a while back and as I finished treating this particular hive and was putting the roof back on a larger than normal bees flew across my eye line. The more experienced beekeepers out there will

Mar 08, 2019
Episode 51 Queen Rearing Techniques for this Season

Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to episode 51 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. This week it’s time to look at some of my favourite queen rearing techniques and one that I’ve particularly struggled with.

Gain access to more content, videos, early release podcasts and more at

The Nicot System that I am using was kindly supplied to me by Bee Equipment, online beekeeping equipment suppliers,

Welcome back to another weekly podcast, seems strange to think that it’s been a full year since I started my podcasts, next week sees podcast 52 and with the exception of a couple of week’s break over Christmas I’ve managed to stick to my commitment of delivering to you a weekly podcast about beekeeping, I’m delighted to have reached this milestone but I couldn’t have done it without the support from those of you who take the time out of your busy schedules to drop me an occasional message of support, so thank you for that.

If there’s anyone out there listening who would like to support me further do take a look at my patreon page where you can gain access to more content and as we’re heading towards the start of the new season there’s never been a better time to get on board and through the active season I’ll be producing at least three videos per week with only one of those being available on YouTube the rest will only be available on my patreon page, As usual I’ll post a link in the notes to accompany this podcast.

So, Queen Rearing….

It might seem a little early to be talking about queen rearing, it is only the beginning of February, but, the season will soon be upon us and if you haven’t planned what you are going to do you could find yourself missing the boat and playing catch up instead of enjoying a full season.

I thought I would just talk through some of the queen rearing techniques I’ve used over recent times and give you some thoughts on which technique might best suit you and your beekeeping.

I’ll try to go through them in terms of the quantity of queen cells you want for your season starting with the back garden beekeeper with just a couple of colonies and work through to the methods that have the ability to produce hundreds of queen cells.

Mar 01, 2019
Episode 50: The Dark Art of Hefting

Today is the 1st of February, well, actually, it’s the 29th January but the first release of this episode is on the 1st of February, if you get what I mean. That means we are just weeks away from a possible start to the new season and our first inspections. Now I’m not suggesting you leap in to your hives in February and I’m also not suggesting that you don’t, but, from February onwards everything is so weather dependant. If we get a warm, Spring like day, then go ahead and have a quick look. If you’ve not listened to last week’s podcast, that’s podcast 49, check it out because that one explains what I do during my first inspections.

There are things to be getting on with and it won’t harm if you go around hefting each hive to heck up on it. That said, hefting needs some explanation because if you’re not experienced with it you may draw the wrong conclusions from it and lose colonies. That sounds rather dramatic, and I’m not trying to scare you but let me explain.

If you only have a few hives it’s quite possible you can remember the general feel of each colony as you heft them through the Winter, which reminds me, if you haven’t hefted any of your colonies at all over Winter it might not help that much if you start now. You see, what you’re looking for is a comparison between the last time you hefted and now, also, a comparison between colonies within the apiary is helpful. But this is where inexperience can give you a false impression. Let’s imagine I have an apiary with ten bee hives in it all the same type, Commercials.

I’ve been hefting them regularly throughout the Winter so far, every other week since the beginning of December. So far they have all appeared to be around the same weight, not overly heavy but not what you might call light.

This time however things have changed.

six of the colonies all appear to have about the same weight, one appears extremely light by comparison and three feel quite heavy.

Let’s start with the light one, remember if you’re going to remove the crown board always have your bee suit on and smoker lit and at the ready. You may never need them but the one day you don’t do this will be the day the colony gets grumpy and chases you down the garden path.

So, the light colony, when I look inside I find a reasonably large cluster, alive and well. I would do no more than pop a large pack of fondant on to the holes in the crown board and leave them to it. I have fondant in 1kg packages so I would place two packs on this colony. It appears they are well and healthy and just a bit light on stores. Close them up and check on them again next week.

The first of the heavy hives has a smaller cluster of bees than the one we just looked at however, checking on the frame next to the cluster I find it is full of liquid food stores and the bees have been using it. This colony appears to be fine, just a frugal colony that doesn’t use as much of their stores as other colonies. I can close them up without doing anything.

The second heavy hive has a smaller cluster, still alive but tight up against the side wall of the hive. Checking the frame nearest the cluster there is very little food in it apart from a large band of solid Ivy honey that has crystallised in the cells. looking at other frames in the box there appears to be plenty of liquid honey for them but the bees just don’t seem able to move over to it. This appears to be the start of isolation starvation and we’ve caught them just in time.

Isolation starvation is pretty common, a cluster of bees finds itself trapped away from food stores and for me I find it’s normally because they can’t bridge across solid stores of Ivy and get stuck in a spell of cold weather.

It could also be that the bees, having eaten their way through a couple of central frames, move the cluster towards the warm side of the hive where the sun has started to warm it up but in doing so leave an empty void with no food.

Feb 22, 2019
Episode 48: Oxalic Acid Sublimation On Location

Be Warned! Oxalic Acid Sublimation for the treatment of Varroa is a healthy and safety exercise first and foremost. You must take every precaution to ensure the safety of both yourself and those around you.
Today we're on location treating our colonies with Oxalic Acid Sublimation using the ProVap220 which is available from my website
Pete and I travelled to my University apiary to treat my colonies with Oxalic Acid to try to kill more varroa mites before the season kicks off. Remember, we are trying to kill phoretic mites which are those hitching a lift on the backs (and underside) of our honeybees.
Following lots of reading it appears that 2.25g of Oxalic Acid Dihydrate was the best dose to use to kill the maximum number of varroa whilst at the same time keeping honeybee mortality to a minimum. You can watch the video of our treatment process on my Patreon page or my YouTube channel "The Norfolk Honey Company".
We rely upon the support of patrons on our Patreon page to continue to provide content for all beekeepers. If you feel you could support us please do take a look at that page where options start from as little as $1.
The paper that I refer to in the podcast can be found here: Hasan Al Toufailia, Luciano Scandian & Francis L W Ratnieks (2015) Towards integrated control of varroa: 2)comparing application methods and doses of oxalic acid on the mortality of phoretic Varroa destructor mites and their honey bee hosts, Journal of Apicultural Research, 54:2, 108-120, DOI: 10.1080/00218839.2015.1106777

Feb 15, 2019
Episode 49: The First Inspection of Spring

Hi I’m Stewart Spinks and welcome to episode 49 of my podcast, Beekeeping Short and Sweet. This week I’m looking forward to the start of the new season with some thoughts of what to look out for in that first inspection of the season.

Although it’s quite cold outside and the frosts have begun in earnest, the sun is shining brightly today unlike yesterday when we had quite dense fog for most of the day, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Spring will be here soon.

The Hazel catkins are in full flower right now and a gentle tap showers the air with a cloud of pollen. I’ve collected some to look at under the microscope and to show how easy microscopy is, especially if you keep an eye out for my online beginners course coming soon.

Anyway, with it looking really lovely and sunny outside my mind drifted towards the start of the new season, it’s still some way off as this is still late January but just like those Summer holidays you book in Winter, they come around very quickly and are gone in a flash. So I Thought I would take a look ahead to what I’ll be doing in a few weeks time when we start to see the daytime temperatures increase and the bees start to get out in earnest.

Keeping a watchful eye on your colonies through the Winter is essential, although this doesn’t have to happen on a weekly basis it’s good to check up on them regularly to make sure there are flying bees and they have enough food stores. As the warmer weather approaches the temptation to carry out a thorough inspection grips many beginner beekeepers and too many put their bees in a dangerous position by inspecting far too early in the season.

The reason the colonies are put in danger isn’t because the beekeeper is clumsy or that there is some hidden risk it’s simply that the bee hive gets opened when the outside air temperature is far too cold to be carrying out any meaningful inspection.

As we head into Spring, the colonies should be building up nicely, with an increased brood area as the queen increases her egg laying day by day. Unfortunately this coincides with the Winter bees, those that have kept the colony alive throughout the dark , cold days of December, January and February, dying out and reducing the overall number of bees in the hive. Those bees left have to work harder to keep the larvae fed and protected, this mainly means protected from the cold outside temperatures. Remember the brood area is going to be kept at something like 34-35 degrees C and if you’re splitting open the brood nest in temperatures of single figures the bees are going to have a really difficult time in bringing the brood area back up to the correct temperature. the result of this is that it leads to something called Chilled Brood. What tends to happen is the bees will only be able to get the temperature of the brood area up from the middle out and so larvae on the outer perimeter of the brood nest are left in temperatures that are far too low for them to survive.

When you finally get back in to the colony to inspect you may find a ring of brood on the outside of the brood nest area that has died, that’s chilled brood and generally the fault of the beekeeper.

Better to sit on your hands and not inspect the bees until the daytime temperature is at least 15 degrees C, some beekeepers call it T shirt weather but I saw a chap out a few days ago in a T shirt and it must have been around 8 degrees C, so better to go by the thermometer rather than the goosebumps.

You’ll already know if you have a live colony in the hive as you’ll have been watching them over the previous few weeks so that first inspection is to check how they have coped through the Winter.

Pick a day when it’s not blowing a gale too, nothing chills a brood nest quicker than a keen beekeeper in a Spring brisk breeze. So wait for a calm, warm day and aim for the warmest part of the day, around lunchtime if possible.

The plan here is to be

Feb 15, 2019
Episode 47: My New Year Plans for 2019

Planning for the new season is an important part of every year, making sure everything is in place for a successful start to the new beekeeping season.
My plans are fairly straighforward but it's always important to get something committed to paper so you know where you're heading. Once you have it fixed you can go back to your plan and make sure you're on track.

Feb 01, 2019
Episode 46: Happy Christmas

This week is a brief review of this season's beekeeping. Another season gone and another Christmas upon us. I'm grateful for all the help and support I've had over the last year and want to thank everyone who has supported me in trying to bring beekeeping to as many people as possible.

Jan 11, 2019
Episode 45: Floors, Christmas Parties and Honey Regs!

More beekeeping chat about preparing our hives for the Winter oxalic acid treatments, the local beekeeping club has it's Christmas party and a start of a discussion about the Honey Regulations 2015

Jan 04, 2019
Episode 44: Questions and Answers for December

My regular monthly Questions and Answers podcast with some timely questions about feeding bees overWinter.
Check out my full range of microscopes and books on my website
You can find Randy Oliver's website at

Dec 28, 2018
Episode 43 - Jobs in the Apiary for December

Although there are not many jobs to be attended to in December there are a couple of important issues to be sorted. Making sure woodpecker damage doesn't occur it's important to get some protection on during this month.

I'm also thinking about repairs, renewal and replacement of equipment particularly my hive floors. I need to make up around 40 or more in total and have an idea for making up my own this Winter.
Remember to cehck out the new range of microscopes

I hope you enjoy the podcast this week. Next week, it's time for my Q&A session.

Dec 21, 2018
Episode 42: Brunel Microscopes Interview with Alan Potter

In this week's podcast I travel down to Chippenham, Wiltshire. UK., to interview Alan Potter, Managing Director of Brunel Microscopes.
Brunel Microscopes supply equipment to a wide range of organisations and beekeepers for a small but important part of their customer base.
The exciting news is that we are now able to announce we have become Authorised Distributors of Brunel Microscopes and can supply all the equipment any beekeeper might possibly want in order to identify pollen, diseases and carry out dissections.
Do check out our website for all the relevant information.

Dec 14, 2018
Episode 41: Rendering Beeswax

Well, I don’t know about you guys but for me, As the season progresses we seem to be constantly accumulating beeswax in a range of different guises, brace comb, burr comb, frames that have become too old and need replacing, frames that have been drawn out just the ways the bees want it but completely at odds with how we would like it. 
The best way to deal with it is to render it down and save it for reuse with another project or take it to a show for wax exchange.

Dec 07, 2018
Episode 40 - Questions and Answers for November

My regular monthly questions and answers session where I reply to questions submitted via my Patreon page
Questions about woodpecker protection, the dreaded wax moth in supers and the use of Oxalic Acid sublimation. The latter question I was able to answer with some details from a research paper and I promised to detail the paper here so her is the reference:
Hasan M Al Toufailia, Esmaeil Amiri, Luciano Scandian, Per Kryger & Francis
L W Ratnieks (2014) Towards integrated control of varroa: effect of variation in hygienic behaviour among honey bee colonies on mite population increase and deformed wing virus incidence, Journal of Apicultural Research, 53:5, 555-562, DOI:10.3896/IBRA.

Nov 30, 2018
Episode 39: November Jobs, Fat and Thirsty Bees!

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you Autumn has finally arrived and last weekend here in the UK, we turned our clocks back. With the turning back of the clocks we suddenly got hit with some colder weather and we’ve now had a couple of frosty mornings where I had to scrape the ice off the Windscreen of the pick up.

All of this means the one thing - Cluster time!

It’s a quiet period for us beekeepers and hopefully you’re sat listening to this with a hot drink and a smug grin on your face knowing you’ve completed everything you needed to in order to best prepare your bees for the coming Winter.

Although the bees are not as active, they will be popping out of the hive on cleansing flights and gathering water when the sun warms the daytime temperatures sufficiently. There may be some very late Ivy that they can still forage on, you might see some yellow pollen coming back into the hive if this is the case.

I recently spent some time reading about Fat Bees and Thirsty Bees! It's amazing how, when you dig a little deeper into the lives of the the honeybee just how everything fits so well together.
If you'd like to follow up on the various references and articles that I've been reading check them out here.
Tomas Erban, Petr Jedelsky, Dalibor Titera. Two-dimensional proteomic analysis of honeybee, Apis mellifera, winter worker hemolymph. Apidologie, Springer Verlag, 2013, 44 (4), pp.404- 418. <10.1007/s13592-012-0190-5>. 
Amdam, GV, K Norberg, A Hagen, SW Omholt (2003) Social exploitation of vitellogenin. PNAS 100(4): 1799-1802.

Altmann, G. & Gontalsl-ti, H. (1961) Uber den Wasscrhaushalt der Winterbienen.
Symposium Genet. Biol. llal. 12 : 308 –328
Chauvin, R. (1968) (Editor) Traité de Biologie de l‘Abeille. Musson er Cie, Paris, 2:
Furgala, Basil (1975), quoted by Grout, R. (Editor). The Hive and the Honey Bee,
(Rev.Edition) Hamilton, lll. USA. pp 472-473
Jeffree, E.P. & Allen, M.D. (1956) The influence of colony size and Nosema disease on the rate of population loss in Winter.
Amdam, GV, et al. (2004a) Hormonal control of the yolk precursor vitellogenin regulates immune function and longevity in honeybees. Exp Gerontol.39(5):767-73.

Amdam, GV, K Hartfelder, K Norberg, A Hagen, SW Omholt (2004b) Altered Physiology in Worker Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Infested with the Mite Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae): A Factor in Colony Loss During Overwintering? Journal of Economic Entomology 97(3): 741-747.

Amdam GV, et al. (2005) ; Social reversal of immunosenescence in honey bee workers Experimental Gerontology 40(12): 939-947

Amdam, GV, K Norberg, SW Ohmolt (2005b) Higher vitellogenin concentrations in honey bee workers may be an adaptation to life in temperate climates. Insects Sociaux 52(4)

Anon. 2007 Genetic links illuminate bee social life. Australian Life Scientist 13/03/200

Keller, I, P Fluri, A Imdorf (2005) Pollen nutrition and colony development in honey bees. Bee World 86(1): 3-10.

Kleinschmidt and Kondos (1977) The effect of dietary protein on colony performance. Proc. 26th Int. Cong. Apic., Adelaide (Apimondia).

Lin, H., C. Dusset & Z.Y. Huang. 2004. Short-term changes in juvenile hormone titres in honey bee workers due to stress. Apidologie 35: 319-328.

Mussen, Eric (2007) FOOD for thought. Apicultural Newsletter March/April 2007. Dr. Mussen’s newsletters are some of the best references on issues related to almond pollination.

Nelson, CM, KE Ihle, MK Fondrk, RE Page Jr., GV Amdam (2007) The Gene vitellogenin Has Multiple Coordinating Effects on Social Organization. Public Library of Science

Nov 23, 2018
Episode 38: American Foul Brood & European Foul Brood

As we head into the Autumn and Winter months I wanted to revisit some of the more important aspects of beekeeping. this week I wanted to talk about the two foul brood diseases, American Foul Brood and European Foul brood. 
A lot of the information I’m discussing in today’s podcast comes directly from the National Bee Units Foul Brood  Disease of Honey Bees Booklet that can be downloaded free of charge from the BeeBase website

Nov 16, 2018
Episode 37: My Winter Oxalic Acid Treatments

Oxalic Acid treatments over the Winter period are a great way to remove unwanted varroa mites prior to the start of the new season, in today's podcast I share my thoughts on how I will be treating my colonies this year.
Check out the Sublimator that I will be using on my website where you will find it available to purchase
Two of the very best informative beekeeping websites that I mention in the podcast are Scientific Beekeeping which can be found here:
and The Apiarist which can be found here:
The scientific paper that I mention in the podcast can be found here:
Please do leave message via my website or on my patreon page

Nov 09, 2018
Episode 36: Monthly Q&A - October
Nov 02, 2018
Episode 35: Beekeeping Jobs in the Apiary for October
Oct 26, 2018
Episode 34: Microscopy for Beekeepers
Learn all about getting started in Microscopy for Beekeepers. During the long, cold Winter months it's nice to have something beekeeping related to turn to just to keep building on the knowledge gained in the season just ended. Microscopy is an excellent way to learn new skills and learn more about how our honeybees function. It is also a way of being able to self-diagnose some disease issues without having to wait for help or the following Spring when the bees become active again. Nosema is one of the diseases you'll be able to identify and after a little practice, it takes very little time. The identification of pollen is one of the fun aspects of microscopy for beekeepers, again it's a simple technique once practiced a few times and can open up a world of fascinating shapes and structures. It will also allow you to identify what plants your bees have been foraging on. All in all it's a great "Off Season" hobby that will enhance your beekeeping and see out those long Winter months as we wait to start over with our beekeeping in the Spring. Check out microscope kits at Brunel Microscopes Get up to date with all of my podcasts as they are released by visiting
Oct 19, 2018
Episode 33: CBPV Update
Oct 12, 2018
Episode 32: September Q&A
Our monthly Questions and Answers session with questions sent in from our Patreon page If you're interested in checking out the Jumbo Green Rapid Feeders from Maismore then here's the link
Oct 05, 2018
Episode 31: Uniting Weak Colonies in September
Jobs around the apiary for September include the important job of uniting weaker colonies, today I discuss this and some other important jobs to carry out this month. Don't forget you can catch up with the very latest podcast release on my patreon page here you can not only listen to the latest podcast but watch all of my beekeeping videos and at the same time support my project to bring more beekeeping content to all beekeepers around the world.
Sep 28, 2018
Episode 30: A Rainy Day Out
Sep 21, 2018
Episode 29: Autumn Feeding Honeybees
Feeding your honeybees in preparation for Autumn and Winter can be quite a traumatic time but never fear, help is at hand! In today's podcast, we follow on from last week's chat about making sure you have a queenright colony and that any treatments for varroa have been properly applied. I discuss feeding in general and more specifically how I feed my bees in preparation for the long Winter months ahead that seem to be approaching very fast indeed!
Sep 14, 2018
Episode 28: Autumn Approaches
With August fast passing us by it's time to get the colonies in good shape for the Autumn and Winter ahead. I find there are three things I need to get sorted to make sure my colonies are in the best shape possible to get through the Winter successfully and ready for a fast start in the New Year. Make sure we have queenright colonies, make sure they have been treated for varroa where necessary and get enough feed into them to make sure they have enough stores to see them through the Winter.
Sep 07, 2018
Episode 27: Monthly Q&A for August
Beekeeping Short and Sweet, a beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! This month's Q&A features wax moth, hive types, dark honey and a range of other interesting questions.
Aug 31, 2018
Episode 26: August in and Around the Apiary
August already! How on earth did that happen, this is episode 26 and I have no idea how the weeks have just raced passed. For me August is a kind of a bittersweet month, on the one hand it’s really exciting as this is when I take off our Summer crop of honey and on the other hand it kind of signals the push towards the end of the season. For me, there is no move to the heather to grab a late crop of honey and I don’t have any Mid-Summer into autumn flowering crops to benefit from so it really is a time to take stock of the honey production that we have achieved to the end of July and this first week of August is our extraction week. How you deal with your bees locally will of course depend greatly on whether you have alternative crops to take your bees to but for me my focus now turns to extraction, treatments for varroa when necessary and then into autumn I’ll feed to ensure the colonies are as well prepared as I can make them for the Winter that is fast approaching! Of course, I’m saying all of this in the ongoing return of the heatwave we have been experiencing here in the UK this Summer, it seems a bit daft to be talking about Winter but now is the time to get prepared. So let’s look at what I’m up to this month and that may give you some pointers as to what you might want to do or maybe plan to do depending on your local conditions. One of the important jobs for me is making sure I have enough storage space for the honey crop and with that in mind I had to order in some additional honey buckets. This year, once again I've ordered them from C.Wynn Jones, lovely people who are always ready to help and their have some very competitive prices. Check out their website at Don't forget you can listen to my podcasts as they are released to my patrons by signing up at
Aug 24, 2018
Episode 25: Clearing Honey Boxes and Man Flu!
Clearing our Honey boxes ready for extraction we prefer the Rhombus clearer boards but there are several different types out there, In this week's podcast I describe a range of methods of clearing supers and succumb to a bout of Summertime Man Flu!
Aug 17, 2018
Episode 24: Mid Season Update
Beekeeping short and sweet. A beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper in fact, just like me! With local schools about to kick out for the Summer holiday’s and our politicians about to go off on their Summer recess I figured it would be a good time to sum up how the season has progressed so far by way of a school report, I remember those school reports I received when I was a kid, just the thought of them sends a shiver down my spine! I never really looked forward to them, anyway, I’ve divided my report into several sections just like the subjects at school and I’ll talk a little about each one in turn.
Aug 10, 2018
Episode 23: Monthly Q&A - July
Beekeeping Short and Sweet - A beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! This week's podcast is our monthly Q&A, my thanks to everyone that posted questions and comments, it helps me a lot to be able to address genuine questions. Please do take a look at Paul Beardmore's Happy Valley Honey website for the Poly Langstroth Hives. Any questions for next months podcast Q&A can be left via my Patreon page or on my website contacts page
Aug 03, 2018
Episode 22: The Apiary in July
Beekeeping Short and Sweet, a podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span! Welcome once again to my weekly podcast, it’s a really busy time of the year for me at the moment, notwithstanding all of the videos, podcast, occasional blog post and social media output, the bees are definitely in need of constant attention. Talking of social media don’t forget we’re on Instagram and Twitter, search for @norfolkhoneyco and you should find me. This week I'm chatting about the apiary in July, things to watch out for, things to do and of course things to enjoy. The website for checking out varroa drop rates can be feound at My thanks to those of you listening via the Patreon page I really appreciate your support. If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a support page where you can help me create more content by signing up to one of my reward tiers and in return you gain access to additional content and support from me. These start from as little as one dollar per month so I believe with the regular, quality content I’m producing one dollar represents excellent value for money. Check it out If you’ve not yet started beekeeping and looking for help and assistance, pop over to my website, and I’ll do all I can to help out with suggestions and recommendations for you.
Jul 27, 2018
Episode 21: Queen Rearing using the Nicot System
Queen rearing using the Nicot system has to be one of the easiest methods of producing a reasonable number of queen cells with the minimum amount of hassle. In today's podcast, I discuss a previous method of queen rearing called the Alley method which turned out to be my favourite from last season and then how I use the Nicot system for raising around 15-20 queen cells per batch. The Nicot system was sent to me to try out last year by UK based online beekeeping specialists Bee Equipment. Check out their website, There are cheaper versions available online but they seem to be poorly made when compared to the original system, I'd always rather opt for kit that's going to work rather than a cheaper version that is going to frustrate me! Check out my Patreon page here;
Jul 20, 2018
Episode 20: Summer Varroa Treatment and Chrinic Bee Paralysis Virus
Beekeeping Short and Sweet, a beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! This week I take a look at my Summer Varroa Treatments and discuss a worrying infection in one of my colonies, Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. Through most of the Summer I use a mechanical method of removing varroa mites but when I split colonies I switch to a treatment. In today's podcast, I talk about how I use this. Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has taken hold of one of my colonies and I'm not sure there's much I can do with it except wait and see! I have carried out a bit of research in the last month reading quite a few scientific articles about the problem but there doesn't seem to be much practical help out there for beekeepers. The website I used for the Varroa Calculation is the National Bee Units website The scientific papers I have read can be found using Google Scholar and searching Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. The primary source of my reading is a book called Honeybee Pests, Predators and Diseases edited by Morse and Flottum. You can grab a copy of this book via a link on my website Check out my support page at were you can help me create more content and access special rewards in return. Keep the messages coming and I'll catch up with you all next week.
Jul 13, 2018
Episode 19: Spring Honey Crop and the Dyce Method
Jul 06, 2018
Episode 18 - Monthly Q&A - June
My Monthly Beekeeping Q&A, Supers, swarms, Queens and more! A beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! This month we have some great questions relating to the National Bee Unit here in the UK, When to feed swarms, how to get bees to move into a super when they refuse and which way round to put on a queen excluder. I also discuss colonies that swarm and then return to the hive, when is it too late to start a first year nuc, drone foundation in the supers and much more. The NBU can be found at Sign up to my patreon page for lots of rewards at
Jun 29, 2018
Episode 17: Monthly Apiary Update - June
June In The Apiary! Extracting Early Season Honey, Swarming and Inspections. Beekeeping Short and Sweet. A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! Welcome once again to my weekly podcast and My thanks to those of you listening via the Patreon page I really appreciate your support. If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a support page where you can help me create more content by signing up to one of my reward tiers and in return you gain access to additional content and support from me. These start from as little as one dollar per month. I don’t charge per video or per podcast so I believe with the regular, quality content I’m producing one dollar represents excellent value for money. If you’ve not yet started beekeeping and looking for help and assistance, pop over to my website, and I’ll do all I can to help out with suggestions and recommendations for you. Again, I’ll leave links to the various websites in this week’s show notes as usual.
Jun 22, 2018
Episode 16: Basic Queen Rearing Part 2 - Two Nucs
In my second queen rearing podcast I discuss a very simple technique of creating new queens from an existing hive that has thrown up queen cells. I call it the "Two Nucs" method of queen rearing, a method that has been in use by beekeepers for many years and one that can create many new colonies over the course of a season. No complicated equipment is required just a couple of spare nuc boxes. If you would like to get early access to my weekly podcast please check out my support page I use a range of reference material including a few very good books, if you'd like to see the queen rearing books I use, check out my reading list on my website Possibly one of the best sources of accurate beekeeping information currently available on the internet is a website managed by Roger Patterson here in the UK, originally set up by a beekeeper called Dave Cushman.
Jun 15, 2018
Episode 15: Basic Queen Rearing - Part One
If you're new to beekeeping then the thought of queen rearing might send a shudder through you, well, no worries, if you've lost a swarm, congratulations, you're already raising new queens! In this week's podcast I discuss the basic technique of queen rearing known as the Artificial Swarm. If you would like to get early access to my weekly podcast please check out my support page I use a range of reference material including a few very good books, if you'd like to see the queen rearing books I use check out my reading list on my website Possibly one of the best sources of accurate beekeeping information currently available on the internet is a website managed by Roger Patterson here in the UK, originally set up by a beekeeper called Dave Cushman.
Jun 08, 2018
Episode 14 May Monthly Q & A
Welcome back to my podcast, this week it's my monthly Q&A session. You can submit questions via Beekeeping Short and Sweet, a weekly podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me!
Jun 01, 2018
Episode 13 - Monthly Preview: May
Beekeeping Short and Sweet. A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! Welcome back to my weekly podcast and this week is our monthly preview of the month ahead, May! If you would like to take a look at my Patreon page please visit May already, where is this year going and when will the beekeeping season finally get started! I'm hopeful the next week or two will see the weather warming up a little and that means without any doubt some colonies will start swarming! In today's podcast I discuss the long, slow, chilly start to the new season here in the UK, comb change, wax moth and a little about Oil Seed Rape!
May 25, 2018
Episode 12 - Interview with Daniel Bates from BS Honey
Welcome to Beekeeping Short and Sweet - A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! In today's podcast I interview Dan Bates from BS Honey, a new beekeeping enterprise with a couple of really nice young chaps at the helm. BS Honey Bees UK was formed by business partners & Bee Farmers Daniel Bates & Tristan Sawczuk in Gloucester, set in the beautiful countryside of the Cotswold's. Since 2011 BS Honey Bees has strived to be the lead producer, distributor & importer of high-quality bees & queens. With hives based around a 15 mile radius of Brockworth, Gloucester. BS Honey Bees have a vast amount of colonies offering a huge variety of flora for the bees to forage on. Daniel & Tristan are childhood friends, working together in commercial Bee Keeping operations down under & in the UK. Both fully DASH accredited (Disease Accreditation Scheme for Honeybees), they began BS Honey Bees as a joint venture only aged 21 with a wealth of knowledge behind them proving that bee keeping is not just something restricted to age. If you would like more information about BS Honey check out their website at For anyone interested in joining my growing band of beekeepers on my patreon page check out the details at
May 18, 2018
Episode 11 Interview with Belinda Bright from BBWear
During my recent visit to the BBKA (British Beekeeping Association) Spring Convention 2018 I managed to grab a few minutes to chat with Belinda Bright, Co-Founder of BBWear. With their combined experience, they saw the opportunity to develop a range of British made protective clothing for beekeepers. BBwear clothing is now sold all over the world and they are considered a market leader. BBwear suits offer protection, comfort and quality that is proven to last for many years. Since they started, BBwear has grown considerably and now have their three sons, James, Steve and Paul working with them. The business continues to develop and expand. Steve is a keen beekeeper and now manages their apiary of 10 hives. If you are interested in purchasing one of their bee suits why not give them a call or order online and use our unique discount code NHCBBW10 to obtain a 10% discount off any of their bee suits. BBWear are actively seeking worldwide distributors and if you are interested in discussing this business opportunity with them please do give them a call on 01872 562731 or alternatively drop them an email
May 11, 2018
Episode 10 April Q&A
Beekeeping Short and Sweet - A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span! This week is our April Question and Answer session from our Patreon members, lots of really great questions ranging from Apivar treatments for varroa, bailey comb changes, cleaning out dead hives and much more. If you’ve not yet started beekeeping and looking for help and assistance, pop over to my website, and I’ll do all I can to help out with suggestions and recommendations for you. This podcast is sponsored in part by BBWear Beekeeping Clothing. British Made BBWear clothing offers Protection, Comfort and Quality proven to last for many years and now you can also grab a special discount off their latest lines by using discount code NHCBBW10 Use the code on their website
May 04, 2018
Episode 09 - Monthly Preview: April
Our Apiary in April Beekeeping short and sweet, a podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! Welcome back and thank’s for joining me here in Norfolk in the UK where we find ourselves just easing out of a prolonged cold, late Winter and chilly early Spring. The weather has really played it’s part this year with our beekeeping routine having been delayed somewhat by the colder weather. My podcast is released on a weekly basis firstly to our Patreon page where you can catch up with all of our content, if you’re not familiar with it, my beekeeping channel on Youtube and now more generally on Patreon is funded in part by my supporters on Patreon for which I am very grateful and if you’d like to have access to all of my beekeeping videos and podcasts as soon as they are released please do take a look at my patron page www dot honey. It’s April and I’m still waiting to be able to open up the hives and start seeing how the colonies faired over Winter. Today I’m looking at where we need to be heading this month with things that need to be done and so much of that still depends on the weather but we are moving into a warmer Spring like period and it’s noticeable that the bees are definitely becoming more active. It’s time to make sure everything is ready for the early season plans that we have in place and a good time for you to revisit your plans and think about what needs to be done this month in the apiary. It’s very much sunshine and showers at the moment, the sun warms everything up and then the cool Spring April showers turn up and cool everything back down again so it’s a tricky time for all of us, both beekeepers and honeybees. Of course, you could well be seeing lovely warm sunshine and temperatures well into the high teens and we all need to take account of the local conditions, just because I am able to inspect doesn’t mean that my beekeeping friends in Scotland can open up their hives. When I do finally manage to get into my bees I'm looking out for some very specific things. As I open the colony, how are the bees? Are there plenty of them, how many top bars do they cover? Are they moving about nicely or are they terribly sluggish, could that be a problem or are they just cold? I encountered Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus late last year and the bees just staggered around the colony, shivering and looking very sorry for themselves. Unfortunately they didn’t see out the Winter and I’ve had to clean out the hive and prepare it for reuse. Removing frames I’m looking not just at how much stores they have left but I’m also looking at the condition of the stores, is it still ok for the bees or has there been a problem with mould or fermentation, basically can the bees still use it? I’ve had some pollen supplement on my bees for a couple of weeks and I’m now looking to replace it with an early Spring feed of syrup. But don’t be in too great a hurry to start feeding your bees syrup, know why you’re feeding them, is it because they are running low? Are you aiming for an early crop such as Oil Seed Rape, also called Canola. Perhaps you're looking to expand the number of colonies you have or want plenty of bees for early queen rearing, just be sure you know why you’re feeding your bees. Once it’s warmed up a little I feed one to one sugar syrup in a contact feeder, it’s a system that works best for me. You might find your colonies have expanded incredibly quickly, this can seem like a really good start but be careful they have enough space, I’ve seen colonies swarming in early April because they haven’t enough space so be mindful that they may need additional room. This could be another brood box, ideal if you’re looking to split the colony or you may simply add a queen excluder and super, I like to make the first super I add one that has already been drawn with comb, I always think trying to get the bees to draw out fresh foundation th
Apr 27, 2018
Episode 08 Pollen Substitute
Beekeeping short and sweet - A Beekeeping podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a beekeeper, in fact, just like me! In this week's podcast, I'm talking about Pollen Substitute, why you might use it, how to mix it up and how to use it. Unless you've been keeping honeybees for a prolonged period of time it can seem that at every turn there's yet another difficult choice to make. Here's my take on one of those choices, whether to feed your honeybees pollen substitute and if so, how to feed it to them. Following a long, drawn out Winter our honeybees sometimes struggle in the first few weeks of Spring, variable weather, certainly something we get all too often here in the UK, can see the bees explode from the hive en masse foraging for pollen and nectar on one day only to be huddled back up in a cluster the next. I suspect most beekeepers will have considered feeding some fondant to their bees at some point over the Winter months, maybe your bees seem to just munch through all the food stores you give them as quickly as possible (another reason for considering near-native or native bees as they tend to be more frugal) or perhaps you just got caught out with the amount of food or the length of Winter the bees have had. Either way, adding fondant is a simple process of mostly lifting the lid and adding a block of soft sugar fondant to the bees and replacing the roof. But what about Pollen Substitute? Why feed it, when should you feed it, what does it do and should you bother? Why Pollen Substitute at all? Stepping back to basics for a brief moment, most beekeepers know that honeybees collect nectar as a carbohydrate and pollen as a protein and it is this protein early in the season that helps the colony launch itself out of Winter and into that very important growth phase through Spring. In order to produce eggs the queen is going to need protein and for the workers to produce brood food for the ever-expanding number of larvae they also need protein, but that doesn't mean you should rush out and buy a sack of pollen substitute or start mixing your own concoction, it just might not be necessary. I've often explained to beginner beekeepers who contact me or attend my courses, with all things that you do in beekeeping there should be a reason, don't just launch into doing something because you read about someone (like me!) doing it or some old timer in the bee club was talking about what he was doing. Think through your beekeeping plans and have a plan of action to follow, have a purpose for everything you do in beekeeping So, back to the Pollen Substitute, during early Winter you will see you bees out foraging perhaps on ivy, grabbing as much pollen as possible, storing this pollen gives the bees much needed protein for the long Winter period but also for the late Winter and early Spring period as they gradually start to build up again. If you're lucky you will have early Spring flowering plants and trees that will provide a source of pollen for them. I am very fortunate that here in Norfolk, UK we have at most of our apiaries a range of plants such as snowdrops, crocus, hellebores and many others that provide a much-needed injection of pollen. Everything really starts to kick in around early to mid-March when the Willow starts to flower and this is the main source of pollen that our bees have to forage. When to Feed Pollen Substitute Where I have chosen colonies that I want to be roaring away as early as possible I will give a light syrup stimulatory feed in early March and then, having encouraged the queen to increase her egg laying the bees are going to want more pollen and so I follow this light feed with the pollen Substitute. Timing will vary depending on where you are and how your season is unfolding but don't be tempted to feed syrup too early, it will simply act as a heat sink and draw away warmth from the brood nest. Here then is the dilemma and also the question fo
Apr 20, 2018
Episode 07 - Monthly Preview: March
Welcome back to the Podcast. This week is my monthly review of jobs that might feature in March. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was chatting about the tasks for February, Spring is definitely on the way. Having said that Spring will soon be here there is also a risk to our bees from a last Winter chill and with it our bees could well be eating through their final remaining stores so it's important to keep a watchful eye on what stores your colonies have left and give them a top-up of fondant if needed. By now most of the Winter repair and cleaning work should have been completed, unless of course you're anything like me and leave most tasks to the last minute, anyway, it's time to get stuck in to the final few jobs that need to be done to be prepared for the new season.
Apr 13, 2018
Episode 06 - Q & A March 2018
Beekeeping, Short and Sweet. A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span. A beekeeper, in fact, just like me. This is my monthly Q&A session answering beekeeping questions submitted by my Patreon supporters. In this episode, we have questions relating to sloping apiaries, dummy boards and others. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions for the Q&A for March. It was really quite difficult to keep it "short and sweet" but I only overran by a few seconds. Some really great questions and hopefully as we move forward I will get better at the whole Q&A process. Keep the comments and suggestions coming, there will, of course, be a Q&A Podcast lined up for April.
Apr 06, 2018
Episode 05 BIBBA - Abberton Reservoir Interview with Kevin Thorn
Today's podcast is the follow-on interview with Kevin Thorn, Group Coordinator for the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association and also the person heading up the project at the Abberton Reservoir near Colchester, Essex. UK. Kevin explains how the project got started, the processes that they went through and who is involved.
Mar 30, 2018
Episode 04 Interview with Kevin Thorn from BIBBA
In today's podcast I meet up with Kevin thorn, Groups' Organiser for the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association here in the UK. I am a member of BIBBA and I wanted to share some information about the group so that other beekeepers could learn a little more about the organisation and maybe even decide that it was something worth getting involved in. The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association has its own informative website where you can find lots of useful information about the group and ways to participate. If you are interested in any aspect of the association's activities please do get in touch with Kevin by email,
Mar 23, 2018
Episode 03 Nosema - A Practical Guide to Diagnosis and Control
A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a podcast, in fact, designed for a beekeeper just like me! Nosema is a spore-forming parasitic microsporidian. There are over 200 different species of Nosema, fortunately, only two of those affect our honeybees. Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae. Each one is slightly different and develops in the honeybee slightly differently but both can devastate a honeybee colony. If you would like me to check your honeybees for Nosema check out my website: The Scientific paper I refer to in the podcast is; "Effect of thymol and resveratrol administered with candy or syrup on the development of Nosema ceranae and on the longevity of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) in laboratory conditions" Costa, Lodesani and Maistrello. Apidologie 41 (2010) 141–150 Available online at: c INRA/DIB-AGIB/EDP Sciences, 2009 DOI: 10.1051/apido/2009070
Mar 16, 2018
Episode 02 Oxalic Acid Sublimation Using The ProVap220UK
A podcast for the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span, a podcast, in fact, designed for a beekeeper just like me! The ProVap 220UK In Today's Podcast, I review the latest piece of equipment I have called the ProVap220UK Oxalic Acid Sublimator/Vaporiser Check out all of the product details on our website
Mar 09, 2018
Episode 01 February Round Up
My regular weekly podcast for beekeepers everywhere. This week is my first monthly round-up podcast looking at jobs I have to complete this month and taking a brief look at what follows on in March. Beekeeping, Short and Sweet. "For the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span!" Hopefully, you might find it fun, interesting, informative and questioning. Perhaps helping you question why you keep bees the way you do or find you fighting your corner because of the way you keep your bees. Anything I say will be meant in a kind-hearted way and not intended to insult and with any luck, it might just start up a conversation! I hope you enjoy them and feedback is always encouraged via my Facebook page, Patreon page or website
Mar 02, 2018
00 Short Introduction
Beekeeping, Short and Sweet. In this introductory podcast I outline very roughly what you might expect, I've called my podcasts "Beekeeping - Short and Sweet" and it will run with the tagline of something along the lines of "For the inquisitive beekeeper with a short attention span!" The plan is to keep them short and interesting, enough to get you listening and not doze off because it's just too long. Hopefully, you might find it fun, interesting, informative and questioning. Perhaps helping you question why you keep bees the way you do or find you fighting your corner because of the way you keep your bees. Anything I say will be meant in a kind-hearted way and not intended to insult and with any luck, it might just start up a conversation! I hope you enjoy them and feedback is always encouraged via my Facebook page, Patreon page or website
Feb 25, 2018