Small angry bees flying = Swarm

A Cryptic Clue posed by Master Beekeeper Geoff Blay, prompted Keith Mackie to provide this report on his recent adventure dealing with the answer …

For those on RBKA WhatsApp, Monday 24th April, Geoff Blay entertained with a post:

“9 across, Guardian, cryptic clue “Small angry bees flying, (5)”. 

Others challenged Geoff to…why ‘small’ and importantly, why ‘angry’?

Allowing Geoff to respond, breaking down the clue to conclude:

Cryptic clue comprises two different routes to the answer.  You have to ‘split’ the clue in the right place – the split here is after the word ‘angry’ – giving first route to the answer as “s” (abbreviation for small) and “warm” a synonym of angry – this gives “swarm” which of course fits the second part of the clue. Perhaps a more appropriate clue would be…”small and angry bees that will emerging on mass at the weekend when it start to warm up, etc etc…..lets see what happens!

Why did I share this?  [Read more…]

Spring Comb Management – why is Comb Change necessary?

This article from Keith Mackie is based upon quoted references* from Wally Shaw publications. It is provided as a summary of the presentation he and Trevor Keast gave to Reigate BKA members at the 12-April Apiary meeting as a spur-of-the-moment activity; due to being rained off from entering the hives that week.

Successfully Overwintered Bees

Bees naturally wants to reproduce, they do this typically by swarming, as beekeepers (who are managing bees to keep them in the hive, as livestock in movable framed hives) we can undertake good early season pre-emptive management techniques to assist the bees in this process.  By delaying it starting to early in the season when drones who will need to be mature to mate with Queens.  Drones reach full maturity in April to mid-May, depending on many factors discussed below. In the various pre-emptive manipulation, we can do are only delaying the instinct, not preventing it happening eventually.

Triggers for swarming are, colony recognises it’s a good time to swarm, based on a nectar flow, and internal and external factors.  Internally we can control to some extent manage the internal hive condition in a movable frame hive, through regular management, externally is very much more difficult.  Management however is essential in a suburban or domestic environment to stop honeybee swarms being a nuisance to others, entering neighbouring asset structures, etc. [Read more…]

NDB Short Course – Handling Skills


Looking to kick start your beekeeping skills and knowledge for 2019?

Reigate member, Adam Leitch, National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) and Tony Harris NDB (Scottish Beekeepers) are teaching a short course “Handling Skills” on Sunday 12th May and Monday 13th May 2019 at Reigate’s Training Apiary, in Surrey.

An ‘Early-Bird’ discount applies, so the 2 days of training & lunch is £88 if booked early.

The course details, and all other information including booking can be found on the link below:

NDB Short Courses are aimed at all beekeepers, to assist you in developing your own bee handling capabilities and knowledge, and are open to all. The courses are subsidised by FERA, and provide an intensive, but fun mixture of beekeeping theory & practice, and are both classroom and apiary based, with lots of opportunities for questions and participation. The courses will equip you with skills to manage and understand your own bees better, whether you are just looking to get more enjoyment from your beekeeping and develop your skills to make beekeeping more enjoyable and easier, or you are taking BBKA exams, and looking to learn best practices from expert tutors.

For details of all upcoming NDB Short Courses visit the NDB website

Making a “Nucleus” Colony

Beginners may hear more experienced beekeepers referring to a “Nucleus Hive” or, more commonly a “Nuc“. Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small honeybee colonies created from larger colonies.

The term refers both to the smaller size brood box (typically max 5 frames but, it can also refer to 3 0r, 4 frames) and the colony of honeybees within it. The name is derived from the fact that a nuc hive is centered on a queen, the nucleus of the honey bee colony.

It is essential that your purchased or, homemade Nuc box, is designed to accommodate the same size/type of brood frames you use in your standard hives since, interchangeability of hive frames between a Nuc and your full size hives is required.

It is good beekeeping practice to make up one or, more nucleus colonies each year. There are many uses for a Nucleus Hive including; raising replacement/backup queens;  swarm control; making increase; new queen introduction.

[Read more…]

Supering = Adding Supers

How Many Supers Do You Have?

How Many Supers Do You Have?

In Spring, once a colony has about 5 – 6 frames of brood it is time to add the first super.

The first step involves removing the roof & crown board and placing a queen excluder directly over the brood box. This ensures the queen can’t enter the super and lay eggs in it! A super full of drawn comb (preferable) or, foundation is placed directly over the queen excluder. The crown board is repositioned on top of the super. The flying bees will enter the super to deposit nectar, more quickly if at least some frames are drawn comb.

If your bees are reluctant to enter the super after a few days have expired there are some tricks to kick-start their activity:-

a) Remove the queen excluder for a few days. The queen won’t be able to lay eggs in the super if there is no drawn comb. The lack of [Read more…]

Learning to Manage Swarms

fig 1‘Learning to Manage Swarms’ has been written by Mike Hill, drawing upon his own experience of beekeeping in general and instructing beekeepers in particular. The information provided in this keystone Information Sheet, itself refers to other Information Sheets in the series for further detail, as well as directly to external sources. eg the NBU and BBKA.

References are made to diagrams, identified by fig numbers. These can be found at the foot of this post in a gallery display. This Information Sheet can also be downloaded, viewed and printed if needed as a pdf file . (Click Here)

The full set of Reigate Beekeepers – Beekeeping Information Sheets in downloadable pdf format available so far can be found in the Knowledge Base, under Basic Beekeeping > RBK Beekeeping Info.  (Click Here)


New beekeepers are presented with a variety of methods to manage swarming. At first sight these methods seem quite different from each other and often leave the novice bemused. This article attempts to show the similarities and differences in the various procedures and recommends a path which the novice can follow while gaining experience. The procedures referenced have all been proposed by beekeepers of merit and published in the beekeeping press. [Read more…]

Swarm Control – cannot find the queen

Swarm on Brood BoxThis method should be read as a supplement to the Pagden method of Swarm Control. For details of the Pagden method please click this link Pagden Method. The following method additionally describes how to deal with situations where the queen cannot be found.

The procedure requires duplicate equipment and sufficient space in the apiary to move brood boxes around. [Read more…]

The Nucleus Method of Swarm Control

Nucleus for Swarm ControlThis method does not create an ‘artificial swarm’ situation, but can be used when you do not have spare equipment to create an additional full hive.

A swarm (natural or artificial) has a queen and a lot of bees, and is put on foundation and fed syrup and has to go where the flying bees can find it to be reinforced. Whereas, a nucleus is a small balanced colony (queen, eggs, young brood, old brood and food) and has to go away from the old site or it will lose bees to the parent.

[Read more…]

The Pagden Method of Swarm Control

IMG_0804This method, also called an ‘artificial swarm’ has been demonstrated by Mike Hill during his talks after the hive inspection activities on a Wednesday night at Henfold Copse Apiary, and the following description is based on material by Ian R Homer, Devon BKA, first published in BBKA News.

For many beekeepers (except perhaps, for commercial beekeepers), the most effective and simplest form of swarm control is to carry out an artificial swarm.

Carried out properly it is nearly always effective at stopping swarming, allows the beekeeper to raise a new queen and, as a bonus, offers a highly effective way of carrying out varroa control.

All artificial swarm methods rely on separating the queen and some of the flying bees from the brood with the objective of making the bees believe that they have swarmed, but without the loss of bees which would have occurred if a real swarm had happened. One of the simplest methods of artificial swarming is the Pagden method.

[Read more…]

Tips on the Basic Practical

16 tips to help you get through the Basic Practical Assessment.

  • Ensure you attend with a clean bee suit and gloves!
  • Clean your hive tools and gloves before & after, in the bucket of washing soda provided
  • Light smoker, use best fuel and take time to ensure it will last for 30 minutes
  • When approaching the hive and before smoking, check entrance for activity, if pollen is being brought in comment on it (it suggests brood is in the hive). Also confirm the orientation of the brood box (warm or cold) & take an inspection position at the hive accordingly. When inspecting you should stand either behind or to the side of the hive depending upon whether the brood frames are warm or, cold way. This avoids twisting your body to lift frames.
  • Give a few puffs of smoke at the entrance and around the lid. Take your time before opening the hive. Use smoker gently & sparingly.
  • Open hive and gently remove any supers on to the up turned roof, to one side of the hive. Place cover board on top of supers to keep bees quiet and reduce chance of bees from other colonies discovering the honey.
  • Remove queen excluder, check to see if queen on underside (if she is there, remove her into a clip & into your pocket for safety for the duration of the inspection). Place queen excluder to the side of the hive close to entrance.
  • Working from the nearest to you, remove the first frame and check if brood present on it. If not, gently place on the ground in front of the hive. If brood present, suggest to the assessor you start from the other end and replace the frame. Talk your way through what you are doing & why.
  • You may be asked to state if the hive is top or bottom bee space. Top bee space: there is ¼ inch gap between the top of the frames & the top of the brood/super box; bottom bee space: the top of the frames are flush with the top of the brood/super box.
  • You will be asked to identify eggs, larvae and brood (worker and drone).
  • You will need to identify stores and pollen, stating if you believe there are sufficient stores.
  • Finding the queen is not essential but, you will need to find evidence (all stages of brood) and should state that.
  • If asked to show how you would examine a frame for disease…….Shake bees off a frame (but, make sure you choose one without  the queen on it) by placing the frame in the space in the brood box (if required give yourself more room by removing another frame but, ensure the queen is not on it) and jerk the frame downwards avoiding knocking it on the sides or, other frames. Repeat until all or, nearly all, bees removed.  Describe what you are looking for and explain what you would expect to see if there was healthy brood.
  • If asked to take a sample of bees for disease testing……. You are looking for older bees, these will be bees furthest from the brood area (usually the outer frames);  Use a match box & open the match box and hold it against the frame. Gently run the open end of the matchbox along the frame and then close up the match box. A sample of approximately 30 bees is required for disease testing.
  • Gently close up the hive when the assessor requests you to.
  • Use smoke regularly (gently puff) to keep the bees in the hive.