Wednesday, August 27, 2008
By R.O.B. Manley
It is probably a fact that when the beginner at bee-keeping is passing
through his (or her) first season or so, and is the victim of that
well-known unbalancing enthusiasm that appears inseparable from that
stage of the bee-keeper's progress, he is nearly sure to be indulging in
visions of large extensions of his activities and to the setting up of
numerous out-apiaries. He plans out charts of his locality and, in
imagination, lays out his central plant and the sites of his
out-apiaries-to-be. These plans arc generally doomed to be shelved, the
series of out-apiaries to remain merely hypothetical, and the initial
enthusiasm to become cooled.
But, though in the great majority of cases this is no doubt so, in those
cases where the bee-keeper is determined to make honey-production the
source of his bread and butter,he must, after he has become well grounded
in the essentials of his business, begin to set up out-apiaries, for the
simple reason that it is not possible to keep enough stocks of bees in
any one place to produce a living for any man. Also because, even were it
possible to find a position so rich in honey that enough bees could be
kept there, it would be extremely difficult to manage them. It is far
easier to keep 40 or 50 colonies in a place, so that they can be gone
through in one day, than to have so many that, when overhauling has to be
done frequently in summer, one is apt to keep the apiary in a continual
state of upheaval.
Some months ago I went into the question of profits to be obtained from
the production of honey in England. I pointed out that these are by no
means so large as is asserted by some of our enthusiastic instructors ;
that the expenses are much higher than those persons suppose ; and that
the gross returns, sometimes represented as equivalent to profit, are in
fact, very far from being so. Now that man who has made up his mind to
produce , honey for a living in this country must set himself to find
first of all a suitable location, as they say across the pond. This
location must give facilities for setting up some four or more
out-apiaries. In what do the desiderata for successful out-apiaries
consist ? Granting that sine qua non for the success of the whole
enterprise, a suitable district for honey-production, the needs for
out-apiaries are not quite so easily found as some people think,
The requirements are these. No site should be more than four miles from
any other site and none should be less than 2 and a half miles from any
other. None should be any nearer to any other person's apiary—unless the
latter consist only of a stock or two —and the home apiary should be
within from six to ten miles of the farthest out-apiary if possible, and
within as short a distance as possible from a railway station. All the
apiaries should be quite close to a hard road and all should be in
sheltered positions. None must be in a situation where it is likely to
become a nuisance.
To procure half-a-dozen sites of this nature is a far more difficult
matter to do in actual practice than to assume done in delivering a
lecture on the subject. Sometimes one may find the very right spot only
to be met by the inflexible hostility of the owner of it. Some people
have an absolute horror of bees and will not have a colony on their land
at any price. The best way of all to get sites if one can do it is to buy
the free-hold of a rough bit of waste land, but even this is hard to do
and often quite impossible. I myself hold one such site which is a very
fine one. Others i pay rent for.
The starting of out-apiaries should always be gradual and should be
brought about by necessity and not by an enthusiastic desire to increase
the size of one's undertaking. What is known in modern jargon as
"superiority complex" is one of the greatest enemies that the young
bee-keeper has to contend with. Pride in our work is a fine thing, but it
must on no account be allowed to lead us on to unjustifiable expenditure.
If we cannot make our home apiary of say 75 colonies pay, it is safe to
say that we are not justified in starting others. The time to start
out-apiaries is when we find that our home apiary is paying well, that we
are well able to increase it, and that this cannot well be done without
overstocking our home location. Then, having looked out and taken
a suitable site, we should move about half the colonies from the
overstocked home site to the new one, for once we have to visit a second
place, we may as well take full advantage of the fact.
As soon as the second place has been taken and stocked, there at once
appear great advantages to us in the work of the apiary management. Do we
need to make up a nucleus or mating hive, all we need do is to take it to
the new place and let it fly at once. If a stock is robbing others or
being robbed, just remove it to the out place and the robbing stops, Do
we wish to move some stocks a few yards, all that is needed is for them
to he carted to the out-apiary and a corresponding number brought home
and placed wherever it is desired for them to be. Many manipulalious of
this sort may he managed when out-apiaries are available. Uniting of all
kinds is simple in the extreme, since when removed to a new site in that
way, there is no tendency for the bees to return to their original sites
as these are out of flight, and also the bees, finding themselves "
lost," are not inclined to fall foul of those in a similar state.
The third apiary is usually needed about a year, or at most two years,
after the second and the fourth a year after that if the seasons have
been fairly propitious and no particular disaster has occurred. Of
course, by heavy purchase of swarms, packages, or stocks, the apiaries
can be set up at once by a tour de force, but that is not good business
as a rule. These apiaries should be set up only when they are urgently
required to maintain the progress of the business. There is probably
nothing so bad for the bee-keeper's business as unnecessary apiaries, as
these absorb money that should be available as profit.
It is not possible to state the proper number of colonies that it is most
desirable to have in an out-apiary. The number must vary with the
locality and its possibilities. It is, however, possible to say with some
degree of certainty that it is usually not wise to place on a single site
more than 50 colonies at most, if another site can be had a couple or
three miles away, even if the flora of the locality is such as to be
capable of carrying more. The reason for this is that in the carrying out
of the necessary summer manipulations, such as examination for queen
cells and the like, it is rarely possible to get through more than fifty
in the avaiiable part any one day, and that by the time fifty are
overhauled, the whole apiary is to some extent upset and apt to become
troublesome if again tackled the following day. Also, if two journeys
must he made, it is just as easy to go to two separate places as to make
both journeys to the same apiary.
Bee Craft January 1932 Part 1 of 5 (to be continued)
By R. O. B. Manley
(continued Part 2)
Though in running one apiary in one place, when not a great deal of moving hives about is needed, apart from the question of cost, it really does not greatly matter what sort of hive is used, so that it is well constructed and made of sound material, but if out-apiaries are contemplated, there is no doubt that it is absolutely essential that the hives used shall be of some exceedingly compact and portable type. Legs must he barred rigidly, as must gabled roofs and probably porches, for these are a nuisance in transport, and, though this may be considered a matter of controversy, they are quite useless to the bees. It will not, in fact, be found that stocks of bees in hives with porches will give more honey than those without. This is the crucial test that all such matters must be brought to by those who intend to rely on honey-production. In every case when in doubt, the bee-keeper should ask himself the question : " Will it enable my bees to produce for me more profit ?"
It will be best to arrange for cheap stands for the hives, so made that any hive will stand on any stand, so that hives may be moved from one site, or from one apiary to another while still leaving their stands in situ. The levelling of stands is not the easiest of bee-keeping jobs, and, once a stand has been levelled, it is a distinct advantage and a saving of labour to have it permanently placed so that any hive may at any time be placed upon it in a moment with the certainty that it will be correctly placed and level.
It is doubtful if there is any way of fixing hive stands that is superior to the plan of using bricks. Bricks are not very expensive and they are virtually everlasting.
On sloping grounds those on the lower part of the slope can be set on edge to bring the stand to the required level. Probably, where the ground is not very dry, it will pay to use eight bricks, bedding the bottom four well into the ground so as to be firmly set and not likely to sink much. It is surprising how bricks will sometimes be pressed into the soil by a heavy hive in summer. Hives should, of course, be level from side to side, and sloping from back to front. They should stand in fairly straight rows, as a rule,to facilitate grass cutting and they look better if kept to a dead straight line.
It is necessary to assume that the bee-keeper has at his disposal a motor vehicle suitable for the purpose, and that he has a suitable building for a store and workshop,and also an extracting house and a suitable boiler for heating honey and boiling water for making sugar syrup.
As soon as the last super is off, which is, in most clover honey localities, about the middle of August, it is necessary to go carefully through every colony, making notes of the condition of each in the record book. And before going further into the matter, it is necessary to say that, of all the requirements of a bee-farmer, there is not one more essential to success than a proper record book. A book is far better than the cards so frequently commended, because it can be carried in the pocket and referred to at any time and in any place. A fairly well-bound note-book that is small enough to fit into the pocket and which contains a page, or better still, two pages for every colony in the apiaries owned is good. Such a book is usually about one inch thick, and those used by the writer are 5" x 7" in size. Each year a new book must be purchased.
Every hive must be numbered by means of a movable metal tag label. This is nearly essential to easy management. It is better in the opinion of the writer to number each hive throughout the set of apiaries with a separate number, rather than to name the apiaries, and to number the hives in them as separate units. For instance, it is better to call hive No. 6 in the third apiary (supposing there to be 40 hives in each) No. 86, rather than No. III, 6.
The removal or exchange of any colony must be recorded in the book at the time and its record transferred to its corresponding place in the book, when a new book is started. Stands having no colony on them are left blank in the book so long as no stock is there. Thus, when a swarm is hived on an empty stand, there is a blank page in the book ready for its records and a label ready to fix upon its hive with the stand number on it.
Let us suppose that three or four apiaries have been started, each containing 40 stocks, that the time is August 14th, that all supers have been removed and that, as should be the case, a considerable proportion of the colonies have been provided with young queens in the course of the summer in various ways. In that case the first job is carefully to examine each colony, noting in the record whether it requires a young queen, whether it is free from brood diseases, and how it is situated in respect of stores. Immediate steps must be taken to introduce queens where needed and to feed if there is, as is often the case when a big colony has given a heavy surplus of honey (especially in the small British standard frames) a shortage of honey.
This is necessary, not only to prevent actual starvation, but to prevent too sudden a reduction in the breeding rate for, though it is, in the opinion of the writer, not advisable actually to stimulate a well-found stock for the purpose of producing young bees beyond the natural autumn production of a good young queen, it is quite essential that ordinary brood production shall not be curtailed for want of well-stored combs. No other feeding of full colonies is necessary or desirable at this time of year, though recently made up nuclei should be fed. To necessitous colonies a gallon or so of medium to rather thin syrup may be given at this time and to nuclei a pint per day. It is better to remove all these nuclei, if not already there at this time, to the home apiary, if there is one, or at any rate to the nearest to the bee-keeper's home, and to replace them at the out-apiaries by good stocks from there. All number labels must, of course, remain on the hives containing the colonies to which the records under those numbers refer until the new book is started later on as will be described.
Bee Craft February 1932
[To be continued]
By R. O. B. MANLEY
(continued Part 3)
About the first or second week in September steps must be taken to ensure that all colonies shall have sufficient food present in their combs to carry them comfortably through the winter. Now this is not such an easy business as might at first he supposed. If begun too early, and the weather is summery, the bees may start off into rapid breeding, and use up so much food that a second feeding may be necessary when the fact is discovered, which is often almost too late in the year to assure good sealing and preparation of the brood nest for wintering.
In the case of out-apiaries, then, it is especially necessary to have a large number of feeders. There is nothing amiss in having one to each hive. For this purpose the ordinary tin or aluminium rapid feeders generally used are not very satisfactory and, in any case, are far too expensive to be considered as a business proposition. The feeder used as a rule in large systems of out apiaries in this and other countries is the ordinary lever-lid tin. They have several faults. They take up too much room, if large enough to be of much use, and an ordinary shallow lift or shallow-comb super will not cover them. They are very quickly rusted away, too, and it is a nuisance to have to take them off the hive every time they have to be filled. The writer has found that a small wooden feeder after the " Miller " plan suits best, and others use a division-board feeder in preference to any other. The faults of these two are, respectively, that a super or lift is needed to cover the one, and to use the other necessitates the removal of combs to make room for it.
Whatever feeder is used, once started, feeding should be carried on continuously until completed. Feeding should not be either too rapid or too slow. For ordinary full stocks there would seem to be no better way than to feed to each colony every evening, till fully fed, approximately two quarts of standard syrup—syrup made with one pound of white granulated sugar to rather less than one pint of water. That is, of. course, for final feeding.
The syrup should be carried in 28 lb. honey tins with bale handles. In this way when the lids arc in place, the tins of syrup can be carted about in a car, lorry, or trailer without risk of waste and, when open feeders of the " Miller " type are used, the syrup can he poured into these direct, so obviating the need for first pouring into a filling can. This saves time and an occasional spill.
When feeding is finished, the sooner the apiary is put into winter conditions the better, if the weather is dry. It is a great advantage when operating hives of the American type, to have them packed or wrapped ready for winter while they are bone dry. If the weather is wet when feeding is done, it is far better to wait a while for a couple of days and then to hurry all the hives into their winter overcoats as quickly
as possible. This will he found one of the most strenuous jobs the bee-keeper has to tackle, as it has to be done against time, since our climate is never to be trusted for 24 hours.
Once the bees are well supplied and packed up, all that is required from their owner till the following April is an occasional visit to see that no interference has taken place by mischievous persons, rats, mice, or any other animal. Mice should have been carefully excluded when the bees were packed by means of perforated zinc strips, having an entrance cut in them too shallow to admit the slimmest of mice.
At the time of packing up, a new book should he started and all removals noted down, and the numbers on the hives changed to coincide with the new position of any hive that has been moved since the autumn before. In this way :—If No. 5 has been removed to stand No. 70, then at this time the label 5 is removed from the hive and substituted by the label 70. In the new book this stock is entered as No. 70 and its old number, 5, is written under or close to the new number, either in red or in parenthesis, thus—No. 70 (5).
So much 'difference of opinion is expressed from time to time about the quantity of stores needed by a normal colony for winter supplies, that it is, perhaps, as well to say that the quantity needed to carry a colony from October 1st to April 1st is about 30 pounds of sealed honey or syrup. To carry on till May 1st will very often need half as much again, and to reach June 1st as much as 70 lbs. may be required I refer, of course, to places where no honey is gathered before these dates. It is probably a safe practice to winter on about 35 lbs., and to feed twice or three times in April and May.
During February, in many places, pollen may he carried into the hives, and in most places this will have occurred to some considerable extent by mid-March. This is one of the most interesting times in the whole year. Few things are so absorbing in their vital interest as the first visit round one's apiaries on a warm, sunny, day, and passing from hive to hive noting down against each number the apparent condition of the colony occupying it. First, all colonies into which large and frequent loads of pollen are being taken may be marked in some form to show it. Such colonies are almost always in good condition, healthy, and likely to turn out good paying ones. There may be colonies that are carrying in very little or none at all, and these should be appropriately noted. It frequently happens that they will be found as prosperous looking as any at the next visit, but they should be watched. Those that seem strong but carry no pollen at all, are often queenless, but not always, as they may suddenly commence to carry it, but they are always suspect. Weak colonies that carry pollen may be only weak though healthy, or they may be suffering from some disease. Weak colonies that carry no pollen at all are almost always useless ones. These should be examined at the earliest moment with every possible precaution, and dealt with according to what is found. Colonies appearing in good order will be far better let quite alone till they have been fed early in April.
Bee Craft March 1932 [To be continued]
By R. O. B. MANLEY
(continued Part 4)
About April 1st it is wise to give one feed of half-a-gallon of rather thin syrup, say 1 lb. of sugar to 14 pints water. Then, at the first opportunity, when the weather is really warm, each colony should be examined, its contents noted, and the dummy adjusted so that only those combs that are covered, plus about one, are inside it. As far as possible weekly examinations should follow, when other combs may be put inside the dummy as needed by the bees, but on no account should brood be spread at this time of the year.
About each ten days a feed, similar to the first, should be given until honey is found to be brought in freely. No plan tried by the writer has so far given results equal to the above-; but It should be remembered that the times given may be earlier or later in other localities.
Should a dearth of honey come again after the first flow, it must be remembered that at no time of the year is it so essential to keep the bees fed : and at no time will the use of sugar in plenty pay so well as at such a period. One must remember that at such junctures the hive will have become full of brood, and stores present will disappear very rapidly ; it is probable that in England more stocks are spoiled through neglect of this than through any other cause whatever. Not that it necessarily follows that a colony left short will be lost ; but it is very likely to be thrown back to such an extent that its surplus will be reduced to next to nothing. In many districts there is an early honey-flow from fruit in April. This stimulates brood-rearing very much, and the whole hive may be full of brood by May 1st, and consequently be consuming large quantities of food daily. Now if, as very often happens, a cold wet spell should set in, unless well fed, colonies will quickly use up their stores, brood rearing will be either checked or stopped altogether, and the colony be so injured that, when the summer flow comes along, it may be quite unable to yield a profitable surplus.
Therefore, at the risk of being thought more prosy than usual, the writer once more emphasises the fact that nothing pays like feeding thin or medium syrup in April and May and even June, when little honey is being gathered on account of bad weather. The crux of all honey-production, wether in out-apiaries or not, is to have the bees in good condition at the time of the principal honey-flow. The principal honey-flow in England has no definite time ; like Easter, it is a movable feast, but, unlike Easter, the date of its coming can never be known until its advent. Therefore feed and keep colonies breeding as much as possible until it is obviously no longer necessary. The writer has often regretted not having fed enough, but never having fed too much.
All through April and the first half of May those bee-keepers situated in the clover and sainfoin districts, especially on the hills, if they are wise, will be steadily feeding and building up their colonies ready for June. There may be one week of flow, there may be two ; sometimes there are three or four, but that is rare—that is, for a really heavy yield. In any case, seasons when there is not one week of good flow are rather rare and are always failures ; because, despite fairy tales sometimes told, no one can produce honey without a flow, but one week may be enough to clear up a small crop
of honey if bees are ready for it. This was the case last year in this part of the country, but only colonies in good order were of the least use.
Feed, feed, feed in spring with thin syrup at all times when bees are not actually bringing honey;but it is entirely unnecessary to practise what is known as stimulative feeding by means of small feeders which allow the bees to obtain the syrup slowly. The feeders represent waste of money and the feeding waste of time and labour. All that is needed is a cheap wooden feeder, or a lever-lidded tin to hold about two quarts. Feeds given with these as described above, will have a better effect than all the " stimulative " feeders ever made.
During this spring period, all hives should be cleaned out. At the first examination it should have been ascertained if any brood disease is present ; and, if not, an empty and clean hive should be placed on the stand of, say, No. 1 hive, that hive having been stood on one side for the moment. The combs are then lifted from it, and placed in the clean hive in their correct order with the dummy next to the bees, and any unoccupied combs placed behind it. The dirty hive is then well scraped out and the next colony placed in it, not forgetting to change the number label at the same time, and so on until all are changed.
Bee Craft April 1932[To be continued]
By R. O. B. MANLEY
(Concluded Part 5)
As early as possible after the stocks have been overhauled, all queens must be clipped. The best plan to accomplish this with a minimum of bother is to clip every queen seen at the earliest examination. This saves much time and worry because, like most other things in this contrary world, queens are often seen much more readily when you don't particularly want to see them, and, if queens are clipped when seen and duly noted in the register as having been done, there is no more time lost looking for queens.
Ideally, management should be such that no swarming will follow, but things are never ideal in the writer's experience. Needless to say, careful examinations of the combs at intervals of from one week to ten days, as the weather permits, must he undertaken, and when early in the season one finds queen cells, it is best to make either a small nucleus with the queen and destroy all cells later on, except one only, or else to make an artificial swarm by removing the hive and combs to a new stand and placing a new hive on the old one in which is placed one comb of bees with the queen. Later on, it is no doubt better to remove the queen and destroy queen cells later in the usual way.
The difference in the working of out-apiaries from the working of single home-apiaries is simply one of difference of accessibility. One has to provide for considerable intervals between examinations because one cannot profitably, or even possibly, see all one's stocks more than once a week or so when several apiaries are scattered over several miles of country. One has to make notes at each visit of what material will be needed at the next visit, or else, when the place is reached at some distance, most likely things urgently needed will have been left behind and have to be fetched, and time and money will be lost.
Removal of honey at the end of the season, when out-apiaries are concerned, is not at all as simple a job as might be supposed. It is far easier when some sort of building that is bee-tight is provided, as then the supers may be carried into it as removed, and fetched away after the bees have ceased flight for the day. If supers of honey have to be removed, after the honey flow, to a lorry or vehicle of some kind,it is very difficult to manage without the bees swarming into every chink they can find,and they may be started on a bad bout of robbing before one is aware of it. The best plan is to have plenty of bee-escape boards, placing these in position in the day, and fetching the supers away at dusk. These boards may be removed next day, or later, as convenient, and used for other colonies. It is usually not a good plan to place a bee-escape board under more than two supers at a time, as the beees are apt to take rather a long time to go out of a big pile of them.
When the last super has been removed from any hive,always make,certain that there is food in the brood chamber. Colonies, especially those that have filled several supers, are apt to have very little, or even none at all in their brood combs, and may,and often do starve very soon after their supers are all cleared off . Should a colony be found in this state, the best plan is to take a heavy comb of honey from the brood chamber of some colony that is over-supplied and exchange it for an empty comb in the stock that has no food, There will nearly always be found some stocks that have put too much into their brood combs, and when found, such colonies should be noted in the book,so that, if a comb of food is needed, it can he found without loss of time or trouble.
Readers of BEE CRAFT must be heartily tired of this subject by this time, and will he glad to know that this is the last of it. Out-apiary work is not available to many, and those who do work out-apiaries will probably differ from the foregoing conclusions to a very considerable extent, since no two bee-keepers, speaking generally,are ever in agreement in regard to methods. The methods given here are,however, methods that have answered fairly satisfactorily with the writer and are merely passed on for what they are worth.
In conclusion, I would warn those who think of going in for bee-keeping as a business proposition, not to expect it to turn out an "El Dorado." One frequently sees glowing accounts published as to the large profits that are waiting to be made by the bee-keeper who goes in for honey-production as a business in these islands. Such statements are invariably made by persons without any experience of what they are talking about. In practice, prospects are not so rosy.
BEE CRAFT May 1932
Honey Production in the British Isles - 1936 (18MB)