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Author Archive

J Tool (Hive Tool)

J Tool The classic hive tool in stainless steel. Use as a hive tool and frame lifter, he tool has a hooked end for easy frame lifting / levering and sharpened ends for prying hives open and scraping away propolis.

Wax Foundation

The invention of manufactured sheets of pure beeswax is one of the greatest boons to bee-keepers. This material consists of a thin sheet of beeswax impressed mechanically with the forms of the bases of the cells of honeycomb and the bases of the cell walls.   This is sold in sheets of the correct sizes to fit in the wooden brood frames, shallow frames and sections. For brood frames, “worker foundation “is supplied.   This ensures that the bees are induced to build worker cells in the brood chamber to the exclusion of drone cells.   It should here be pointed out that it is a great disadvantage to have too many drone cells in the brood chamber for too many drones encourage swarming and, as they are not honey gatherers, consume large quantities of honey which might otherwise be stored.   Bees, however, will not always draw out the worker foundation as worker cells. Sometimes they draw out the foundation part worker and part drone. The intermediate cells are called transition cells   For shallow frames (supers ) drone foundation is recommended, because the bees do not store pollen in drone cells but only honey ,when honey is stored in drone cells it is more readily extracted than from worker cells. In natural surroundings bees build drone cells in which to store honey.   It should be pointed out, however, that when drone foundation is used in the supers that a queen excluder is absolutely essential. There are other disadvantages in the use of drone combs.   Sometimes the bees hesitate to go into drone combs until the queen has laid eggs in them. This is frustrated if a queen excluder is used. Further they cannot be used as food storage combs for the winter. There are some who think that the use of a queen excluder outweighs the advantages of drone cells for the storage of honey.   It certainly is a great help to have drawn out worker combs in shallow frames to form an addition to the brood nest. On the whole drone combs for supers are preferable. There are approximately 28.87 worker cells to the square inch; each cell being approximately 1/5 in. in diameter. The cells are hexagonal in shape; two sides of the cells are vertical. This is important to remember for if the foundation is inserted with two sides horizontal, the bees will break down the foundation and build more drone but wired foundation alleviates this This causes delay and waste of effort on the part of the bees. Drone cells are larger than worker cells, being approximately 1/4in. diameter. There are 18.48 cells to the square inch.   Foundation should be made from pure beeswax. Any foundation which is adulterated with any other material should be refused.


In the absence of adequate stores of food in the combs bees need to be fed with sugar syrup to ensure their survival. A feeder is, therefore, included among the essential initial items of equipment. Numerous types and sizes of feeder are available, but one should be chosen that will take at least half a gallon of syrup. The simplest, and in many ways the best type of feeder consists of a container filled with syrup, and closed with a perforated lid, which is then inverted over the feed hole of the hive. Such a feeder can be made from a jam jar honey can.* The plastic bucket feeder now on the market works on the same principle.

Demaree ( Swarm Control )

In the year 1892, Mr. Demaree wrote to the American Bee Journal setting out his system of swarm control when the object of the bee-keeper was honey production. It is a system now widely practiced in this country and its popularity is due to its simplicity and its general success. However, if carried out as suggested by the originator, it is a dirty method of honey production for reasons explained later. It is, however, an excellent method of producing natural stores in brood sized combs, useful for helping out weak stocks and providing winter feed. First go through each comb of the stock and remove all Queen Cells in whatever state of development. Take out all combs with the exception of one having brood and place them in a clean prepared second brood-chamber, which is to be the upper storey. The brood-frame containing the Queen should be retained in the original brood-chamber. The number of brood-frames in the second chamber should be made up to ten in number and a division board fitted at one end. Likewise, the original brood-chamber should be filled up with brood-frames. More progress will, of course, be made if the added brood- frames have drawn out comb. Again, a division board should be fitted to this brood-chamber, and care should be taken to see that it is fitted at the same end as the one fitted in the second brood-chamber. Now place a Queen excluder over the first brood-chamber and over this place the second brood-chamber. In this way the Queen has a completely new brood-chamber in which to lay and continues laying at a rapid rate. Meanwhile, au the bees in the brood-combs above are hatching out rapidly and these young bees provide the Queen with a constant supply of nurse bees. All the cells in the upper storey will be vacated within twenty-one days of the operation being carried out. The hive will have an enormous population with a Queen laying rapidly. If there has been a honey flow most of the cells in the upper storey will have been filled with honey as soon as they aie vacated by the emerging bees. If the honey flow still continues the combs in the upper storey should be extracted and the operation repeated. Dr. Butler has discovered what he considers to be an improvement on this system. He always places a shallow super complete with combs between the two brood-chambers at the first operation. The advantages of this system are, first, that the Queen is never cramped for laying room and therefore one of the predisposing causes of swarming is removed; and secondly, that the system provides a large stock of bees for honey collection. The disadvantages are first, that unless the operation is repeated after 21 days there is every possibility of the hive being so crowded that swarming is merely postponed and the swarm may leave at the height of the honey flow. Secondly, the honey produced is regarded by some as “dirty honey.” It has been stored in cells where grubs have developed and left their excreta behind and nymphs into bees and they in their turn having left their outer skins behind. They say it is not honey which a clean bee-keeper would eat himself and therefore he should not sell it to the public. This particular objection may perhaps be negative when we are told by observers that during a good honey flow the field bees usually place the nectar they have collected in the first available cell in the brood-chamber often on top of an egg or even a young larva. Thirdly, there is one danger which is not always explained about this system—and that is that unless every care is taken to prevent Queen cells maturing in the upper storey after the transfer to it of brood, a Queen may hatch out which cannot get through the excluder which may result in either a swarm emerging after all or the virgin Queen becoming a drone layer, as she is unable to get out of the hive to mate Therefore it is essential that after two or three days the bee-keeper should go through the upper storey and cut out any Queen cells which may have been formed in the interim. This is most important and should be repeated after a period of seven days. There are those who think that if the Queen cells are cut out of the upper storey that the bees cannot place a young enough grub or egg in the upper storey. Some experience shows that bees will fetch eggs from the lower storey even 10 days later. This system is often used when the bee-keeper desires to increase his stocks, for in the upper storey the bees will often after the operation has been carried out make a large number of Queen cells. These can be made into nuclei which will be helped on rapidly by the large number of young bees which will shortly hatch out.

Dartington Description

Dartington Hive

Dartington Hive

The Dartington Long Deep (DLD) hive takes 14 x 12 inch and can take up to 17 frames. It is possible to have 2 colonies in the brood box as there is an entrance at either end. It has half size honey supers which take 6 frames can be used which are lighter than full supers and are therefore easier to lift. The Dartington originally developed by Robin Dartington so that he could keep bees on his London rooftop.

Crown Board

Also known as the inner cover / clearer board / top cover There and many and various “Top Covers” for bee hive with many uses. This is essentially an inner roof to suit the hive size in use, with either no holes in it, or a combination of circular and elongated rectangles to suit the need of the hive / beekeeper. Some holes are circular and these are sometimes referred to as a feeder board that allow access to syrup feeder that usually has circular access to match the diameter of the board Some have the elongated rectangles to suit porter bee escapes If not “devices” are in use a piece of metal gauze can be used to allow hive ventilation, although the bees may “glue” this closed There can also be a “see through” version in glass or polycarbonate to allow the hive to be visually inspected with ne need to open the hive at all…This is great for beginners This is more usually referred to as a “Glass Quilt”, this may or may not can of course be equipped with the holes as mentioned It is usually trimmed with a wooden edge to allow a bee space above the frames

Cover Cloths

Some beekeepers find cover cloths are useful to lay across a box of combs to prevent the bees from running over the tops of the frames when the hive is open. They can be made from pieces of light deck-chair canvas or similar material, with a batten fixed at each end. The width of the material should be slightly greater than the length of the top-bars of the frames and the length just sufficient to allow a batten to hang over each side of the box.

The battens should be heavy enough to keep the cloth flat when laid over the hive and to prevent it being blown off by the wind. The battens, used as rollers, enable a pair of cover cloths to be used so as to expose one frame at a time when examining a set of combs in a brood box or super.

Chalkbrood: What is it?

(Under Review) Chalkbrood is a mycosis (a disease caused by a fungus), which affects bee brood. It is an infectious disease of the larvae, and is caused by a fungus called “Ascosphaera apis”. It looks like pieces of chalk in the comb and is chalky-white initially, but some become dark blue-grey or almost black as in the picture to the right. The disease mostly occurs in the spring and worsens in the summer, generally disappearing in the autumn when the queen slows down laying. It causes the death and mummification of sealed brood (see the picture to the left) and seriously weakens the colony, affecting honey output and the general health and well-being of your bees. Fortunately, it only very rarely kills a colony. The larvae in the comb ingest the spores of the fungus with their food, allowing the fungus to get into the intestine of the larvae. The young infected larvae do not usually show signs of disease, but they usually die within two days of being sealed in their cells or die as prepupae. The spread of chalkbrood within the colony is very limited, and the fungus only seems to thrive on honeybee larvae and does not appear to affect the adult bees. Pieces of Chalkbrood The fungus grows best when the brood is chilled, so keeping a constant temperature within the hive is a major factor that can help to keep infection at bay. The spread is usually due to the accumulation of mummies (the white chalky remnants of infected bee larvae) and the bees being unable to remove the dead bodies from the hive fast enough. It is mostly spread between colonies through the activity of the beekeeper, on clothing and tools – another reason why good sanitary practise and careful beekeeping husbandry is essential. The spores can remain dormant for more than 3 years anywhere in the colony, including the wax foundation and frames, this means that the disease can return in previously infected colonies. Chalkbrood is not just a problem in the UK, but is present on nearly all continents. The only place chalkbrood is not a problem is in Antarctica, and that’s only because there are no bees there! Some beekeepers are lucky enough that their colonies never suffer from chalkbrood, but it can be a harsh and serious problem if one of your colonies does!!

Chalk Brood

( Article under review ) Signs in the colony Adult bees will tear down the cappings of the dead larvae to reveal the chalky white mummies. These lie along the length of the cell and often take on the hexagonal pattern. The bees remove the mummies from the hive and they can often be seen on the hive floor and outside the hive. The mummies are usually found scattered throughout the brood nest and can reach high numbers. ’Mummies’ on hive floor The disease often appears in a peak in the late spring/early summer as the colony expands and the brood outnumber the bees. This is because there are insufficient bees to maintain the temperature and control the ventilation (CO2 build-up). Care needs to be taken to differentiate chalk brood from mouldy pollen but this is usually concentrated around the periphery of the brood nest and tends to be a different colour. Diagnosis This is done by the typical appearance of the larvae Spread Chalk brood spores are sticky and will attach to the comb and bees as they remove the infected larvae. They are also readily transmitted by robbing/drifting bees. The beekeeper can also spread the disease on hive tools and comb transfer. The disease is considered to be endemic in Britain but levels of infection will vary from colony to colony. The beekeeper has to aim to keep the infection level down. Control There are no fungicides available for the larvae and spores on the bees and combs are unreachable. Combs can be fumigated with acetic acid but heavily affected comb should be destroyed. Viable spores will still be present on the bees and may be present in honey stores. In severe cases re-queening from a disease free colony is recommended. Because of the temperature/ventilation aspect of the disease it is more likely to occur in small colonies or nuclei. Ensuring that there are sufficient bees will reduce the risk. Some strains of bee are more resistant and queens from these should be selected as part of an integrated breeding policy Cause: Ascosphaera apis, a fungus. Effect: Chalkbrood disease affects only the brood. The diseased larvae are usually found on the outer edges of the brood nest. Workers, drones, and queens are all susceptible to the disease. Symptoms: The affected larvae are usually found on the outer fringes of the brood area. Brood cells can either be sealed or unsealed. Diseased larvae are stretched out in their cells in an upright condition. Typically, larvae dead from chalkbrood disease are chalk white, hence the name chalkbrood. Sometimes the diseased larvae can be mottled with brown or black spots, especially on the ventral sides. The color variation is from the brown to black color of the fruiting bodies (spore cysts). Transmission: The spores of Ascosphaera apis are ingested with the brood food provided by the nurse bees. The germination of the spores and proliferation of the fungus covers the larva with a white mycelium. Spores of Ascosphaera apis remain viable for years. Consequently, the infection source could be present in the cells used to rear brood. Chalkbrood appears to be most prevalent in the spring when the brood area is increasing. Chalkbrood normally does not destroy a colony. However, it can prevent normal population build-up when the disease is serious. No treatment is presently available for the control of chalkbrood. The disease usually disappears or is reduced as the air temperature increases in the summer.

Brood Combs

Brood-combs Very few beekeepers ever give a thought to the age of a brood-comb, and they are of ten heard to say “that they like the tough old combs.” Yes, possibly they do, but does the queen? It must be remembered that at least five bees hatch and mature in each cell every year, each one leaving behind its cast pupa skin, which during the busy season the bees have not time to remove entirely before the cell becomes the recipient of another egg. In course of time the cells must consequently become smaller, with the result that the bees reared in them must be affected in the same way, and eventually a miserable, stunted strain of bee fills the hive. Four years at the most should constitute the life of a brood-comb, for during that period there have been no fewer than twenty bees that have made use of every cell in it. By marking the brood-combs when they are first put in the hive, it is an easy matter to detect the age of every one in the apiary. For instance, in the first year they should have one notch cut in the end, the next year the new combs can have two, and so on till the fourth year is reached. When autumn comes with its examination of the colonies and the arrangement of the brood-chamber for the winter, the oldest combs should be placed on the outside of the chamber and the best and newest in the centre; then if any combs should become mouldy during the winter it would be the oldest, as those on the outside are usually the first to be affected. They can easily be dispensed with when spring comes, without the expense that would be incurred had the newest ones been the victims. As proof that the queen does not care about old combs it will be noticed that she will always prefer to lay in the new ones, and often when a new one is added in the centre of the brood-chamber she will make use of it before the bees have completely drawn out the entire comb.