Image courtesy of Sarah Rapley
We are a friendly club with over 100 members with quite a few new members who have joined over recent years. Some though are long standing members and our President Peter Hutton and our Vice Chairman John Hendrie have been keeping bees for over 50 years.
So we have a wide range of experiences and if you are thinking of taking up beekeeping there is a vast pool of knowledge to draw on.
However, remember if you ask two beekeepers you are likely to get at least three different opinions and the reason is bees are wild animals and if you have several hives they will all behave slightly differently depending on the temperament of the queen.
Our Branch was started in 1917, so in May 2017 we celebrated our centenary with a visit to Chartwell’s apiary, that two members assist with running. Winston Churchill set up some hives at Chartwell and during the last war he was instrumental in pestering Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister, to allow beekeepers an extra sugar supply even though it was rationed.
We have a selection of photos of our visit on this PDF document:
We have regular meetings at our two apiary sites at Barrwood [just south of Ightham Mote] and Hilbert Road [in Tunbridge Wells] and have an excellent lecture programme during the winter months.
We have standardised on National Hives as shown in the above ‘Bluebell Picture’ at both our apiaries because this is the most commonly used in the UK.
However the ‘Picture Postcard’ hives shown below are WBC hives and these are the ones most people associate with beekeeping:
So why are they not the most popular? If you click on this PDF you will see how our our members critically rated the various type of hives.
Click on: Types of Beehive
For other articles of practical information go to our ‘INFORMATION‘ page. Here we have tried to provide basic information, which we would have liked to have had available at our finger tips when we started beekeeping.
There are several articles suitable for beginners. Click on ‘ARTICLES’ to view them.
Also there is a huge amount of bee related information available on the internet and we have attempted to refine this down to what we consider the most useful.
Go to ‘INFORMATION’ page or click here: ‘WEB WATCH’.
However, it is only basic information and for more complete detail we suggest you read some of the more recent additions to our library, again under ‘INFORMATION’ click on LIBRARY. The library is looked after by Sarah Rapley. To organise borrowing a book:
Beekeeping Equipment: One of the benefits of membership is that all Thornes equipment can be bought, at a discount, through our Vice Chairman John Hendrie.
Thornes 2018 Catalogue
to make your selection and contact him by email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Extractor Hire: We bought a new extractor in 2014, which is available for hire at £10.00. to members. If you wish to hire it, please contact Elizabeth Birchenough: email@example.com
Looking for something to do? Here are some topical tips for the next few months?
- Time to feed the colony for the winter, replacing the honey taken. Feed continuously with standard strength sugar syrup (1 kg added to one pint of water). The colony will need at least 15kg of syrup (more for the bigger hives) to take it through the cold months ahead.
- Feeding needs to be completed before the end of the month to give the colony time to drive off the excess water.
- Remove varroa gel or strips when treatment is completed.
- Fit a mouse guard to the hive entrance.
- October, November, December
• At the beginning of October heft the hives to check that they are all heavy. They need to feel as though they are nailed down, if not, continue feeding.
• With all the required food now in the brood chamber, all should be well for winter.
• Strap or weigh down the roof against winter wind.
• If you have solid floors, make sure the hive slopes gently forwards so that rain will not run into the entrance. If you have open mesh floors it is better to have the hive completely level to keep comb construction vertical in the frames.
• If green woodpeckers are in your area, protect the hives by putting wire netting round all four sides.
• Monitor the now small entrance regularly for the build up of dead bees. Bees are dying all the time and just a few can block the entrance leaving the others unable to get out for water or cleansing flights.
• Keep regular checks for woodpecker damage or rain getting in?
• Be aware that sheep, deer or other animals could knock the hive over rubbing against to satisfy an itch. Use secure stock fencing if this is a risk.
• Feeding should not be required yet, but keep an emergency block of fondant available just in case.
Most colonies don’t die from the cold, but more likely from damp or starvation.
Website Editors: Sarah Rapley and John Farrow.