Provision of Bees

Provision of new colonies of bees to members

This document gives the Association’s approach to the provision of colonies of bees to members, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of beginners. It includes instructions on preparing nucs, use of apideas and handling swarms.

The present increase in membership of the Association coupled with the recent poor beekeeping weather has put a strain on the provision of bees to new members, as well as replacement colonies for existing members. It is a common practice in Beekeeping Associations for beginners to be left to find their own bees. This usually results in them purchasing nucs from, in many cases, unknown sources outside their area with the associated danger of importing/spreading disease. A preferred approach would be for members, working co-operatively, to make colonies available from existing bee stocks within our area. This approach will only work if there is a balanced effort from all members and not just by the same few.

Sources of bees:
If we adopt the approach proposed above, three sources of bees will be available.
i) bees from established beekeepers through (a) nucs*, (b) artificial swarms
ii) returned nucs* from beginners
iii) colonies from swarms
* a ‘nuc’ (nucleus) is considered to be a small colony of bees normally housed in a 5-frame hive. The Association has six small 5-frame hives for this purpose.

i) (a) Nucs – from established beekeepers. Each established member should make one nuc per year available to beginners. Raising an additional nuc of bees in normal circumstances should not overstress the capacity of these beekeepers who would normally be considered as having 3 or more years experience. The main demand will, however, be in the short term, as it would be expected that nucs returning from ‘old’ beginners would soon be able to meet the demands of ‘new’ beginners. Established beekeepers need to be able to make up a nuc and have it headed by a viable queen. This will normally require the beekeeper to be able to raise queens in an appropriate manner. Note 1, gives details on how to provide bees through nucs and artificial swarms, and Note 2, deals with raising queens using Apidea mini-nucs.

i) (b) Artificial swarms. Experienced beekeepers who, for example, may not want to increase colony numbers, may provide their “one nuc per year” to beginners as part of an artificial swarm manipulation. See Note 1.

N.B. The above does not preclude members (either working as individuals or as a group) engaging in small-scale queen rearing and making nucs available to other members, with or without a charge. Details can be included in this instruction, if necessary, at a later stage. However, each established beekeeper would still be expected to provide “one nuc per year” without charge to beginners. In cases where bees are being supplied from sources unknown to the beginner, the opinion of the Association may be sought.

ii) Nucs – from ‘old’ beginners. Each beginner who receives a colony from an Association member as in i) above, would normally be expected, within a 2-year period, to make a nuc or equivalent available to the Association for distribution to new beginners. Notes 1 and 2 are also relevant to this paragraph

iii) Swarms. Swarms of bees have been a traditional way of increasing or replacing stocks. While they are a possible source of bees they are also a vector in the spread of disease. It would be proposed that swarms, where possible, be used close to the area where they were caught. In this way the spread of disease will be minimised. The Association should, therefore, make an effort to capture all swarms and deal with them in an appropriate way (Note 3). Any swarms that are not located by members are liable to fall into the hands of others who may sell them as nucs to beginners (or members) without regard to the locations from which the swarms arose and hence risk the spread of disease through our area. The Association should therefore make an effort to inform the public through publicity that swarms of bees will be collected by the Association. Note 3 details how swarms can be handled for use as replacement colonies.

N.B. To ensure that the allocation of bees from the three sources is undertaken with efficiency and fairness it is proposed that some level of co-ordination be applied by the Association. The details of the co-ordination will be developed during the first year of implementation.

Approved Committee Meeting 13th May 2010

Mentoring Scheme

Note 1. Providing bees as starter or replacement colonies.
(a) Nucs from established beekeepers

1.1 A five-frame nuc can be made up as follows.
· Place queen from parent colony in matchbox
· Take two frames of brood (emerging preferred) plus attaching bees*
· Take two frames of stores (honey and pollen) plus attaching bees
· Shake in bees from two other frames
· Add one frame of foundation or drawn comb
· Add old queen, new laying queen in a cage or mature queen cell*
· Insert dummy board
· Remove to distant apiary or stuff grass in entrance if staying
* A single queen cell may be left on one of the added brood frames, but if a separate mature queen cell is being added to the nuc it should be done after moving.

Reference: Beekeeping Study Notes 1, JD and BD Yates (Pages 60 / 61) – in Association library

1.2 When sealed worker brood is present the colony can be transported to the beginner’s apiary. As soon as possible the nuc should be introduced to a full hive and the nuc (scraped and blow torched) returned along with 5 frames, wax (in sealed package) and dummy board. In normal conditions the nuc should be returned within one week.

(b) Colony from artificial swarm
In this case the beginner should supply the experienced beekeeper (mentor?) with a full hive with wax foundation in frames. The hive can then be used as the ‘new’ hive in the original position during an artificial swarm manipulation. This approach will only be suitable where beginner is using same hive type as experienced beekeeper.

Reference: Guide to Bees and Honey, Ted Hooper (Page 138 / 141) – in Association library.


Note 2. Raising queens using Apideas.

2.1 The Apidea is a small mating nuc that can take a mature queen cell. A full description of using these mininucs to raise a young queen is given in, Managing Mininucs, Ron Brown, a copy of which is in the Association library. Note that the nuc can be filled with 300ml of bees (per Albert Knight, BIBBA).


Note 3. Using swarms as starter or replacement colonies

3.1 As a general rule swarms should be moved the minimum distance from the location in which they originated.

3.2 It is in the interest of safety and good relations that the general public should have an awareness of honeybee swarms, and should know what to do when they encounter them. The Association’s website should contain basic information on swarms, and this should include a contact numbers that would give the public ready access to the Association to report swarms.

3.3 When a swarm has come to the attention of the Association, the mentor of the beginner whose apiary is nearest to the location, and who requires a first colony of bees, should be contacted. If no beginner in the vicinity requires bees, then an experienced member with bees in the vicinity should be contacted. This experienced beekeeper could use the bees in his/her own apiary or, if not required, as a replacement colony for another member. The mentor or experienced beekeeper should take responsibility for capturing and hiving the swarm*.

3.4 The Association has a number of 5-frame nucs that can be used to ‘hive’ the swarms for use by beginners.

3.5 Swarms should generally not be fed for about 24 hours and then fed sugar syrup (50% sugar strength). The colony should be monitored closely. The brood should be checked in particular for the presence of American Foul Brood (AFB) in the first few months.

* Beekeepers should always have at hand the basic equipment with which to catch a swarm. A skep or sturdy box (stiff cardboard will do), a white cotton sheet and pruning tools such as secateurs. All beekeepers should be familiar with the method for catching and hiving swarms. Reference: Guide to Bees and Honey, Ted Hooper (Pages 148 / 152) – in Association library.