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Report of the February 2018 winter meeting

Time Saving Inventions for the Practical Beekeeper, a talk by Will Steynor.
Report of the February winter meeting 2018.

Last year Will Steynor told us how he successfully combined running 70 colonies, a profitable beekeeping business and his job as a full time commercial airline pilot. He came back this year to show us some of the inventions and adaptations that made it possible.


Will uses the Smith design made from weather resistant plywood. His hives are of simple construction, using only four pieces of timber screwed together, with a rebate cut into the end wall to take the shortened lugs of the National frame. By using slightly thinner plywood on the side walls it is possible to fit 12 frames as opposed to the normal 11, which goes some way towards offsetting the lack of brood space in a standard Smith hive.

Smith hive

As can be seen in the photo all the hive parts are held together with toggle clips, and with the addition of simple wooden handles this makes the hives easily transportable for migratory beekeeping without the need for additional strapping.

Mesh floors are made with an 8mm rim and a pivoted entrance. A small clip (just visible on the right of the alighting board) allows the entrance to be securely closed for transport or held open in the apiary with no danger of accidental closure. These built-in features avoid the need for entrance blocks or mouse guards.

Out Apiaries

The only pieces of kit that Will takes to and from his out apiaries are supers and sugar syrup. Everything else that might be needed is kept with each hive. This includes a rapid feeder which is left on all year round, a queen excluder and a crown board (no holes).

View of feeder
Rapid feeder internal layout

Feeder with cover
Rapid feeder with covers

The feeder is based on a standard design with a few additions and modifications. Bees come up through the slot and feed on the syrup in the normal way. A small hole near the base allows bees into the main part of the feeder to clean up, which avoids mould growth.

By changing the cover to include a couple of Porter escapes the feeder then acts as a clearer. A small quantity of syrup seems to attract bees from the supers above and clearing only takes about 3 hrs instead of the normal 24 hrs.Feeder/clearer diagram

Stands – simple and durable. Standard breeze blocks placed on the ground and levelled, with a large hollow block placed on each. 2” x 4” timber frames on top.
Roof – uses 9mm ply to make a deep (9”) roof. The advantages are that it does not blow off and there is sufficient space to accommodate the feeder and spare equipment at all times of year.

Solar wax extractor

His extractor is large enough to take several brood frames at once. Frames straight from the hive are left in the extractor for several days so that all the wax has drained and the wood work sterilised by the heat. By knocking each frame while still warm nearly all the cocoons can be dislodged leaving very little scraping to do. Cost? Nil!

Will also makes his own foundation from the recycled wax. When attaching to the frames he pours molten wax along the top edge instead of using a wedge. Saves time and fiddly nailing plus there are fewer places for wax moth larvae to hide.

Queen rearing

Half width super frames form the basis of a simple technique. 24 of these frames can be fitted into a modified super and placed on a strong colony for the queen to lay in. When eggs and larvae are present the frames can be distributed to small boxes where queen cells will be built. The new queens can then be introduced into existing colonies using hair curlers.

There were lots of other gadgets on display including a modified kitchen sink for uncapping supers, a bain marie for wax melting, made from two stainless steel bowls, a kettle element and a cooker thermostat, and a simple honey warming cabinet using lamps as heaters and a fan from a computer.

We hope this talk will stimulate ideas for making your beekeeping easier.


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The June edition of the BBKA News has extensive information about the Asian hornet threat. In particular, pages 209 and 210 have full colour reproductions of the Asian hornet alert document issued by the Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) for you to cut out and use as your personal guide to identification of this invasive species.
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More information can be found at:          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/27/eu-agrees-total-ban-on-bee-harming-pesticides?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
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