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Report of the December 2018 winter meeting


EDBK Winter Meeting, 6th December 2018
“Here is one I made earlier”

Our last winter meeting of the year usually takes the form of a Social evening. This year we had the added attraction of an exhibition of homemade beekeeping equipment and gadgets. Most of the owners/inventors were available to demonstrate and talk about their exhibits.

Hives and hive parts formed a large part of the display. Of particular interest were the items that could be used to display bees at shows or talks. Tim Purrett’s single frame design could be easily loaded and transported for use in schools where it could be passed round for close inspection without danger. There were two other similar frames on display as well.

An observation hive based on a standard nucleus box was demonstrated by John Badley. Features included double ventilation screening to prevent stings and provision for either one or two frames on display. Observation hives can cost £200 or more but this polycarbonate and plywood construction was a fraction of the price.

Observation hive
Observation hive
Solar wax extractor
Solar wax extractor
Retail packs
Retail packs

Colin Osborne brought along his simplified version of the Asian hornet floor. This robust design could be made from scratch very easily or used to modify an existing floor cheaply.

We had handmade standard hive parts by David Chambers, keeping the cost of beekeeping down. David Wiscombe was demonstrating the simplicity of the Smith hive in both manufacture, which he does himself, and use. Ann Pengelly and Peter Singleton were enthusiastically demonstrating their use of the Warré hive. For comparison, the branch apiary supplied the handmade top bar hive used for demonstrations.

Other large items on display were Nick Silver’s thermostatically controlled honey warming or wax melting cabinet, Keith Bone’s solar wax extractor and Alasdair Bruce’s ingenious hive transporter made from angle iron and bungee elastic.

Two bee vacuums were displayed, one based on a 5 frame nuc hive and the other based on a portable battery pack for picking up small swarms.

Bob Mercer had his apparatus for collecting a sample of bees. A simple adaption of a plastic food container, by making a two inch incision in the lid, inserting a short piece of wire into the flap, thus creating a handle, one is able to drag the box across the bees while holding the flap down with one’s thumb, then pulling the flap up into the closed position. An easily made solution to the Basic Assessment demonstration.

Richard Simpson showed us his homemade swarm catcher on a pole, for knocking swarms out of trees up to 16’ high, and a wax melter made from a steam wall paper stripper. An over-sized dummy board made to fit flush inside the brood box, immediately splits it into two nucleus-sized volumes. One nest uses the existing entrance and a wedge cut from the back of the floor makes a rear entrance. With some filling under the lugs, and, if necessary, completing the closure to the crownboard, two nucs can share a single roof and floor for the winter.

Gerry Humphries, who has been keeping bees for over 60 years, demonstrated queen rearing aids such as his patented tilting frame, a horizontal frame eke and a variety of boards that have been invented over the years for making queen rearing more efficient. He also had public demonstration frames all finished with a typically “Gerry” attention to detail.


Finally, Mike Walters, a prize winner at Devon County and Honiton Shows, brought along some of his retail sales packs combining very tasteful (and tasty) pots of honey with lovely beeswax products, clearly demonstrating how a few small changes to presentation can make a big difference to the end products of our craft. Mike and Nick Silver also showed us their much-admired skeps, made at our skep-making classes and frequently used for swarm catching.

The exhibitors of the 28 items are to be congratulated on their ingenuity and DIY skills, as well as their willingness to share their creations and ideas with the rest of our group.

Our thanks to Richard Simpson for organising the displays and to all the East Devon members who brought their equipment along. Several members commented that it was one of the most interesting and well attended meetings they had been to.