After theory… then what?

By | April 22, 2012

Having completed the excellent Zoo Train theory courses, and joining up with Ealing Transition at the Walmer Gardens hive, I still had buckets of enthusiasm. What next? I really wanted to get more practical experience and learning, getting my hands regularly into a hive with some teachers.

Wild comb being built on the underside of the hive roof - undesirable!

Wild comb being built on the underside of the hive roof – undesirable!

A quick search around the net showed that most courses were beginner theory courses.. great  for those that want to know a bit more, and see if bee keeping was the thing for them.
And what if it was? What next? There was a glut in the market.

Thankfully I found East Surrey Bees who offer the next stage, with beginner and intermediate practical courses, amongst many other classes. Interestingly, the Walmer Garden bees come from ESB. ESB are providing the bees for the Capital Bee project.

The course started shortly so I had found them just in time, and at £95 for ten 2 hour evening classes, it was bang on the money, and great value.

ESB provide friendly and organised training, which does what it says on the tin, practical bee keeping. Within 30 minutes of the class starting, we had suits on, smokers lit, and opening up a hive. The weather was still a bit cool and the threat of rain lurked, but still we were into it.
There were around 25 on the course and we split into three manageable groups, looking into what I suspect are training hives.

We saw all of key elements, Queen (a real monster!) eggs, larvae, capped brood honey, nectar, and plenty of well mannered bees, drones, workers &  newly born fluffy, white nurses. We even saw a bee emerging from the cell, but it occurred to me with 2000 eggs laid / day, that means 2000 bees hatched per day. A hatching bee would be a regular sight. Someone delightfully pointed out that also meant 2000 bees dying / day. Thanks for the input there.

Our unpractised manner had us leaking nectar out of the cells as we held the frames the wrong way, and risked larvae falling out too. A good lesson for me to see why you should follow the “vertical” manner, rather than our clumsy “horizontal”. We even risked the queen falling off the frames and onto the ground, so always hold the frame directly above the hive – so if she falls off, straight into the hive she goes.

Despite our ignorant handling, the trainers politely gave us pointers and were kind, helpful and clearly having a great time teaching us.  They’ve seen this before, and seen bees survive, I’m sure. Further, if we were handing a training hive, there wasn’t much for the humans to loose. I wouldn’t ask one of the bees that though, as we leaked the nectar onto the muddy ground.

We checked out another hive, were bees were outgrowing the hive. They had started making natural comb under the roof (artistically leaving enough bee space to move around and tend to the natural comb). They really shouldnt be building comb up there from the bee keepers perspective, as its difficult to manage. But, its perfectly normal behaviour, and indicated this colony needed a bit more room. Time for a super (smaller sized frames which sit on the top of the hive, for bees to grow more comb, and store honey).

The light started to fade, so the two legged un-winged ones were back inside (avoiding the p/maternal geese with 10 new goslings) to create some frames.

East Surrey Bees.


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