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Author Topic: I WANT BEES!  (Read 15141 times)


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Fife
  • .
« on: January 08, 2012, 07:25:01 pm »
My God, I've wanted bees forever. one of my earliest memories is watching my friends' father extracting honey with a centrifuge, I've been hooked ever since. Not enough to do anything but dream, however perhaps the time is nigh. Unfortunately I have no money and all the set up looks pricey. Sigghhhh. Is there a second hand equipment place / site?


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 07:35:15 pm »
Find your local bee club, they sometimes know someone who's having to give up and who will give/sell at a low price, to someone who wants to learn. Also this way you'll get bees suitable for your local area.


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 09:13:12 pm »
You will still need to get your own bee suit (second hand ones usually have a hole somewhere...), but you could join you local club as Jaykay says, and then maybe volunteer as a helper to one of the older beekeepers. They quite often like to have someone to help, especially if you are able to lift heavy supers for them.... Lots to learn that way and a few jars of honey probably as well...

I would stay away from second hand equipment, unless you a) know where it is from, and b) have a blowtorch/steam steriliser set up to clean the hives. Always get your own new frames/foundation for the supers and try and change the brood frames asap for new ones. Best would be to start off with a nuc and build up your own colony that way. Too many diseases around just now, and also unscrupulous businesses selling bees (often imported queens and totaly useless in the british climate!) Buy local is really important for bees.


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Fife
  • .
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 09:16:47 pm »
Oooh, good advice, both, thank you. I've contacted the guy closest to me to see if I can visit him, will take it from there. Thanks a million!  :wave:


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Talley, Carmarthenshire
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2012, 08:02:25 am »
Most bee clubs will have a swarm coordinator.  If you join a club you can put your name on the list for a swarm when it comes up.  They usually go through the list in order so the earlier you can put your name down the better.
Of course you will need to have your hive ready and there is no guarantee that you will get a swarm but if you can go down this route it would be quite a substantial saving.
Life is like a bowl of cherries, mostly yummy but some dodgy bits

Victorian Farmer

  • Guest
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 10:47:36 am »
Iv got the hive and stuff but I'm in Scotland I started last yere Iv got newzeland bees none aggressive no problem .


  • Joined May 2011
  • Yorkshireman on a hill in wet South Wales
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2012, 12:38:09 am »
My God, I've wanted bees forever. one of my earliest memories is watching my friends' father extracting honey with a centrifuge, I've been hooked ever since. Not enough to do anything but dream, however perhaps the time is nigh. Unfortunately I have no money and all the set up looks pricey. Sigghhhh. Is there a second hand equipment place / site?

 Do bee keeping like it was done before hives with moveable frames came along  ,all you'll need is some anti varroa strips and a live swarm for the Skeps that you make from long straw and binder twine.  Biggest skep needs to be about two feet across and two feet high with a flat top so you can put another skep on top .
 make the floor a base board or paving slab raised off the floor about 18 inches.

You can over winter a skep or two so long as you wire net it in small 1/4 inch mesh to keep rats , mice & woodpeckers out etc.out. & tie it down to stop a strong wind blowing it away

Look up "  Skep beekeeping " or keeping bees in Skeps " and also  " How to make a bee skep ".

 There is also another way that works well and again it can be over wintered . Iit is a long hive which is basically a letter " V " of 15 inch or so  long side walls & lid by about four feet long with cross bars on internal runners  of the correct dimensions . The look like a big toblerone bar but the vee is not inverted it stands on  " X " legs that are screwed on at the front and rear or it is supported in this nmanner using bricks etc so long as it is solid  and sound .

Carefully run a thin  bead of melted bees wax over the length of these internal cross bars right down a pencilled on middle line using a squeezed  in at the top bean can or similar as the pouring spout .  Dont use a naked flame to melt the bees wax inside the house or an enclosed space or you could get a nasty volatile oil vapour explosion .
 I used to use a big pan of boiling water , turn off the burner & pilot light then put the wax in the can  and then using long handled pliers  held the can in the boiled water gently stirring thee wax till it all melted .  Then I squeezed the can rim to make the pourer

 I've often also done this when I ran out of foundation for making up moveable frames as the bees will draw out comb along the bead of wax,  .... though this drawing out of the new comb is done at the expense of the bees producing a bit of honey.

 They are best made in 19 mm marine ply or  some 3/4 thick flat faced tongue and groved timber that is treated with a bee friendly Cuprinol green preservative.   They have two  ends and a lipped lid , one of the ends needs a 1 inch round hole boring in it  about three inches from the bottom to let the bees in and three 1 inch vent holes at the rear three inches from the top , cover these vent holes with fine mesh similar to a sieve so only air goes in or out .....not robbing bees or wasps etc.   

Again look it up on a search engine to see what it is. Perhaps google  "African long bee hive plans " or "  long hive plan or similar the only real accurate thing you need to take into account is the bee space and the thicknes of wild comb .

Getting bees is not so expensive or difficult as you may think .. use the internet for pictures so you can readily indentify a worker bee .

 Around the 5 th of April  put  a saucer of a mix of two dessert spoons of jarred honey and a little warm water  out on a day when the temperatures are starting to reach 50 farenheit or more leave it there .
 Observe the saucer for four or five days when the sun is out and see if there are any honey bees visiting on a regular basis .
Then if you see honey bees for six days running in increasing numbers ( refill the saucer if needed ) buy some bee attractant & varroa strips from the likes of Thornes etc.and liberally spray some honey solution inside the skep or hive and add the attractant , place it near the saucer site add the anti varroa strips in the hive.

Most swarms will bring some varroa with them so killing the ones they bring makes sound sense before they get well established in your hive . Only use the strips when and how it says on the label ..don't skimp here for  you'll all to often lose the bees due to the varroa increasing and sucking juices out of the bees till the hive gets so sick it collapses and leaves infections in the hive & its honey for robbing bees to pass on to their own beehive / nest .
The scout bees wil soon find the new home and when they swarm for the first time of the year ..... anytime from around 10 to 21 April depending on temp and weather you may well get a prime swarm move into your long hive or skep . When  the hive swarms approx 80 ,000  ( half of a first swarming of they ear hive  )  of the bees that can fly split off from the old hive taking honey & the new virgin queen with them .

Leave it alone for at least a week so the queen can go out on her mating flight and start laying eggs  . Bee rarely swarm if the new queen has eggs or brood in the comb 

I had my long hives and skeps on old wheelbarrow frames with a simple platforn  added to make my honey barrows  Each day I gently wheeled the hives three feet every three hours to get the hive into a safe place.

 Lot of old boys say only move the hive for a maximum three feet every day or three miles away for at least three days but they have never questioned it or experimented  ....  I have.

 My first bee suit was a way too big blue , well patched up boiler suit with elastic in the leg hems and elasticated cuff off a pair of old ski gloves sewn into the cuffs by me , the pockets were sewn up and I fitted a large close fitting stong sleeping bag zip in place of the popper studs  & extended the neck collar to a chinese  high style till it nearly came up to my nose when raised , it enclosed my lower jaw .. this had a velcro wrap over closure .

 My veil was some old net curtaining dyed black ( you can see through black much  better than white ) and draped over an old brimmed hat to keep it off my face & the top of my thinning scalp .
It was elasticated so it  was held tightly against the up turned extended collar of the boiler suit but there was enough of it to then hang down onto my shoulders and chest .
On my hands I wore simple marigold rubber glove with the tops up inside the elasticated sleeve cuffs , the trouser leg was tucked into my wellies with a large overhang at the top of the wellie .
 Bees usually only walk upwards unlike a wasp who goes up and down so you can  help things by arranging your clothing so the bees only walk up and not under it .

 Oh ..... an amusing but interesting thing  .....if a bee lands on the veil and you can see its back .... bugger off quick away from the hive area by about 50 mtrs and get it out for it's on the inside of your veil.

It was two years before I purchased a full Sherrif's bee suit .  you can make a simple smoker  yourself no need to buy a massive 30 or so new one .google how to make one they are not difficult .. I used an old computer main chip fan and a simple  pressure switch Battery  to blow my home made smoker rather than mess around with bellows and one way valves.

 My first lot of bees came by way if a tiny late in the swarming season of a July swarm issuing from some neglected hives where the owner had died in the spring . There was only about a litre  jug full of bees , these became my stock bees and I rapidly expanded to 50 hives in the next three years .
I took swarms  and split hives etc to get going and went hell for leather with my own stock so I could stop  tearing around the countryside like a loon chasing swarms  which 9 times out of 10 had moved on .

 I found the best time for swarms in East Anglia is  10 .30 hrs  till 15 45 hrs   when the day warms up well and stays calm and warm  from  mid April to late July.
But as a beekeeper I always seemed to get called out when  the kids came home from school and noticed the bees .

« Last Edit: January 10, 2012, 01:48:59 am by Plantoid »
International playboy & liar .
Man of the world not a country


  • Joined Sep 2010
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2012, 02:32:00 pm »
Good to read your story Plantoid.

I love keeping bees. It's a pleasure to have them around the place.

My advice to any newbie starting up is to contact their local bee keeping association. There they will get hands on practice, receive good advice and learn their way around all the kit and tools available. They will learn of any secondhand items for sale and might even make a likeminded new friend or two.


'Once a beekeeper, always a beekeeper'

Small Farmer

  • Joined Jan 2012
  • Bedfordshire
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2012, 11:13:43 am »
Our local BKA runs a mentoring service and training courses.  We offer practical hands-on experience in the spring and summer on other members hives followed by a theory course in the winter.  For the survivors we then offer to lend a hive for a year with a subsidised nucleus and a mentor.  The deal is that you then join in with the training of others after a couple of years so the load is spread.   There's 23 new trainees this year, from around 50 who showed initial interest.

There are some great books on bee-keeping but we found that few of the colonies had read them.  Nothing beats being able to ring up a friend and say "err...".  2011 was a very successful year for honey but the colony behaviours were all over the place, with swarming starting a month earlier than expected and lots more swarms being called-in by the public than in previous years.  Maybe there just being noticed more.
Being certain just means you haven't got all the facts


  • Joined Aug 2009
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2012, 01:16:05 pm »
Oh, Dizzycow, I have just sold all my hives and equipment for next to nothing. If you ask around I'm sure you will find someone who can make you a couple of basic supers and the rest you can find through your local bee-keepers club. Good luck :) (were you thinking of making mead? ;))


  • Joined Apr 2010
  • Cambridgeshire
    • Hempsals Community Farm
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2012, 02:38:58 pm »
For free/cheap hives, you could try a top bar. They are dead easy to build although you won't get nearly as much honey out of them as a conventional hive. We built one last spring and collected a swarm from the neighbouring village so got started at zero cost.
Bought a 'proper hive' as well at the tail end of last year though so we'll be hoping for another swarm and more honey this year.


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Fife
  • .
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2012, 06:38:49 pm »
Thanks everyone. I'll take all the advice I can get!

I contacted the local person and there's a course starting soon, not too far, but it's in the evenings which I can't do. (Hubby about to do a lot of travelling so I just can't do it.) Very unfortunate as the course sounds perfect.

Apparently there's a guy nearby who makes hives for not too much money. Would prefer something which is almost no money, though!

Thanks everyone!

(And yes to the mead, Sylvia!)


Small Farmer

  • Joined Jan 2012
  • Bedfordshire
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2012, 09:56:27 pm »
Not sure about mead but before we properly calibrated the refractometer we had a batch of honey with too high a water content.  It wasn't legal to sell as honey so we kept it and found it fermented over winter into a really delicious spread.

When you have a hive with a colony you very quickly find you need another hive to handle swarms.  It gets compulsive, I'm afraid.  Of course you need your own shed as well, with heat, light and a kettle...

Make sure all second hand bits are disinfected, easy if you use a blow torch.  Burn second hand frames and buy new, though.  They aren't worth the infection risk.

It's a lot of fun, so enjoy and keep asking.
Being certain just means you haven't got all the facts


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Fife
  • .
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2012, 09:32:48 am »
So far the most exciting thing is the prospect of having my own shed with a kettle! And a lock on the inside to keep the marauding hoards of offspring at bay....!

robert waddell

  • Guest
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2012, 06:16:32 pm »
dizzycow    i have a bee suit the only holes are what are supposed to be there   a vail  gloves  smoker  frame cutter  and a big proper honey pail    also have some frames    20 years since they were used :farmer:


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