September 22 – Apiary training at Gregynog

The BeeHolder, Winter 2014

It was a pleasant Sunday in September when I suggested to my weekend house guest, Rosy, that she might like to come on a drive up into the hills above Newtown (to go to Gregynog) so I could go to the Apiary Training morning. Luckily she agreed and said she’d be quite interested to listen in, even though she’s not a bee keeper!

We were slightly early and were welcomed into the group of mentors who were deciding how to run the session and discussing Tony’s ideas for inserting insulation on top of the crown board, but still allowing a rapid feeder to be in place (Autumn use). Our mentors were: Apiary Manager Dave Bennett, Roy Norris, Noel Eaton and Bill Gough. Also there was David Morris who, at a previous meeting, had inadvertently revealed himself as a beekeeper of 45 years experience and was inveigled out of retirement to be a mentor, and then there was first time mentor, Netty Batty, who was a new beekeeper in 2012 but having taken a temporary summer job with a commercial ‘bee farm’ she had had a steep learning curve in handling bees. When all the ‘trainees’ had arrived and disinfected their boots and put on over-gloves, we were split up into small groups and allocated a mentor. My group went with David Morris who was at pains to show that if you treat your bees gently and quietly they will remain calm (generally speaking) and be far less disturbed by anything that the bee keeper is doing. Of the two hives we were inspecting we decided that one was queen-less and that we hadn’t managed to catch sight of the queen in the other hive but that there was evidence of her presence. Later in the session when there was a group chat it transpired that none of the queens had been spotted so we didn’t feel quite so inept! Montybees are experimenting this season with ‘Varroa sticks’ as a way of treating the bees. Previously Apiguard had been used but for that you need to apply while the temperature is above 15 degrees so that the Thymol can sublimate and the whole treatment can take up to six weeks and also the bees may be put off feeding. The ‘sticks’ are organic and are called BeeVital Hive Treatment Stick or BeeVital Hive Clean and come in handy 15ml sealed tubes, each of which is sufficient for one hive. The contents are dribbled along the seams of bees between the frames, much the same as when doing oxalic acid treatment. The advantage of the sticks over Apiguard is that you can treat the hive at any time as it doesn’t taint the honey or wax. Varroa floors were slid into place under the mesh bases to aid in the counting of the mite drop. Hive ventilation and Nosema were other subjects covered. Before closing up the hives each one was fed an autumn strength syrup using a variety of feeder types ranging from Miller ‘trough’ feeders to bucket ‘contact’ feeders.

Rosy and I then went to have a cup of tea and were later joined by Netty, Tony, Helen Woodruff and latterly by Dave Bennett. This gave us another opportunity to have an informal chat and to exchange bee experiences! We then set off for a walk around the lovely gardens – something I’ve never had time to do on previous visits and it was well worth it.

And here is Rosy’s ‘take’ on the session:

Visiting the Gregynog apiary as a non bee-keeper was a fascinating experience. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to see the bees at work without having to wear protective gear. I knew a few things about bees, but the excellent observatory, set within the apiary was a mine of information about the bees themselves, the make up of a hive and what was on view. I found myself spending the whole time of the training session watching whilst the mentors went through the hives and showing me the frames of bees and explaining how the hives were being prepared for the winter. It was reassuring to be watching from behind the safety of the mesh walls! I wasn’t the only visitor to the observatory that morning as another family with their children came along to watch as well. (see picture on front cover).

Carol Whatley, Wintles Apiary, Bishop’s Castle