I mentioned a post or two back that I was starting again, I had kept bees before.
Strictly speaking this is true, but my first bees absconded from their new hive within days of their arrival. Trust me, this is depressing, maybe as much as losing a colony over-winter or to disease, and it took me months to be able to think about keeping bees again.
Read a full post about this experience here: Absconders
I have been working towards keeping bees for about twelve years, most of that time in reading everything I could find. During that period I had become enamoured with the idea of having a Horizontal Top Bar Hive, about which more in the links mentioned below. After attending a course I discovered this was as practical a way to start as any other and not as ‘far out’ as traditionalists might have one believe.
Unluckily this is also one of the toughest hives to introduce new bees to, mainly because they do not arrive on frames (literally a narrow wooden frame with a layer of beeswax cells supported within it) or with brood (the term for eggs, larvae and young developing bees), so the preservation and rearing of the young is not an imperative for them at the point they are introduced to the hive, and so absconding is a very viable option for the colony. I explain more about why they may have absconded in that post linked above.
I have decided to compromise on a number of ideals and opt for the more common approach of hiving my new colony in a National Hive (this is one of the unromantic boxy looking hives used by most commercial beekeepers and by those starting under the tutelage of experienced beekeepers, for the main reason that most people use them and therefore you can easily borrow extra bits from fellow beekeepers and they all fit and interchange).
This time the bees will come as an over-wintered nuc (, pronounced ‘nuke’ or to give it it’s full name a nucleus, which is like a small starter box of bees on a few frames containing brood and with a laying queen – the overwintered bit just means she’s not a new queen, she’ll be starting her second season, so has a bit of experience!) Because of these factors I hope they will be a settled starter colony able to adapt quickly to a new home.
I certainly haven’t ruled out the horizontal top-bar hive, but my plans now are more around populating it from a swarm or by artificially swarming my existing colony when the time comes (don’t worry about what that means yet, I’ll explain later).
I hope to post about that adventure given the opportunity at some future point…