8 May 2013

Basic Assessment notes - Part 2 : Equipment

This is the shortest section of the assessment syllabus, and the most straightforward to answer because as soon as you start buying or making equipment the words get drilled into your head.

There are, of course, variations in hive designs but the language used is always the same.

The Candidate will be:
2.1 able to name and explain the function of the principal parts of a modern beehive;
Top downwards :-
  • Roof ~ metal outer layer, often over wood frame, deep sided for weather protection, insulation to maintain stable temperatures. May have notches for ventilation.
  • Crown board ~ inner lid. May have a hole for feeding or inserting a gizmo for clearing honey supers. Keeps propolis away from the lid, and so stops it from getting stuck down.
  • Super(s) ~ honey production area, usually shallower frames than in brood box (honey is heavy).
  • Queen excluder – to separate queen from honey storage area, to keep the honey clear of brood and the wax clean and edible
  • Brood box ~ the name given to the box, or part of the hive, used for brood raising – frames are usually larger than those in shallows (supers) although some beekeepers standardise their equipment by using only one size of box throughout and some use brood and a half, which is one deep brood box and one shallow box.
  • Floor ~ either solid or open mesh. Mesh (count 10 = 10 holes per inch) is to let varroa and other debris to drop through. The mesh floor alone is not a form of varroa treatment.
  • Stand ~ to bring top of brood box to working height and to keep hive away from the ground where it is less likely to get damp and hive debris lands a clear distance away from the colony.
  • There may be a landing board in front of the hive, it may be patterned to help the bees recognise their hive and to reduce drifting during busy times and can be important in an area where many queens are raised as they can be disorientated and tired on their return from a mating flight.
  • There may be a reduced size entrance ~ beekeeper's preference, but it is common to reduce the entrance during the colder months so there is less space to defend, and it's harder for vermin to access the hive. The entrance may be covered with a mouseguard or there may be a pollen trap.
  • Within the brood box there may be a dummy board ~ used to temporarily reduce the space available to the bees, but not to restrict them to one area of the brood box. A dummy board is the same size as a frame. Some beekeepers use them all the time, it helps prevent 'rolling' the bees when withdrawing frames.
  • There may also be a follower or division board ~ which seals off part of the hive, or divides the internal cavity so it can be used for two or more small colonies.
  • Eke ~ a very shallow frame, same outer dimensions as other boxes but only two or three inches tall. It's used to give space for feeding, without giving the bees too much empty air to keep warm. Can be made of wood, ply, or solid insulation board such as Kingspan.
  • Feeder ~ a variety of designs available, could be a plastic container with vertical, roughened, ramp for bees to access syrup or a container with holes in the base allowing almost instant contact with syrup. Fondant can be fed directly above the crownboard or frame top bars in a plastic bag or box. Granulated sugar can be moistened and offered on a board, or still in the slit-open bag.
  • Clearer board ~ may have a lozenge shaped 'escape' fitted below the hole. The bees are able, quite easily, to find their way down into the rest of the hive, but are unable to find the single beespace entrances to return. Porter Bee Escapes have a spring trap that prevents the bees from returning, these can be unreliable as they can be blocked by drones or the springs can be propolized shut.
2.2 aware of the concept of the bee space and its significance in the modern beehive;
Beespace was first used in 1848 by Johan Szierzon, and then by Langstroth in 1852. Details of various measurements are described by Dave Cushman.
  • approx 8mm = space left between opposite faces of capped brood and at frame tops (tbs) or below frames (bbs), enables two bees to pass each other.
  • approx 4mm = single bee space – at side of box, adjacent to end frame or dummy board.
  • 4.3mm = gap between wires in queen excluder
  • gaps of less than 4mm will be propolized; greater than 9mm will lead to brace/wild comb.
Bee space is used when making efficient mouseguards and pollen traps, the vertical entrance on the Dartington hives, and the horizontal slit entrance on Swienty poly hives.

FERA recommends using a entrance only 5.5mm in height to deter Asian Hornets.

2.3 able to assemble a frame and fit it with wax foundation;
(from syllabus - “the component parts of a frame and a sheet of wired foundation together with the necessary nails and tools are in the possession of the candidate ready for assembly in front of the Assessor”)
I wonder what would happen to a candidate who has only ever used plastic frames - I don't use them, but know beekeepers who do.

There's little point in spending ages trying to explain how to assemble frames when there is an excellent video at Cornwall Honey

2.4 aware of the reasons for the use of wax foundation;
  • Some beekeepers prefer to use wax starter strips and pre-wired frames because they are concerned about traces of biocides and possible traces of disease in wax, and also might like the idea of allowing bees to choose the size of the cells they build. There is some speculation that 'natural' smaller cells (smaller than commercially produced foundation) might help reduce varroa load.
  • Using whole sheets of foundation is meant to be quicker, provides a standard-sized template from which the bees will draw cells, and so will generally conform to what the beekeeper wants. (Spring-built cells would, otherwise, often be drone sized, autumn-built cells are more likely to be worker).
  • Bees use energy to generate wax, and some beekeepers believe their honey yield will be reduced if they do not use full sheets of wax foundation whilst others believe the bees will make wax anyway, and it might as well be used. As I often find a lot of wax plates on the boards beneath the open mesh floors, I tend to agree with the latter and am wary of any possible concentrations of 'icides', so would prefer them to make their own comb guided by shallow starter strips.
  • Unwired foundation is used for 'cut comb', usually for heather honey. There are theories about how it should best be placed into the frame - referring to Housel Positioning (the angle of the 'Y' intersection seen through the base of cells). Read more by Michael Bush and Dee Lusby.
2.5 aware of the spacing of the combs in the brood chamber and super for both foundation and drawn comb and methods used to achieve this spacing.
  • 8mm between the faces of brood frames to allow bees to work both faces of frames at the same time – important when looking after eggs/brood.
  • Hoffman frames are self spacing, there are shoulders at the top of the side bars that keep the face of the comb is the correct distance apart.
  • Other (Manley?) frames have side bars that are the same width all the way down, beekeepers who prefer to use these frames sometimes use castellated spacers permanently fixed within hive or attach plastic or metal spacers to the frame ends. Same size all the way down is meant to be easier to uncap for extraction.
  • Between super frames = can initially be 8mm, but some beekeepers use hoffman frames and gradually, as the frames are filled and as the season progresses, space the frames wider apart to allow greater amount of honey to be stored per frame. So a 10 frame Langstroth super would (could/might) end up holding 8 frames of sealed honey.
  • A normal writing or colouring pencil is 8mm diameter.
Some beekeepers rely on guesswork that the depth (from front of nail to fingerprint/pad) of an average thumb is about four times beespace, and use this for spacing drawn super frames - bees will then draw these frames deeper and so store more honey in each frame.

There are 'notes' for each section of the 'Basic Assessment' syllabus:

BBKA Basic Assessment : Syllabus 2013
Basic Assessment notes - Part 1 : Manipulation of a Honeybee Colony
Basic Assessment notes - Part 2 : Equipment
Basic Assessment notes - Part 3 : Natural History of the Honeybee
Basic Assessment notes - Part 4 : Beekeeping
Basic Assessment notes - Part 5 : Disease and Pests


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