Following on from my post Reflections on a year in beekeeping, I have been lucky to share my bee adventures this year. Here are 10 reasons why every beek should have a hive partner.
#1 Beekeeping is a two-
man woman job. An extra pair of hands (and eyes) is handy for hive inspections. You can both lift parts of the hive when they are sticky (particularly propolised queen excluders) and work with levers and smoke to close the hive without squishing bees.
#2 You have to make a lot of frames. 11 frames per brood box and 10 frames per super (National hive). With a hive partner you can knock these up in half the time when you need to put another brood box or super on the hive. At least, that’s the theory.
#3 A super of honey weighs around 60 pounds. If like Queen Elizabeth I you have the heart and stomach of a beekeeper but the body of a weak and feeble woman, you will need a hive partner to help lift a full super of honey. This is true.
#4 There are about 50,000 bees and only one of you. A hive partner helps even the odds.
#5 Queens can be tricksy. Even experienced beeks can sometimes have trouble spotting and caging queens – she is good at running and hiding. Try holding up a frame covered by about 2,000 bees, spotting the queen, caging her and marking her as the workers try to free her – with only two hands. Good luck! Three beeks couldn’t cage and mark our flighty queen.
#6 Two beeks are better than one. Staying one step ahead of the bees and predicting what they will do next is not easy. When you find a queen cell, or perhaps five, it helps to discuss a plan of action with a hive partner preferably over tea and cake.
#7 Extracting honey is a lot of work. Clearing bees from supers is the easy bit, but it helps to have a hive partner to shake off stragglers and take home bee-free frames. Then there’s decapping frames, spinning off the honey, filtering, jarring and labelling. It’s more than an evening’s work for just
six frames one hive, so it helps to share honey extraction with a hive partner.
#8 Beekeeping is an expensive hobby. Bees are high-maintenance. Assume one extra hive for every colony for a shook swarm or bailey comb change, nucs and spare hives for artificial swarms, spare frames, jars and labels, mouse guards, sugar and fondant, medicines… It’s easier to spread the cost of a year in beekeeping between two beekeepers!
#9 You will have more than one hive. Once you are started on this dodgy path there is no stopping. By the end of your second year beekeeping, it’s likely you will have at least two hives to keep.
#10 Beekeepers don’t have holidays. We don’t joke about this. You don’t know what naughtiness your bees will get up to while you are away. A hive partner can cover your holidays between March and September.
#11 Beekeepers need tea and cake after hive inspections. I forgot to add this, but it is essential. Make sure you get a hive partner who bakes.
This is so sweet of you to say Emma, especially as I’m so clumsy and forgetful that I often worry I’m a hindrance rather than a help to you and the bees! I can add #12 – your partner can do awesome drawings/take great photos while your hands are full, #13 – your partner can remind you to do treatments/order parts which you have forgotten and #14 – your partner might have a very kind dad who lets you do honey extraction in his nice clean kitchen.
Aw! Thank you Emily. Between us we make one awesome beekeeper! Um, a bit like Station from Bill and Ted… ;o)