All of our hives, here at Mendip are Modified National and are constructed of Western Red Cedar. Although Red Cedar has excellent natural weather proof qualities, I still give them all a coat of wood preservative before bringing them into use and again should one become vacant, for whatever reason, before re-using it. I should mention here, that before re-use and before the preservative, the internal surfaces of all hive parts are given a quick scorching with a blowlamp.

 All the hives have mesh floors, and that’s how the bees over-winter here. Having good air circulation at all times, especially when the bees are clustering, is to my mind, the best way to keep bees. It is a widely held view that bees have to be kept warm if they are to over-winter successfuly, this is not a view that I share, bees are not warm blooded creatures,damp and starvation, are in my opinion, the main causes of colony failure during the winter. Having open mesh floors in place with the ventilation they provide must certainly, in my opinion,  assist in preventing the build up of damp. It has to be said, if you let your bees go into Winter without sufficient stores, you are deluding yourself if you blame the cold for their failure. I have heard it said that inserting the floor slides for a few weeks in early Spring assists the queen and early brood production.I intend to try that on three of the colonies this year. If it works, then in future the practice will be adopted with all the hives, if not, then it’s back to plan “A”, I’ll let you know. I should mention that floor slides are inserted while varroa treatments are in place and for a couple of hours following a dusting of icing sugar.

 So, how have the bees over-wintered, I am very hopeful that they have faired well. Feeding was completed before the end of September and the mouse guards went on straight afterwards. I had united 5 & 6 just prior to that as 6 had become queenless and they wintered on two brood boxes. We administered our Oxalic acid in January, this provided an oportunity to have a quick look at the colonies, without in any way disturbing the clusters. Glad to say, they all had plenty of stores and looked in really good health, 1 & 2 had been on two brood chambers all year and were exceptionally strong.It is my intention this year to keep three colonies on two brood chambers.  Providing 5, previously 5 & 6, come out of the Winter well, they will be left on two chambers. I shall run three hives on 1 1/2, that is to say, brood and super and two on single brood chamber. The purpose behind this is to enable me to hopefully, to accurately compare the various brood configurations, and eventually, arrive at a method which best suits us here.

 So, back to the hives, the entrance blocks  have two openings,on adjacent faces, one about six inches wide and the other restricted. It is an easy matter to alter the entrance, one has simply to revolve the block. I use only wired queen excluders,the zinc ones are a waste of space in my opinion. Each brood chamber is equiped with eleven Hoffman frames and one dummy board. I use Manley frames in my supers, unless they are being used as extended brood chambers, in which case they are configured as the brood’s. I replaced the crown boards on two of the hives with Brother Adam feeders last year, this year all the hives will be treated the same, I’ll explain why later. My roofs are lined with a thin sheet of polestyrene, it’s actually laminate underlay. I just have a feeling that a little insulation under the roof may help prevent condensation in the event of a prolonged hard Winter, if it doesn’t, well there’s nothing lost, is there. So that pretty much describes the hives here at Mendip, speak to you again soon.


Ask most beekeepers why they keep bees and with out a doubt, most will answer “honey”. When asked “how did your bees perform last season”, most will answer in terms of honey produced. Undeniably, the amount of honey a colony produces is a measure of that colony’s success but there must surely be more to keeping bees than just honey. In the same way that “one swallow doesn’t make a Summer” surely, one or two highly productive colonies out of say, half a dozen or more, tells the story of only those one or two. What of the others. Also, on my travels I have encountered colonies kept under apalling conditions , hives falling to pieces, combs as black as soot, but when asked how are your bees doing, the answer is invariably, great, had sixty pounds of honey from this one last year, or an answer something similar.

 Here at Mendip I have a different philosophy, I suppose it can be likened to the difference between an intensive poultry farmer and a hobbiest with half a dozen hens running around the garden.The farmer sees purely profit when he looks at his hens whereas, the hobbiest cares about them, he enjoys being a part of their little lives, he is as thrilled when he opens the nest box and sees one or two eggs as when he sees a box full. When he loses one of his hens he is genuinely saddened.That about sums up my feelings here at Mendip, yes, of course I get an enormous thrill when I see combs laden with honey, but no more than when I see a perfectly formed comb of brood, or a newly emerged Queen making her way, shakily over the comb.

Have you ever watched young bees about to take their first flight, coming to the hive entrance then turning back, almost as if daring each other to be first to go, then suddenly, they’ve gone. It always reminds me of my own children’s first steps and I find it equally enchanting. Quite simply, I enjoy keeping bees and I hope you will too. Come with me this year, join me here at Mendip as I try to put some of my ideas into effect , let me know if you don’t agree with the way I’m doing something. I know a lot of my ideas will probably be at odds with established views but join me anyway, who knows,you may even enjoy the trip, I do hope so.


Here at Mendip the hives,as the picture shows,are situated,more or less,in a row in front of the trees which border the meadow.To minimise the risk of drifting,the hives on each stand are set to face in different directions and I have to say,I’ve not noticed any one hive building up in numbers at the expense of it’s neighbour . Having the hives facing different  directions,certainly in my case,seems to have avoided the problem.


 As you can see, the hives are set on three stands, each stand having three hives.The stands measure some ten feet in length, two feet in width and stand some sixteen inches off the ground.They are of slatted construction and have, incidently, all been made with reclaimed timber.I find these dimensions ideal as there is plenty of room between the hives to allow for manipulations without the need for piling hive parts on the ground around me.I stated the stands have been made using reclaimed timber and you’ll see as we go along,that most of the kit I’ve made falls into this catagory,this with the exception of the hives which are all of Western Red Cedar.

My advice here and now is,always purchase the best you can afford when obtaining hives,anything less is in my opinion,false economy.To the left of the hive stands is my shed. This houses the items which I’m most likely to have an immediate need for.There can be nothing more frustrating than finding that something which you need urgently is not within easy reach,so having a shed close by is a real plus and one that I would highly recommend.The shed is also  on a stand.I’m convinced that having kit which you are going to have to access regularly,raised above the ground make life so much easier,it’s certainly kinder on the back.So,that pretty much describes the set-up here at Mendip.In addition there is a Solar wax extractor a Nuc.stand and a Bait hive about which I have say has thus far, only succeeded in attracting the attention of a pair of amourous Blue-tits.”How sweet” I hear you say. I’ll be describing the extractor and other bits and pieces in more detail as we go along.