Last weekend the BKA visited the apiary of Dennis Clemens, set in a farm yard at Moreton. The farm workers were busy making silage 50 yards upwind, so it was rather aromatic!
There were about a score of us present and I noticed that the three of us without gloves were all Presidents! Mervyn Bown who has just retired from the County, Richard Norman who replaced him and me, President of Dorchester & Weymouth.
There were about half a dozen hives in the apiary. One of them was fenced off with a ribbon to prevent people standing in the flight line as they are stroppy! We didn’t open them.
Dennis has been keeping bees for only about 20 years but has had many hives and even kept bees in New Zealand for a while so I suppose he has more open hive experience than me. I was taught and pass on to apprentices that, because of bees’ sensitivity to movement, one should move hands at half speed over an open hive. Denis does the opposite and is a real prestidigitator! He didn’t seem to get stung though.
He is an ‘economical’ beekeeper and makes much of his own kit from scrap, including frames. I noticed supers converted into brood boxes by the addition of a square of planks beneath.
He has what he calls a top bar hive, but isn’t what you’d expect. It is simply a National brood box with top bars spaced by screws. Of course, the sides being vertical, the bees attached comb to them so a knife was needed before removing each bar. Not a good idea in my opinion!
A better idea and one that I might copy is his method of placing on the floor three triangular bars about 6″ long and deep enough to bridge the gap twixt floor and frames. This provides a ladder for the bees so they don’t feel the need to extend their comb beneath the bottom bars.