Given 3.5 acres of land for an apiary

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Joined
Jun 14, 2023
Messages
176
Reaction score
150
Location
Surrey, England
Hive Type
National
Number of Hives
7
Any advice from experienced beekeepers?

I've been given access to 3.5 acres of wild, open land, 15 mins walk from my home, in Surrey.

This is my first year of beekeeping. I currently have colonies in 2 nationals, and 3 small nucs awaiting QC emergence, housed in my garden. I think this is the maximum sensible capacity for my family garden.

Goal
  • Generate cash to cover equipment costs, by:
    • Selling jars of honey
    • Selling occasional nucs & Queens
I've started putting together a Thornes Sale order, which I'll collect at the Honey show in October. I hope this equipment will start me off in the out apiary.
I'm using Black Mountain Honey Laurence's tips to create 4 new Nationals.
  • Make Laurence's underfloor entrance floors - I've already made one.
  • Use only brood boxes (no supers).
  • National Poly Ashforth Feeder.
  • Garden gravel tray (for a roof).
Previously, I have built and successfully used bait hives to catch swarms and plan to do this in the spring, and also split where I can, to help me populate the hives.

Any and all advice welcome.
 
Wonderful opportunity. Check out the forage potential. Find another site a few miles away as well to keep your options open.
 
Wow. I do hope that you feel one year if beekeeping is sufficient experience to be planning expansion on that scale. I wish you all the luck and finances in the world.
E
 
Wonderful opportunity. Check out the forage potential. Find another site a few miles away as well to keep your options open.
Have also been offered free access to a huge private garden on the other side of my street.
This has all come from a comment I posted in a local Facebook group.
 
National Poly Ashforth Feeder.
Suggest most earnestly that you look at a full Abelo poly set-up before sending that order.

Garden gravel tray (for a roof).
False economy: it may work for a warm-weather emergency but it has zero thermal efficiency, summer or winter. Floor loses much less, though DerekM gave the figures to show that it's not insignificant.

Consider an Abelo Ashforth poly feeder (working all year as a CB) + 4BBs + deep poly roof which = £226.50 per hive. Bear in mind that the thermal efficiency of poly results in about 15% more honey (research by Murray McGregor) and if you price and sell your honey well, one super of 11.5kg should return £250+, so including frames & foundation, you'll be ahead in your first season.

BBs all the way work well, and I've managed colonies like that for several years. If you run without QXs not only will you save £20 but swarming will be much reduced. You will need at least four BBs per colony, five or six would be better to enable splits and take a box off to extract.

Find the cash to make split boards, at least two per colony, because vertical splitting is by far the most economical method to do the job and is more thermally efficient. Buy poly nucs to house the splits later on, when you unite the split stack to one queen at the start of the main flow. By all means make 3-frame ply nuc boxes for splits, but a split board is cheaper and polynucs are best for winter.

catch swarms
You may be lucky but that is a hit-and-miss method for honey production: really, an out-apiary is needed to a park swarms to check for brood disease and temper and so on, and if those turn out bad then work will follow. Perhaps use your current home apiary as an out-apiary?

Splits from known stock is a far better option. Roger Patterson has written straightforward recipes for making increase; digest also the 9 other methods he describes on Dave Cushman's A-Z. You've found BMH videos, but also check out Norfolk Honey Company on YT.

one year if beekeeping is sufficient experience
Fair point, and I was given advice years ago (Dan Basterfield, Honey Show workshop) to expand slowly and match experience to numbers. If you follow that plan the chances of losing the plot reduce (though you will, at some point).

You must work out a location in that 3.5 acres to give you access by vehicle, and one that will get light kit there and heavier boxes back without getting stuck. Access to the site should be yours alone, so check that hives are not visible from any angle (even at distance) and have them in the lee of a hedge or copse, to hide and give wind protection.

Drive on and off site without wearing your beesuit because a passing Transit may clock you and return at night. Security of access is a given.

Pallets give a good base for four colonies; blue pallets are strongest; space each unit apart by at least 3 metres, so you can drive between if necessary. Stack two pallets to give working height. If you can get plastic pallets, put one down first and a wood on top: plastic doesn't rot but it is slidey.

Where will you store the mounting pile of kit? Are there out-buildings on the 3.5 acres? Stack your kit undercover and sealed against vermin. Have a workplace to make, clean and repair: water & electricity will be needed.

Buy and read several times Donald Sims' 60 Years with Bees; here's a copy for £12. This and ROB Manley's Honey Farming are still the two best practical books that will change your perspective and upgrade you from twiddling with two colonies to juggling a few and more. Accept that kit and varroa has changed the landscape since they were written (beautifully) and adapt what you find.

Remind yourself every so often that you know next to nothing (but that bees will teach you everything), that the learning curve for the next five years is steep, and above all, to enjoy the job.
 
Suggest most earnestly that you look at a full Abelo poly set-up before sending that order.


False economy: it may work for a warm-weather emergency but it has zero thermal efficiency, summer or winter. Floor loses much less, though DerekM gave the figures to show that it's not insignificant.

Consider an Abelo Ashforth poly feeder (working all year as a CB) + 4BBs + deep poly roof which = £226.50 per hive. Bear in mind that the thermal efficiency of poly results in about 15% more honey (research by Murray McGregor) and if you price and sell your honey well, one super of 11.5kg should return £250+, so including frames & foundation, you'll be ahead in your first season.

BBs all the way work well, and I've managed colonies like that for several years. If you run without QXs not only will you save £20 but swarming will be much reduced. You will need at least four BBs per colony, five or six would be better to enable splits and take a box off to extract.

Find the cash to make split boards, at least two per colony, because vertical splitting is by far the most economical method to do the job and is more thermally efficient. Buy poly nucs to house the splits later on, when you unite the split stack to one queen at the start of the main flow. By all means make 3-frame ply nuc boxes for splits, but a split board is cheaper and polynucs are best for winter.


You may be lucky but that is a hit-and-miss method for honey production: really, an out-apiary is needed to a park swarms to check for brood disease and temper and so on, and if those turn out bad then work will follow. Perhaps use your current home apiary as an out-apiary?

Splits from known stock is a far better option. Roger Patterson has written straightforward recipes for making increase; digest also the 9 other methods he describes on Dave Cushman's A-Z. You've found BMH videos, but also check out Norfolk Honey Company on YT.


Fair point, and I was given advice years ago (Dan Basterfield, Honey Show workshop) to expand slowly and match experience to numbers. If you follow that plan the chances of losing the plot reduce (though you will, at some point).

You must work out a location in that 3.5 acres to give you access by vehicle, and one that will get light kit there and heavier boxes back without getting stuck. Access to the site should be yours alone, so check that hives are not visible from any angle (even at distance) and have them in the lee of a hedge or copse, to hide and give wind protection.

Drive on and off site without wearing your beesuit because a passing Transit may clock you and return at night. Security of access is a given.

Pallets give a good base for four colonies; blue pallets are strongest; space each unit apart by at least 3 metres, so you can drive between if necessary. Stack two pallets to give working height. If you can get plastic pallets, put one down first and a wood on top: plastic doesn't rot but it is slidey.

Where will you store the mounting pile of kit? Are there out-buildings on the 3.5 acres? Stack your kit undercover and sealed against vermin. Have a workplace to make, clean and repair: water & electricity will be needed.

Buy and read several times Donald Sims' 60 Years with Bees; here's a copy for £12. This and ROB Manley's Honey Farming are still the two best practical books that will change your perspective and upgrade you from twiddling with two colonies to juggling a few and more. Accept that kit and varroa has changed the landscape since they were written (beautifully) and adapt what you find.

Remind yourself every so often that you know next to nothing (but that bees will teach you everything), that the learning curve for the next five years is steep, and above all, to enjoy the job.
I can second the honey farming book , Eric I love your comment and joke about losing the plot , it made this tired beekeeper laugh.
 
  • Use only brood boxes (no supers).
Warning: Pedant approaching! :rolleyes:

'Use only deep boxes (no shallows).'

I think it's worth using the terms brood, deep, super and shallow correctly. If a beekeeper runs out of equipment and ends up with a weird configuration like double shallow brood below a single deep super, you can describe it accurately.
 
Warning: Pedant approaching! :rolleyes:

'Use only deep boxes (no shallows).'

I think it's worth using the terms brood, deep, super and shallow correctly. If a beekeeper runs out of equipment and ends up with a weird configuration like double shallow brood below a single deep super, you can describe it accurately.
Whether you call them brood boxes or deeps, they're bloody heavy when full of nectar. Do you have the strength to manage an entire apiary of them?
Why not try rose boxes as supers? You don't have to follow Tim Rowe's method of working them.
 
huge private garden
Ah! Thorn's post (I believe he is or was in the legal profession) reminds me: assess whether a handshake agreement is enough, or that some form of written agreement would give better reassurance.

It need not be complex, but would define your use & obligations, landowner's access rights & maintenance obligations, (you don't want to cut hedges or deal with fallen fencing), a notice period by either party and rent in cash or honey (or a bit of both).

Suggest you hold off on the private garden. First, the 24-hour access you will need may not appeal to the neighbours, and unless access itself is independent of their presence, would not suit your fluid work. Bear in mind also that if it all goes horribly wrong at some point (and it will) you may lose neighbourly bonhomie forever.
 
Whether you call them brood boxes or deeps, they're bloody heavy when full of nectar. Do you have the strength to manage an entire apiary of them?
Why not try rose boxes as supers? You don't have to follow Tim Rowe's method of working them.
:iagree: Admittedly I'm past the first flush of youth (82) but I can no longer lift a super full of honey to the top of the stack above shoulder height (eg when placing a clearer board and lifting the super off then back on). A BB full of honey would be impossible. There must be many on here (must avoid sexism;)) who are similar....
 
I tend to not clear on the hive if it is to tall, a seprate stand adj to the entrance with a rapid clearer board underneath and a cb/roof on top makes life a bit easier.
 
:iagree: Admittedly I'm past the first flush of youth (82) but I can no longer lift a super full of honey to the top of the stack above shoulder height (eg when placing a clearer board and lifting the super off then back on). A BB full of honey would be impossible. There must be many on here (must avoid sexism;)) who are similar....
Much easier when you enlist help, my landowner helped out today. Six supers on a double brood plus the stand would mean a clean and jerk to get them back on.
They were heavy enough with both of us lifting ;)
 
Suggest most earnestly that you look at a full Abelo poly set-up before sending that order.


False economy: it may work for a warm-weather emergency but it has zero thermal efficiency, summer or winter. Floor loses much less, though DerekM gave the figures to show that it's not insignificant.

Consider an Abelo Ashforth poly feeder (working all year as a CB) + 4BBs + deep poly roof which = £226.50 per hive. Bear in mind that the thermal efficiency of poly results in about 15% more honey (research by Murray McGregor) and if you price and sell your honey well, one super of 11.5kg should return £250+, so including frames & foundation, you'll be ahead in your first season.

BBs all the way work well, and I've managed colonies like that for several years. If you run without QXs not only will you save £20 but swarming will be much reduced. You will need at least four BBs per colony, five or six would be better to enable splits and take a box off to extract.

Find the cash to make split boards, at least two per colony, because vertical splitting is by far the most economical method to do the job and is more thermally efficient. Buy poly nucs to house the splits later on, when you unite the split stack to one queen at the start of the main flow. By all means make 3-frame ply nuc boxes for splits, but a split board is cheaper and polynucs are best for winter.


You may be lucky but that is a hit-and-miss method for honey production: really, an out-apiary is needed to a park swarms to check for brood disease and temper and so on, and if those turn out bad then work will follow. Perhaps use your current home apiary as an out-apiary?

Splits from known stock is a far better option. Roger Patterson has written straightforward recipes for making increase; digest also the 9 other methods he describes on Dave Cushman's A-Z. You've found BMH videos, but also check out Norfolk Honey Company on YT.


Fair point, and I was given advice years ago (Dan Basterfield, Honey Show workshop) to expand slowly and match experience to numbers. If you follow that plan the chances of losing the plot reduce (though you will, at some point).

You must work out a location in that 3.5 acres to give you access by vehicle, and one that will get light kit there and heavier boxes back without getting stuck. Access to the site should be yours alone, so check that hives are not visible from any angle (even at distance) and have them in the lee of a hedge or copse, to hide and give wind protection.

Drive on and off site without wearing your beesuit because a passing Transit may clock you and return at night. Security of access is a given.

Pallets give a good base for four colonies; blue pallets are strongest; space each unit apart by at least 3 metres, so you can drive between if necessary. Stack two pallets to give working height. If you can get plastic pallets, put one down first and a wood on top: plastic doesn't rot but it is slidey.

Where will you store the mounting pile of kit? Are there out-buildings on the 3.5 acres? Stack your kit undercover and sealed against vermin. Have a workplace to make, clean and repair: water & electricity will be needed.

Buy and read several times Donald Sims' 60 Years with Bees; here's a copy for £12. This and ROB Manley's Honey Farming are still the two best practical books that will change your perspective and upgrade you from twiddling with two colonies to juggling a few and more. Accept that kit and varroa has changed the landscape since they were written (beautifully) and adapt what you find.

Remind yourself every so often that you know next to nothing (but that bees will teach you everything), that the learning curve for the next five years is steep, and above all, to enjoy the job.
Hi Eric,

Many thanks for all of that invaluable advice. I have ordered both books.
I visit the site on Saturday. I'll check all of the important factors you listed. The owner used to keep bees, albeit on a very small scale, and not on that site. So, I'm hoping this will help the conversation.

I like the idea of keeping my garden as an out apiary for caught swarms. Swarms are likely to be smaller in size, which is better suited to my garden.

The advice about putting an agreement together is also excellent. It will help set expectations and responsibilities on both sides.

I'll keep looking into the hive options. Thornes have their sale on. Cedar stock is going cheap, which looks enticing when compared to poly prices. But, I'll also try to think longer term. Have been poly-curious for some time.

I'm sure I'll continue to be a regular visitor to this site in the coming years.

Thanks again.
 
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