Wednesday, 21 March 2018

It's Spring!

Yesterday was the vernal equinox, which means that from today the days are longer than the nights.  So it's spring, and that means beekeeping!

Actually, there was only one job today - but an important one - remove the mouse guards from the hives.  The bees are starting to bring in pollen from the early flowering trees (blackthorn and cherry), and I don't want them to accidentally knock it off their legs as they pass through the small-ish holes in the mouse guards.  So, the mouse guards have been duly removed.  Here's a quick before-and-after:

... and after!

I also had a chance to pop over to Sydney Buildings to take a look at the new ZEST hive.  Here's a picture of it with the roof off, and all the new frames:

... And with the roof on:

We just need to get some bees in there, now!  I have a plan for that...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

What's a ZEST Hive?

If you read my recent(ish) review of the year, you may have spotted that I've been chatting to some neighbours in Sydney Buildings who want to get started with beekeeping in the spring.  We've met up a couple of times to discuss various things for when they get started.  One of the options is which hive design to go for.

Regular readers will be aware that when I started beekeeping, I used the British National hive design.  And that, a couple of years ago, I converted my hives to the WBC design.  Well, there are actually plenty of other hive designs around, including:
  • The Commercial hive
  • Langstroth hive
  • Smith hive
  • Dadant hive
  • Dartington long hive
  • Warre hive
  • Top Bar hive
These are all wooden hives, but vary in the shape of the boxes, the way the honey frames are added (either sideways, or "upwards") and whether comb is built in frames or hangs from horizontal bars.  But the Sydney Buildings group have decided to go for a different design entirely - they've picked the ZEST hive.  But what is it?

Well, ZEST is a (sort-of) acronym for Zero Energy Sus-Tainable.  Which doesn't tell you very much, although the creators of the hive have written about how they believe their design requires less intervention than traditional beekeeping, and has benefits for the bees in terms of their management of hive conditions (such as temperature and humidity) and Varroa control.

But the really interesting thing about this hive is it contains hardly any wooden parts.  Instead, the hive body is made from lightweight building blocks, and the frames are made of plastic.  Also, the hive doesn't have any supers - instead, it works like a top-bar hive in that new frames are added at the ends, so the colony gets "longer" rather than "taller" as it expands.

Steve, from the Sydney Buildings group, has already built the first hive, which I must say took far less time than I took to build my first (National) hive.  He kindly sent me some pictures of the build:

Building the base

Starting the walls

Walls complete

The roof blocks go on

Yes - that really is a beehive!  Admittedly, it hasn't got the aesthetics of a Georgian (skep) or Victorian (WBC) hive - so apologies to the Bath Preservation Trust...!  But if you're a fan of modernism/brutalism, then this could be right up your street.

I'm going to be working with the Sydney Buildings group throughout their first season, so there will be more updates to come.  In the meantime, there's some more information on the ZEST hive at .