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Tim Wright - 07970 289677


Natures Little Helpers
Unit 8

Mill Farm Industrial Estate
St. Mellons Road

CF14 0SH


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First Contact

By Tim Wright

My first exposure to beekeeping was when I was a young lad (yes its true I did use to be young once upon a time). We use to visit my aunt and uncle who had a smallholding not far from Wigan where we lived.

I remember walking from my uncle's house down to his orchard where he had his bee hives - what a fantastic setting. Imagine a half acre plot of land full of every variety of apples you could imagine, especially when you are about 13.


The trees in full blossom and the dappled light hitting the grass as it passes through the branches of those lovely trees. Looking up to the top of the plot you could see several hives full of activity as these busy little insects fly backwards and forwards doing what they do best.

What a fascinating little creature this is. In the summer they only live for a short period of time (roughly six weeks) but during its short life it does some amazing things.

Here I am now, forty-something and a frustrated smallholder living in a big city without any land except for my allotments that I share with my best friends Luke and Nigel. I have always wanted livestock (pigs and chickens) but with no land that is a little difficult, so how about bees? This will allow me to have about forty-thousand little pollinators per hive. I was under the impression that you get a hive and some bees then at the end of the year you get lots of lovely honey, don’t you? I decided to find out.

I started by reading a brilliant book that Luke bought me for my birthday called The Complete Guide to Beekeeping by Jeremy Evans (available to purchase in our book section ). There seemed to be loads of strange phrases like brood chambers, supers, Queen excluders

and propolis (what the heck is propolis?) So after getting a little confused I decided that the next step would be to do a short course with like-minded people and to learn from experienced beekeepers.

I surfed the internet and found a beekeeping society in Cardiff at

I contacted John King from the society and he was very helpful. He informed me that there was an eight-week course starting in January so I enrolled Luke and myself and we were on our way. We also got our friends Ana and Jamie interested and they signed up as well. The course consisted of eight two hours classes on all aspects beekeeping and then a further 4 or 5 practical sessions at some of the members apiaries (where they keep their hives). All the people taking the classes are so passionate about their art and also about giving us the best start and advice they can so that we will be prepared for when we have our own bees. I would like to say a big thanks to all the people involved as they have been a fantastic help to Luke and me and have given their time free of charge. We had to pay a small fee of £10 for the venue and overheads and also £18 to join the society if we decided to keep bees ourselves - what a bargain. The classes are run in a very relaxed and friendly manner, but the experience and information we have gained is amazing. We have made some good friends.


You can get several different hives. One type is the WBC (William Broughton Carr) hive. This has inner boxes covered by an outer box and is the idyllic hive seen in Winnie the Pooh books. Our hives are Nationals, which are single-walled, and as I said they came flat-packed. You get the floor, brood box, super, crown board and roof. I also got a queen excluder for each hive (this is a metal grid that sits on top of the brood box to stop the queen entering the super but allows the workers free access). I will explain all the terms in more detail as I go along and you will also be able to see from the pictures the different parts that make up the hive.

So there I was pretending to be a master craftsman, I had the bits laid out in front of me - a set of instructions for each section of the hive, a bunch of nails, a big hammer and I was off. After about 2 hours of banging nails in and hitting various parts of my anatomy I had constructed 2 hives (what a clever lad I am).

To be honest it was very easy and enjoyable. We now had our 2 hives constructed and all I needed to do was make up the frames to go inside the hive. We had learnt how to do this in one of the lessons we had attended so no problems there. There are two types of frames we will be using brood frames (these stay in the brood box and are slightly deeper) and super frames (these go in the super box, on top of the brood box, and are used by the bees for storing honey)..

These are all the bits that I received and had to put together as part of one hive.

The Roof - The top is galvanised steel and has wooden sides to ensure that the hive is waterproofed.

The Floor - This is placed at the bottom of the hive and the brood box goes on top of this. There is a removal piece at the front so that the bees can come and go as they please.

The Brood Box/Chamber - This is where frames are kept for the queen to lay eggs, larvae to hatch out and where some honey is stored.

The brood box contains the frames of wax foundation that the workers draw out for the queen to lay eggs in. The queen excluder goes on top so that the queen cannot go up into the super to lay eggs. The super will contain only honey that the bees are making as stores for the winter. This is the honey that we will take.

The Crown board goes on top of the super (the super is not pictured here) and then the roof goes on top.

When making up the frames to go into the hive you can sit in the comfort of your house watch TV and enjoy the smell of the wax foundation (sheets of wax with the shape of a honey comb impressed onto it) as you mount it into the frames. So both hives and the frames are made up all we needed now were the bees.

There a few ways of acquiring your bees.

1. Get a full colony of bees. Not a good idea if you are just starting off as this will take a lot of management and will be a big learning curve.

2. Catch a swarm. Bees for free or Freebies (free bees), if you will, but you don’t know anything about these bees and their health. This could be a problem.

3. Buy a nucleus. This is a small colony of about 10,000 bees with a mated queen. You usually get about 5 frames filled with eggs, larva, sealed brood, honey and pollen. The bees that come with it are a mixture of older flying bees and younger non flying ones - in other words a miniature colony. This is probably the best option for the beginner. A nucleus can be bought from specialist breeders or from members of your local beekeeping society.

The latter is probably the way to go as you will know where the bees are from and their temperament. What you are looking for as a novice beekeeper are placid, easy to handle bees.

We were going down the route of getting 2 nuclei from Pete, our resident bee expert. He has a very placid strain at one of his apiaries that I have handled on several occasions and had very kindly offered to raise two nuclei for us. Unfortunately only one of the new colonies survived so we ended up with a mixture of one hive of Pete’s bees and one hive from a swarm that I captured with a friend of mine.


It was around 4pm on Monday 21st when I got a call from a friend of mine called Adrian who lives up the road from me. I was in work about 30 miles away when he rang and informed me that there was a swarm of bees in St Mellons and did I want it for one of my hives? I said to him, “Do bears live in the woods?” or, “Yes” for short but I would not be able to get back home for a few hours. I got home around 6:30pm and Adrian picked me up at 7pm and off we went to catch the swarm.

On arrival, at the swarm site, we found a group of people standing around and looking up at a tree that was near some houses. In the tree there was a rugby ball sized swarm of bees all calm and ready to settle in for the night. Little did they know they were going to get a nasty shock and be messed around with. Off we went back to the car and got our space suits on ready for action. A very kind man lent us his step ladders and we were off. We laid a sheet on the ground and I stood under the swarm holding a skep (a wicker basket) ready to catch the swarm, Adrian climbed up the ladder and started to cut the branch the swarm was attached to. Most of the bees landed in the skep and some landed on me, quite a lot actually but these soon started to fly around to look for their friends. We then turned the skep upside down onto the sheet and propped a stone underneath one side to allow the stragglers to find their way in. Within a few minutes bees started to stand by the opening and started to fan their smell out into the air, we stood and watched as one by one the flying stragglers found there way back to the rest of the swarm.

After half an hour all but a few bees were in the skep so we pulled the sheet over the top of it and put an elastic band round it to hold the bees in. Into the back of the car it went and we made our way back to my house where I had prepared a hive to accept the little darlings. Once home the sheet was taken off the skep and placed in front of the hive leading up to the entrance. You see, bees always prefer to walk uphill, so we shook the swarm out onto the sheet and sure enough the bees did what I had read about - they all started to march uphill towards the hive entrance. It took about 3 hours for all the bees to finally enter the hive. What a sight it was to watch. Because they do not have many stores of food with them I let them settle in for a couple of days then fed them with sugar syrup to help them with wax production.

Our allotment was not ready to take the hives so I decided to go up every night after work until Friday to get everything ready. Luke came up to help on two evenings which was great because it would have taken me ages to do it all on my own. After a lot of hard work preparing the area, digging post holes, concreting posts in, laying slabs to mount the hives on, putting ground cover down to stop weeds and finally surrounding the 10 foot x 10 foot area with a wall of chicken wire. The wire is put there to make the bees fly up into the sky when they leave the hive instead of flying at a low level. Doing this means that the bees will automatically fly at a high into and out of the hive and not cause any nuisance to our neighbours on the allotment. Friday night came and at about 8pm Adrian turned up to help me move the hive up to the allotment. The bees had been quite at home in my garden and it was a shame to see them go, but the allotment is a better place for them.

The trusty sheet came out again and the hive was placed onto it and wrapped up then tied together with string. I said to Adrian “Do you think it will be ok? The sheet won't come apart, will it?” He said, “No problem. Don’t worry.” Into the back of the car it went and off to the plot we trotted. Adrian was going out with his family to a party that night so he drove his car to my plot and I took his wife and son in my car so that they could go on from there. When we got to the plot the hive had started to come apart and some of the little devils had started to get out, luckily not many.

We moved the hive to its permanent position, removed the sheet and opened the entrance to the hive. As we did a load of bees came out to greet us and gave us a good telling off for moving them! You can imagine they would be fairly annoyed after swarming on Monday, being flung into a basket, driven several miles, tipped out onto a sheet and being made to walk up hill into a strange hive. Then after only a few days to settle down they were wrapped up again bunged into the back of a car, driven another several miles, squashing a few on the way and finally being placed into their new home. After going through all of that they settled in to their new surroundings very quickly.


8 years on and we now have lots more experience and quite a few stories to tell, we have gone from 2 hives over 200 and our plans are to expand to eventually have around 400 hives around the South Wales area. Our business has been set up for about 4 years and is going from strength to strength, so here's to the future.

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