A Cheshire System of Beekeeping
by A J Blakeman
A.J. Blakeman was an influential member of Cheshire BKA just after the war, being chairman and then president over several years.
This system is similar to the one I have been using for twenty odd years, and it was mentioned by Michael Minter in the last issue, so I thought I would dig it out. I am indebted to Robert Swallow (a Cheshire member, although he is now Chairman of Shropshire BKA) who re-published Blakeman’s 1955 leaflet on his system five years ago and handed out a few copies. Robert has kindly allowed me to reprint his version. Robert writes: “The original, having been copied many times was looking very tired, but the content, fifty-five years later, is just as relevant as the day it was written.”
I commend this system particularly to our newer colleagues, who have been persuaded to buy National hives, and who are faced with the inevitable problems of swarming preparations (now) and winter feeding (later) in a single brood-box. Use this system with a dummy frame in each brood-box. With this simple but brilliant device, you do not have to have the full complement of frames in each brood-box: you can expand and contract the brood-chamber to fit the brood-nest plus necessary stores.
What follows is Blakeman’s original leaflet.
Success in beekeeping largely depends upon the system you adopt. You should aim at keeping your colonies intact, contented at home, so that you will have little trouble with swarming. By giving them good conditions, understanding their way of life and working with them, not frustrating them, you will find that you can obtain almost complete control over your colonies.
After many years of beekeeping I believe the essentials for this control are: -
All this knowledge will make the craft far more interesting and will aid you in controlling your colonies.
Always be on the look out for signs of ill health in brood or adult bees and if necessary ask immediately for advice and help.
PROGRESS OF A COLONY
When the bees stir from their "long rest" in the Spring and activity begins to increase, their first purpose is to breed, thus beginning the development of the colony. To ensure this steady development you should have arranged ample food stores in the Autumn, made possible by the method I later describe. At least 40 lbs. will be required.
Spring feeding will help where a shortage is known, and at this time a supply of warm water should be given over the feed-hole, thus saving the lives of many water-gatherers.
Should the bees require warm syrup (which is usually given at the end of January when needed) you will have covered the water supply.
At your first examination, note whether more food is required and whether more or less room is required for breeding. Old combs on the flanks should be removed and if more breeding room is needed good combs should replace them, not foundation.
At this stage allow the colony to concentrate on breeding and building up, using the food for that purpose and not for comb building. Wax-makers are not yet present in sufficient numbers and some are needed for sealing brood cells, and by robbing the cluster of those present you lower the temperature of the brood nest and delay the development of the colony. Combs should always be built over the bottom brood chamber; if built in the bottom chamber they will be poorer.
As the colony increases more nurses are set free for other duties, and when it is strong on eight or nine combs add another brood chamber, no excluder between, and in this chamber give combs and foundation. By doing so you give the wax-makers and comb builders work to do and so get some new combs. If weather conditions are bad, feed in order to control the labour problems of the hive (queen-nurses-comb builders).
The swarming danger point often arises during the period of mid-May to mid-June, especially if there is no "flow" on or the weather is bad, but if you have kept the home bees at full work and with young queens heading your colonies the risk is not great.
In some areas it will be found necessary to give supers round about mid-May to mid-June. If so, place the queen excluder on top of the uppermost brood chamber.
RE-ARRANGEMENT OF COLONY
During the first week in June it will be necessary to make another full examination to see that all is well and to re-arrange the combs in the two brood chambers. The position of these brood chambers also has to be altered.
Into one brood chamber place all the combs containing sealed and emerging brood, the combs of old larvae, the queen, and any empty combs on the flanks. This brood chamber should be placed on the floor-board, place the queen excluder on top, then the super or supers, another queen excluder, and finally the brood chamber containing combs of eggs, young larvae and food.
Any queen cells found at this time can be dealt with according to your requirements. The top brood chamber should be examined in seven or eight days time to see whether queen cells have been put up. If so, and they are in the colony from which you desire queen cells, nuclei should be made foe the purpose of obtaining new queens. If not required, destroy them.
As the brood emerges in the top chamber more young bees will join them in the bottom chamber, more foragers will be released, and the empty cells of the top chamber will become filled or partly filled with honey, thus providing most, if not all, of the winter food supply.
At the end of the season remove the supers and queen excluders; and place the food chamber over the brood chamber. More food can then be given if necessary to complete the winter stores.
AFTER THE WINTER
In early March one can usually quietly remove the lower brood chamber. Clean the floor board and place the top brood chamber on it. The removed brood chamber should now be prepared for use later.
WHAT DOES THIS SYSTEM DO FOR US?
This system has been followed since 1922 and has always provided some surplus honey for the beekeeper and some honey for the foundation of a food chamber for the colony.
In more than thirty years only seven known swarms have emerged.
A.J. Blakeman 1955
- Bee Candy
- A Volumetric Approach to Swarm Control
- Do drones need more energy than workers ?
- What is the Catenary HIve ?
- An Intrusion Into The Private Life of the Queen
- A Cheshire System of Beekeeping
- Artificial Swarming to make Increase
- Re-queening An Aggressive Colony
- Frames and Frame-spacing
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 1
- An Early Spring Tonic Part 2
- Something To Consider - Treating Hives
- Make up Of Honey
- Brainbox Bees
- An Inspector Calls
- The Laws Of Beekeeping
- TBS versus BBS
- Colony Records
- My First Season With Bees
- Integrated Pest Management Workshop
- BBKA Examination System
- Will Your Bees Survive this Winter?
- Anaphylactic Shock - What to do!
- Anaphylactic Shock - A Personal Experience
- Beekeeping Records
- L. L. Langstroth's - BEE-KEEPER'S AXIOMS
- Osmia Rufa
- Beginner's Corner - Out-apiary sites
- Beginner's Corner - Syrup feeders