Building on foundation

Honey bees on a frame in the brood box

Where to start? We have two Nationals at work and my knowledge on beehives is practically zero but with the imminent arrival this year of a nuc (short for 'nucleus') of bees in a few months and still lots to learn, I musn't forget to clean the two hives and furnish them inside with what the colony will need for them to thrive and live a happy life. Basically, all the old frames, foundation - and anything else lurking inside - needs to come out and replaced.

With a handful of diseases that can wipe out a colony, it's paramount that hives are well maintained and anything that could potentially be a breeding ground for disease is removed. Now, it is possible to take out the old foundation and clean the frames but this sounds like it's a time-consuming job and weighed against how much it is to buy new frames and foundation, there's no contest!

This week I started by putting together a list of things the colony will need inside the brood box and supers - frames and foundation. Looking online there are different widths, lengths, types all depending on which beehive you have. Do I go for ready-made frames assembled with wax foundation or flat-packed and do-it-yourself? Product codes on websites all different - think I have fathomed out that codes like S.N.2 means shallow and D.N.5 means deep. As for the different numbers, I'll have to look at each and work it out – time-consuming for a novice beekeeper!

Where on earth do I begin? OK, taking a deep breath and not beginning to panic about the whole prospect, I have a couple of old frames at home that I took out to take to the beekeeping course recently. It's a light bulb moment as will at least give me the dimensions of what I took out that will slot back in.

I'm reading another excellent book at the moment called From A to Bee: My first year as a beekeeper written by James Dearsley. What I am finding as I read more about his own journey is the valuable experience and knowledge that is readily passed to him from other beekeepers at the Surrey Beekeepers Association and meetings he goes along to. It's sometimes difficult for us to ask others how to do something, but from beekeepers from the Exeter Beekeepers branch of the Devon Beekeepers Association I now know through the course, they are such lovely people and their love for their bees shines. Their knowledge is a sound base for all us budding beekeepers who want to help bees survive and do our best to follow in their footsteps.

Going back to where do I begin... ask a beekeeper before I buy!