Getting into practice

Lighting smoker

It's been a three weeks since the last beekeeping session and this week is something I've been really looking forward to. Up to now, all the sessions have been theory but this weekend takes us a step closer to becoming beekeepers as we get to handle bees for the very first time at the local branch apiary. In between the theory and practicals, I've delved into more and more books soaking up as much knowledge and even chatted with another beekeeper in the area, who having kept bees herself for five years, still looks on herself as a beginner (hope you don't mind me mentioning this Bev!). So far I have to confess I'm enjoying the journey of hopefully becoming a responsible beekeeper looking to help save these wonderful pollinators that need all the help they can get.

Looking at the notes for Saturday's practical lesson, we will be able to:

  • Explain precautions to take before opening a hive.
  • Demonstrate how to light a smoker.
  • Open a colony of bees and demonstrate how to keep the colony under control with appropriate use of smoke.
  • Remove frames and comment on the state of the colony.
  • Identify brood at all stages.
  • Identify workers and drones and explain how to find the queen.
  • Identify stored nectar, honey and pollen.
  • Explain the difference between worker and drone cappings.

So this evening I grabbed my shiny new smoker after watching this video and successfully lit it first time!

We've had a spell of mixed weather of late, but I gathered enough dried fir branches from underneath the hedge at the back of the garden and set about putting a ring of corrugated cardboard inside and then lighting some crumpled brown paper and pushing it down inside the smoker. With a few squeezes of the bellows, flames were flckering so on top I added the dried tinder remembering what I saw in the video. It was very satisfying to step back and just watch little wafts of smoke gently pouring from the smoker. The challenge will be to see if I can light the smoker on Saturday or was it beginner's luck!