of containing the brood nest of a colony within a volume 9" square
and 18" deep as a method of controlling varroa mite reproduction
has already been evaluated in the "Varroa Experiment" A method
of containing the brood nest of a colony within this volume by the use
of queen excluder has also been documented in "The Development of
the GM Hive".
This report is a continuation of that development. A swarm was placed
in a "GM" hive on the 21st June 2001 and its progress recorded
by taking weekly varroa drop readings and photographs of the comb development.
The object of the experiment was to see whether bees would store honey
in frames suspended either side of the queen excluder cage when housed
within a conventional hive body.
As one might expect the colony filled the 9"x 9"x 18" cage
during 2001 and successfully survived the winter to commence 2002 in good
health. (Photo No1, showing the cage removed from the hive, refers)
the colony expanded into the 6" space below the entrance (Photos
2 and 3 refer) before deciding to draw out and fill the back to back frames
hung outside the queen excluder cage. (Photo No4 refers).
The colony swarmed on the 19th June 2002.
Unfortunately these bees built downward until they met the floor before
expanding outside the constraints imposed by the cage. This is a pity
because maintenance of the 6" space between the underside of the
comb and the floor may be of some importance. One difficulty of housing
bees in HT and GM hives is their life expectancy.
The actual duration of feral colonies is difficult to ascertain as bees
will hang about an abandoned nest until it is eventually recolonized.
history of swarms housed in HT and GM hives since 1997 is shown in Fig
None of the colonies perished due to varroa infestation but as no treatment
of any sort had been given, such periods of existence question the validity
of such apicultural management. Back in the 1850s the reduction of the
size of bees reared in very old comb was considered to be significant
and undesirable due to the reduction of stamina and carrying capacity.
They were considered to be dwarfs and unproductive. Swarms from very old
stock and bred in contracted cells were generally found to be of small
size and insignificant in numbers. Skep housed bees were observed to become
small and unproductive in as little as 3 years.
One method to overcome this was to cut out half of the comb one year and
the remainder the next. One stock treated in this manner is said to have
been kept for 60 years. (Source-Beekeeping New and Old)
1. Duration of Colony Life 1997 to 2004
of natural comb in quantity each year therefore may be a requirement for
healthy bees and was lost when moveable frame hives were introduced.
Awareness of bee diseases also increased at this time. Although the queen
excluder cage system within a conventional hive worked with a certain
amount of success, close observation of the brood comb was not possible
and the yield would always be low.
No matter, the brood nest shape, the position of the entrance, the sizeable
gap beneath the comb, the use of natural comb, produces healthy and disease
free bees, or as the disease testing man puts it "The sample that
you sent me was free of etc, etc". So, let us proceed in an even
more simplistic manner. We will harvest only natural comb and adopt a
system of renewing the brood comb each year to increase colony life expectancy,
make inspection for AFB and EFB unnecessary and allow bees the opportunity
of containing all those other diseases by providing them with a stress
An idealistic world? - not at all, the system is currently under evaluation,
it even has a name, "Biannual Beekeeping". This form of apicultural
management avoids the cost of medication, the need for elaborate equipment
and provides cut comb.
could once again become a profitable and a pleasant pastime. Needless
to say a report on "Biannual Beekeeping" will be made available
in due course.