HomeBeekeepingTim Toady - The Apiarist

Tim Toady – The Apiarist

Synopsis : The big variety of beekeeping strategies is each a profit and – for learners significantly – a distraction. Be taught strategies nicely sufficient to be assured whenever you apply them. Perceive why they work and their execs and cons.


In an earlier life as a junior tutorial I used to be generously given a crushingly boring administrative process. The small print don’t matter nevertheless it primarily concerned populating an enormous three-dimensional matrix. The matrix needed to be re-populated yearly … and, once I was allotted the duty, manually.

To chop an extended story quick I taught myself some easy web-database pc programming. This automated the info assortment and entry and saved me many weeks of tedious work.

Geek alert …

This minor victory resulted in me:

  • writing heaps extra code for my admin and analysis, and for my hobbies together with beekeeping and images. It’s been a very helpful ability … and numerous enjoyable.
  • inevitably being given a further mundane process to fill the time I had ‘saved’ 🙁 .

The programming language I used was perl. This can be a easy scripting language, which though now outdated in recognition by issues like python, stays very extensively used. All correct computer systems nonetheless have perl put in.

Perl is ideal for manipulating text-based data. The identify is an acronym for ’sensible extraction and reporting language’ … or maybe ’pathetically eclectic garbage lister’, the latter reflecting its use to control textual content (‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ … ) .

Perl was (and stays) highly effective as a result of it’s a really versatile language. You possibly can obtain the identical purpose in many alternative methods.

This flexibility is mirrored within the perl motto: ’There’s multiple solution to do it’, which is abbreviated to TMTOWTDI.

TMTOWTDI is a mouthful of alphabet spaghetti, so for comfort is pronounced Tim Toady … the title of at present’s publish.


As a result of precisely the identical acronym might be utilized to a number of issues in beekeeping.

Ask three beekeepers, get 5 solutions

However one of many 5 is improper as a result of it includes ’brood and a half’.

Anybody who has attended an affiliation assembly and naively requested a easy query will perceive the title of this part.

’How do I … [insert routine beekeeping problem here] … ?’

The previous and the sensible, or maybe the previous or the sensible, will advocate a collection of options. Some will provide multiple.

Every might be completely different.

Many suggestions might be completely workable.

Just a few may be impractical.

A minimum of one might be simply plain improper.

How do I keep away from brace comb?

Confusingly … regardless of all being proffered options to the one query you requested, many will seem contradictory.

Do you progress the queen away (the nucleus technique) or depart the queen on the identical website (Pagden’s synthetic swarm) for swarm management? How can they each work in case you do such very various things?

Ask twelve beekeepers, get nineteen solutions (ONE IN ALL CAPS)

Web dialogue boards (fora?) are precisely the identical, however could also be much less well mannered. That is as a result of absence of the calming affect of tea and home made cake. A minimum of one reply will embrace a snippy suggestion to ’use the search facility first’.

One other might be VERY VERY SHOUTY … the respondent both disagrees vehemently or has misplaced the CAPS LOCK key.

Really, in some ways web dialogue boards are rather a lot worse … although not for the explanations you would possibly anticipate.

It’s not as a result of they’re populated with numerous cantankerous ageing beekeepers and arriviste know-it-alls.

They’re not .

There are some massively skilled and useful beekeepers on-line, although they most likely don’t reply first or most forcefully.

The web is worse as a result of the viewers is larger and is unfold over a wider geographic space. This can be a downside as beekeeping is successfully a native exercise.

In case you ask at an area affiliation assembly there might be a smaller ‘viewers’ and they need to a minimum of all have some expertise of the actual circumstances in your space.

Včelařské fórum … and one thing you gained’t see on the BKF … an entire sub-forum on subsidies

However in case you ask on Beesource, Včelařské fórum or the Beekeeping & Apiculture discussion board the solutions might actually be from anyplace . The recommendation you obtain, while presumably legitimate, is more likely to be most related the place the responder lives … except you’re fortunate.

On one of many boards I irregularly frequent many contributors have their latitude and longitude coordinates (and typically plant hardiness zones) embedded of their .sig.

Geeky maybe, however eminently wise …

Tim Toady beekeeping

Let’s think about just a few of examples of Tim Toady beekeeping. I may have chosen nearly any facet of our interest right here, however I’ll stick to three which are all associated to the place or destiny of the queen.

Queen introduction

Maybe this was a foul possibility to decide on first. Queen introduction isn’t solely about the way you bodily get the brand new queen safely into the hive e.g. in some type of non permanent cage. It’s additionally concerning the state of the hive.

Is it queenless? How lengthy has it been queenless and/or is there rising brood current? Is the brood from the earlier queen or from laying staff? Is it a full hive or a nuc … or mini-nuc?

Successful introduction ...

Profitable introduction …

And it’s concerning the state of the brand new queen.

Is she mated and laying, or is she a virgin? Maybe she’s nonetheless within the queen cell? Is the queen the identical (or the same) pressure to the hive being requeened? Is she in a cage of some type? Are there attendants within the cage along with her?

And all that’s earlier than you think about whether or not it’s ‘higher’ to make use of a push-in cage, a JzBz (or comparable) cage or to omit the cage and simply depend on billowing clouds of acrid smelling smoke.

Uniting colonies

This weblog is nothing if not ’bleeding-edge’ topical … now is the time to contemplate uniting understrength colonies, or these headed by very aged queens which will fail overwinter.

Uniting two weak colonies won’t make a robust colony. Nonetheless, uniting a robust with a weak colony will strengthen the previous and presumably save the latter from potential winter loss (after you’ve paid for and utilized the miticides and winter feed … D’oh!). You possibly can all the time cut up off a nuc once more within the spring.

All of the above assumes that each colonies are wholesome.

There are fewer methods of uniting colonies than queen introduction, and much fewer than the plethora of swarm management strategies.

That is maybe unsurprising as there are fewer element elements … hive A and hive B, with the eventual product being A/B.

Or maybe B/A?

United we stand …

However which queen do you retain?

And does the queenright hive go on high or beneath?

And the way do you forestall the bees from combating, however as an alternative permit them to mingle gently?

Or do you merely spray them with just a few squirts of Sea breeze air freshener, slap the bins collectively and be executed with it?

Swarm management

In case you discover queen cells in your colony – assuming they haven’t swarmed already – then that you must take motion or the colony will presumably/most likely/nearly definitely/indubitably swarm.

The first objectives of swarm management are to retain the workforce – the foragers – and the queen.

There are rather a lot of swarm management strategies. Most of the efficient ones contain the separation of the queen and hive bees (these but to go on orientation flights) from the foragers and brood. A few of these strategies use distinctive gear and most require further bins or cut up boards.

Split board

Cut up board …

However there are different methods to realize the identical general objectives, for instance the Demaree technique which retains the complete workforce collectively by utilizing a queen excluder and a few well-timed colony manipulations.

No landing boards here ...


After which there are the 214 particular person door opening/closing operations over a 3 week interval (assuming the moon is at or close to perigee) wanted whenever you use a Snelgrove board .

Like several advice to make use of brood and a half … my recommendation is ‘simply say no’.

Simply because Tim Toady

… doesn’t imply you need to really do issues a unique means every time.

The issue with asking a gaggle – like your native affiliation or the interwebs – a query is that you’ll get a number of solutions. These could be contradictory, and therefore complicated to the tyro beekeeper.

Much better to ask one individual whose opinion you respect and belief.

Like your mentor.

You continue to might get a number of solutions 😉 … however you’ll get fewer solutions and they need to be accompanied with further justification or rationalization of the execs and cons of the assorted options recommended.

This actually helps perceive which answer to use.

No matter the quantity of solutions you obtain I feel among the most necessary abilities in beekeeping contain:

  • understanding why a selected answer ought to work. This requires an understanding of the nitty gritty of the method. What are you attempting to realize by turning a hive 180° one week after a vertical cut up? Why ought to Apivar strips be repositioned half means via the therapy interval?
  • selecting one answer and get actually good at utilizing it. Perceive the restrictions of the tactic you’ve chosen. When does it work nicely? When is it unsuitable? What are the drawbacks?

This would possibly will take a while.

Extra hives, much less time

In case you’ve solely obtained one colony you’ll most likely solely get one likelihood per 12 months to use – and ultimately grasp – a swarm management technique.

With extra colonies it’s a lot simpler to shortly purchase this sensible understanding.

A number of studying alternatives right here

Then, after you have mastered a selected strategy you may resolve whether or not the restrictions outweigh the benefits and think about alternate options if wanted.

This needs to be an knowledgeable evolution of your beekeeping strategies.

What you shouldn’t do is use a unique technique yearly as – except you will have numerous colonies – you by no means get ample expertise to know its foibles and the wrinkles wanted to make sure the tactic works.

Knowledgeable evolution

In case you think about the three beekeeping methods I discussed earlier – queen introduction, uniting colonies and swarm management – my chosen strategy to 2 of them is broadly just like once I began.

Nonetheless, as indicated above, there are nonetheless a number of refined variations that might be utilized.

With each queen introduction and uniting colonies I’ve roughly standardised on one explicit means of doing every of them. By standardising there’s much less room for error … a minimum of, that’s the speculation. I now what I’m doing and I do know what to anticipate.

In distinction, I’ve used a variety of swarm management strategies through the years. After a guesstimated 250+ ‘hive years’ I now nearly solely use one technique that I’ve discovered to be extraordinarily dependable and matches with the gear and time I’ve accessible.

It’s not good however – just like the strategies I exploit for queen introduction and uniting colonies – it’s completely reliable.

I feel that’s the purpose of studying one technique nicely and solely abandoning it when it’s clear there are higher methods of attaining your purpose. Through the use of a way you perceive and think about is totally reliable you should have confidence that it’ll work.

You additionally know when it is going to work by, and so can meaningfully plan what occurs subsequent within the season.

So, what are the variants of the strategies I discover completely reliable?

Queen introduction

99% of my grownup queens – whether or not virgin or mated – are launched in JzBz cages. I hold the queen (solely, no attendants) in a capped JzBz cage within the hive for twenty-four hours after which verify to see if the queenless (!) colony is appearing aggressively to her.

If they don’t seem to be I take away the cap and plug the neck of the cage with fondant. The bees quickly eat via this and launch the queen.

Checking for aggression

I used so as to add fondant when initially caging the queen however have had one or two queens get gummed up within the stuff (which absorbs moisture from the hive). I now desire so as to add it after eradicating the cap. The queen wants someplace ‘unreachable’ within the cage to cover if the colony are aggressive to her.

It’s very uncommon I exploit an alternative choice to this technique. If I do it’s to make use of a Nicot pin on cage the place I entice the queen over a body of rising brood .

Nicot queen introduction cages

I exploit this technique for actual downside colonies … ones which have killed a queen launched utilizing the JzBz cage or which will include laying staff.

Doing the latter is a reasonably futile train at one of the best of occasions 🙁 .

Uniting colonies

Nearly all colonies are united over newspaper. A sheet to 2 of an unstapled newspaper is simple to hold and uniting like that is nearly all the time profitable.

The brood field being moved goes on high. I need bees from the moved field to understand issues have modified as they work their means all the way down to the hive entrance. That means they’re extra more likely to not get misplaced when returning.

An Abelo/Swienty hybrid hive ...

An Abelo/cedar hybrid hive … uniting colonies in midsummer

I don’t care whether or not the queen is within the higher or decrease field and, if there’s any doubt that one of many colonies isn’t queenless, I exploit a queen excluder over the newspaper. I then verify the bins one week later for eggs.

I’m not completely sure one of many colonies is queenless

At occasions I’ve used a can of air freshener and no newspaper. This has labored nicely, nevertheless it’s yet one more cumbersome factor to hold. I additionally desire not to show my bees to the chemical cocktail masquerading as Sea breeze, Summer season meadow or Stale socks.

Since uniting doesn’t necessitate a timed return go to there’s little to be gained from searching for alternate options to newspaper for my part. Maybe if I lived in a very windy location I’d have a unique opinion … putting the newspaper over the brood field could be problematic in something greater than a average breeze .

Swarm management

Like many (most?) beekeepers I began off utilizing the traditional Pagden’s synthetic swarm. Nonetheless, I shortly ran out of kit as my colony numbers elevated – you want two of every part together with area on suitably positioned hive stands.

I switched to vertical splits. These are in essence a vertical Pagden’s synthetic swarm, however require just one roof and stand. In case you plan to merge the colonies once more i.e. you don’t need to ’make improve’, vertical splits are very handy. Nonetheless, they will contain numerous lifting if there are supers on the colony.

Vertical split

Vertical cut up – day 7 …

Now I nearly solely use the nucleus technique of swarm management. Used reactively (i.e. after queen cells are seen) it’s nearly completely foolproof. Used proactively (i.e. earlier than queen cells are produced) additionally works nicely. In each circumstances the timing of a return go to to cut back queen cells is necessary, and that you must use good judgement in deciding how sturdy to make the nuc.

Here's one I prepared earlier

Right here’s one I ready earlier

The nucleus technique has a few disadvantages for my beekeeping. Nonetheless, its ease of software and success fee greater than make up for these shortfalls.

Tim Toady is ‘a very good factor’

I really like the pliability of perl for programming. I can write one-liners to do a fast and soiled file conversion. Alternatively I can craft a whole lot of strains of well-documented code that’s readable, straightforward to take care of and strong.

Others, in the easiest custom of Tim Toady, would possibly write packages to do precisely the identical issues however in a very completely different means.

The pliability to sort out a process – the three used above for instance, or miticide therapy, queen rearing, uncapping frames or any of the a whole lot of particular person duties concerned in beekeeping – in numerous methods gives alternatives to decide on an strategy that matches together with your diary, handbook dexterity, accessible gear, preferences, ethics or surroundings.

On this regard it’s ‘a very good factor’.

Selection and suppleness are helpful. They make issues fascinating and, for the observant beekeeper, they supply ample new alternatives for studying.

… and a distraction

Nonetheless, this flexibility can be a distraction, significantly for learners.

That’s the reason I emphasised the necessity to study the intricacies of the tactic you select by understanding the underlying mechanism, and the subtleties wanted to get it to work completely dependably.

Don’t simply attempt one thing as soon as after which do one thing completely completely different the subsequent 12 months . Use the tactic for a number of years working (assuming it’s an annual occasion within the beekeeping calendar), or a minimum of on numerous completely different colonies.

Select a extensively used and well-documented technique within the first place . Examine it, perceive it and apply it. Tweak it till it both works precisely as you need it to i.e. reliably, effectively, shortly or no matter, or select a unique extensively used and well-documented technique and begin over once more.

Get actually competent on the strategies you select.

As soon as your beekeeping is constructed upon a variety of completely reliable strategies you will have the foundations to be just a little bit extra expansive.

You possibly can then indulge your self.

Discover the choices supplied by Tim Toady.

Issues would possibly fail, however you all the time have a fallback that you simply know works.


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