Southerns Beekeeping Association

Catch boxes

1. WHY CATCH BOXES

Catch boxes, or catch hives, are used to catch bees from other colonies that are swarming. For the duration of the presentation, I will refer to a catch hive as a “box”.

These boxes are convenient to use during bee removals, since its weight is lighter than that of a brood box and is easier to handle and carry. It is also more cost-effective to catch swarms with a box than to purchase a swarm. When I purchased my first swarm from a beekeeper in 2009, I paid R350. You can imagine my disappointment when I opened the box a month later, only to discover the box contained a weak swarm with only two frames of brood! Often times, bees that move into a catch box by themselves tend to remain for a longer period of time than a swarm that has been forced into the box during a bee removal, since those swarms tend to abscond a few days later.

In the beginning, I bought my first catch box to try to capture others swarms to expand my apiary. Later, I started building the boxes myself. Catch boxes are easy to make if you have the most basic wooden tools and some DIY skills. The materials I used when I started making my own were:

Scrap wood:

  • You will be surprised to see how much scrap wood is available if you start looking around. This is the more cost-effective route.
  • Make sure the sides of the box are not warped and that there are no gaps. Bees don’t like to live in a wind tunnel. Make it easy for them to maintain the temperature in the box by sealing it properly.
  • Some people use plastic catch boxes, but they bend easily in the summer heat and tend to become too hot for the bees. It is not recommended. Wood is more natural.
  • Other beekeepers use painted card board boxes. It works, but doesn’t last very long.
  • Use waterproof wood glue to stick the wood parts together and secure with nails to ensure durability.
  • Nails made from mild steel will rust with time, so it is better to use galvanized nails. It is also important not to hit the nails at a 90 degree angle, but rather a 70 degree angle. The nails then grip the wood better and cannot pull out later, even if the wood starts to swell due to moisture.

Waxol:

  • I treated the inside of the catch box with Waxol to preserve the wood. It is available at most hardware shops. You mix in about 10% of paraffin to make the Waxol more of a liquid and make it easy to apply with a paint brush.
  • I also paint my boxes with roof paint on the outside to camouflage it, but you can paint it with Waxol as well.

A 5-frame catch boxes
A 5-frame catch box

2. SIZES

Different size catch boxes are used for different purposes. I prefer a 5 frame catch box, for the simple reason that it is not too heavy to handle when you must remove it. Others use 6, 8 & 10 frame boxes.

3. WHEN TO PLACE IT

Any time of the year is suitable for placing a catch box. However, the prime time to place catch boxes is before the beginning of Spring, since most of the colonies start swarming during that time.

4. WHERE TO PLACE IT

The best places are in the branches of trees, hidden in shrubbery or other safe locations in the neighbourhood. Place it out of sight, since children like to investigate. Ask colleagues and friends if you can place a catch box in the

A catch box on top of a pergola
A catch box on top of a pergola

ir yard. It is essential to explain to them that bees, when handled correctly, are not at all dangerous. Convince them by giving them free honey as “rent” when you catch a swarm in the box that you have placed in their garden. Once the swarm has moved in, remove the box after about two weeks. The swarm is more likely to stay in the box after the queen has started laying eggs.

5. HEIGHT OFF THE GROUND

It is advised not to put a box directly on the ground due to moisture, termites and ants. Bees don’t usually fly close to the ground, but higher up in the air. Do not place the box close to entertainment areas and lawns. Bees are irritated by lights at night and tend to fly around the light if the box is too close to the light. The vibrations of a lawnmower or weed eater can also irritate them. It is scientifically proven that the best results are achieved when the box is placed at between 3 to 6 meters above the ground. In areas where theft of catch boxes is predominant, the higher the box, the better. Some beekeepers resort to put it 9 meters high to make it inaccessible.

6. PREPARATION

Paint the box generously with melted beeswax on the inside and at the entrance
Paint the box generously with melted beeswax on the inside and at the entrance

My first box had no bees for a year. When I spoke to the company I bought it from I was told that I have to use bait to attract bees, because it was a brand new box. I treated the box with beeswax on the inside and at the entrance and caught a swarm soon thereafter. Try to purchase old catch boxes, because the smell is familiar to bees and this increases the likelihood of success tremendously. However, be aware that used boxes that are not looked after can spread disease.

Use the following bait to attract bees to new boxes and frames:

– Paint with propolis
– Melt honey and beeswax in a double warmer until it melts, not over an open flame as beeswax is flammable.
– Others use the oil used for horse hooves to paint their boxes. I have not tried this method, but apparently it works.
– Bind old comb onto the frames.
– Use old brood frames, because the smell is attractive to the bees.
– Put a few drops of lemon essence at the entrance of the box.

7. WAX FOUNDATION & WIRING

Use brood frames with a 2cm wax foundation strip at the top. Bees measure the cavity available in the box and using a full wax foundation often results in the bees rejecting the box. Make sure the tension of the wiring is correct.

8. DIRECTION

Place the box facing east for sunrise, not south facing due to the cold and wind. Clear the entrance and flight path of the bees from hanging branches or any other obstructions. Bees build their combs vertically, so place the box upright. Also, tilt the box slightly forward to prevent water from flowing into the entrance.

9. ENTRANCES / HOLES

A box with a single 60mm wide entrance
A box with a single 60mm wide entrance

Most boxes available on the market have two entrances for better ventilation and temperature control. I found that the bees only use one entrance and, therefore, I build my own boxes with one entrance of 60mm wide and 6mm high in the centre. Once the swarm has 3 brood frames full of comb, I transfer them to a brood box. The temperature factor is therefore not an issue if the bees are transferred well before the box becomes full. Do not open the box on a day where the temperature is lower than 16 degrees Celsius. Ensure your bee transfers are quick and efficient to prevent the cells being exposed to the colder temperature.

10. QUEEN EXCLUDER / INCLUDER

Attach the queen includer to the front of the box with two screws
Attach the queen includer to the front of the box with two screws

When I do bee removals, I use a queen excluder/includer to keep the queen inside the box until the swarm has settled in. I keep it in place with screws for at least two weeks.

11. LID

Make sure the lid is not skew and fits properly. If there are small gaps with normal lids, the bees will seal it automatically with propolis. I prefer a telescopic lid in order for rain to drip off easily. If the lid is warped, try to strap it tight. Commercial beekeepers prefer to have normal lids for the boxes, because the telescopic lid reduces the number of catch boxes on a single truck load by between 15% to 25%, depending on the width of the overhang of the lid. When you place the box in a tree, ensure the lid doesn’t move, which leaves a gap on the top. Strap the box securely to the branch in case of wind.

12. CLOSING THE BOX

Use a hive tool to plug the entrances with a piece of hessian
Use a hive tool to plug the entrances with a piece of hessian

It is highly recommended that you do not use any smoke to calm the bees before the box is closed. Sometimes you will have to travel for 30 minutes or more to move the box to your apiary and you don’t want to kill any bees on the way. It is easy to suffocate them. Smoke only if needed i.e. if there are bees on the outside of the entrance. Use a piece of hessian 10cm x 10cm. Put your hive tool at the centre of the piece of hessian and press the hessian in the entrance of the box. Plug it tightly to ensure that no bees can escape. Do not use paper towels. Other beekeepers use perforated entrance plates for ventilation during transport. When you arrive at your apiary site, put the box in place, stand at the back of the box, pull the hessian out of the entrance and shake off any bees from the hessian. Do not linger longer than necessary, since the bees will be agitated from the journey.

13. MOVING THE CATCH BOXES

The optimal time for moving bees is at night, since the worker bees will be out foraging during the day. Transfer the bees to a brood box where there are 4 frames of brood in the box. My wife made me a huge pillow case out of spare net curtain material. I usually place the box in the curtain sleeve and fasten the entrance of the sleeve with a cable tie. When transporting bees in the car, I always keep my protective clothing on for the journey in case of an accident.

Remember to give the owner of the property where you placed the box a free bottle of honey when you go to fetch the box! Take a spare box with to replace the one where the swarm moved in. I found the owners look after the box like a watch dog and are quick to let you know when your new guests have arrived.

14. SUCCESSES

I know of a beekeeper who caught 700 swarms in 6 weeks in one season in the citrus region and another who caught 100 swarms from 140 boxes in suburbia. Personally I caught 4 swarms in one season in one of my boxes. I am currently increasing my number of catch boxes for the next season.

15. ADVICE TO NEW BEEKEEPERS

Invest in catch boxes first, have brood boxes available for transferring them when the colony is big enough later. Catch boxes are a very cost effective way to expand your apiary.

If you have any other tips and tricks or ideas where to improve please pop them in the comments below and we will share it with our young upcoming beekeepers! Together we make a difference for a better future for our bees and for ourselves.

The world’s food security is currently at risk. Without bees we will have much less food on the table. Thank you for your commitment to protect our bees!!

Presentation by Dr Fanie Booysen
fanie@faniebooysen.com
Cell: 082 332 8007

Far West Smallholder Fair Dalemoor

The Far West Smallholder Fair will take place over 3 days (28 to 30 October 2016) at Dalemoor on the Farm Elandsfontein Westonaria.

We will be concentrating on suitable inputs and technologies for the smallholder as most current agricultural events promote large scale farming or intensive high tech farming.

We also want to introduce smallholders to the following options:

Vegetable
Free range poultry
Fish farming
Beekeeping
Mushroom  Farming
Flower farming
Fruit farming
Fodder production

If you can see your business benefiting from attending this event, please download the  Dalemoore Small holder Fair – Display Application form with all the details. Fill it in and email it to pieter@piscador.co.za

Regards

Pieter Joubert
Piscador Pty Ltd
pieter@piscador.co.za

Northerns Bee Outing to Aloes

Beekeeper position in Australia

Berghofer Apiaries are seeking an experienced beekeeper for a position in Australia.

Applicants will assist with colony management and honey extracting.

Duties will include all aspects of commercial beekeeping: recognising and applying appropriate pest/disease treatments, moving hives to and from pollination/honey flows, honey harvesting, collecting and processing, manufacturing and repair of apiary/hive equipment.

Applicants must be physically fit, willing to work in a team environment and hold a valid manual drivers licence. The ability to drive a forklift/bobcat or truck will be looked on favourably. Position is full time (45+ hours per week) and may involve nights and weekends.

Monthly wage of ZAR22000+ dependent on experience plus flight costs reimbursed. Staff accommodation provided.

Successful completion of a 3 month trial period may lead to a sponsorship visa and possible residency if desired. Help with all visas is provided.

please contact me

Pieter.knoetze@telkomsa.net

Field day on the Aloes

Our annual field day on the aloes has been set for Saturday August 13th at the plot of Mr. Koos van der Merwe.  We will begin our activities at 09h00 to finish at about 12h00. This will be followed by a bring and braai to give those present an opportunity to meet new faces and share experiences.

In the interim please note the following:

  1. A map to the venue will be sent asap. Further details are that a central meeting place will be advised where we can all get together and proceed in convoy, this place will be at Builders Warehouse west of the highway in Sefako Makgato Drive (old Zambesi Drive.)
  2. For those that have GPS the co-ordinates for Koos’s plot are: S25.36,043’ E28.16,380’ this is the google map link just a note that the Plot no is 43 and NOT 41 as per the map, it is close at dammit.
  3. Non-members of Northerns are asked to make a contribution of R50.00 per family.
  4. I am expecting a huge crowd which will be split into smaller groups each led by a beekeeper with knowledge about Aloe greatheadii var. davyana and their importance to us.
  5. IT IS CRUCIAL THAT PROTECTIVE CLOTHING BE WORN WHEN WE INSPECT THE COLONIES. (A few bee suits will be available for renting @R50.00 for anyone if they need it, BUT supplies are limited).
  6. Please bring a folding chair (or something else) to sit on during the lecture and when preparing your meat over the smoldering wood coals!

Yours Sincerely,
Hans Blokker

(Chairman)

Voorsitter: Hans Blokker: 083 429 8693 Onder-Voorsitter: Hendrik Kelly: 082 416 8528

Ode to Johannesburg Drill Hall Honey

Why white honey in Joburg
Constant bussing
Constant buzzing
Constant humming
Constant music
Constant emissions

Cosmopolitan tongues
Cosmopolitan anxiety
Cosmopolitan hopes
Cosmopolitan ambitions
Cosmopolitan spirits
Cosmopolitan vibes
Scents,odours,sweat,tears,moon blood, tap water,spring water,emmissions,dew,mist, pollen,nectar,carbonated drinks,fruit juices,anguents from city trees
With all these ingredients on their wings, legs and bellies
They enter their city brood box
And with a never ending buzz
Under the Johannesburg sky with its cosmic forces
Create in their bellies and regurgitate “White Honey”
As if to give the buzzy Jozi
A clean bill of health.

Kitts Mageza  2015

We need Apiary Sites

IMG_8166Southerns Beekeepers Association members are forever on the lookout for suitable apiary sites to put their hives. If you own a smallholding or a farm and would like to encourage a bee friendly environment contact us so we can put you in touch with those of our members who require apiary sites. Although there is no monetary reward, all reputable beekeepers keep their site hosts in regular supply of their own home made honey. You too could learn about the interesting hobby or livelihood of beekeeping. Make your smallholding give you a return on your investment.

The key factors that beekeepers look for in siting apiaries are food source, accessibility, security and convenience.

Apiary Sites need

Food Source: there must be suitable forage for bees. A gum plantation is ideal. Also bees need a lot of water.

Accessibility: the beekeeper must be able to get up close to the hives with his vehicle. Carrying full supers of capped honey is back breaking work.

Security: one of the biggest threats to the bee industry is the constant cost of vandalism and theft. Bees are also often kept in isolated areas which can make for dangerous situations for the beekeeper himself.

Convenience: Hives should not be placed too close to human dwellings or where humans or livestock walk or where the bees can be irritated by unnecessary movement.