Walrus becomes Carpenter

The Walrus and the Carpenter (c) Disney
The Walrus and the Carpenter (c) Disney

Now and then something comes along which makes one’s life take off in unexpected directions. I was always a bookworm as a child, a sponge for theoretical knowledge, an academic. I hated woodwork and metalwork lessons at school and dropped them as soon as I could so that I was able to focus on science and er…rugby and cricket. Yes, folks, I was that most unusual of children; I was an academic that loved sports. One thing that nobody would ever accuse me of was of being practical or having much common sense.

Even as a young adult I shied away from doing manly tasks such as building shelves. I didn’t have a garden shed, nor even a garden at first, but if I did it would not contain power tools and a workbench. It would probably be stuffed with old books and photographs.

As I became a father and then a homeowner, I reluctantly took on the usual tasks expected of a responsible, mature adult. Visits to a well known Swedish furniture outlet resulted in me having to bolt together flimsy items of furniture which seemed to be made almost entirely of sawdust and glue. I put up shelves and even had a go at laying laminate flooring; something better left to professionals, I discovered.

Beekeeping Changed Everything

Then, along came beekeeping. From the moment I put together my first beehive, I found joy in carpentry. I use the word in a loose sense, for my skills, though improving, are amateurish at best. The fact is that now I do have a garden shed, and a couple of bee sheds come to think of it, and I have power tools and a workbench. I found that fiddling about making frames, brood boxes, honey boxes and floors was most satisfying. There were knock-on effects on the rest of my life; I now manage to put up shelves that are horizontal, and neat and tidy. I did a mass redecoration project in my house, perched at times on a high ladder on stairs. Such manliness! I am reborn.

Apiary with bee shed and wind break

Beekeeping seems to be one of those very practical pastimes that lends itself to tinkering about in sheds building things. I am a natural experimenter, as evidenced by my science studies at school, and it took me a few years to find out the equipment that suited me best in my hobby. I have come to the view that bees are happy in any sheltered space of the correct dimensions, but beekeepers can be quite fussy. The bee does not care how pretty their hive is, or whether it is a Langstroth or not, or if the hive has top bee space or bottom. These are things beekeepers care about, not bees.E

Trial and Error – lots of error

As a result of trying out different things, I have gradually worked out what works best for me in my apiaries. For example, after much reading and soul searching, I decided to start beekeeping with 14 x 12 sized frames, which might be called “jumbo National” sized. It turned out that, to me, they were ungainly monstrosities. I found that Langstroth was the perfect size and shape for me. The bees don’t care. Then I compared mesh floors, which is what newcomers are advised to buy in the UK, with solid floors. I found that my bees did better with solid floors, so I moved over to them.

Many of my hives are polystyrene Langstroth hives made by Swienty in Denmark. I love them. Again, the bees probably don’t care, but I have found these boxes to be light, durable and well insulated. Mike Palmer uses wooden hives made of pine, and his bees endure deep snow and temperatures far below freezing for many months each year. Just how important is that insulation really? Probably not as much as I think.A

My own creation…mwahahaha

Anyway, this brings me to my latest creation, which is the hive floor of my own design. My poly brood boxes have thicker walls than wooden boxes, which means that they don’t fit snugly onto standardly sized floors. The poly floors sold with the hives are horrible, so I make my floors of wood, but correctly sized for my bee boxes. The features are as follows:

  • solid floor, none of that draughty mesh
  • underfloor entrances to discourage wasps and keep out mice
  • a sealable hole on one side allowing for easy oxalic acid sublimation
  • nice snug fit to my Swienty SWI-BO Langstroth boxes
  • weatherproofed with Decking Stain

Finally, the walrus has become a carpenter!

Mike Palmer speaking in Ireland

By the way, Mike Palmer is speaking at the County Cork Bee Keepers Association Spring Lecture Series on 9th/10th March at University College Cork, Ireland as well as a few other places/times in March. I’ll be at one of them but not sure which yet. He has a new talk “A Year at French Hill Apiaries”.

One thought on “Walrus becomes Carpenter

  1. Thank you for sharing with us, it’s important to remember that we are all in this together and it’s about the bees 🐝. We really get to be better people just taking care of the world around us.

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