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Newbie beekeeper without a mentor is now a mentor.... How'd THAT happen?!


So here’s a long story made short:

My church has had problems with bees wanting to make the church walls their home. A while back someone started “keeping a hive” on the church grounds in an effort to lure the bees away from the walls. This effort was successful, and for the period of time the hive has been going, there were no issues with church-wall bees. At one point, the hive was vandalized, the bees left and… You guessed it – took up residence in the walls.

Fast forward a couple years – the hive is set up, and the church custodian has been tending to the hive. She knows the basics, has some equipment and a couple people who help her with harvesting honey on occasion. There have been people who have helped from time to time but I think consistency has been lacking. Certainly any advanced beekeeping knowledge/practice is absent. This is in NO way meant to denigrate our custodian – she’s doing a great job with the tools she’s been given.

I started beekeeping in May, 2017. NO beekeeping before that, and ONLY internet resources as my ‘mentor’ since.

I have volunteered to help, as our church custodian is hungry for any knowledge she can get. She knows she’s getting good honey (we’re about to harvest 100 lbs) , and knows that one of the two hives we have is more aggressive than the other. Her knowledge, while basic, gets the job done.

I went to the church this past weekend to take a tour of the “7th Principle Apiaries” (we’re Unitarians – those unitarians out there will immediately get the name!) which consists of two brood boxes in a somewhat cleared alcove amongst the trees and brambles on the outer edges of our church property. This abuts a cleared “utility R.O.W.” which is kept mowed.

The brood box on “hive #1” is an old, painted 10 frame deep that is disintegrating. I did not get a chance to look at the shape of the brood box as I didn’t want to tear into it and disturb anything this close to winter – I figure the time for any rebuilding shenanigans will be March/April of next year. There is a medium super on top of the brood box which was packed with honey, and the bees had done their best to propolize the cover and frames to the point of turning them into stone… We finally got it apart and will harvest it this week.

Hive #2 is a different story… It is two shallows literally duct taped together over a board from which they have drawn comb. There are no “frames” per se in the brood box. A medium super on top is also packed full of honey.

Both of these hives are disintegrating. The frames in the supers are OK, but the boxes are in dire need of attention. Hive #1 seems healthy and teams with bees. Hive #2 was somewhat weak in comparison.

Oh – did I mention the issue of SHB? OMG, there were LOTS of them! Both hives are in good enough shape that they seem to have managed to keep them up above the inner covers, but I suspect its a battle.

My advice to the church custodian is:

  1. Leave a couple frames of honey in each of the supers for the bees to feed on over the winter. She wants to harvest the rest.

  2. When spring comes, we need to replace the brood box and bottom board for hive #1 and put in what I call the “never-wet” SHB strips in addition to freeman-style SHB traps. (Ask me offline if you haven’t heard of these)

  3. Using the weak hive, we split into two nucs as possible, using brood frames as required from Hive #1. As they progress, we move them into new 10 frame deeps.

  4. We start feeding both hives sugar syrup in the spring. (Would you recommend we start now?)

  5. After we split off Hive #2 and let the girls grow, we do a walk-away split from Hive #1.

  6. Our church has a public garden… I am going to recommend that we make a hive or two in that part of the property next year. I might even spring for a nuc from a local apiary to make that happen.

Anything else you can think of? Any changes to my approach that you’d recommend?

I know little-to-nothing about queen rearing, which if approached properly could help accelerate the process…

Like I said – I have no mentor, but find myself in a mentoring position!



Having spent several decades in academic medicine, teaching doctors, nurses and other staff, I feel that one of the best ways to improve your own knowledge is to teach other people. :blush:

You will do fine, she will do better than without you, and you will both learn a lot. :wink:


Yes you find out what you don’t know from all what you think you know.
And why is it you are always asked a question on that you know least about.:anguished: