It feels like I have been working on this project for a very long time now; ever since our Assistant Farm Manager called me over the radio to come and have a look at an old WBC hive that had been put into storage in the museum. In reality, it has only been six weeks and I have had to cram this restoration project in-between the myriad of other tasks and experiences that I am getting involved with on the Farm and away on my work placements with Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Hawk and Owl Trust.
For my part, I have been busy in every spare moment as I renovate the hive trying to make sure that it is ready for the bee’s later this month. The first task was to try to kill off any beasties that might be living in the old cedar wood of the outer frames, or ‘lifts’, as they are called. This was done by placing the hive into deep freeze in the museum freezer; a process they use for much the same purpose in preservation of old furniture and museum pieces.
Next, I needed to clean of any exterior dirt and debris from each of the lifts, the stand, and the roof. Simple enough, using lukewarm water with a little washing up liquid. The important thing here was not to get the wood too wet; it’s old wood and not in the best condition so adding too much moisture would only expedite the onset of rot. After that it was onto removal of the old paint…
I wanted to get back to the bare wood in order to give the hive a real chance at recovery and hopefully extend it’s useful life for another decade at least. This proved harder and more time-consuming than I’d imagined; the old paint was flakey in places but elsewhere it still retained a gloss and stubbornly refused to budge! I was using an orbital sander and when this failed to work I switched to a heat gun to try to strip the paint. Sadly this also failed, and worse still seemed to be harming the ageing wood. I determined to finish it off with the sander, and good old-fashioned elbow grease!
Once the bare wood was exposed I again wiped the surfaces down with a damp cloth to remove any dust and create a good key for the paint to grip onto. I opted for one undercoat of primer, followed by two coats of gloss; thanks to Mike for the materials! The results have been quite impressive, and I’m content that the hive has been preserved for a good few years to come…not long until the bees can move in!
We will shortly be moving the hive to it’s final position, back in the wildflower meadow and erecting and fine mesh fence to keep visitors back a safe distance. It is hoped that we will be able to give some an exhibition of hive opening during the summer; once we have worked out some safe working practices and properly risk-assessed the operation. The bees themselves will be in place within a week or so, just in time for the blossoming of our wildflower meadow so hopefully they will be well fed…
It’s very exciting to be part of this project, and I’m really looking forward to getting the bee’s into their new home, as well as having the chance to put into practice all that I have learned on my short course- I have the last of my practical sessions this weekend. I’ve been shown how to handle the frames within the hive and also more complicated husbandry skills which I hope to further develop under the supervision of Venetia.
I’m discovering that beekeeping is an amazing hobby but also a privilege to spend time looking after these fascinating insects. Keep your eyes peeled for further updates on the progress of returning honey bees to Gressenhall, and also some insights into beekeeping procedures as I learn them!