Notes on Clive De Bruyn’s Talk

On Thursday 24th February 2011 the Belfast and District Beekeepers Association hosted a talk by the well known beekeeper Clive De Bruyn at CIYMS.The title of the talk was “BeeKeeping Mistakes”.


Clive was welcomed and introduced by our chairperson Esther Ross. Esther commented that she read a  quotation from Clive that he “plays with bees” and that on obtaining her first colony of bees she was advised to “go and make mistakes but learn from them”.

Notes on Clive’s Talk

I am fairly sure that every member of the audience felt that they had a most enjoyable evening and as well as being entertaining the evening was educational.  Clive asked for all those who did not have bees to put  their hands up, none did. He said this was unusual as prior to this all his audiences had between 10% and 20% of novices yet to get their first bees. He remarked that beekeeping knowledge seems to reach its peak in your 3rd year and from them on you realise how much you still have to learn. He advised against writing a book or designing a new type of hive at this stage in your beekeeping as you will regret it. He encouraged all of us to always tell non-beekepers about the value of honey bees in the pollination of crops this is the best way to promote beekeeping.

At this point Clive informed us that he would like to base the rest of the evening on topics suggested by the audience and the he would ask for a question from each row, so start thinking. The rest of this report will be based on bullet points of Clive remarks on each topic. Please note that these are notes of Clive’s talk and sometimes he drifted off topic a little – it was still very interesting.

“How do you find the Queen”

  • Look early in the year when there are fewer bees
  • In an apiary of 30 colonies he will find every queen
  • In march when flowering currant is out and its warm enough to be in shirt sleeves
  • Change the floor and transfer to new brood box
  • frame by frame look for the queen
  • dont use too much smoke
  • In a warm way hive stores at back, start at the back, as you lift out a frame look at the next frame for the queen, if hive is too low – kneel
  • dont look in supers just  note their weight
  • dont mark queen too early in career wait until experienced
  • dont wear gloves when marking – take them off when found
  • Practice on drones and then workers
  • Buy fine scissors and blunt the end – dont stab the Q., snip off about one third
  • Pick Q up by wingsor thorax never abdomen
  • spray bees with water not syrup and spray when Q released
  • he only uses green, blue and red not white or yellow but he uses colours to identify breeding strains rather than year

“Brood Spreading”

  • do not put foundation in among the brood
  • only move frames with a little area of brood from edge to centre
  • be careful and try on one colony first
  • sealed brood gives off heat, eggs can survive a chill but larvae are vunerable to chilling
  • wire frames rather than wax, use a crimper to tighten wire and melt wire into wax with a low voltage {12V} and rheostat eg. train controller

“Autumn feeding”

  • feed heavily
  • feed in August to get strong winter bees
  • November is too late, too much effort for the bees to process
  • feed in spring
  • commercial beekeepers take short cuts to save money, this is risky – dont
  • he doesn’t use baker’s fondant because off the additives, recommends apifondant
  • dont make your own – results are very variable and a lot of effort

“Bee Space”

  • very important 7.5mm
  • apidea’s are similar to topbar hives
  • does not recomend top bar hives here, good in Africa where they dont have extraction equipmnet
  • strongly in favour of top bee space {not bottom bee space}
  • recommends use of the wide top bar on frames not the narrow {cheaper} bars
  • Wide top bar on frame will result in less brace comb
  • when buying second hand equipment  take along a frame to check inner box dimensions

“Black Queens”

  • 35th member of the British Bee breeding group
  • however he recomends get local bees
  • dont bring in foreign bees
  • local associations need to provide bees
  • Black queen is harder to find and moves more quickly
  • he works in Kent which is hot and dry in summer so the Italian bee suits not the black
  • he gets 140 lbs of honey per colony
  • selective breed own bees, culling bad queens

“How to Deal with Land Owners”

  • always ask for a specific location, not a general enquiry
  • bring a jar of honey {labelled with you contact details}
  • look for good access, drive to the hives
  • put out the stands only and let the land owner think about it for a week
  • standard rent is one jar of honey per hive per year in December
  • always say its been a hard year – farmers understand this language
  • talk to the landowner about their crops and spraying
  • dont push too hard
  • go to the local pub and ask where the local beekeepers are – dont swamp the area
  • use a set of interlooking locks, one for the farmer and one for the beekeeper, each with their own key and each always able to get access

“Indentify Honey Types”

  • only by the majority crop in the area
  • can identify by pollen
  • use a microscope, need 300+ magnification for pollen
  • Ireland has great honey but in low quantities

“How Often to Change Brood Frames”

  • change frames for a healthy colony
  • extreme case, in Denmark every frame changed every year
  • in practice a maximum of 5 years per frame
  • reuse a frame up to 12 times
  • soak wood of frames in caustic soda
  • replace some frames every year
  • sterilize super with 80% acetic acid, against nosema and other diseases
  • keep bees drawing wax
  • draw brood frames when feeding

“Mini Nucs. – apideas”

  • if there is a bottom entrance block this and make a new entrance at front
  • paint front to help bees recognise their nuc.
  • use a home made drop in feeder, eg. cut bottom off milk carton, then swap these over when feeding
  • use a wasp protector on the front
  • make a spacer to have top bee space
  • make a cover if it doesn’t have one


After this highly entertaining and informative session we stopped for tea and biscuits with Clive chatting to members of the audience. We regrouped for a final quick word from Clive to everyone when he recapped on a number of the issues raised.

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