Mr.Snelgrove Makes Exceedingly Good Boards

Mr. Snelgrove's Board
Mr. Snelgrove’s Exceedingly Fine Board

In the vocabulary of beekeepers, there’s a lot of room for name-dropping. For example, I have just deployed a “Snelgrove board” for the first time, on Abbey Hive.

But I could equally well be droning on about a “Bailey comb change”, a “Butler cage”, a “Porter bee-escape” a “WBC (William Broughton Carr) Hive”, a “Buckfast bee”,  the “Horsley method” or a “Smith grobulator” (OK, so I made the last one up, but you get my drift).

These italicised monickers, highlighting phrases strewn around the beekeepers’ lexicon, describe bits of kit, management techniques, or even strains of bee. Proper names are the basis for much technical bee-terminology. Very proper names, in fact. These sound as quintessentially English as the summery crack of leather on willow on the village green. I bet if you visited any churchyard in the deep countryside, humming with bees, you could read off half of those names from the worn headstones !

So what does Mr. Snelgrove’s eponymous board actually do ? For starters, it involves a vertical artificial swarm. This is very useful for beekeepers like me, who have limited space in their apiaries. An artificial swarm prevents the glorious chaos of an uncontrolled swarm and allows the beekeeper to raise new Queens from his own stock, if required.

Usually, you would perform an artificial swarm by splitting the existing Queen, together with a small quantity of nurse bees and all of the flying, foraging bees into a new hive (which mimics what a swarm would do) and leaving behind the brood nest and most workers to raise a new Queen in the original brood box. That would leave you with two hives a few feet apart. By inserting the Snelgrove board above the new hive containing the old queen and the flyers, you can position the old hive on top of the new hive. That’s where the vertical bit comes in. Much more convenient for rooftop urban beekeeping – and pretty consistent with the local architecture !

So there it is, the Snelgrove board is a dual purpose device for swarm prevention and making increase. By sequencing the  opening and closing of the entrances on the board (determined by the precision-timed development cycle of bee-brood) means that a new Queen can be raised, with minimal surrender of the honey-crop, using Mr. Snelgrove’s exceedingly good board.


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