Jump to content

Arthur Gosset's three rules for beekeeping...

Recommended Posts

23 minutes ago, NickWallingford said:

Why is it always such a surprise that the beekeepers who consistently get the best crops are the ones that sit quietly at the back of the room and claim they don't have any special tricks or gadgets to share?

Maybe it's because they aren't b....... artists.  


As my granny used to say "those that make the most noise, generally have the emptiest barrel"

  • Agree 2
  • Haha 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 19/10/2020 at 4:33 PM, NickWallingford said:

The Basics of Beekeeping


This article appeared in the NZ Beekeeper No. 190, Winter 1986, pp 11-13. It appeared under the pseudonym 'Skep'.


As I cast about for topics suitable for this column, this issue is always the hardest. Though as I write this, the weather is still warm and pleasant, I know that you will be reading it in the throes of winter. My first thoughts were to write about sources of information for the beginner beekeeping.


I've decided to save that topic for the future, while optimistically writing this to give the beginner an overview of the critical operations of beekeeping. Maybe by giving you time to think about this in the less rushed time of winter will allow you the chance to critically examine your own beekeeping practices to see how they compare with these thoughts of mine.


Arthur Gosset was a very well respected beekeeper in Canterbury, New Zealand. I worked some years ago for Bray and Gosset. Sitting in the smoko room, I remember very clearly some advice he gave me.


At the time I was all fired up with complicated and labour intensive methods of getting as much production from a colony as possible. I was dreaming up all sorts of involved and fiddly gadgets and management systems, involving two queening and strange hive designs.


Arthur looked at me and simply said that all beekeeping is a matter of watching out for three main things:

  • You must have a young queen in the hive.
  • You must never let them become short of food.
  • You must give them enough room at the right time to store the crop.


At the time, as a young(er) man, that was all too simple for me. Where is the 'art' in beekeeping if it can be reduced to that few words? At the time, I even thought he was holding out on me, not letting me in on his 'secrets' of management.


Only with more experience have I now come back to his words and realised how true they are. The complexities of beekeeping come with HOW to do the WHAT of those three questions. The methods and timing that you will use to get a queen in the hive, feed the colony if need be and super it up will determine how successful your beekeeping can be.

Sugar syrup mixing and feeding and supering up are really topics of their own. There are plenty of options available to you in either operation.


Re-queening is another major topic that should be covered more fully than in this article.


Of course, with the goal of messing up such a tidy presentation, I would add another few operations to Arthur's three. Knowing how to properly inspect a hive for brood disease should be listed. Another concept I feel strongly about is that of using methods and materials related to the scale of your beekeeping.


Disease recognition for the hobbyist is a real poser. Because it is present in such small levels, the odds say if you have only one hive, it will only get infected once every 200 years. (NB: This is based on NZ's average of about 0.5% of hives being found infected annually. Antibiotics are not fed for AFB in NZ - bees are destroyed, though hot paraffin wax dipping can salvage most equipment)


Like many other statistical lies, if you trust to that, you'll likely come unstuck. In fact, as a hobbyist, you have several things going against you. Because you'll see cases of disease so rarely, you'll tend to get complacent and even careless in your inspections. After all, after looking for something you don't want to find for some time, its easy enough to decide to stop looking!


Because you probably have your one or two hives in an urban location, your's are relatively close to many other hobbyist hives. All it takes is one careless beekeeper to put everyone else nearby at risk.


If you're not confident that you can recognise American Brood Disease, talk with a local beekeeper who might be able to help you. Contact your local beekeeper's club and ask if they might be able to arrange a programme to help with disease inspection. Get a copy of the relevant Ag Link from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries or other good photographs.

Don't just trust to good luck and the odds; its up to all responsible beekeepers to keep disease levels down. There is nothing wrong with getting a case of disease; it happens to most all beekeepers at one time or another. There is a problem if you don't know how to properly deal with disease and become a source of infection for other beekeepers and your other hives.


My other interest, making sure that your approach to your beekeeping is of the appropriate 'scale' is not a difficult one. It is often overlooked by hobbyist (and other...) beekeepers. What I mean is that you don't need to kill flies with a sledge hammer. You are a hobbyist, and your approach to beekeeping should keep that in mind. You don't need to involve a lot of specialised equipment that will only be used once a year.


While keeping your specialised equipment costs down, you can take advantage of the time that you can put into your beekeeping. After all, you are doing this as a hobby, remember? You can afford to be a little more exacting than a commercial beekeeper, and do things that involve more trips to the hive, for instance.


A good example of keeping your 'scale' in mind is equipment making. You probably won't save much money by making your own boxes and frames, for instance. If you enjoy doing it, go ahead by all means. The scale of your beekeeping should tell you, though, that you'd be better off buying equipment in kitset to assemble.


Similarly with honey handling equipment. What started out as a relatively inexpensive hobby can rapidly change to a major expense if you insist on buying a new stainless steel extractor and building a small honey house in your backyard. Sure, this might suit you, and if you are determined to do it, go ahead. A better method for someone with only a few hives, however, would be to share the bare minimum of extracting equipment with several other hobbyists.


Often, a local hobbyist beekeepers club will have the basic equipment that can be rented from them for a reasonable daily rate. If not, why not form your own 'syndicate' of 2 or 3 like-minded beekeeper friends and share one set between you? Extracting together can be a truly social event if approached in this manner.


I guess what I'm trying to get across with this column is that there are only a few key points to being a good beekeeper, no matter how many hives you have. If you learn how to properly care for the basics, especially Arthur Gosset's three rules of beekeeping, you will be a good beekeeper.


It's not hard to get a good crop in a good year. Have you ever heard the saying 'Bees make honey in spite of beekeepers'? It's often true, you know...

If you are a GOOD beekeeper, you'll get a honey crop in that mediocre season when others get little or nothing. Your hives will be gentle enough that you don't upset your neighbours or become a nuisance. Your hives will be tidy enough that an Apiary Inspector will not have to attack the glued up frames with a spade.


The details of how you go about taking care of the important aspects of beekeeping, re-queening, feeding and supering at the right time, are the subject of all the talk of beekeepers and the books and the magazines. Learning what methods work for you in your location for a particular season is the 'art' of beekeeping.


Now you've finished this short article, sit back and think about your own beekeeping systems. Are you taking care of the fundamentals? Are you re-queening at least every 2 years? Has your hive always had at least two good frames of honey or stores provided by feeding sugar to them? Do you give them the extra room that they need when they need it?


If you do, then you can move ahead to the 'fine tuning' of more intricate management systems, such as two-queening or complicated dividing/uniting procedures suited to your local requirements. If you can't honestly say you are taking care of the basics, make that your special goal over the coming season and see what a difference it makes.


Young queens, with reduced swarming levels and smooth, rapid, reliable build up. Colonies that never get the set back of running short of food. Hives that get the new honey super before the bees have started to pack out the brood nest. What a difference they all make!


Why is it always such a surprise that the beekeepers who consistently get the best crops are the ones that sit quietly at the back of the room and claim they don't have any special tricks or gadgets to share?



I never met Old Arthur ..... but my mate spent a lot of time with him.


In his latter days, the story goes that Arthur wanted to see what the bees were doing up the Gorge ..... the Rakaia gorge.

So old mate took him up there one day when they had a run to do.

Old mate stopped at a yard to do some jobs and Arthur was left to wander.

Old mate made some comment about not wandering too far, in case the time came for Arthur to meet his maker.


Well, Arthur's Maker had the plan .... and the two met in the yard up the Gorge.

The story goes that Arthur made his last trip home on the back of the old Bee truck.


Which just goes to prove that there Good Lord has a wicked sense of humour !

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

People at my place tend to overcomplicate things or strangely concentrated solely on hardware for beekeeping than on bees themselves. I myself refuse to remember exact measures of hives, frames or the other such data. I concentrate on the bees, though I may be more obsessed with queens than normal ( usually I replace a lot of queens for which some here tell me I am nuts, and when the queen isn't quite right, she will recover by herself later..).

For me the right thing for successful beekeeping beside reading and practice: Keep it simple.. simplify whenever you can - rationalize..

Edited by Goran
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
On 3/11/2020 at 8:43 PM, mischief said:

The only thing I dont do is decide when they need  new Queen.

My thoughts are changing on that one. Although have never purposely killed a Queen yet. 

I have found some old Queens can potter on badly for a long,long time. Her bees putting up with a far less than perfect situation until they start to get grumpy. My last trouble maker would have been four years old! Not sure whether she died or flew away? Anyway,I have decided 2yrs old is enough for a Queen. That means I have to kill my first one in a year!?

  • Agree 2
Link to post
Share on other sites


  • Create New...