DECEMBER

“It’ll soon be Christmas”. Whenever I hear that and no doubt it’s a phrase that we shall all hear more than once between now and 25th, my first thoughts are always, where the hell did that year go. I don’t know whether it’s being retired or whether it’s just an age thing, but the time certainly seems to fly by at an alarming rate. Goodness where I’d be without my bees. Even though there is little to be done at this time of year, I still try to pay them a visit as often as the weather permits. As I said, there’s little to be done but it sets my mind at ease to see that none of the hives have been dislodged or have been visited by the local family of green woodpeckers. Fortunately the wasps finally have departed the scene but with the hive entrances still restricted, and the mouse guards fitted, I like to check that the bees are still able to come and go should they wish. Occasionally I find a couple of dead bees blocking the entrance and these are easily dislodged with a thin twig or piece of grass stem. Also as I walk along the row of hives, I pause to place my hand on each hive roof for a second or two, it’s surprising the difference in temperature between the roof of a healthy hive and an empty one. So, barring any unforeseen catastrophes, that will be the pattern of events until I see the first bees flying come Spring. Sometime after Christmas they will all receive a dousing of Oxalic Acid. It’s about this time when I begin gently hefting the hives, about once a week, and I have a box of fondant standing by should any of them feel a bit light. I have  a couple of talks and demonstrations on candle making with a local Scout and Cub group booked for next week and I’m looking forward to that. So, that’s about it for another year.

Thank you for accompanying me through another year and for your kind comments. I hope you’ve all had a successful season and look forward to your thoughts and company in 2018. So, until then, I wish you all LOTS OF LOVE AND A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

NOVEMBER

Not much planned for this month other than just visit the bees whenever the opportunity permits, just for my own peace of mind you understand. No need to open any of the hives, unless any unforeseen catastrophe occurs, as they all have plenty of food and the hives are all weather-proof and secure. I’ve completed the few minor running repairs to the empty meadow hives and they’ve each received a thorough cleaning and scorching prior to a couple of coats of Cuprinol. I’ve noticed that one of the meadow hive stands is looking a little the worse for wear. Not surprising really as it was the first stand that I made and that, some eight or nine years ago. Add to that the fact that all of the stands were made out of reclaimed pallet wood, it’s a minor miracle that they’ve lasted as long as they have, anyway, that’s a job for the Spring. I fitted the mouse guards this week and also recharged the wasp traps. I can’t recall a year when the wasps were more persistent or for further into the year, another sign of global warming I shouldn’t wonder.

 

 

OCTOBER

Well into October now and pleased to report, so far, everything seems to be moving along very well. The Apiguard and Winter feeding is now completed. The warm weather has meant that wasps have continued to be a nuisance and I’ve continued to top up the traps. I would imagine the first prolonged cold snap will see the end of them. Very few drones in evidence but little sign that brood production has slowed down, if anything, the queens seem to be on overtime. I can’t remember seeing so much brood in October and on all but the wettest days, there is still an abundance of pollen being brought in.

Latest Cameley pic's 001

THIS NUC ENTRANCE GIVES SOME IDEA OF THE AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY

The last couple of weeks has seen new dandelions flowering in the meadow, something which the bees have been taking full advantage of.

queen excluder and October bees 002

BEE ON WINTER FLOWERING DANDELION

I know it’s not a very good pic. but as usual, I didn’t have my ‘phone with me the first time I walked down to the bees and of course, at that time there were two or more bees on each flower. By the time I had retrieved my ‘phone, the only one that was left is the one in the pic.

There are so many things about this hobby of ours which give me pleasure. In addition to full supers and brood boxes, I never tire of watching baby bees queuing to take their maiden flight and I always come away with the same satisfied feeling after hiving a swarm, especially one which has been difficult to get at. I’ve always enjoyed the apiary meetings and other social events which the society arranges from time to time. Another thing I’ve come to enjoy is talking to groups of people, keen to find out more about our subject. Giving the occasional candle making demonstration can be equally enjoyable, especially if you can persuade one or two to come up and have a go themselves. Never a problem if there are children in the room. I well remember the first time I stood up to speak, I’d managed to get myself that worked up beforehand, by the time it was time for me, I stood up, opened my mouth and horror of horrors, nothing came out. From memory I eventually managed to squeak “Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen”, but it was one or two glasses of water later before I could manage my second sentence. Thankfully they seemed to do the trick and I managed to see the rest of the evening out without any further problems. Thankfully all that was a one off but I still get shivers down my spine when I think about it.

I gave a talk to a local branch of The W.I. earlier this week and very enjoyable it was. I think most of us enjoy talking about the hobby we love and talking to people who by and large have had no connection with bee-keeping, can be most rewarding. Inviting questions from the floor at the end of the evening can be the most entertaining bit, and if nothing else, it does tell you whether or not you pitched your talk at the right level. Do, however, be ready for the unexpected from time to time. Like the time when after addressing a class of young Primary School children I asked if there were any questions one little boy put his hand up immediately. So quick was his response that I suppose I expected something quite profound to issue from his lips. I motioned to him, “Yes young man, what would you like to ask me?”. He paused, “Why have you got lots of hairs up your nose?”. So, as I said, always expect the unexpected!

The month has continued to go well although the unusually mild weather has produced another plague of wasps. I thought that I’d finished with the wasp traps but have had to fish them all out again. There have been promises of frosts this month but none so far, at least, not in our neck of the woods. Hopefully, there’s one in the offing which with luck, will put paid to the wasp problem for this season. With Winter feeding and varroa treatment more or less completed, there’s not too much more to do this year. I’ve still to strap the two nuc’s. at “C” together and get them under one roof, hopefully later today if the weather holds. I planned to do it at my last visit but one of them hadn’t quite emptied their feeder, so, as I said, hopefully today. Just the mouse guards left to fit then and tidy up around the hive stands. There are one or two overhanging branches at the meadow, so I’ll be giving them a trim back some time shortly, and that’s about it. I shall still try to pay them all a visit once a week throughout the Winter and as usual, they’ll get their dose of Oxalic acid after Christmas.

If you look hard enough, you can always find little jobs to be done can’t you, for instance, there are a couple of empty brood boxes that will benefit from a coat of Cuprinol and I’ve noticed a couple of supers which need a little attention, but, with none of these potentially life threatening, and with plenty of spare kit, I’m happy to put these jobs on my “to do” list. The installation of my Workmate quickly converts the greenhouse into a makeshift workshop and it’s here that most of these little jobs will be sorted. It’s surprising how quickly the greenhouse warms up after an hour or two’s watery Winter sun and, feeling the sun on my back, even if it is watery, especially at this time of year, always gives me a real lift. With just my thoughts and Teddy, the resident rat catcher for company, I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve whiled away in that greenhouse and what a welcome break from sitting indoors, listening to the rain beating on the windows.

A lovely day, Wednesday of this week, so straight to “C”. Barely ten o’clock and already the apiary a hive of activity, if you’ll forgive the pun. I always feel that it’s one of the real pleasures of bee-keeping, to see the air around the hives filled with thousands of flying bees, and even more so, when they’re so intent on what they are doing, that they are totally oblivious to my presence, and so it was this morning. For a moment, I just stood there soaking up the atmosphere, so intense I could have reached out and touched it, but enough of this, time to get on with the job in hand. Aware of just how quickly the weather can change at this time of year, I dragged myself away from my daydreaming and made my way back down to the car. I had all the bits that I was going to need already sorted and in the boot,so it was only a couple of minutes before, suited up and fully laden, I was back with the bees.

.The mood of the bees told me this was going to be an operation without incident, and so it was. No need for a smoker, just move the nuc’s a little to the right, away from hive one, gently remove the roofs and the empty feeder from nuc.one. Then, just a simple matter of replacing the crown boards with boards which have mesh over the ventilation holes, strapping the nuc’s together and putting the under the one roof. If all that sounds simple, that’s because it was. It’s probably taken me longer to write about it than to do it.

nuc's under one roof 004

NEW CROWN BOARDS FITTED

nuc's under one roof 005

HIVE STRAP NOW IN PLACE

nuc's under one roof 008

JOB COMPLETED

nuc's under one roof 006

NUC 2 FACING REAR OF STAND TO MINIMISE DRIFTING

The thinking behind this move, is as I said before, I always felt that my mating nuc’s over-wintered more successfully that the “stand alone” ones. I put this down to the fact that only having a thin partition between them, they probably kept warmer and that this was the contributing factor to their success. Whether it was or whether it was just co-incidence, I don’t know but I certainly intend to over-winter my nuc’s in this way in the future, given the chance. Another plus is that I can use the modified Adams feeders for their Spring feed if required. I made these feeders specifically for the mating nuc’s. but they fit perfectly onto the nuc’s, now strapped together, and the feed holes line up perfectly, so, I’ll be looking forward to giving these a try.

nuc's. under one roof and dual feeder 001

I’LL BE LOOKING FORWARD TO GIVING THESE A TRY

I used these regularly on the mating nuc’s. both with Winter and Spring feeds with great success and a real bonus is that they are really easy to make.

feeders 006

A REAL BONUS IS THAT THEY ARE SIMPLE TO MAKE

You will need to cut slots in the rims of the plastic cups which cover the feed pillars to allow the syrup through, but if they are to be used on the modified feeders, it’s important that they are too small for a bee to get through.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

KEEP THE SLOTS TOO SMALL FOR A BEE TO GET THROUGH

When the feeder is empty I always remove one of the cups to allow the bees from one of the nuc’s .access to clean up the feeder. Leaving the other cup in place ensures that the bees don’t come into contact with one another. I’m really looking forward to giving this another try. As I said before, it worked with the mating nuc’s but this will be the first time that I’ve tried configuring “stand alone” nuc’s. in this way, I’ll let you know how I get on.

nuc 212

REMOVING ONE CUP ALLOWS BEES UP TO CLEAN UP FEEDER

Sorry the pic’s a bit out of focus, one of the bees must have moved while I was taking the shot!