WINTER COMES UPON US ONCE AGAIN

Well,November has come and gone, largely uneventfully it has to be said. The wasps have continued to be a nuisance and as with last month, have seemed to focus their attentions mainly on hive one. Flying bees have been in evidence on all but the wettest  days and I was pleased to see on more than one occasion, plenty of activity at the entrance to hive one. So, fingers crossed, hopefully they have managed to deal with the wasps. All the hives have had their mouse guards fitted although I have left the entrances restricted until I’m sure the wasp menace has passed. Having the entrances restricted at the same time as having the mouse guards in place does make it difficult for the bees to eject their fallen sisters and any other rubbish that they wish to dispose of, so I check the entrances regularly and remove any blockages. The floor slides were removed following the Apiguard treatment and the colonies will normally remain this way until I next need to monitor a Varroa drop. The only exception I make is when I see pollen being collected in early Spring sugesting the queens have started laying and when this is accompanied by an exceptionaly cold spell. I then replace the floors until I’m satisfied the cold spell is past. I just feel that in severe conditions, with bee numbers being low they probably struggle to keep the brood temperature up so I give them a little help. Otherwise, as I said, the floors stay out. 

I would like just to repeat here what I’ve said earlier about the way I do things here at Mendip. When I talk about floors left in or taken out or the other things I get up to here, what I’m seeking to do is just to describe the way I do things. I’m not trying to be clever or sugest that my way is the only way, let alone the best way, rather, just what seems to suit my ideas as to how bees should be kept. I’m just trying to share with you the stumblings of a “would be” beekeeper, to have your company, to hear you whisper “Silly ****** ” when it does all go belly up. 

Each of my hive stands accommodates three hives so with eight colonies, there was room on the third stand for a mating nuc.,the other being on it’s own stand. Now that I have somehow aquired a ninth colony, I find myself short of a stand for the second nuc.so a new stand was high on the agenda of jobs to be done. In my opinion, this is the best time to sort out all the little jobs which seem to accumulate during the year. The bees when they are out and about, are usually very placid. I had bees crawling all over my hands while I was fitting the mouse guards, totally oblivious to me. For me it’s always a nice feeling when the bees do this. I had however taken the precaution of warning them all beforehand, the first one to sting me needn’t bother looking in his stocking for a present from me this Christmas.

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                                          NEW QUEEN MATING NUC. STAND

So, the hive stand has now been sorted. As with most of the kit in use here at Mendip, apart from my hives that is, it has been constructed using reclaimed pallet timber. Apart from a few screws and a liberal application of Cuprinol, it cost virtually nothing and took little more than an hour to build. With my brush in hand I also took the oportunity to give all the other stands and the wax extractor a quick lick.

I have decided for the first time this winter, to have a go at candle making and eventually, if successful, maybe other wax products. I’ve accumulated quite a lot of wax over the past year or two and have never considered doing anything with it other than to give it away. Anyway, I decided this year would be different and I’d give candles a try. So, the first step, to prepare the wax. This I finally achieved with use of an old saucepan, a jug and flour seive. I was quite pleased with the final result ending up with three nice blocks of clean wax weighing about two pounds in total.

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  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Here I paused to consider my next step not realising just how expensive wax moulds were deciding instead to have a go with wax sheets. These are quite simple to use, even for someone with more thumbs than fingers. In the end I was really quite pleased with the result and it has well and truly whetted my appetite to push on with more. I’ll let you know how I get on. 

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    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                              FIRST ATTEMPT, ENDS STILL NEED TO BE TRIMMED

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                                        BAGGED,LABELLED AND READY TO GO

And, that’s about it for another year. When I’m satisfied the wasps have finally gone I’ll remove the restrictions from the entrances and apply oxalic acid to each colony, this when I’m finally happy the bees have clustered. I do have a quick look at my little apiary most days, weather permitting, just for my own satisfaction. Sometimes, when the winter sun makes it’s all too brief appearance, I’ll take the oportunity to sit at the top of the meadow for a minute or two.Truely a wonderous place and somewhere I never tire of. As I’ve said before, if this isn’t God’s own acre, then I don’t know what is. So. a time for reflection, not too bad a year as it happened, certainly a lot better than I first imagined it would be. As for next year, I can’t wait. It just remains for me to thank you for joining me here at Mendip Apiary and to wish you a Very Happy Christmas. See you all again next year.