DECEMBER

There’s not too much to report so far this month. The temperature has taken a nose dive and as a result the bees have been conspicuous by their absense. I’ve been pushing on with the new supers and am now nearly at the assembly stage, just the rebating to finish. This is the part that takes the time as I don’t have a rebating tool and so they all have to be chisseled out, still, only three more to go so, should finish them this morning. I’m glad that I had a go at making them, apart from the savings, I’ve been really pleased with the results. There’s someting quite satisfying about seeing an idea gradually take shape and finally seeing the finished article laying before you. Fingers crossed they do the job.

 A fellow beekeeping friend of mine has been suffering a bit of back trouble of late and in conversation he informed me that because of this he hasn’t been able to lift his hive roofs to remove the empty Apiguard trays or to bend to fit his mouse guards. So, Wednesday saw the both of us at his little apiary, only three colonies so wouldn’t take long. No need to suit up I decided, just a veil. I reasoned that like mine, his bees would be too busy with their slumbers to take any notice of me, so, mouse guards first, then apiguard trays, hot cuppa and home I decided. ”Watch that one” said my friend “they’re a little bit irritable”. Now, I don’t usually bother with my smoker at this time of year as the bees, even if they do come out to investigate any disturbance, are generally very placid so I was a bit surprised at the lengths my friend went to to get his smoker going, but I was soon to find out why. So to hive one, off with the roof, out with the empty trays and on with the mouse guards. Bees all nicely clustered and not a single one left the hive. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a few bees issuing from hive two and by the time I had reached them and knelt to fit the mouse guard, that few had become a real outpouring. The reason for the smoker had now become more than apparent and also why my friend had elected to wear his full suit. No amount of smoking would keep them in the hive or dissuade from venting their wrath on me. Anyway, we finished off in double quick time and after all is said and done, what’s a few bee stings between friends. On a more serious note, irritable bees shouldn’t be tolerated, they take the enjoyment out of what is otherwise a very enjoyable pass-time. They alienate members of the public that they come into contact with, and this at a time when bees need all the friends that they can get, and worse, the drones from an iritable colony will mate with queens from other colonies thereby perpetuating the problem. My advise, if a colony become ill tempered, re-queen as soon as possible. If as is the case with my friend’s bees, they’ve gone into the Winter in this state and will therefore emerge in the Spring in a similar frame of mind, the answer is to cull the whole colony, and the sooner the better.

The first Saturday of the month saw the last Farmers Market for this year and pleased to say, it went very well. There was quite a lot of interest in my “Honey in a basket” efforts and some very nice comments were received. The floating candles also aroused a fair amount of interest so all in all, well worth the effort. One thing, if ever you think of giving it a try, wrap up well, standing in one spot for four hours plus with an Easterly wind attacking your nether regions certainly sorts out the men from the boys. The coffee stall did very well as you would expect, at one stage, almost everyone who passed me had a bacon bap in one hand and a cup of steaming coffee in the other. Well, they say “it’s an ill wind” don’t they.

The supers are taking shape, all the cutting and rebating is now done and another two have been added to the finished pile so, nearly half way. I shall have mixed feelings when I finally finish them all. I shall be pleased to have taken another step towards completing my new apiary but, I do enjoy having a project on the go, and will miss that aspect of it.

So, with little more than a week to go before Christmas is once again upon us, what’s still left to be done. Well, pleased to say, here at Mendip we’re pretty much up to date with everything. Sometime before the start of next year’s season I want to give all the empty supers and the hive stands a coat of Cuprinol, it also gives me a chance to effect any minor repairs that are needed. Seldom more than a nail here or a screw there but it does mean that I don’t have to check everything before pressing it back into use. A chance also, to sort through the frames. It was only later on in my beekeeping that made the decision to use Manley frames and so I still have quite a few Hoffman and others in use. Although I always start the season with the supers populated with only one frame type, I invariably finish with a mix. I think this probably happens while we are extracting and although each year I tell myself it won’t happen again, it still does. So, that’s another little job to be done. There’s still the oxalic acid to administer but it hasn’t been consistantly cold enough so far this Winter. In my mind, for the acid to be truly effective, the bees have to be tightly clustered and so far, apart from a couple of days, this hasn’t been the case. When they do get the acid treatment I shall give each hive a small slab of fondant and that, barring any unforseen catastrophies, will be that for another year.

2014 has been a good year for us here at Mendip. All the colonies have exceeded my expectations so far as honey production and more importantly, look to have prepared well for Winter. The queen rearing has gone equally well we’ve embarked on some new ventures which have added variety to the proceedings. As I said earlier, I’m really looking forward to the new apiary getting off the ground and the chance to try out some of my ideas.

I’d like to close this year’s proceedings with this message to all of you who have visited us here at Mendip Apiary or at one of the Farmer’s Markets, who have joined me on my blog or contacted me, and to all my fellow beekeepers especially my very good friend Liz. I wish you a Very Happy Christmas. I hope 2015 will be kind to you and look forward to being with you again soon. Kind regards, Geoff.

The Thursday before Christmas, following a ‘phone call from my friend Liz, found us at the apiary giving the bees their Oxalic acid treatment. As with most tasks around the apiary, they’re always easier with two pairs of hands and this was no different. One of us lifts the roofs and the other administers the acid. A couple of minutes and it’s “job done”. Liz makes up the acid in bulk and I’m just one of about half a dozen that she helps. She’s been doing this for years so as I’ve said previously, she’s a real good’n. The temperature had taken a dip the day previously and the lack of activity at the entrances told me that the bees were clustered, so it was an ideal oportunity. Pleasing to see that all, with the exception of mating nuc.three, looked in good form. As I had expected, three hadn’t made it, sad to see but as I said before, Winter does sort out the strong from the weak. The whole operation took barely an hour so it was then over to the friend’s, that’s the one I mentioned previously, to do the same for his bees. They seemed in a lot better humour this time, one or two came out of the iritable hive to take a look but no stings this time.

So, that was that, just the fondant still to go and I’ll try to get that out of the way before the month is out. It shouldn’t be a problem if I don’t as it’s not usually until Spring when they awake from their slumbers and find nothing to forage on, that they need it, if at all. It just gives me peace of mind to know that I’ve given them all the help that I can and at the end of the day, that’s all we ever can do isn’t it.