NOVEMBER

The weather, at least for the moment continues fair and the bees have continued to enjoy what’s left of the Autumn sun. They seem to have now directed their attentions to the drones. I watched them at Mendip C, gathered at the hive entrances, they didn’t appear to be going anywhere, just milling around. After watching them for a couple of minutes, it was obvious what they were up to, the first returning drone was gently refused access. The bees just seemed to be blocking his way, no matter which way he turned, the bees would move between him and the entrance. Then, as he persisted, the mood gradually changed, no longer gentle, now a couple of the bees had broken away from the others and were actively pursuing the the hapless drone up the front of the hive. I watched as they set upon him, the drama unfolding in slow motion before me, all the time feeling my pockets for my mobile ‘phone. There was only going to be one outcome, only one winner, and my money wasn’t on the drone. My immediate thoughts, must get a picture of this for the blog. Needless to say, the ‘phone was nowhere to be found. Stupidly, once again I had left it in the car and of course, by the time I had legged it down to the car and back again, all the activity had ceased. I stood there for another five minutes but for nothing. Any drones still flying, having witnessed the fate of their brother, had obviously decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, it was better to wait until the coast was clear. Having witnessed the events of the last ten minutes, I can’t say I blamed them. Took a picture of the bees gathered at the entrance anyway.

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BEES GATHERED AT HIVE ENTRANCE WAITING FOR DRONES

The month has continued to roll by, largely uneventfully thankfully, and is now fast approaching December. There has continued to be quite a lot of activity in the apiaries, until this week that is, when the temperature has really plummeted. As I write, there is a layer of heavy frost on the rooftops and the cars parked outside are going to need their windscreens scraped before they go anywhere. Sitting here in the comfort of a nice warm lounge I can’t help thinking of my bees, hopefully clustered up tightly together and ready for whatever the weather has to throw at them. With the brook running just behind my hives at the bottom of the meadow, and the trees shading them from what’s left of the Winter sun, they are in a real frost pocket, very often holding onto a layer of frost all day even though the rest of the meadow has thawed. I know that honeybees don’t react to the cold in the same way as we do but I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them. Also, knowing that whether they do come through to the Spring depends largely on me. Was the Varroa treatment effective, did they have enough syrup, what if Spring is late next year, will the hives withstand the worst of whatever the weather throws at them, and should I have left the floor slides in. These are all thoughts which go through my mind around about this time every year. The truth is, their future is now firmly in “the lap of the Gods”. All any of us can do is to make sure all of our hives are weather proof and secure and that our charges are well provided for. Even though I’m happy in my mind that I’ve done my best for them, I shall still breath a sigh of relief when I see the first of them leaving the hives come Spring.

As I’ve said before, this is a good time to catch up with any little jobs that need doing around the apiary and this year has been no different. Every year about this time my friend Liz has, what we call, a “boil up” in her utility room. She has an old gas boiler, we used to call them a Copper when I was a kid, and between us we boil up all of our old frames. I say we, but it’s Liz who does all the work, I just hand her all the dirty frames and take the cleaned ones from her. The boiler is big enough to take six or eight frames at a time and I have to say, Liz has it off to a fine art. It takes only moments to complete the operation and at times, I have difficulty in keeping up with her, but then as I tell everyone, I am now built for comfort rather than speed. The end result is that now all of my frames are now back in my shed, as good as new and ready for re-waxing, so, thankyou Liz!

Thinking of this year’s disastrous Spring and obviously having no idea what next year’s will bring, I’ve decided to put candy on early. My thinking is that I shalln’t have to worry about a prolonged Winter with the possibility of not being able to get near the hives. In the past I’ve always put the candy on at the same time as giving them their Oxalic acid, normally in January but, the last couple of years the weather has made this difficult. So, as I said, this year I’ve put it on early. That way, they have it if they need it, and if they don’t, it won’t hurt just sitting there. In the past, if I’ve made my own candy, I’ve just taken the lid off the container and inverted it over the crown board or put the container straight onto the frames.

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PLASTIC CONTAINER PLACED DIRECTLY ONTO FRAMES

The problem with this is that the bees can only access the candy from underneath the container. In the same way, when I have bought on fondant, I’ve always spread it onto a used margarine lid or similar meaning that now the bees can only get at the contents from above. This year I thought I’d try something a little different and have made up some wire support cages. They measure about 8″ x 4″ x 1/2″ and I’ve used some semi rigid mesh that I had left over from another job so there was no cost involved.

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CUTTING THE CORNERS TO ALLOW BENDING INTO A BOX SHAPE.

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FINISHED CAGE

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CAGE WITH FONDANT IN PLACE ABOVE CROWN BOARD

I’m hoping that now the bees can get at the fondant from all angles, more of them will be able to take more of it down more quickly. I’m trying it on half of the hives to begin with and if it works, I’ll put the cages on all of them. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t cost anything other than my time and as I’ve said before, that’s something I’ve plenty of.