NOVEMBER

A week into the new month and finally I feel in control of the new situation. All the hives have had their Winter varoa treatment and they’ve each received a bag of fondant. From hefting the hives it appears that they all have sufficient stores, but having been caught out before thinking they all had sufficient only to find to my cost, that most of the weight comprised Ivy honey which of course, had set like concrete, I now make sure that they each receive a little additional help. This usually takes the form of a block of Candy but this year I’ve decided to go with Apifonda which I have to say, the bees were on before I had replaced the roofs.

I have brought three of the meadow hives from Liz’s apiary to the new site and I was pleased to see, on the morning of the one warm day we’ve had in the last seven, that the bees were taking full advantage and out in abundance.

Station Apiary, flying bees 001

BEES AT THE NEW SITE OUT IN ABUNDANCE.

The one remaining colony is the one I united and with the recent weather being so cold, I was reluctant to remove the second brood box and risk chilling the bees, but, with two brood boxes plus floor and super it was too cumbersome to move.Fortunately, this same warm day as brought the bees out in such numbers, has enabled me to reinstate  the remaining hive. The nuc. frames in the top box all full of stores, were removed to the bottom box. I’m pleased I took the decision to unite as the colony now looks as good as I’ve seen. The bees didn’t seem at all phased by having their lives momentarily, turned upside down, and pleased to report, the following day they were flying in huge numbers. All that remains now is to  get them over to the new site at the first opportunity.

A week on and with the help of Mark, our society Secretary, the last hive is now in place at the Station site. It was quite late in the day when we finally got the last hive into the car and the fact that it was beginning to rain coupled with the fact that the remaining light was receding at a pace, we decided that the best course of action would be to leave the hive in the car over night and complete the job next morning. This was the first time I had left a colony of bees in a car for this amount of time and I more than a little concerned as to how they would make out. Fortunately, by ten o’clock the next morning, the time we had arranged to meet, the overnight rain had subsided and the sun was doing it’s best to make an appearance. It took little more than five minutes to get the hive onto the new stand but I have to say, that it was with some trepidation that I removed the foam and tape from the entrance. Pleased to report, within seconds there were bees nervously appearing at the hive entrance and by the time we were ready to leave, some twenty minutes later, there were bees in some numbers leaving the hive. Breathing more than a sigh of relief, I decided nothing more to do other than to leave them to it for the day.

 

OCTOBER

Having decided to unite my nuc. to the weak colony from the meadow, the following day I returned with an empty brood box. I figured that the bees in the nuc, having had a day to have a look at their new surroundings, would unite quite happily.

New hive stands and Dawlish 003

BROOD BOX AND NUC PREPARED FOR UNITING

Surprisingly, for once I had judged their mood right. You can see from the pic. that even having had their roof and crown-board removed, less than a handful of bees broke ranks and came up to see who or what had caused the disturbance. Less than five minutes later and all the nuc. contents had been safely transferred into the brood box and still no more than a handful of bees had taken to the air. I’m constantly amazed at just how unpredictable bees can be. There have been occasions when I’ve opened the most docile of colonies to be covered with angry bees within seconds and others when, as with transferring this nuc, the bees have hardly bothered to give me a second glance. I’m inclined to put it down to the fact that most of them are females, but I’d never dare to put that in writing.

Knowing the meadow bees are now safely at Liz’s has given me a chance to push on with the new stands.

New hive stands and Dawlish 001

FIRST STAND ALMOST FINISHED

I’ve decided to have three stands at the new site because, although I’ve decided to downsize as far as the number of colonies is concerned, it’s always handy to have spare capacity, so, three stands it will be.

New hive stands and Dawlish 002

TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO.

On the subject of hive stands, I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject with you. Firstly, they’re going to be standing in one place for quite a long time, and in all weathers so, it’s worth giving them a bit of thought. Even one or two hives complete with full supers is going to sorely test the construction of your stands, try lifting one if you’re in any doubt. So, my advise for what it’s worth, if you decide on a wooden construction, use the best you can afford, use screws and bolts rather than nails and give the whole stand a couple of coats of Cuprinol or similar wood preservative. Yacht varnish is preferable but it is expensive, even so, I always use it on the parts of the legs which are going to be buried and on the end grain where it is exposed. I find having the bed of the stand about 14″ above the ground about right. I have used hives on single, double and extended brood and find that height works best for me however the hives are configured. I have watched bee-keepers struggle with hives balanced on a couple of house bricks, bending almost double to remove brood frames and I decided a long time ago that that wasn’t for me. Also, if you use icing sugar and mesh floors as part of your Varroa control regime, there’s far less chance of Varroa which has dropped through the mesh floor re-entering the hive if it is sited well above the ground. Above all, try to make your stands future proof, far easier at the time of construction. If there’s a chance of your apiary expanding in the future, now’s the time to build in extra capacity. Even if I’m building a two hive stand, I always allow room for a possible third. Also, having a decent space between the hives has other benefits, it reduces the likelihood of drifting, and you have ready made space for a couple of nuc’s should you eventually acquire any. Examining your hives is not only more comfortable, it’s also much more convenient if you can stand an upturned roof next to the hive you’re working on to use as a receptacle for the hive parts you remove. Last but not least, consider their location. As I remarked earlier, your stands are going to be in the spot you’ve decided on now, for a very long time, so, now’s the time to give it some real thought.

new stands, painted 003

STANDS FINISHED AND ROUGHLY IN THEIR FINAL POSITION

With all three stands finished, roughly in their final position and with the winning post finally in sight, just a small matter of digging a few shallow holes for the feet, making sure the stands were all plumb and cementing them in place.

Half an hour and no more than three inches into the first hole which I had decided would take no more than ten minutes to complete, it suddenly dawned on me why the house on the property is named “Station House”. This was the site of what had once been a branch line of the old North Somerset Railway and I was attempting to dig where there had once been railway tracks. Under no more than a couple of inches of top-soil I was into hard packed stone chippings. When I say into, that was wishful thinking on my part. After a couple of hours of scratching away at the stones I had managed six holes barely two or three inches deep. I don’t know why but I found myself humming the tune about the ram that kept butting that dam, as I made my way home. My final thought, now, who do I know who owns a pick-axe. Once again it was my friend Liz to the rescue. I remembered that her husband had been a builder, “now, would he still have his tools I wondered”. Well, to cut a long story short, a short ’phone call and twenty four hours later, I had my pick-axe, and now I have my holes dug. I would have had them cemented in as well had the heavens not decided to open at a most inoportune moment. The rain has continued for most of today so, that will now be my task for tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow has been and gone and not only are the stands firmly cemented into their final positions, they have all had another coat of Cuprinol and I have to say, I’m really quite pleased with the final result. In between time spent at the new site I have managed to visit the bees at their temporary home and happy to report, they seem to have adapted well to their new surroundings. Hopefully, not for too much longer.

As fate would have it, it was just as well that I’d managed to finish the stands as, last Friday morning I received an e’mail from the new owners of the meadow advising me that the builders would begin excavating on the site of his new house first thing Monday morning and that my shed had to be removed by then. To say that this came as a bit of a shock would be an understatement especially as I had previously been told that the shed would be unaffected and so had made no effort to empty it. Anyway, as luck would have it, the owners of the new site kindly offered me the use of the redundant garage which borders the apiary and by close of play on Sunday evening, it was “mission accomplished”. Not exactly the way I had planned my weekend but, I knew that it was a job that I had to face at some time, and it’s now out of the way. All I have to figure out now, is how to re-assemble the shed. It’s 10×6 and comprises what seems to be hundreds of metal bits and of course, I no longer have the assembly instructions. Ah well.

The meadow is now cleared, the empty hives are now at the new site and the old stands have been dismantled and have been added to the bonfire.

Station Apiary, flying bees 004

SOMEONE ELSE CAN HAVE THE PLEASURE OF LIGHTING IT

I’ll let someone else have the pleasure of lighting it after I’ve bid my final farewells. I began my beekeeping at the meadow over a decade ago and the place holds nothing but happy memories for me, so as you can imagine, it was with more than a tinge of sadness that I drove out through the gates for what is probably, the last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER

This has been an odd month for us here at Mendip. I seem to have been “on the go” more or less non stop with very little to show for my efforts. The first job was to extract the honey that my tiny buzzing friends had kindly provided, not enough for me to resurrect the market stall but certainly worth the effort. The last couple of years have been very poor so, it was a real treat to see the fifty or so pounds that we did end up with, jarred and labelled. It will be nice to be able to answer in the affirmative to my regulars, when I’m asked whether or not we have any honey this year.

We had the last apiary meeting of the year this month and it was to be held at my Mendip “C” apiary, something I always look forward to. The meetings are always themed and as usual a guest “expert” had been arranged. The theme was to be “Preparation for Winter, feeding and feeders” and as I said, I was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say. Imagine then my surprise at a ‘phone call, only a few days before the event from our Secretary, telling me that we no longer had a guest speaker as he had been unexpectedly taken ill. ” It’s too late for me to organise anyone else at this short notice” Mark told me, “I wondered how you’d feel about taking the meeting”. Taken somewhat aback, and before I had really had a chance to consider my reply, I found myself saying, “ Shouldn’t be a problem Mark, I’ve got a selection of feeders and should be able to cobble something together”. “Well, if you’re sure that you don’t mind, I’ll get an e’mail out” Mark replied, “see you on Saturday”. So, that was why Saturday morning found me at Mendip “C” assembling a variety of feeders and other paraphernalia which I thought might be of interest. The more I thought about what I was taking on, the more daunting the thought became. More than half the members have been keeping bees for a lot longer than me and I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was “trying to teach Granny how to suck eggs”. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried, soon the car park was filled with white suited, friendly bee-keepers and before I knew it, I had done my bit and everybody was tucking into apple pies and cream teas. Everyone seemed in good spirits and the comments I received suggested the day had gone well. I normally consider that if we get a dozen members at one of our apiary meetings it has been a success and as I counted a few more than that, it was with a huge sigh of relief that I bid farewell to our last guests.

I’m not sure whether I have mentioned earlier, but I have decided, after much deliberation, to leave the meadow. Since my friend Charles sadly left us and quite understandably, under the new owners, things have begun to change. The allotment holders have all departed and the gardens once kept in pristine conditions are now overgrown and uncared for. The seating under the apple trees, where Charles and spent so many happy hours, putting the “world to rights” whilst sharing a cup of tea, has now gone. Added to this the fact that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to negotiate the meadow slope, which I swear is getting steeper by the day, I feel the time is right to make a move. I’m very fortunate to have been offered another site, not a million miles from the meadow and to that effect, I have been busy acquiring and sawing up timber for the new hive stands. Because of the close proximity of the new site to the meadow, I have temporarily moved the meadow bees to one of Liz’s apiaries while I complete the new stands. As soon as I told Liz of my pending move, she immediately offered to have the bees and as if that wasn’t kind enough, one evening last week, she and her husband came to the meadow, collected them and transported them to her place, priceless!

Two of the meadow hives housed swarms which I’d collected, earlier and both appeared to be doing well. I had been feeding them ever since I’d hived them and although they had received similar amounts of syrup, one seemed suddenly, to be lacking behind the other. For that reason and, with the pending move in mind, I decided to unite them with hive four, which had suddenly all the appearances of having lost their queen. The uniting had gone to plan so now there were only four hives to move to the Liz’s. Imagine my surprise then, to find, on my first visit to the hives at their temporary site, the day following the move, that the other swarm colony seemed to have suddenly lost weight. I expected them to feel lighter than the one that had been united, but certainly not this noticeably. I decided the solution, rather than risk losing them, would be to unite them with the nuc. from “C” and so later that evening I collected the nuc and placed it beside the problem colony at the temporary site.

New hive stands and Dawlish 004

NUC. AT NEW SITE