NOVEMBER

I’ve just made my way up the meadow to my favourite perch under the apple tree. The purpose of today’s visit was to get the bees from the nuc.back into hive seven. Surprisingly, most of them had already found their own way back so, it took only a minute to  finish the job. No bees under the hive and no queen on the excluder after I had finished seiving them all back into the hive. I still can’t imagine what posessed them to take up residence under the hive the way they did but, I am pleased to get them back where they belong.

It really doesn’t seem possible that eight weeks from now we shall be sitting down to enjoy our Christmas dinner. I can remember as a child, hearing my parents remark on more than one occasion,”I don’t know where the time goes” and now, I hear myself echoing those words with alarming regularity. And it’s true, sitting here at the top of the meadow, looking down at my little apiary, taking advantage of the last vestiges of Autumn sun, it seems hardly possible that only a few weeks ago we were cutting the meadow in readiness for our open apiary meeting, and now, we’re thinking about Christmas. There’s not much left to do around the apiary, the bees have all been fed and have received their Apiguard. I’ll put the mouse guards on this week and that will hopefully be that until after Christmas. It’s usually January before we administer the Oxalic acid and give them each a slab of fondant, so, as I said, barring any unforseen catastrophies, at the bottom of the meadow at least, that’s more or less it for another year. At the other end of the meadow, it’ll be a different story. As usual, there will be feeders to clean and re-caulk if required and of course, the empty boxes will each receive a scouring and new coat of Cuprinol. This year I’ve got my new nuc’s to build and my ekes and frames to assemble, so, as I said, at the top end of the meadow there will be plenty to keep me occupied and I like that. It somehow keeps me in touch with the bees. Even though they are some hundred yards away, safely wrapped up in their Winter dens and totally oblivious to me, I still feel a part of their little lives. While I’m working away, my thoughts invariably turn to the coming year. Will this season’s queen rearing be successful or will it be “back to the drawing board” again. Will the extractors be groaning under the weight of all that honey or once again, left in their wraps and do you know, I’m not really worried. I know that when I see the first bees of Spring emerging, and I know that they have over-wintered successfuly, when I see the first signs that my queens have started laying and the first crop of juveniles taking their first tentative flights, any doubts or thoughts of past failures will disappear. I know that this coming year will see us firmly back at our Farmer’s Markets, our stands groaning under the weight of all that honey, our queens, the envy of all that see them and our hives and nuc’s filled with healthy, happy bees. And, if not, there’s always the following year to look forward to isn’t there!

On route to the meadow yesterday, I decided to call in at Mendip C. It’s been over a week since I last looked in on them. It’s quite a busy household with lots of comings and goings and I don’t want to make a nuisance of myself. For that reason, I avoid calling at weekends and usually limit my visits to once a week. At my last visit, all seemed to be moving along very well, I recall that I didn’t open them up, the activity outside the hives telling me all I wanted to know. I did give them some spare syrup that I was carrying but that only involved removing the roofs for a couple of minutes. So, today, a quick check on the feeders, and away, well, that was the idea. As I approached the hives the first thing that I noticed was the amount of activity outside one and two. Just what I was hoping for. It wasn’t until I got a bit closer that I could see that this wasn’t bees coming and going as I had expected but wasps, dozens of them. They seemed to be concentrating most of their attentions on number one with little or no bee activity to prevent them. Of course, there were no wasp traps as I had removed them a couple of weeks previously. Compared with the meadow where wasps have been a real nuisance this year, the new site had only seen a few and they’d coped with them admirably. When I’d removed the traps, neither had more then half a dozen wasps in, so, where had this lot come from. I must have squashed more than thirty with my finger as they left number one. Fortunately, at this point it started to rain. This really was an unwelcome surprise, I had imagined, as with previous years, once the wasps had disappeared, usually by mid October, that that would be the end of them until next year. I can only imagine that this unseasonal spell of warm weather that we’ve experienced here in the West Country of late, has provoked the queens to start laying again. If that is the case, roll on some hard frosts. I can well do without the unwelcome attentions from these black and yellow striped bandits. I shall be back at the apiary later this morning armed with my wasp traps and a new jar of Strawberry jam. As I said earlier, I’m quite looking forward to seeing the back of 2015!

By the time I got back to the apiary it was pouring with rain. At least this will provide a little respite for the bees I thought as I made my way towards the hives but, I was mistaken. Quite amazingly, the wasps seemed completely uneffected by what was by now, a real downpour. There were no flying bees in evidence, but there were, what seemed like dozens of wasps coming and going at will. I charged the traps and left two alongside the entrances of each of the hives. So intent on their robbing activities were the wasps that I can’t imagine how the traps are going to be effective. With no bees defending the hives, I just can’t think of how I can stop the wasps. I had hoped the rain would do the trick, but, obviously not. A few days of really cold weather with overnight frosts might do the trick but with forcasts for more of the same, the likelyhood of that happening are nil. The only way that I can see to stop the hives being completely robbed out would be to completely close the entrances. This would of course, leave a number of wasps inside the hives and would also restrict the bees from leaving. I’ve never faced this dilemma before so, I’m not sure what course of action to take. Time to talk to my friend Liz I think.

Two weeks since I last wrote on the blog due to scammers getting in to my PC. and when I tumbled what they were up to they blocked me and I’ve only just managed to get it all sorted out. A salutary lesson which could have cost me a lot more than lost computer time had I not realised just what they were up to. It’s my first experience of anything like this happening and I have to say, when I’ve heard of others being hoodwinked by these people, my first thoughts have invariably been, how gullible can you be. I’ll tell you, these people are experts, they do their homework. They convinced me that they were from my network provider and were able to answer all my questions, in fact, they knew more about me than I knew myself. Had it not been for one careless remark which suddenly set the alarm bells ringing, I may well have joined the many who have fallen prey to these creatures. Anyway, all’s well that ends well, innit !

So, back to the bees. I did speak to Liz who informed me of a similar situation some years earlier at one of her apiaries where a couple of the weaker colonies were being over run by wasps. Her solution, which she recommended that I followed, was to move both colonies to another site. She also told me that one of the hives had become so depleted of bees that she united them. This was exactly the same scenario that I found myself faced with so, on getting the two hives back to the meadow I set about uniting mine also.

A week on and I’m still not convinced that uniting has fully solved the problem. The weather has been poor this week so I haven’t yet removed the top brood box. There are bees coming and going which suggests all is not yet lost but there are also wasps in evidence which is worrying. Unerringly they seem to have been able to find the weakest colony once again. They’ve taken little or no interest in the wasp traps which I’ve placed either side of the hive entrance. The forecast is reasonable for today so I’m hoping to be able to remove the top box and have a quick look inside. I shall have my fingers firmly crossed as I reach for my hive tool. Although the weather has been poor this week, I have managed to finish cutting all the wood for the new nuc’s.and if the weather holds, I’m hoping to get the first one assembled when I’ve finished with the bees today. I’ve managed to cut enough wood to make seven nuc’s. and there’s enough left over for a number of dummy boards and the like. With the glue and screws etc.the cost per nuc. is about ten pounds so, if they all come together, I shall be well pleased. I’ll let you know.

Good news, decided to visit my tiny apiary yesterday, the rain having curtailed my previous visit.  Although it was drizzling when I left home, by the time I reached the meadow, the sun was doing it’s best to peak down from between the clouds. The colony from Mendip C was still in uniting mode as the weather since bringing them back to the meadow had prevented me from opening them up. Also, to be truthful, I was a bit worried as to what I would find, but today, with the sun finally out and the rain stopped, it was on with the suit and boots. With smoker in hand I started down the meadow. From little more than half way down I could see some activity at the hive entrance, not those blasted wasps was my first thought, bearing in mind the state of affairs at my last visit, when the colony was being over run by these pin-striped villains. But no, this time the activity was all honeybees, not a wasp in sight, just dozens of bees going about their apian business, and with gusto it has to be said. I can’t describe the feelings going through my head at that moment. Fearing the worst, I had half expected to find the colony completely robbed out, just another fateful statistic to this dismal year. So, you can imagine my feelings standing in front of the hive. I quickly removed feeder, now empty, the roof and crown board and looked down into the top box. Not a single bee, just frames filled with stores. Removing the top box and what was left of the newspaper used in the uniting exercise, revealed the occupants, so busy they were totally oblivious to me. I needn’t have bothered with my smoker, even when I replaced a couple of their empty frames with filled frames from the top box, they didn’t bother with more than a cursory glance in my direction.

I left the meadow feeling a lot happier than I can remember feeling for a long time. Although we are down to six colonies going into Winter, I’m at last feeling optimistic that we shall have those six to take us into the new year, and what a year it promises to be. With all my nuc’s.finished in readiness for my queen rearing and, provided all goes to plan, the new ekes and frames having converted my remaining hives onto extended brood, I ask you, who wouldn’t be optimistic!

 

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