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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.