MARCH

And so into March, traditionally synonymous with strong winds, and for any fans of gale force winds, they certainly won’t have been disappointed thus far. Storm Gareth has been with us, more or less, since the beginning of the month and to give you some idea of the wind strength, for the first time since I began keeping bees, I’ve had roofs actually blown off two of the hives. Fortunately, only one of the hives had bees in and even more so, probably due to propolis, the crown board had stayed in place. Even so, it was with some trepidation that I entered the apiary the following morning, going straight to the hive in question. Imagine my relief to find bees coming and going in numbers, totally unaware how close they had come to honeybee Armageddon. None of the other beekeepers that I’ve spoken with have ever had a roof dislodged by wind and I’m really hopeful that this was a one off.

With Storm Gareth now little more than a distant memory, the second half of the month has seen a distinct improvement in the weather. With high pressure now in control, we have enjoyed several days of continuous sunshine. The cold wind has persisted so I’ve resisted the temptation to open the hives, other than to lift the roofs to check on the syrup and fondant situation which the bees have continued to attack with some gusto. Until yesterday, that is. I arrived quite early at the Station  Apiary and immediately began Yacht varnishing the empty nuc’s., the main reason for my visit. There were already good numbers of bees issuing from the hives which, considering how fresh the breeze felt along with the number of parked cars I’d earlier passed that had frost on, was quite surprising and in stark contrast to the situation a week or so earlier.

Pleased to report, the Month, despite a shaky start, has finished pretty well for us here at Mendip. Not only have I finished refurbishing my nuc’s., I’ve completed my first colony inspections and found laying queens with plenty of brood and stores in all but one. The queen in the colony without brood is a plump little thing, only just into her second season and appears in perfect health. There is an abundance of flying bees all returning fully laden with pollen, usually a sign that a laying queen is in residence but seemingly, not in this case. So, I don’t know what’s wrong with her but I’ve decided to leave her for another week and if there’s no change by then, I’ll have to remove her and give the colony a frame of brood from one of the other hives.

Our Society finished it’s annual beginner’s course the end of last month and, as we had done last year, we decided to include a practical session and again, it was decided to hold it at my Mendip “C” apiary. In preparation I had ordered two new mated queens from Becky’s Bees but unfortunately, due to bad weather on the continent, they hadn’t arrived. That, coupled with the extremely poor weather the week leading up to the meeting, led us to considering cancelling and it was decided to wait until a couple of days before the day of the meeting before making that decision. As it happened, the weather suddenly took a turn for the better, that is to say, although the sun still hadn’t appeared, it looked as though it might. We needn’t have worried, Saturday dawned and by mid morning, the clouds had all but disappeared, and the sun shone. The first car arrived about one o’clock and by two-thirty the place was heaving.

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BY 2.30 THE PLACE WAS HEAVING

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ON OUR WAY TO MEET THE BEES

It was difficult speaking to so many people and passing frames of brood for everyone to have a look at. Although the sun was shining, there was still a chill breeze and I didn’t want to risk chilling the brood. I think we just about managed although, it would have been a lot easier if I’d had my new queens in their nuc’s.

 

 

 

FEBRUARY

Well, February got off to a good start. I thought the bedroom seemed unusually bright Friday morning when I first opened my eyes, and as soon as I pulled the curtains back the cause was immediately obvious. Two or three inches of snow now covered everything, very pretty from behind glass but not so great if you’ve already got your day planned. Up until that moment, the bee-shed at the Station site had occupied most of my thoughts but it was obvious that once again that was going to be resigned to the back burner. With the weather calling all the shots, I was beginning to convince myself that the whole project was somehow fated, but no, four days later, with the snow now nothing but a distant memory, I made my way to the Station. By the end of the day I had the shell up and by the end of the following day, the walls were in place.

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WALLS ALL BUT FINISHED, JUST THE ROOF AND DOORS TO GO

At last, I can remember thinking as I drove away, just the doors and roof to go. The next couple of days saw the sun shining out of a cloudless sky with temperatures reaching record levels in some parts of the country, but more importantly, by the end of which, the shed was standing in all it’s glory, finished. Just the flooring remaining to be installed.

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ROOF AND DOORS INSTALLED, JUST THE FLOOR REMAINING.

Meanwhile, the bees were making the most of the sunshine, issuing in vast numbers from all four hives and returning with copious amounts of pollen, always a welcome sight.

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BEES ENJOYING THE WARM SUNSHINE, ALWAYS A WELCOME SIGHT.

In stark contrast to the beginning of the month, this last week has seen the warmest February day since records began and I have to say, it’s been a real treat to be able to work in a tee shirt rather than wrapped up in body warmers and the like. The floor is now in and I have to say, it really does look the part. I have installed a damp-proof membrane between the floor panels and the joists in exactly the same way that I did at the meadow and if this one works as well I shall be well pleased. As I said before, there wasn’t a hint of damp in the old floor when the shed was dismantled. With the racking installed, all that remains is to get all the kit back in the shed. It never ceases to amaze me just how much equipment one manages to acquire over time and I have to say, seeing it all spread over my friend’s garage floor, it doesn’t appear possible that it’s all going to fit back in the shed but, as that’s where it all came from, I guess it must.

 

JANUARY, CONT’D

In case you’re wondering why I’ve included an article on swarming. A few evenings ago, whilst on a rare visit to my local hostelry, I struck up a conversation with one of the locals and when I mentioned that I kept bees for a hobby he replied that amongst other things, he’d always wondered why bees swarm. As we got deeper into the conversation it occurred to me just how little the average public knows about the workings of the honeybee and I remembered an article that I’d written for a local publication some time ago on the subject of swarming. I decided to publish it on the blog in the hope that someone might find it of interest.

At last, and after a great deal of time and effort, the shed base at Station House is finally cemented in place. Luckily, there was enough cement left over to install the mating nuc.stand also so, it was with a real sense of relief that I stood back  and surveyed the finished article.

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THE FINISHED ARTICLE