Where on earth did last year go? Well, for me, a good part has been either in Hospital or journeying backwards and forwards between there and home. All of which has meant that I’ve totally neglected my bees and everything associated with them. Not by choice,I hasten to add. It is only now, some twelve months after leaving hospital, that I am able to walk, more or less, unaided. Were it not for the help and support of my friends in our local society, there was no way that I would have been able to continue my beekeeping, but, thankfully, with the worst now over and Spring just around the corner, I’m feeling really optimistic once again.Before I go any further, I want to apologize to those of you that have followed my exploits here at Mendip Apiary, for not explaining why I had suddenly stopped blogging. I don’t know whether I was more shocked or surprised to be told that I needed to undergo major surgery and would be spending Christmas in hospital but I do know the last thing on my mind at that time was bees or blogging. In fact, by the time the hospital had finished with me and I was back home some weeks later, I had more or less resigned myself to my beekeeping days being over.
Thankfully, that is now behind me which meant, for the first time in, what seems longer than I can remember, I was able to take advantage of last Tuesday, the first sunny day in weeks, and visit my bees. It was a lovely feeling pulling into the car park at Mendip “C”, to once again feel that I was among friends,and a part of my little apiary. We have suffered a few casualties this Winter which was to be expected, but there was plenty of activity with a fair amount of pollen going into the hives which had made it and I know we will soon get back up to strength as the season progresses. Leaving the car park I felt a warm glow, a feeling of belonging, one I had almost forgotten. I can’t wait to return.
Now into the last week of the month and at last, some “shirtsleeve weather”. Time to have a look at The Station hives. I’ve spent the last couple of days at “C” going through the empty hives, and now it was The Station’s turn. Something I aim do at the end of each season is to remove all of the used frames for boiling and scorch and stain all of the empty boxes. Sadly, with the events of this last year, this is one of the things I’ve neglected to do. So, for the first time in over a year,it was into the first empty hive. .
THE DREADED WAX MOTH HAD TAKEN FULL ADVANTAGE OF MY ABSENCE
It was full of wax moth, in all stages. I’ve seen them before but never like this.In addition to pupae there were several adults skittering around. In an effort to contain them I quickly replaced the roof, also to allow me time to decide how best to deal with them. As I said, I’d never come across anything quite like this before. I decided the best course of action would be to quickly open the other empty hives to ascertain the extent of the problem, and so, on to the next one which was just as bad, if not worse.
JUST THE SAME IF NOT WORSE
There were four empty hives in all, that is, hives which had lost their bees and so had used comb in. Not sure quite what to expect I moved on to the other two hives where strangely, there was absolutely no sign of wax moth. So how best to deal with them, there were quite a few adults on the frames and with the roofs off they were coming up to the top and the last thing I wanted was dozens of adult moths taking to the wing. Insecticide was obviously out of the question, so what to do.
One of the jobs I had earmarked for this visit was to scorch out the empty hives prior to giving them a fresh coat of Cuprinol and so fortunately I had my trusty blowlamp with me. With this in hand, glad to say,the moths were soon a thing of the past.
Going into June, not much change at The Station, the swarm I collected, now in a nuc. next to hive 1 from which they issued, looks to be doing well with the queen having already started to lay, so just a case of keeping my eyes on them all. Mendip “C”, by comparison, is now, really doing well to the point where we have decided to build an additional stand,
ADDITIONAL STAND AT “C”
This to accommodate the two new queens that I have decided to acquire and a swarm which presented itself in a small shrub close to the hives. This was the third swarm to have chosen this shrub in which to cluster, so there must obviously be something about the location that they like. The previous two swarms were from my hives so it made sense that they had chosen this shrub in which to pitch as it’s not only the closest to the hives but also directly in the flight path.
ONE OF LAST YEAR’S SWARMS IN THE SHRUB
This latest swarm however, I’m pretty certain, wasn’t from one of my hives.
YOU CAN JUST MAKE OUT THE SWARM AT THE BASE OF THE SHRUB
None of the colonies had exhibited any signs that they were preparing to swarm, in as much as there were no queen cells in evidence, in fact four, which is the colony that produced all of the queen cells a couple of weeks ago, and now queenless, is still only half way through the process of drawing out queen cells from the frame of brood I gave them. There is a very large colony of bees under the roof of the local church which is only about a half a mile, if that, from my Mendip “C” apiary and which I was asked by the vicar to take a look at last year. I have a feeling the swarm may have emanated from there as they seem to be the only other honeybees in the area. As the church is a grade 1 listed building and dates from the 12th. century, I wasn’t able to help and I know for a fact that no-one else has. From the numbers of bees which fall onto the alter and the vast numbers coming and going, which are plain to see from the ground, this is obviously a very large colony which has been in residence for a very long time. Anyway, be that as it may, the swarm is now residing quite happily in one of my new nuc’s. on the new stand alongside the two nucs. I’m preparing, should I need them, for the new queens that I shall be collecting next week.
With the day planned for my trip to Exmoor getting ever closer I was having second thoughts as to how best to use my new queens. Hive five was still queenless, the cells I’d earlier given the having come to nothing, but the queen in three, which had, if you remember, started life as the only decent queen cell that five had earlier produced, had already begun to lay and was looking really promising. Unsure as to how five would accept a new queen, and not wanting to risk one of my “bought in” queens, I decided to catch and cage the queen in three and transfer her to five. Before placing the cage into the hive I laid it on top of the brood frames for a couple of minutes, this to observe the behaviour of the bees in the presence of their new queen. Occasionally the bees will adopt a very aggressive posture around the cage suggesting that they are not going to accept her without a fight, but, not in this case. They were all over the cage in seconds but not exhibiting any signs of aggression. Feeling happy with the situation, I installed the cage between two of the brood frames, boxed them up and left them to it. A couple of days later I was back with my two new queens. After checking both hive three and the nuc for queen cells, of which there were none, I installed the cages housing my new queens. Before leaving I had a quick look into five where, pleased to report, the queen from three was wandering about quite happily whilst being lovingly attended by her new entourage.