Well, it’ll soon be Christmas. I know this to be the case as I’ve just seen my local supermarket unloading their first consignment of Easter Eggs, always a give away. I frequently hear people, mainly of my age group bemoaning the fact that ” It’s not the same as it were when I were a lad” and of course, they’re right. But then, very few things are, are they? I suppose it’s human nature to remember the good things and it’s right that we should. I imagine that the same sentence has been repeated since time immemorial and will still be fifty years from now, not that I’ll be around to hear it but history has a habit of repeating itself, doesn’t it!

I gave my last talk for the year last week, and most enjoyable it was. The subject was as usual The Honeybee with in addition, a brief touch on candle making, by request I have to say which was most gratifying. It’s always a bit of a step in the dark when you address a group for the first time but so far, nobody has actually thrown anything at the stage and if anyone has dozed off, they’ve snored quietly. This talk was at the Christmas meeting of a local Horticultural Society and because horticulture and bee-keeping go more or less, hand in hand, I had a feeling that it would go down well and thankfully, it did. We got a very nice round of applause at the end and I received some lovely comments. Also, the questions at the end were relevant and indicated that most if not all, had been listening, another plus. Afterwards there was a light supper and it’s then, in the relaxed atmosphere that accompanies a mince pie and a sandwich that you really find out how the evening has gone. “You know, I had no idea that there that many bees in a beehive” and ” I found that bit about the waggle dance really fascinating”. Just some of the comments but, the best one for me, from the Club Secretary,”Geoff, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your talk, I’ll never look at a jar of honey in quite the same way again”. It has to be the greatest plus of being a beekeeper, that you  constantly  meet the loveliest people, not just at functions but, just going about your daily business. I’ve lost count of the number of people, and I’m talking about people who I’ve never seen before, who’ve come up to me, smiled and said, “I know you, you’re The Bee Man aren’t you”! For a while I used to feel a bit embarrassed but now it gives me quite a warm glow.

This week’s weather has been as warm as last week’s was cold. Not an ounce of movement last week, at last they’re clustered I thought, an I’m sure they were but today, I could see flying bees, in numbers from barely half way down the meadow. That’s not what you want to see at this time of year. Active bees are feeding bees and although they have had plenty of syrup, this sort of activity will quickly deplete the stocks which might have to last well into April if we have the sort of Spring that we’ve experienced the last couple of years. I took a quick look at the hives that had received fondant last week and all the bees were attacking it with gusto. An hour later saw the remaining hives each with a portion of fondant. Using the now inverted Adams feeders as ekes makes the whole operation so simple  With the fondant on the cages that I’d made last week, it’s just a case of gently lifting one edge of the feeder and placing the cage above the frames  The bees were showing interest in the cages and their cargo in seconds and checking on their progress will only take seconds and involve a minimum of disturbance.

A week before Christmas now and not much to report from the apiaries which I’ve continued to visit as the weather has permitted. A couple of bees flying from each hive on most occasions, probably defecation flights I shouldn’t wonder. I’m pretty much up to date with the jobs I had planned for the quiet season so not much to get excited about there. I have, however, acquired another six pairs of castellated runners. I first used these at the Mendip “C” last year. I have used the eleven slot spacers which places the frames at 37mm centres as opposed to the Hoffman spacing of 35mm. I recall that at one of the David Maslen talks which I attended it was stated that 37mm was the spacing of wild comb and therefore the preferred spacing as far as the bees are concerned. Seemingly, the narrower spacing of the Hoffman frames was an effort, on behalf of beekeepers, to restrict the numbers of drones that the bees produced. I subscribe to the thinking that whatever stresses our bees must be in the long run, detrimental to their well-being and anything that we can do to reduce this must be to the good. If my bees are happy to produce a few extra drones, then, who am I to deny them. So, that was my thinking behind the fitting of castellated runners at the new site and thus far, they have worked well. There is little or no propolising of the frames which with 14×12″ makes their removal and replacement much less of a chore. I did need to acquire a “J” type hive tool, a small price to pay I decided. The only problem I encountered was when I needed to introduce a queen cell in a spring type cell protector because of course, you can’t slide the frames along the runners. This was easily overcome by just bending down a couple of the castellations opposite one another allowing the frames to be slid far enough apart to allow the cage to be inserted. The metal used in the runners is soft enough to be bent just using your fingers and just as easily re-instated once the queen had emerged and the cage had been removed.

So, there we are for another year, not a good year as far as honey yield but we have got our stocks back up to strength which was my prime objective. All of the hives have had a fresh coat of Cuprinol this year, barring a couple of boxes, and they won’t hurt to wait until the Spring. A couple of the hive stands are beginning to look their age but hopefully, the repairs I’ve carried out will keep them going for another couple of years. I purchased another three eke’s. at one of the equipment sales, enough to convert the last of the hives still on standard brood to 14×12″. In addition, I now have enough nuc’s to have a proper try at The Cloake Board method of queen rearing. So, barring any unforeseen catastrophes, this will be my last time of writing until the new year and so all that remains is to thank you for joining me here at my little Mendip Apiaries and to wish all of you a Very Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year.

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