Sunday, 28 June 2015

A bit of a bee weekend

OK I know I haven't done a bee post for awhile (hooray you say!) but there's been a lot happening beewise in, and out, of the apiary. I'll do a quick précis of my girls first.

My bees arrived on the 21st May and I left them for a couple of weeks to settle in. They seemed very happy and were getting on with life. I did my first (solo!) inspection on the 9th June and all was well. They were drawing out the frames, the queen was seen and there were eggs. As you can see in the photograph lots of different pollen types was coming in (left of the photograph).
Honey bees and pollen

Happy with their progress I left them another week before checking but this time things had changed. Looking at the frames I could see what looked like capped queen cells, I couldn't see the queen and there were no eggs.

I'd always been told to look for queen cells at the edge of the frames as this was where they liked to hide them before swarming but these were three in the middle and why were they there as this was a new queen? A little panicked I phoned Jamie my bee mentor. He's very laid back and said they sounded like supercedure queen cells, either there was a problem with the queen or she'd gone. It turns out there's been a lot of this in our area this year, new queens just up and going. He said just leave them and they'll sort themselves out. Unfortunately they didn't as when we looked on Saturday we couldn't see a queen and still no brood, so we decided to join another swarm with a queen (from the same source as my original bees).

Examining the hive
You put a sheet of newspaper on top of the original brood box then put the new bees on top. By the time they've munched their way through the pheromones have done their work and all the bees are happy.

Sadly they're not happy immediately and Sunday was quite upsetting as there were quite a lot of bee fights as the original bees took a dislike to the newbies who hadn't stayed in their brood box.
Putting on the newspaper

Checking three days later - paper eaten through

More bees and a laying queen
Now they've all settled down happily.

While Jamie was round I mentioned that if he had a swarm to collect in the area I'd like to come along. Three hours later the phone rang - there was a swarm at the Fenland Aviation Museum and the beekeeper who was already there needed a hand. Would I like to tag along?

The bees had decided to take up residence behind the panelling in one of the exhibition sheds. The museum guide had closed the section off but obviously they needed moving.

Technically honeybees are not protected.
Now at first it didn't look too bad as Jamie and Steve took one of the panels off.

Yes it's a vacuum cleaner but modified - please don't try it at home
The idea is to get the queen into a nuc box and then the rest of the bees will follow, usually you leave them until evening or the following morning before collecting,

The more bees that were scooped out the more we realised were around. Apparently this was a prime swarm, probably a whole colony had left the hive and we were looking at about 40000 bees.

I managed to take a short video so if you want to know what it's like to be surrounded by thousands of bees…

And just to complete the weekend we now have bumblebees in the soffit boards!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Images of the Yorkshire Dales

A while back we decided that a short holiday was needed, yes there was plenty to do here and we couldn't really afford the time but a break was becoming important. We started off looking at somewhere warm but there wasn't anywhere we wanted to go that didn't involve leaving home at 2 a.m for a ludicrously early flight. Not the most relaxing start to a holiday. So next was taking the car and heading to France but by now I was feeling guilty at leaving Mortimer in kennels for a week. A rethink was in order. One of the reasons we moved to The Fens was to explore areas of the U.K we didn't know but we hadn't really done any of that so we got a map out and plumped for the Yorkshire Dales.

At this point I really have to thank Margaret and her husband Malcolm. Margaret is a blog friend (who we had never met). I had started following her blog when she lived in France and continued when they came back to the U.K. To the Dales. I sent an email, outlining our preferences for the type of place we would like to stay and she drew up a shortlist for us. We plumped for Leyburn which turned out to be the perfect choice. A vibrant market town, walks on our doorstep and enough pubs & restaurants to keep us (and Mortimer) entertained. Mr M was particularly happy as on our first evening he shared a packet of pork scratchings with a very friendly chap and his wife called Mortimer the 'George Clooney of the canine world'. Mmmmm.

We found The Bolthole through Yorkshire Cottages and it was perfect for two and a dog. Just off the market square and so close to everything. One evening we were watching television (a novelty for us) and Andrew fancied some chocolate. In the advert break he put his shoes on, went out and bought chocolate and was still back before the programme restarted!

Although we didn't have a long to-do list we had intended to visit Harrogate and Fountains Abbey but we never made it (sorry Margaret and Malcolm!) as we were just entranced by the landscape and spent everyday out walking. I hadn't realised how much I missed hills. We both had childhoods on the North Downs and moved from there to the South Downs. Even when we were sailing we always could
see hills and mountains as most of the Caribbean islands are volcanic with high peaks.

A highlight of the trip was meeting Margaret and Malcolm. I admit to being a little apprehensive as they appear a formidable couple who do not seem to stand still. I'm pleased to say they were delightful and we had a lovely lunch, lots of talking and a great deal of laughing (and teasing of me for not yet deciding on which area of France I want to live in).

Anyway enough prose, a few photographs to whet your appetite.

Everywhere streams and rivers

Ancient bridges

Glorious scenery
Stiles - after a hesitant start Mortimer got quite used to them
Bothys (bothies?)

Dry stone walls
Masses of wild garlic
Near Buttertubs Pass
Did I mention the sheep?