Over the decades I’ve been involved with many swarms. The earliest hived itself in one of my hives in the first week of April last year and the latest, many years ago, was a tiny cast on the 4th September.  Plotted on a graph, there is a very sharp peak during the 3rd/4th week of May.

This year I’ve had no swarm calls at all, not heard of any swarms locally but in the middle of this week one hived itself in a stack of boxes in my garden!  It wasn’t baited but did have some combs.  They chose to occupy a super which, being slightly skewed, had a small entrance in a corner whence they could gain admittance.

I thought I’d move them to my apiary, currently beeless, at Greenwood Grange, and went there to prepare a hive for them.  It was already occupied!  That must have been in the last few days as I had been there not long before.

I had taken a peep inside the swarm at home and saw that there were only a couple of frames so I got some more from elsewhere and filled the box, leaving them for a few days to settle it. Last night, after dark when they’d stopped flying, I lifted the super and placed it in an upturned roof.  For elfinsafety I taped the boxes together, hoping the bees wouldn’t suffocate.

I got up earlier than usual this morning and moved them to Greenwood Grange without mishap.

A few days ago I received an email from the men from the Ministry saying that EFB had been found within a couple of miles of my apiary (currently beeless) at Chantmarle Manor.  I went there to check and found a swarm had moved in!  They can’t have been there long as there was no brood visible.  While I was there I had a call from Kevin Pope, the Bee Inspector, asking if he could call in and check the hive on Monday, tomorrow.

I told him that I’d looked at the map and didn’t know of any beekeepers within a couple of miles of that site and he told me that less than half the beekeepers are members of the BKA!

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With the aid of my friend Miranda, who is far more computer literate than I am, we have created a second, prettier, edition of Bee People (which is still obtainable as ‘print on demand’ from Amazon) and re-titled it Bees vs People, which is the title of the poem which now is in first place.

We got a lot printed which makes them much cheaper per copy. The trouble is that I now have a box full in my living room.  I expect that a proportion of them will end up in charity shops in a few years but I’d like to sell enough to cover my costs.

This evening I took a couple along to a folk session at the Convivial Rabbit micro-pub in Dorchester and, when it was my turn to perform, read one of my sonnets about the queen bee.  It went down well!  I gave a copy of the book to our leader, Jerry, a journalist, for review and somebody instantly paid me a fiver for the other copy.

When my turn came round again I was asked to read another poem (perhaps my out-of -tune singing may have been an influence) so I had to borrow Jerry’s copy to do so.  Again it was well applauded.

If YOU’d like a copy let me know and we can arrange it.  It’ll cost you £5 in the UK and that will include the postage.  If you’re abroad you’d probably do better to get a first edition from Amazon, or possibly a downloadable copy.

If I have enough space/weight in my luggage I could take some across to Gormanston in August. Many of the poems and anecdotes are about Gormanton and the people I have got to know there over the years.

It would be helpful to have an inkling as to the best number to take so I don’t have to carry too many back home again so if you’re interested and I’ll see you there, please let me know.  I’ll charge 5 euros rather than pounds to keep things simple.

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At long last the job’s complete and the book is on sale from the publisher, Authorhouse and also from Amazon and possibly others.  The book is ‘print on demand’ which unfortunately makes it more expensive than is ideal, although the paperback version is cheaper.  I think Thornes the beestuff sellers may be getting some in stock.

Ettamarie Peterson in California, who features in one of the poems, was probably the first to  buy a copy and she likes it so much she’s getting another for her local BKA library.  She posted the following on Facebook: “Some of the poems are spot on to connections and speakers we hear and some bring back sweet memories of Gormanston and Apimondia at Dublin. And some just make you smile!”

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I was out on a country walk with a young lady, Alison, whom I hadn’t met before. It was a lovely day and we were constantly distracted by birds and flowers (both floral plants and flowing streams).

Alison told me that her job entails trying to encourage schools to become greener.  Somehow the conversation veered into beekeeping.  She knows that a couple of schools in the county have bees already and would like to encourage more to do so.

She asked if I had any experience of talking bees at a school so I told her about my session at my childrens’ old school a few years ago when I got 30 kids on a simultaneous sugar high when they all ate a chunk of comb honey and had to run around the playground to work it off.  I also got one of them performing the bee dances.  The session lasted much longer than planned because of all the questions the children asked so I/the bees must have got them interested.

Alison’s latest project is to encourage young entrepreneurship by doing green things.  An idea is to latch onto the current anti-plastic movement by producing waterproof wrapping paper by coating it with beeswax.  As it happened, we were approaching my house at the time so we paused while I fetched from my hall and gave her a plastic bucket partly filled with melted and filtered cappings from recently extracted honey.  It saves me the hassle of turning it into blocks or candles and slightly reduces the messy jungle in the hall.

Alison now knows where to direct people if they want wax so possibly I might get rid of some cluttering up my cupboards and earn a little money thereby.


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For years I have been working on a book of my poems about bees and the people who play with them, many of whom I have met at Gormanston, the annual  FIBKA Summer School.  I have been held up because, being a technophobe, I have been unable to marry the illustrations into the text and send the book off to the publisher.

A few days ago my friend/ carer, Miranda, who was a journalist and newspaper editor and so is very clever at such things, spent a few hours with me and her computer and got it all together. I had to do a few revisions as, for example, my drawing of the Chapel at Gormanston was upside down. We went through it again, also correcting a few spelling errors, until it seemed perfect and so she emailed it to the publisher, Authorhouse.  I paid Miranda for her time and skill in Marts, the local currency, as we’re both members of the Dorchester LETS (Local Exchange Trading System).

I’ve spent the biggest part of 2 hours on the phone with the publisher this afternoon going over the details of how and where they intend to market the slim volume. They haven’t yet sent me an email showing what they’ve done with the draught but, hopefully it should be here for inspection in a day or two.

I’m due to give a bee talk at Poundbury Garden Centre in Dorchester on 20th May (Bee Day) and I hope that they will be able to get some copies of the book in stock by then as I intend to  use a couple of the poems as part of my talk.

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The willows are in full bloom and so are the dandelions.  Over the last 20 years they have been getting earlier and earlier but have now returned almost to the start time.  I reckon that when they are in flower the bees can fend for themselves and don’t need to rely on their stores, allowing me to harvest from my top bar hives honey that is truly surplus to their requirements.  It’s real honey, not partially recycled sugar, as I don’t normally feed my bees.

I visited the first of them today, at the Bee Happy Plants nursery at Tatworth.  Working gently from the rear, without smoke, spray or gloves, I moved forward until I found the brood area near the front of the hive.  The brood, on about 5 combs, appeared healthy and I saw the large, dark, marked queen.  Although she and many of her daughters are very dark she must have mated with a stripey drone or two as a proportion of the workers are striped.

I had brought with me some plastic bags and as I closed up the hive I took the bars with lots of honey, lowered the comb into a bag and sliced it off with a hive tool, leaving a good footprint to guide the bees in drawing new comb.  I alternated the chopped off combs with empty ones that I hadn’t harvested to help guide comb renewal.  At my next visit, if the colony is looking stronger, I shall move some of the empty bars towards the front so they can rear their babies on fresh comb and I shall cut out any comb that is looking too dark and elderly.

When I got home I weighed the comb and it’s about 10lb.  Some might be pretty enough for cut comb but I expect that I shall have to squeeze and strain most of it before bottling.

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I’m back home after a long weekend at the BBKA Spring Convention held at Harper Adams University (agricultural college) at Edgmond in Shropshire.  I wish they’d return the event to the BBKA HQ at Stoneleigh, which is far more accessible.  When it was there I would see dozens of people I knew from Dorset but I saw only one at Harper Adams.  If I’d known she was going I’d have suggested sharing transport to be a little greener as it’s about 200 miles away.

There was a relatively full programme and I managed to get to quite a few lectures but found myself nodding off in some of them.  Those I particularly enjoyed were Chris Park’s talk on skep beekeeping, Dan Basterfield on managing common diseases and disorders and the microscopy workshop.  I’d have liked to attend the Jeff Pettis lecture on failing queens but it was on Friday morning and because of the long journey and traffic queue around Birmingham I arrived too late.

I drove home via Wales to avoid the motorway hold ups and to enjoy the countryside which helped keep me awake while driving.  There’s no toll on the Severn bridge leaving Wales for England.

One good thing about the event is that I found the notebook I was using contains the notes from Gormanston last year, so I hope to resume blogging about it as I lost my notes halfway through.

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