I visited Hardy’s birthplace yesterday for one of my regular sessions with my apprentice Caps who is the head gardener and who was, with no experience, put in charge of the hive donated last year by the BBC. For some strange reason the BBC gave a hive of a type that hadn’t been invented when Hardy lived there and which is obsolete and been largely superseded nowadays.
Caps is coming on very well as an apprentice and this time, for the first time, she took the lead while I was smoker-wallah. She has learned well how to move her hands slowly and gently around the bees and didn’t get stung. I got several which wasn’t fair!
The bees are coming on well and are working in the super. Caps needs to get on with making the next super smartish. The brood looked healthy and was plentiful and I showed Caps what to look for in healthy larvae. There were a few ‘play’ queen cups but they weren’t occupied. Nevertheless, I think they will be in the mood to swarm in the next few weeks as their temper has deteriorated noticeably. You won’t find this in the books (except for ‘Getting the Best from Your Bees’!) but as the queen’s pheromones aren’t distributed optimally either through overcrowding or old age her daughters get a bit grumbly before finally deciding to do something about it.
What else does Caps need to learn? Well, she’s never handled a swarm; her record keeping isn’t great; disease recognition; artificial swarming; IPM; skep beekeeping; driving bees, harvesting honey, pollen, propolis — yes, there’s a lot we can do together before she flies solo. This could go on for years! I hope so.