I went down to darkest Cornwall where I keep a couple of hives on a friend’s woody plot on a hilltop somewhere betwixt Dartmoor and Bodmin. I get to see them only about 3 times a year and so they have to manage themselves, a thing they seem to do quite successfully. In case anybody worries, yes, the local Bee Inspector does know that they’re there!
I was hoping to take a crop of honey and, as this was to be a flying visit I wouldn’t be able to use clearer boards and as the supers had no frames, only top bars, I wouldn’t be able to shake and brush.
Instead, I took with me a bottle of Bee Quick, an aromatic fluid which the bees are meant to run from but which does not contaminate the honey. It was developed for use in North America where summers are sweatier than here so I took the precaution on the drive down of keeping the bottle tucked in my clothing to give it some body heat.
It was a damp and cool day and there weren’t many flowers around, just a few blossoms left on the Rosebay Willowherb. More wasps seemed to be flying from the hives than bees, so I was expecting the bees to be defensive and maybe to have been nearly robbed out.
I applied a little smoke to both and lifted the lids and eased the supers to break seals. All seemed normal. I sprayed the fluid on the top bars of the first, put a plastic sack on top weighed down by the roof. I went to the second and did the same thing. Then I returned to the first and removed the super which was almost empty of bees. I carried it through 80 yards of brambly wood, depositing it, very out of breath because it was very heavy, close to the car.
I returned for the super from the second hive but found that it was full of bees. I took it anyway and loaded both in the car. Then I went for a drive round the area, stopping at every field gateway to open the doors and brush off the bees. I must have stopped about a scvore of times before I was down to double figures. As I didn’t go more than 2 miles from their home I hope and presume that they found their way back.
Yesterday was comb cutting day. The honeycomb is beautiful in taste and appearance and much of it was of show quality. The trouble is that there is too much of it! I ran out of containers about 2/3 of the way through the first super, so, until more arrive in the post, the supers have been put in plastic sacks in the kitchen. So far there are 35 good combs and there are probably that many again to cut. One problem is that some of the combs are too fat for the containers and it spoils the appearance a bit if the lids touch the cappings. I suppose the answer would be to cut a bit off the bottom but then honey would run out and I would be selling chunk honey instead.