It started with a visit to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace at Bockhampton where I had arranged to meet Caps, the head gardener and my beekeeping apprentice, to check on the hive there with a view to dividing it to make increase. The temperature, according to my car thermometer, was a mere 7 degrees C (about 44 in real money) and normally I wouldn’t open a hive for inspection that cold. The bees weren’t flying. However, we had both travelled quite a way so we carried on.
First we attended to the National that had succumbed to isolation starvation.There are still stores in the hive that I am surprised haven’t been robbed out by the hive next door. We found a new and stable base, a section of the trunk of a recently felled beech tree, levelled it and placed the hive on it. We went through frame by frame and removed all comb that had been bred in.
Then we opened the WBC. I realised that I had forgotten to spray my hands with the usual sting deterrant but didn’t mention this to Caps. I just went even gentlier than usual. There were plenty of bees in the super but not much weight. The bee-space can’t be right below the queen excluder as there was brood attached to it from below. As I took the QE off I tore open some drone cells and saw varroa mites scuttling.
There were plenty of bees and brood, which looked healthy apart from a small scattering of uncapped pupae, probably caused by wax moths. Of more concern was the appearance of bees with deformed or missing wings, caused by the Deformed Wing Virus which is transmitted by varroa. I went through the nearer half of the frames, seeking and finding no queen cells, so considered it safe to assume that there was none in the other half. We saw only one drone. I advised Caps to make up the other super she has for that hive and place it below the current one. The extra space and wax drawing will discourage the bees from swarming for a while.
We took the old comb back to the house where tourists photographed us. There’s a couple of skeps on the porch roof. I wedged a chunk of old comb into one of them to act as a swarm attractant.
We made a date to re-inspect the hive in 12 days to make an artificial swarm, not only to make increase but also to deal with the varroa.
I garnered a supermarket lunch and ate it on the road on my way to Whitchurch Canonicorum where the County BKA was having it’s spring meeting, hosted by West Dorset BKA. There were about 40 of us there, but I was the only one not a member of WDBKA. This is likely to be mentioned at the next County committee meeting!
The principal speaker was Simon Jones NDB of Somerset BKA who is a Seasonal Bee Inspector. He warned us of an upsurge of EFB in his area and told us that he has destroyed 50 infected hives so far this year! EFB is more persistent than was thought and, at York, they have been playing with old samples and managed to revive 40% of EFB material from 6 year old test kits! Nosema samples reveal that N.Ceranae was present at least as early as 1996!
We had a break for tea and cake. I went round twice! The lemon drizzle was excellent and came second to the fruit cake although the Dorset Apple cake came close behind. The chocolate cake was gone by the time I went round again. The honey cake was a bit sweet for my taste as was my friend Liz’s flapjack. I steered her towards my recipe on this site.