I had an email this morning from Marion who gardens at my favourite poet, William Barnes’, Rectory at Winterbourne Came to say that her hive was broodless and that the Bee Inspector was saying that he was finding lots of hives where new queens hadn’t got mated. Therefore she was asking me if I could spare a comb of brood so they could raise another queen if necessary.
We had over an inch of rain in the night. It was still trickling down at reduced intensity during most of the day. Not a good day to play with bees but I had an appointment with Caps who gardens at Thomas Hardy the youngest’s first and last homes to assist and advise her with various balls we have in the air.
It was still raining gently when we got kitted up at Bockhampton and the bees weren’t doing much flying so we made sure the smoker was working well. The first hive we looked at had some skew-iff comb where we had interspersed shallow frames among the deep ones. A couple of chunks broke off and, as they contained brood, I put them in my hat. The second hive, the brooded part of an artificial swarm, had a new queen so we marked her.
The first/last hive is a mess! On the outside it is WBC but has a National super and a WBC one. The top super had lots of honey starting to crystallise so we harvested it by a method I don’t remember seeing in the books. First we moved the super, complete with bees, to a bench about 20 yards away and left it there while we completed the examination of the hive. Then we took out a frame at a time, complete with bees, walked them half way home and banged them on a heap of logs to shake off the remaining bees. The now beeless combs were then placed in a spare super in a plastic water and bee-proof sack for Caps to deal with at her leisure. I have already shown her how to scrape comb down to the mid-rib to get the honey.
Caps drove us in her van to Max Gate, Hardy’s death-place to check on the nucleus there. It is doing well and needs promotion, but we couldn’t find the queen to mark her.
Back at the birth-place I gathered up the comb and made my way to Came where Marion met me and relieved me of one of the chunks of comb. It was after one and I was feeling peckish so I rang ZoeAnn’s answer phone and left a message asking her to get the cake out and put the kettle on as I was bringing the wherewithal to sort out her broodless hive. She rang back and told me she was in the office close to the bees.
When I got there, she was eating her delicious-looking lunch and apologised that her kids had eaten all the cake. She did, however, make me a cup of tea which I could sip while, tummy rumbling, I could watch her eating.
Eventually she was ready and we kitted up. Zoe’s office colleague was persuaded, after seeing baby bees being born and emerging from the comb, to join us and so she suited up too, using my spare one. Despite the rain, the bees were affable enough. In the middle of what should be the brood nest was a comb with a large hole in the middle. I took it out and, using the chunk of comb I had brought as a template, cut round it and fitted the chunk, which has lots of eggs as well as emerging brood, into the gap.
It was well after 2pm by now and I was starving. I remembered that my friend Liz had asked me to help her with the woodwork of assembling a super she had bought ‘in the flat’ in exchange for a meal (she is a superb cook!) so I headed her way. She has featured (under a pseudonym) in one of my poems that has occasionally been requested. She is on holiday this week so ought to be at home, which is at the other end of the county.
On the way, I thought I’d bag a geocache on the outskirts of Dorchester on Prince Charles’ town extension, ‘Poundbury’. I parked the car and, gps in hand, walked in the direction indicated. Half way there, as if by magic, (of which there seems to have been a great deal recently!) Liz appeared dressed in her nurse’s uniform. It seems she works nearby, which I didn’t know. She had been recalled from holiday as colleagues were sick and was on her way to sort out a patient who had had a fall, so couldn’t linger.
Eventually I bought a bar of flapjack in the shop at Poundbury for my lunch.