I’m off to Ireland in a couple of days, first to spend time with friends in darkest Galway, and then to spend a week at Gormanston, about 20 miles north of Dublin with 300 other beekeepers at FIBKA’s annual Summer School.
I always take young Lucy, the daughter of the house, a jar of my honey but, last year, because of a communications break down, ended up hitch hiking there with my suitcase in tow. I gave Lucy’s honey to the lady who had taken pity on me, fed me and ordered her husband to drive me the 40 miles or so to my destination. So this year, in a period of honey famine, I was determined to get something special for Lucy.
I went to Litton Cheney where I have a top bar hive that is doing, this year, better than any of my conventional hives. I didn’t take a smoker with me, relying on stealth alone. I worked from the rear and withdrew and examined several combs until I got to the brood area. I selected the best looking comb with a large enough area of capped honey, shook nearly all the bees off and took the comb over to rest on the roof af a nearby empty hive. A brush got rid of the remaining bees.
I had brought with me a litre sized plastic container like a shallow lunch box, just about deep enough for a comb with little room to spare and about 6″ x 9″. I placed the box over the comb and, with my trusty Swiss Army knife used the box as a template to cut through the comb on 2 adjacent sides, then shifted the box diagonally by a smidgeon to reduce the area of comb so it would fit in the box and then cut the other 2 sides. Carefully I turned the comb and box over together and, with a little persuasion, the cut comb fitted the box perfectly.
I was feeling pleased with myself and that made me careless! I took the bar with the gaping hole in it back to the hive and eased it into place and then went to put the lid on the hive, a piece of corrugated aluminium held in place with bricks. Unfortunately large numbers of bees were wandering around on the top bars.I didn’t want to squash them so reached for my brush and started sweeping them off. They didn’t like it and I collected a lot more stings to my hands than I usually get.
Whilst going through the hive a noticed several bees has been collecting light green pollen that I didn’t recognise. Looking later at the chart I keep with my record cards, I reckon it was meadowsweet.
Returning to the car, I was seduced by a group of ladies sitting round a table outside Pat’s home/shed engaging in nitter natter, ie they were knitting and nattering, a pleasant and productive way to spend an afternoon, I imagine. I was offered tea and accepted. Then came cake! I had first a slice of Battenburg and then chocolate cake while I joined in the natter which was first about bees and then sheep.
I hope Lucy likes her honey!