Yesterday afternoon I introduced my 9 year old granddaughter, Keara, to bees by taking her to Portland, getting her dressed in my Large size astronaut suit (with plenty of room to spare!) and leading her down through the garden plots to the apiary. Keara had her Ma’s massive camera with her and took lots of photos that I haven’t seen yet.
We opened the National. This was the second time the hive had been opened that day as Bee Inspector Kevin Pope had been through them with me in the morning. To my relief he pronounced them free of EFB, but they are still in a bad way with an overdose of varroa with which they are coping badly. It is necessary to treat them soon if they are to recover sufficiently to raise winter bees so the purpose of the visit with Keara was to add a clearer board so as to remove the 3 supers of honey.
This morning I visited again, this time with my apprentice, Yvonne, who is a member of the Community Trust and an allotment holder. I had filled my car with extractor, fruit press and ripener. She had a wheelbarrow and some plastic crates in hers. Delving into the communal shed she found the varroa tray and a beesuit and smoker (we didn’t use the latter). We then made our way to the hives.
First we opened the Top Bar Hive. Earlier in the season it was doing rather well, but now it is totally broodless (Kevin says that’s happened a lot this year but is new in my experience) and diminishing in numbers. We carved off the comb worth harvesting and dropped it in one of the plastic crates. Yvonne had scrumped a couple of melon leaves to use as bee brushes to get rid of bees on the comb. It worked.
Then we opened the National. Thanks to Mr Porter (inventor of the bee escape) the supers were virtually free of bees and we transferred them to the wheelbarrow. Then I removed the clearer board and placed on the wire queen excluder a couple of tea bags I took from a sellotaped tin. They had been conventional tea bags only a couple of hours earlier, but then I cut them open, removed the contents to use via a strainer, and replaced the tea with a couple of teaspoons of thymol crystals in each one, re-sealing the bags with an office stapler.
We put the Varroa tray in place and Yvonne will visit daily, count and remove fallen mites and make a note of the numbers.
INTERRUPTION – I’ve just noticed a hedgehog by my feet! I’ve fished my mobile phone/camera from my pocket and in those few seconds he’s disappeared! I shall continue until it reappears.
Continuing: It was jolly hard work getting those supers up the steep slope to the cars! First we took it in turns and then, for the really steep bit, Yvonne pulled while I lifted and pushed. En route we went for a short distance along the Incline railway: there aren’t many railways as inclined as that – about 30 degrees!
It all fitted into the back of her car and we went in convoy along the tortuous route to her house, which has the steepest garden I know – at least 45 degrees. We were met in her kitchen by her chickens to whom I was introduced, one called Paxo I think and I’ve forgotten the other. Currently they earn their keep at an egg a day each, but Christmas is coming!
After discussion over a cup of tea (thymol free!) and examination of the harvest, we decided that it wasn’t worth using the extractor or press. By bathroom scale measure, the honey fit for harvesting will be about 66 pounds including frames and wax. One of the supers was of unsealed honey so we sealed it in a plastic bag to replace when the thymol treatment has finished and the fumes gone.
The rest will be dealt with by Yvonne in the way we did last year (if memory serves) by scraping the combs down to the midrib with an ice cream scoop and draining/straining. The comb honey from the TBH will be squoze by hand. Yvonne’s a big strong girl and can do these things. I did suggest, in the interest of hygiene, that she bans the fowls from the kitchen during the work.
Now to play ‘hunt the hedgehog’!