My brand new apprentice, Rosie, and I had a great day out today. She called at 11 and we went first to look at my top bar hive at Ourganics, my friend Pat’s permacultural holding at Litton Cheney. We were both sockless and besandalled, which posed a problem as the hive is surrounded by nettles. I did, however, find a couple of pairs of walking boots in the jumble in the back of my car so we slipped them on.
I gave the smiling face of the hive a mist of liquid smoke and opened them up from the rear. Rosie was standing at the front and a queue of bees built up behind her! This was the first time she had seen a hive opened and so I showed her the various stages of brood and comb contents. We didn’t see the queen but brood in all stages was seen and the bees were much better tempered than last time I opened them, which was, I think, confused by the new queen getting mated, I emphasised the importance of gentleness and slow movements when handling bees, and to avoid squashing them if possible. They have added a lot of honey in the last few weeks and there may be some to harvest this year.
Next we drove on to Tatworth, where my apprentice, Sarah of Bee Happy Plants, was expecting us. This time I stood back and let Sarah open the hive and manipulate the bars; the first time she has done so. She, too, was gloveless and I was highly impressed by her confidence, competence and gentleness in handling the bars of bees. I gave her the ok to open the hive whenever she feels the need and not just when I’m around. She’s toying with the idea of writing about the bees for the BBKA News for which she is sometimes a contributor.
It was nearly two o’clock when we left and we were feeling a bit peckish. Rosie felt the need for something more substantial than the fruit I had brought along so we called in at a garage and she bought us some sandwiches. We wanted somewhere with a good view to eat them and so we went to Stonebarrow Hill, which has a good view of Golden Cap, the highest cliff along the south coast. We chomped and chilled and took a powernap.
Thence we headed for the Hive beach at Burton Bradstock as Rosie has set herself a challenge: daily to swim from there to West Bay (not quite!) and back. There were signs suggesting that people keep a look out for dolphins. I had a brief paddle followed by a honeycomb ice cream and a siesta while Rosie took her soggy exercise.
Next we went to Frogmore Farm, also organic, at Toller Porcorum where I have a couple of National hives, fenced off, successfully so far, from badgers. This enabled Rosie to compare and contrast conventional hives with the top bar hives we had been using. I let her test the weight of a single frame and also to lift a half filled super to give her an idea of the different physical stresses involved; also the extra stresses to the bees of having their home dismembered so much.
Onwards to Rosie’s place, picking up her car en route. Her friend, Nicky, was there to greet us. We went to the arbour where the swarm had gathered and where a small clump, a cupful, of bees was gathered, probably stragglers who had been house hunting when I took the swarm. I raised a nucleus up to them and gave the branch a shake to drop them in. Soon they were fanning at the entrance so I put the lid on.
We couldn’t stay watching them for long as Rosie was due to attend a barbeque at Frome St Quintin and I was invited to join them. We spent a pleasant evening chatting and chomping as the sun went down and the moon rose. The friends have a few acres and say that Rosie can keep bees there! They live in the old forge and when we took the utensils etc back at the end of the evening I was shown that in the kitchen there is a well with the water level about 16 feet down!