I’m just back from a week in NW Devon near the Cornish border. Whilst there I ventured across the Tamar and first visited a friend’s plot where I have a couple of hives, currently bee-less. Then I went into the next parish where I had been invited to dinner by Steve & Gill who have recently emigrated to Kernow from Dorset. Their bees are still in Dorset and they hope to move them to their new estate in the spring, preferably after checking for EFB as the local Bee Inspector has alerted them that there is EFB in the area where they are now. I have given them the name of the Bee Inspector in their new area so she will be alerted.
They have a problem in that they have a load of honey, labelled as Purbeck Honey, as that’s where their apiary is situated, but haven’t yet tapped into the local market although they have Honey for Sale signs outside. I was there with them for about 4 hours and, during that time, I noticed only 2 vehicles passing by. Anyway, I now have 50 jars of Purbeck honey to get rid of! I will pass them on to a friend who has been selling lots of mine this year.
Driving back home today I detoured to Bee Happy Plants where my apprentice, Sarah, kindly cooked me lunch. We talked bees a lot of course, but she’s also diversifying into sheep! She has a field a few miles away in SE Devon, near Sidmouth and intends to run them as organically as possible in a flower rich meadow which would, I pointed out, be an ideal site for an out apiary!
Sarah helped stack my car with a load of 6 foot planks of larch which she persuaded the sawyer to cut at a precise angle which she had calculated would enable me to but the edges together to make a number of semi-cylindrical top bar hives. The planks are currently laid in my hall and smell lovely to me but I wonder whether bees would appreciate the aroma. We shall see in due course.
We had a quick peep at the 4 hives in her garden, one of which is a polystyrene National she was given; one my original TBH that I made from pallet wood in 1998 and is now in need of renewal, one is Sarah’s copy of mine and the last is one I made this year with a mesh floor with a tray beneath to enable Sarah to do a daily examination of what drops.
She has the impression that our bees are smaller than normal. They were flying at the temperature of about 53 degrees F and some pollen was going in. They looked normal to me, however it has just occurred to me that as we don’t use foundation, the bees currently flying may have been reared nearer the centre of the brood nest where the cell size tends to be smaller than on the periphery, so maybe Sarah’s right.
Sarah is also interested in the bee breeding group that some of us are starting in west Dorset so we may be able to stretch a bit further. That would be good as, at the BIBBA conference, the map showing the highest proportions of AMM DNA had a prominent blob close to her.