Today’s apiary visit was to a cider orchard at Berwick Manor in the Bride Valley. I have a couple of oddball hives there. One is a top bar hive that was given to me by the chap who made it in imitation of the fashionable trapezoidal design. It didn’t work for him. I modified it by getting rid of the side entrance and made an entrance hole at the end. I stocked it with a swarm from my TBH at Ourganics, a couple of miles upstream.
The last time I opened them was the last day of last year when they were on 7 seams and had plenty of stores so I was hoping to take a decent harvest today. However they’re not doing too well. I noticed that many of the combs of honey didn’t have the usual shape, having a ragged horizontal lower edge, not reaching to the floor. One had a hole in it.
Moving forward, I found one comb with a small, sealed, queen cell on it, with no other brood around. A couple of combs onwards there was some brood but not very much. The bees were very quiet, going about their business, and totally ignored me. I saw the queen, slim and dark. I had a marking pen in my belt so got it out and marked her.
I then examined the remaining few bars having to use my hive tool to slice the join between comb and wall, another disadvantage of the trapezoidal design. The bees were amazingly gentle and dark but the brood pattern suggested that they weren’t really thriving.
I re-examined the combs, working towards the back. I saw the queen again. Her daughters had just about finished licking the paint off her. Further back I retrieved some broken comb from the floor of the hive. What were those black things on it? Mouse droppings!
There was one harvestable comb of ivy honey which I carved off and placed in a plastic bag. It seems to be mouse-free. I think I ought to modify the hive entrance by spiking it with gimp pins to make it mouse proof without impeding the bees too much.
The hive next door isn’t really a hive but a stack of spare kit that was occupied by a swarm in my garden at home last year. They must have been there some weeks before I noticed as they were well established and I needed help from a friend to move them.
The upper combs are wild and are attached to the tin roof. and to the walls of the WBC eke below. Then comes a queen excluder that I inserted last year in the hope that the queen was below it in the National super that I sat upon a National brood box and floor. I had guessed wrongly as the queen and brood were up in the roof while the super (nadir) was used for stores. They were using gaps caused by the odd box sizes for an entrance.
I removed the queen excluder and put it back together again in the hope that the queen will eventually go down. I ought to tape around the gaps to persuade them to use the downstairs entrance.
I took a bite of the comb when I got back to the car. It is ivy honey: scrummy!