My house phone rang this afternoon just as I was about to go out and play with bees. I didn’t answer as it’s usually somebody trying to sell me something or trick me; but I dialed 1471 and found that it was a local number so I rang back. A gentleman answered and told me that his wife had been trying to ring me about beekeeping. I gave him my mobile number and said that if she didn’t ring me, I would ring her.
We got in contact just as I was about to see how my hives at Frogmore are getting on (upper brood boxes/supers too heavy to lift!) so, having obtained directions, I headed that way soon afterwards. I found their barn conversion in the middle of nowhere close to an organic farm and was introduced. It is the lady who is keen on having bees in the garden, her husband obediently playing along. I explained that the first criterion to be considered is neighbours: they have one in the adjacent converted stables but far enough away not to be in the firing line if things go wrong and there is plenty of elevated vegetation and screening to ensure flight lines are above head height.
They have an extensive and beautiful garden, managed so as to have masses of wild flowers with seats scattered around. Although in a valley, they are far enough from the foot for them not to be in a frost pocket. There are enough trees and shrubs around to modify the effects of the prevailing SW wind and I chose a spot where the hive would catch the sun on Christmas day.
One concern is badgers. I gave up a site less than half a mile away as the hive was destroyed by badgers, leaving a trail of broken combs along their track. A badger does go along their path, but not in the garden area and Alan said he would find some chicken wire to place on the gate to badger proof it.
I have a swarm that moved into a hive a few days ago and I was wondering where to put it. Now I know! I explained to Karen that my usual (they’re all different) practice with apprentices is, first, to move a hive to their site. They lean over my shoulder, then, after a while, I step back and lean over their shoulder. They acquire some kit of their own. Next year my hive is split to stock theirs and they are worked together for a season or two. Then, when the apprentice can fly solo, I move mine away (but sometimes that can be years!).