Today was unusually dull, damp and drizzly compared to what the weather has been like for ages. This was very welcome as the moisture will help the plants to secrete more nectar and because I was able to stuff a sponge into the entrance of a hive in my back garden that was occupied by a swarm a couple of weeks or so ago.
I had spent a few minutes watching the entrance and saw only a couple of bees returning to the hive and none leaving. I strapped them up and put them on the passenger seat of my car with the seat belt on and drove them to Fordington, once a royal manor but now a suburb of Dorchester.
I had rung my friend, Margaret Somerville (the artist) and she had her front door open when I got there enabling me to take the hive through her house and garden and into her neighbour’s, which she looks after. I had set up an empty hive there a few days ago in preparation and simply removed the brood box, placed the swarm box in its place so that the entrance would be more or less in the final position, removed the straps, swapped rooves, removed the sponge, watched until the first bees emerged and then headed for home in spotty rain. I checked the original site and there were no stray bees.
After a coffee break I then headed with a friend for Uplowman, near Tiverton in Devon, where DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) was due to have its monthly meeting in their village hall. I gave the apologies of my apprentice, Sarah, who is busy building a small mansion as a step up from her current mobile home.
There were only nine of us there and I think I was the youngest! We need more members from the next generation! Apart from general social and bee-chat the theme of the day was ‘other hive organisms’. Richard Ball led the discussion with some last-minute notes and magic lantern pictures as the person who had drawn the short straw was on the sick list and was unable to attend.
We agreed, for the day, to ignore bacteria, viruses and Varroa as everybody is thoroughly bored with them! We ventured into fungi, other insects (eg leaf cutters, wax moths, wasps, ants, earwigs, and beetles.). It is many years since any of us have seen evidence of acarine mites: except in varroa-free areas like the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man, they seem to be extinct. Obviously the varroa treatments are more effective against them than the intended target. Thinking back to the days when they were relatively common, it was mainly the imported Italians (many via New Zealand) in which they were to be found.
Chris Utting brought along one of Vita’s new (patent!) floors designed for trapping wasps and hornets. Although a clever (complicated!) design, it doesn’t seem to be well made, being of cheap, untreated, timber that will swell and/or rot when exposed to the elements and much of the discussion was about how to treat the wood rather than how touse the device.
Upon enquiry, I was told that the (now privatised) FERA, will still have access to the personal data of those on Bee Base, which confirms my action in deleting or trashing my information thereon in case it is sold on to junk mailers.
I was told that my friend, Leila Goss, with whom I first played with bees getting on for a decade ago and was impressed by her calm handling of them, has now been appointed as a Seasonal Bee Inspector for N. Devon. I’m pleased!
There was some talk about a seminar on Bee Nutrition in due course, but date and location are undecided. Our next meeting is to be in N.Devon BKA’s apiary in the middle of nowhere. I hope the weather will be better than today! Although the weather was dry while we were indoors, on the way home the rain set in and so I didn’t call in at ony of my apiaries to try to badger-proof it as intended. The photo of a badgered hive and comment I posted on the BBKA Facebook page has prompted about 2 dozen responses so far!