Yesterday my son, Charlie caught the 5.30am train from London armed with a heavy video camera and tripod. I picked him up at Dorchester Station and we went to my new apiary site at Greenwood Grange at Higher Bockhampton, a furlong from the birthplace of the notorious Victorian novelist, Thomas Hardy.
The objective was for Charlie, a professional film director and producer, to get used to a new camera at his own pace rather than under the stress of a forthcoming event. He wanted to focus on the background to beekeeping, including views of the countryside around my apiaries, rather than the knotty details. The camera didn’t have a close up lens so there would be no point in showing off the tiny stuff.
I had parked a couple of empty hives at the site in order to demonstrate to the management that I was serious about keeping bees there, but they weren’t ready yet. I went through the frames, cutting out all the old, bred-in, comb, leaving a footprint around the edge to guide re-building. Charlie filmed from various angles and I was asked to repeat some actions so they could be filmed in a different light.
We called in at the office to make sure they would be happy for the resort to be filmed. Zoe was and hoped that, if publicised, the filming might be helpful to them. She also asked whether I had any honey.
Next we headed west to Frogmore whence came the honey that was distributed at Charlie’s wedding reception last year. We didn’t open the hive as they had been treated already. Bees were flying at 6 degrees C and Charlie filmed them.
Then, off to Seaborough, on the Somerset border, where I have a hive in an orchard. I opened them and applied oxalic acid solution. They were stronger than expected, occupying 8 seams. They have surplus stores in the super.
After that we ventured over the border to Sarah’s Bee Happy Plants nursery. There we discovered a snag with top bar hives! You can’t see where the bees are as the bars abut, so we had to remove a bar and ease the others apart, estimating where the seams of bees were. They weren’t too happy and we collected a sting or two. I hadn’t tucked my veil in and 6 bees got inside.
Sarah has been given a polystyrene hive and had fitted it with top bars rather than frames. Of course, as the sides are vertical, the bees attached the comb to them, making it impossible to move them. We eased a few apart by a smidgeon and dribbled some oxalic along the bar edges.
It was then that Charlie collected a sting on his eyelid! It took several attempts to get it out. Later Sarah found an anti-histamine pill which she gave to Charlie to reduce the effects.
After a cup of tea we headed back to Dorset, first to Halstock, where I have a hive in an organic orchard and treated them; thence to West Chelborough where I have a hive in my apprentice, Rosie’s, apiary on a bracken-covered hillside at Hemlock Farm. My bees are doing well there but, sadly, we found Rosie’s dead, so Charlie could do some close ups as I did a post-mortem.
This was, by now, in what Charlie calls the ‘golden hour’ before sunset, when light effects are at their best. We drove down to Sandhills but, by then, the sun was setting so we called it a day and I shall have to treat the bees there without being filmed.
It will take Charlie a few days to reduce a full day’s filming to a 5 minute bleep but I hope to be able to post it here if I can discover how.