I had an unexpected gap in my diary this afternoon so I finished off my restored 20 year old Top Bar Hive by drilling holes in the supporting fence poles about a span down from the top and loading everything in the back of my car. As an afterthought I rearranged everything to make space for a trolley.
I sent a text to my apprentice, Jane, hoping she could meet me there and help and then I set my sat nav for what I guessed would be the road nearest the new apiary site at Shepton Montague near Wincanton and Castle Cary in darkest Somerset. It’s 27 miles away so it took a while to get there, the latter part via narrow country lanes. I found it ok and parked not far from the road as I didn’t fancy driving across fields. The phone works slowly in Somerset and Jane got my message and replied just after I had arrived. Unfortunately she was tied up for a while but hoped to join me later.
I unloaded the car and filled the trolley and started towing it for about half a mile around the edges of the fields full of apple trees, heading for the newly planted hillside close to a wood. The trolley tipped over and spilled its load twice during the trek.
I used my compass and aligned the posts so the entrance to the hive would face SSE to get the morning sun. The wood should reduce the prevailing wind from the SW and, being more than halfway up the hill, it would be out of the frost pocket. The stream in the valley will provide water when needed. The farm is organic so there should be plenty of natural forage.
I used a spirit level to ensure the post tops were at the same height then wiggled wire through the holes and secured it. Then I placed the hive on the wire supports and checked again with the spirit level. After adding the first few top bars, one with comb, I placed the bait in the hive: a blob of cotton wool with a few drops of lemon grass oil, about a foot back from the entrance as the queen won’t go in if she scents a rival close by.
I added the rest of the bars, then a rubber backed carpet, upside down, for the roof to keep the rain off and add insulation. I secured it with elastic hooks.
It was then that I heard a hoot and saw Jane waving in the distance. She drove the farm Land Rover around the fields much quicker than I had managed the route and I had to undo part of what I had done in order to show and explain it to her. She took a photo of me next to the hive, using my mobile phone to do so and told me that I’m ‘photogenic’ a thing of which I’ve never been accused before! If I knew how, I’d post it here.
Conveniently, we loaded my trolley and tools into the back of the Land Rover and she drove us back to the village where she showed me a Warre hive (beeless) in a friend’s garden.
Then we drove in convoy to the farm for a cup of tea and a natter. She kindly gave me a large slice of veggie pie and organic salad leaves to take home for my dinner. She intends to visit the hive every couple of days (weather etc permitting) and let me know if bees are showing an interest.