Next year the management of the apiary is likely to be a team effort, but in reality it has been a team effort this year, and I have been privileged to be part of that team, which consisted of the 33 members who contributed to the sessions.
We have had fun learning and exchanging ideas. We have engaged in group problem solving and deployed some solutions that were not necessarily by the book, but they worked. Fortunately bees do not read books and between them and us we have done well, with six good hives going into winter.
The attendance represents about one third of the membership, and delivers the basic training and experience that new beekeepers require. There is networking and mutual support, which is the essence of a successful society. I look forward to 2019 and thank you all for your enthusiasm and effect contributions.
A beautifully fresh morning greeted us at the apiary session today. The autumnal sun peeped through the clouds and the chill in the air around us ensured that we were in fine form to work…and what an impressive work force turned out – 13 beekeepers! I continue to ponder a collective noun for such a group – A colony? A hive? A nuisance?
The bees were left snug and warm in their hives today – not a creature stirred, although talk of bees still being active this week filled the air. Hopefully, the weather will return to its usual seasonal norm in the not too distant future.
A wasp-like insect in a jar greeted us this morning and a discussion ensued as to its identification. We final settled on a queen wasp and the pros and cons of its existence – answers on a postcard please!
Our aim today was to prepare resources for the following beekeeping year. We’re going to be extra ready this year! We’re going to be organised! Honestly, we really are!
We aim to run four hives in the apiary, and therefore needed to prepare an additional four hives (each with three supers.) This will ensure that when swarming preparations begin – a very distant memory (currently), but it’s surprising how quickly the year slips by – we will be ready with clean and complete kit.
We learnt the value of inspecting a box for its quality before starting the cleaning process.
Ken’s Top Tip: Always select good quality boxes with no holes or gaps.
As we crept cautiously into the apiary, all was quiet on the Western Front. We talked about the advantages of moving boxes in the depths of winter, when the bees are not flying. These need to be moved either three feet or three miles away to enable the bees to reorientate themselves successfully and we contemplated the eventual move of Hives 8, 9 and 10 to give a little extra space between them.
The spirit of Evil Edna continues to reign supreme in Hive 10, and although these hives produce a good honey crop, it’s perhaps not the best idea to have anything close by to her. After all, we don’t want that sort of behaviour catching on!
We talked about the dreaded wax moth and the trail of destruction of its larvae and discovered that they don’t particularly like foundation, as it has not yet been drawn out to house brood.
Wax moth devour the debris of the larvae, and as we had learnt from a previous apiary session led by Stephen, bees do not remove evidence of defecation after the larvae have emerged – they simply polish down the cell and carry on. It’s all perfectly sanitary, but over time, the drawn comb darkens as a result of this and will need to be replaced.
Ken’s Top Tip: Treat with Certan to reduce the capability of wax moth.
Ken’s Top Tip: Assess the drawn comb for it’s quality and keep it for the following year.
Whilst we were all asking questions, the subject of extra pollen came up. The suggestion was to freeze the frame over winter, as it is surplus to requirements and return it to the hive around February/March time in preparation for the OSR crop.
Ken’s ‘chain gang’ quickly organised themselves, and small groups were formed to complete the following tasks:
- Scraping propolis, brace comb and debris from super frames, crown boards and queen excluders
- Washing supers in Soda Crystal solution
- And the pyromaniacs among us gave them a satisfactory blast of fire to kill off any unwanted insects
A busy chatter about our experiences, problems, and advice from the outgoing beekeeping year made for light work, with a hilarious anecdote coming up top trumps where Ken and Clive were extracting honey and were unsuspectingly followed into a room by an inquisitive bee. Little did they realise that she had called 12,000 or so of her closest friends and relatives to come and join her. Who needs social media to get the word out when you’ve got bees?
Ken’s Top Tip: Try to clean kit immediately (in the ideal world.)
And so our beekeeping year slowly draws to a close. We thank Ken for giving of his time so generously and being dedicated to maintaining the teaching apiary and assisting us mere mortals in our quest to be better beekeepers.
We thank all of our experienced beekeepers that led sessions to share their passion and expertise with us and all those who attended throughout the year to make it such a worthwhile and camaraderie experience.
We haven’t finished yet…
We look forward to a newly established Apiary Team taking the reigns and continuing this vital work and…
…Our next session will focus on further tidying and organisation and removing varroa treatments on the hives.