A quiet night in watching films with my other half has been cut short by his getting a call from work about temperature alerts in their data centre (he’s an IT bod). He’s cycled off at top speed, saying something about potential meltdowns, so I might as well type this now, before any computer apocalypse occurs.
Today was a beautiful British summer day, hot yet mischievously breezy, blowing summer skirts up unexpectedly. I arrived at the apiary at the usual 2pm time, and was almost immediately overwhelmed by hordes of newbie beekeepers keen to have a look round. Some had turned up on their own while others were there as part of the Ealing Transition Community Gardens group. This group has gained funding for a community bees project and will spend 2011 training before their first bees arrive around March 2012. So it looks like the apiary will continue to see plenty of enthusiastic new faces this summer!
Andy Pedley showed them a few hives today. Andy has been keeping bees for over 20 years and is a born teacher. He has an incredibly loud, infectious laugh which would make him the perfect Father Christmas, as well as the required Santa/beekeeper beard. You can see him surrounded by a attentive crowd below – he’s the tall man second left in the olive suit.
Shy of opening our bees up before such a big audience, Emma and I had a cup of tea first. One of the other beekeepers, Cliff, had brought us along an unusual Northern delicacy – see photo below. I can’t honestly say I’m converted to eating these, but they were certainly an experience. They’re harder than you might expect. Albert actually managed to bounce one on the table like a ping pong ball.
Tea and eggs over, we crept round the crowd to open up the nuc. Last week we had worried that Queen Rose was missing, because we hadn’t seen her or eggs for a couple of weeks. Well, turns out that as usual Pat was right to reassure us, because I turned a frame over today and there she was! Just like that. But now she is unmarked. I do think it’s still Queen Rose though, because it would be hard to miss a queen cell in the little nuc, she looks identical, and when we last saw Queen Rose her blue dot looked to be wearing off a bit. I even saw a few eggs.
Emma pointed out that maybe she didn’t have enough space to lay eggs. I agree with this idea as they’d filled out all five frames, mostly with stores. Lots of nectar and honey, plus grey pollen. So we moved them into Emma’s National hive, which she had put some made up frames into already in anticipation of this day. I’m glad that Emma is much more organised than me! First we moved all the frames over into the middle of the new hive, to keep the brood warm, then put the new foundation frames around them. A few bees had clustered in the nuc’s corners and were surprisingly reluctant to leave their cosy old home. Even several shakes and a go with a leaf brush didn’t dislodge them. We ended up leaving them to walk back in like this:
Back in the old big hive, they have really done well at starting to fill up their first super. We also saw our new queen for the second time. Emma has named her Rosemary, as she is fiesty (having flown off after being marked two weeks ago), and rosemary is an energising essential oil. We’re going to name all our queens after essential oils as Emma is a trained aromatherapist – see her blog post ‘Rosemary – an established personality‘ for an invigorating rosemary tea recipe. It’s also a neat name because she’s Rose’s daughter, and looks just like her mother, long and dark.
I’m hoping we might even get some honey, if the UK June forage gap doesn’t cause them to eat all their super stores. Now that Rosemary has started laying they should expand rapidly, so soon the dilemma will again be whether to double brood box or not double brood box. It would be amazing to have my first jars of honey after three years of trying!