Only a small crowd of about eight people gathered at the apiary on Saturday. Low numbers compared with the thirty-forty we’ve been getting during the height of summer. The newbies generally tend to drop off as the weather gets colder, leaving only a few dedicated (bananas) beekeepers to drink tea outside during the wind, hail and snow of winter. Still, the weather was nice enough last weekend, and there was plenty of cake going.
Cliff had even made us a little sign for his raspberry muffins. It denied all liability for any bad muffin-related reactions, stating ‘Caution: may contain raspberries. Produced in a nut free environment. (Apart from the chef)’. Cliff is a Geordie – you’ve got to love the northern sense of humour. Jayne had made fairy cakes, and I’d made baklava from Jayne’s London honey, so we had quite a little feast going on.
In the background of the photo above, you can see David, a wanna-bee beekeeper visiting us for the first time. We showed him round the hives and he was a great help to me in getting my sticky propolised smoker open.
Below is Albert looking at his lovely yellow New Zealand bees. They’re on two brood boxes, with the top brood box almost completely filled with honey and only a little brood. Celia F. Davis’ book The Honey Bee Around & About (2009) tells me that Italian bees are often bred in New Zealand, so they may technically be Italians. Honey bees are not native to New Zealand; their natural geographic distribution before we started moving them about everywhere was Europe, Africa and Asia.
The Italian bee is the most popular type of bee amongst beekeepers worldwide, as it is generally very gentle, can produce huge honey crops, has a fairly long tongue, doesn’t swarm excessively and produces good comb. However, it is not so good at coping with long, cold winters as it saves up a comparatively small proportion of stores yet takes big colonies into winter, which need plenty of food. Italians are also renowned robbers. Looking at the photo in The Honey Bee Around & About, our bees look like Italians. Not all Italians are bright yellow as there are various varieties, some of which are much darker. However, the brighter-yellow types have been imported elsewhere more often.
I was surprised to see just how many drones the New Zealanders were still feeding. They were everywhere! And even a bit of drone brood, very late in the season. Can you see the three drones at the bottom of the photo below? They’re slightly bigger, with a squarer ended abdomen, and much bigger beady eyes to help them spot a virgin queen with.
In my hives, Lavender’s ladies had been busy. We originally had an eke on to do Apiguard treatment but left it on longer than we should have once the treatment was over, giving them space to build plenty of this beautiful yummy looking comb. We were going to do something about it last week but it started raining.
I scraped this off, removed the eke and put the comb up in the roof. I’m forlornly hoping they’ll take the honey down into the brood box and I can remove the comb next week, but in reality they’ll probably produce a small palace up there. Ah well, David looked ecstatic as he tried a taste of runny honey still warm from the hive.
I’m starting my revision for the BBKA Module 2 exam on Honey bee Products and Forage soon, and in preparation have bought a couple of books on the reading list by Celia Davis, The Honey Bee Around & About and The Honey Bee Inside Out. I ordered these from the Beecraft shop at www.bee-craft.com/shop/books (Beecraft is the BBKA’s official journal) and was very impressed with the delivery speed. I only ordered them on Saturday and they turned up at work today (Monday!). And these books have sold out on Amazon at the moment, so Beecraft is definitely the best place to get them.