More winter preparations down at the apiary today. I hadn’t had time to make a cake, but luckily Cliff came to the rescue with a luscious mascarpone, lime and blackberry flavoured cheesecake (think that’s what he said). So creamy. We really do have a good cake club going on.
It’s been warm, so a surprising amount of beekeeping was going on for October. We had two new young and enthusiastic wannabe beeks turn up, Karen and Freddie. Karen is a music graduate who plays piano; she comes from Canada and is here in London for an internship. Freddie looks after some community land in Park Royal and is hoping he can put some bees there once he’s done the Ealing beginners course.
Above is a photo of Andy Pedley teaching Karen and Freddie. I love his teaching style and could listen to him all day. He has a big hearty laugh that can be heard right across the apiary. When you hear that laugh down the road, you know Andy’s coming!
He had some fun with them by asking how many bees they thought were in the hive. They came out with various guesses such as ‘500’ or ‘2000’, so were very shocked when Andy estimated around 30,000! I must remember to ask beginners that question, it could be very entertaining. Especially if they start trying to count them all.
Nearby a separate inspection was going on, as Albert had noticed an unusual build up of wax and other droppings on the varroa inspection tray. He was worried that wax moth or some other creature could be living in there. Above you can see John Chapple taking a look. These bees were incredibly aggressive last week and really went for my legs. This week they were a little better, but understandably not that happy to have their combs tilted around.
John found nothing wrong, except that the hive had no brood at all – in October you would still expect a small brood nest. However pollen was being brought in, which is usually a sign that the bees are happy. He recommended that Albert put a frame with eggs in from his other hive to test whether the bees try and make a queen cell from it. If they do, that indicates the colony is queenless and he can then combine them with his other hive.
We also had a look in Tom Bickerdike’s colony to see how much syrup they’d taken since last week. Tom is a fantastic carpenter and joiner and has made this feeder himself. The compartment at the side is where the bees feed. It contains sticks and other bits and pieces so that they don’t drown. Last week Tom put two gallons of syrup in and these hungry Italian bees ate it all up within the week.
Tom has very kindly made Emma and I a properly insulated roof, with a layer of insulation sealed in by wood. He says he is on a mission to get everyone to insulate their hives!
As Emma explained in her recent post ‘Turning over a new leaf‘, we now have Myrtle and Chamomile’s colonies in double brood boxes and Chilli’s colony on a single brood box, though they are only just big enough to be in a brood box rather than a nucleus, so need plenty of feeding up. This is different to how we usually overwinter our hives (filling up a single brood box), so fingers crossed all goes well. Come spring we will probably do a shook-swarm and put Myrtle and Chamomile’s colonies into a single brood box again, as that is easier to inspect.
The ivy is out now, so plenty of pollen is coming in. Think we’ll wait till it’s over to put our mouseguards on, so that it doesn’t get knocked off their legs. Tom thought he could detect some sweet whiffs of ivy nectar in the air.
Here are some pretty pink flowers that I found growing in a circle in Cornwall. (EDIT – Jonathan Harding has kindly left me a comment below to say that they are Cyclamen).