Sunday was an absolutely glorious summer’s day in Cornwall, one of the first we’ve had this year. What do you do when it’s beautiful out and you’re a short distance from some of the finest beaches in the country? It’s a no-brainer: you put on a sweaty beesuit and go look inside some beehives.
West Cornwall Beekeeping Association apiary visit – Kate Bowyer’s apiary
The WCBA runs these visits to give members a chance to find out how fellow members organise their apiaries, see their bees, and ask questions. The first apiary visit of this year was to see Kate’s hives. I won’t give away their exact location, but Kate keeps them in an enclosed field in a village about half an hour’s drive from Truro.
It was nice to meet up with local beekeepers. We had a couple of retired semi-professional beekeepers amongst us, one of whom was a ex-bee inspector. It was interesting to hear about their experiences as commercial beekeeping is so different to having a couple of hives at the bottom of the garden.
Kate’s hives were mostly thriving, with only one which was struggling with some chalk brood. There was some discussion about whether to try to feed and nurture it or leave the colony to dwindle out.
You could tell that Kate inspects regularly as all the equipment came apart quickly and cleanly as she went through her hives. The bees were all good tempered and put up with a crowd of onlookers getting in their way as they zoomed back and forth bringing nectar home. She was going to demonstrate a Bailey comb change but the queen proved too elusive.
Ever seen this slightly unusual hive stand? Previously NHS equipment!
Drew and Tommy came to pick me up and we enjoyed some delicious home-made cake and biscuits which Kate provided along with a cup of tea. I spoke with a entertaining gentleman who has been keeping bees for fifty years and previously kept a herd of pygmy goats. Tommy was very pleased to be so well fed and called out “Bye cake” when we left!
Bait hive and garden developments
The nucleus hive I have on order is still not ready, so meanwhile I’ve set up this bee hive in our back garden. Well, more accurately Drew set it up, as he nailed the hive and hive stand together (the hive stand is his own design). I’ve turned the entrance facing south, put an entrance reducer in as bees prefer small entrances and have added some lemongrass oil infused cotton wool balls. I don’t have an old brood comb though, which would be ideal to attract a swarm.
Drew and I are both loving spending time in the garden now that spring is here. I’ve bought some plants from Rosybee plants as they specialise in providing bee-friendly plants that are grown in an environmentally friendly way, without pesticides.
Below you can see a row of Stachys byzantina – Lambs’ ears, which is a silvery, softly haired plant especially attractive to wool carder bees, which use it as a mating site. They use the hairs from soft plants like Lambs’ ears to line their nests – see Plant lambs’ ears and keep wool carder bees happy (Guardian, 2016). Very usefully it also happens to soothe bee stings! I’ve also added catmint, foxgloves and echinops ‘star frost’. Our garden is fairly sunny but the clay soil combined with high rain fall here may be a challenge, even more of a challenge may be that Drew and I know nothing about gardening!
Bee saving adventures
The barista at my local coffee shop took it in her stride when I turned up with an exhausted female hairy footed flower bee in my hands. I’d found the little bee sitting on the ground while walking through a car park. I requested a sugar sachet and water and settled down on a sofa to give her a feed. At that moment she decided to take off and flew towards the door! Luckily Drew was able to reach her and let her out, otherwise I would have felt very guilty.
Guess what though… I am not the only bee loon in Truro! Yes, really! Just ahead of me as I walked to pick Tommy up from nursery was a woman on the other side of the road, half walking/half running hastily down the hill. She abruptly stopped, pulled a tissue out of her bag, and picked up a small black object from the road which she cradled in her hands as she walked on. ‘Could it be…?’ I thought to myself. ‘Does anyone else pick up bees…?’
The woman crossed over to my side of the road and stopped at a bright patch of flowers along the verge. She carefully moved what I could now see was a bumble bee onto the flowers. And on she went, walking away speedily, in a hurry to get somewhere fast. In such a hurry, and yet she took the time to care for a little bee.