Comedy beekeeping and the river to Clayhithe

Yes, another of those posts about the tedious details of my life that you care nothing about. And also an advert for my honey, hurrah.


In the middle you’ll see my beehive. I’ve finally done most of the honey-related stuff this year (see-also previous bee blogging) so if you live nearby and care to purchase some finest quality Stoat honey with only a few bits of dead bee in it, please email. This year it does seem to be rape, judging by the speed at which it sets. The “comedy” aspect of the beekeeping was the way I managed to stumble around knocking the supers nearly off as I tried to get the lid on. Fortunately the ladies seem quite well behavined, even the one that sneaked into my suit. The kitchen is still full of odd bits of comb waiting to be melted down (I fail again: I left them for a week or more with an empty upper super, so of course they filled it full of beautiful comb which I must destroy, alas).

Saturday saw we few venture off downriver over Baits Bite lock in the Four of Death (drumroll). We didn’t get as far as Bottisham – it was rather windy and the last stretch down there didn’t tempt, unlike Tanya’s coffee which did, since she was moored just before the bridge. And she even gave us chocolate cake, and a second cup of coffee when it rained. So we could truthfully say we had a 3 1/2 hour outing, even if some of it wasn’t on the water. And bits of the rowing were good, and even the unbalanced bits weren’t dreadful. Steven turned out to be a perceptive coach, though I’m not going to straighten my arm, sorry. But full marks for spotting it :-).

Oh, and Brian’s latest is good.

I forgot to mention that today was fathers day, and I got breakfast in bed courtesy of Miranda and Eve, with a menu and a card too, and a chocolate coin.

Bee blogging

Dscn1508-bee-pollen_crop_w800 (for Maz). Perceptive readers will notice that this is a bumblebee, and on a hollyhock, so is anachronistic.

Sunday afternoon, and I finally had time to see to the girls. This was my first visit of the year (oh, the shame) and so finding the beesuit and trousers and gloves was step one. Step two was the smoker, cardboard and matches. Step 3 took rather longer, and was to clear the nettles and general vegetation away from the hive. After that, it was time to open up, and I was pleased to find a happy hive full of bees with the two supers nearly full, but not capped. The Rape is around this year (last year, for a pleasant change, it wasn’t) so I’ll have to Take Off fairly soon. At this rate I may have to add another super first, which will mean digging out some frames or making them up.

Dredging down in the brood box (they were being well behaved) I found a couple of empty queen cells, which tallies with a neighbour a few doors off who had a swarm of bees descend on his house on Saturday and then vanish inside his chimney (yes I went for a look, but since his roof is tall and his fireplace bricked up, there was little to do). Although the hive felt somewhat full for that. Ah well, who knows really. I’m happy they survived the winter – Nikola’s didn’t.

Autumn bees

Dscn1508-bee-pollen_crop_w800 Today I managed to sneak enough time in a warmish day to have a look at the bees. I was going to take the honey off but looking in decided that there was about enough to see them through the winter but not much more – not enough to be worth taking off. Another poor summer for beekeeping. So I contented myself with putting in the Apistan and just doing a quick check to ensure that there was at least some brood – not much, but at least I have a queen. There was a time in midsummer when I thought I’d lost her. Others in Coton have lost their bees this year.

The pix is, I know, of a bumblebee. But I like it.

Bad Beekeeping

The good beekeper keeps a close eye on his or her bees, carefully checks the weight of the hive during the winter to make sure they aren’t starving, and pays particular attention during May for ’tis the season to be swarming. It will come as no great surprise to my readers that I don’t fit this category: my bees mostly look after themseleves at the bottom of the garden with minimal attention from me. But come the end of the Rape season, which is just about now, the honey has to be taken off before it sets solid in the hives. So I borrowed my jacket back off Nikola and set to removing the supers. I only seem to have two on at the moment, probably a mistake because they were both packed full. I imagine my bees have probably swarmed at some point.

However, the point of this was the picture of a frame, above, which from its geometry you will immeadiately see is a super frame, and yet it has brood in it. Oops. Although the “arc” pattern is rather good. This means, I can only suppose, that the naughty queen has wriggled through the queen excluder and ventured upwards where she should not be(e). About three frames were heavily brooded – one even had a queen cell on it. The photo shows a few cells sticking out – those are drone (male) cells and somewhat bigger. The others are workers. The sides have capped honey, which is what should be everywhere. The problem with the brood is that it makes the frames hard to spin – no one wants icky white bee larvae in their honey, especially since they are rather fragile and tend to explode into goo.

Um, did I mention that my honey is for sale, just £3 / lb if you’re in the Coton area. [Update: I should point out that the honey I sell really doesn’t have any larvae in it, since frames like tha above simply can’t be spun -W]

Les abeilles nouvelles sont arrivees

Although I can’t really be sure if they are new this year or overwintered. See one of them has orange legs – this is a good sign – bringing pollen back in.

Today was a lovely warm still sunny day in Cambridge and environs, and at this time of year a middle-aged mans thoughts turn to the jungle at the end of the garden, and how he really ought to make some effort to tame it. So I boldly set out and hacked a path through; it is now possible to get down to Bin Brook for the first time in… quite a while. The Cambridge Preservation Society have been busy tidying up on the other side (the lane that used to take tractors had shrunk down to a narrow path barely passable in high summer), so we now have freedom to roam, hurrah. I also hacked down some brambles round the old apple tree, and we went to the Orchard to buy more pansies and a miscellany of other plants, few of which saw the earth today. Though we did get two rows of carrots in, and some nice red things whose name keeps escaping me. They are sort of droopy upside-down things.

Bee blogging

In theory I have a blog about bees, called with a stunning lack of originality williams bees. However, its moribund, and I can’t be bothered to maintain more than one blog, so for the record: I’m down to one hive now, the one pictured, except I’ve cut the nettles back a little. Spring brought a reasonable crop, mostly rape of course; also at least one swarm, which went to Nikola. Summer was disappointing in England, in general quite wet, and come the autumn my harvest was essentially nil. I could have spun off a few frames, maybe six; but I preferred to leave them the honey to overwinter with (after my very first year of beekeeping I have had no truck with the technique of taking off all the honey, then feeding them sugar syrup to keep them going. Its messy, tedious, pointless and expensive for an amateur like me). The anti-varroa treatment this year is apiguard, which is more tedious to use than bayvarol or apistan, but I took the second treatment pan out today. So hopefully they are now set for the winter.