Thursday, 22 December 2011

Bee!

The weather has been somewhat erratic of late. A spell of very heavy morning frosts, a spell of the wet and windies, and last Friday a spell of snow which came to nothing but made the North Downs look very pretty for a few hours.

And today it is mild and bright and sunny! And the top bar bees are out and about and being quite raucous like they are wending their way home from a particularly feisty Christmas party. They are staggering a bit, if it is possible to fly in a staggering way, and the figure of eight bee dance looks a bit more like a wobbly figure of half-deflated balloon dance. But some of the gals are coming back with enormous trousers, so they are finding food from somewhere and it's nice to know they're able to get out for an al fresco bee poo, rather than use the indoor facilities.

We checked the hives at the out-apiary on Tuesday. Andy pressed his ear to each hive and reported definite humming from each. Especially the three storey hive. Very loud humming apparently. Humming like it was a hive full of a gazzillion bees.

Therefore, we are hopeful that our four colonies will survive the Winter. Touch wood, fingers crossed and all the jazz.

Actually, we have concerns for the smallest colony which was born of one of the swarms. It achieved about three quarters capacity with the help of some additional feeding at the tail end of Autumn. The Queen was laying well for a new, late season Queen. She did her best, bless her. But we think that some candy feed might be in order.
'I'll buy some now from the interwebbly,' said Andy. 'So when the weather gets really cold,' (which we think it will), 'we can pop a block of fondant on for them.'

Fondant itself is quite cheap. It is also very heavy. Like a brick. Which means that postage costs 150% more than the product itself. But hurrah! We have discovered we can make our own fondant and given I purchased a massive sack of sugar for the feeding of the bees and we have a preserving pan for the making of sugar related products, we are going to make our own fondant and sod the postage and packaging.

It's been a bit chaotic, our journey into bee-keeping. But some how, possibly under the guidance of the patron Saint of Bee-Keeping who has no doubt done a lot of eye-ball rolling at our sometimes frantic and panicked methods, book in one hand, dollop of laissez-faire luck in the other, we have survived our second year.

Andy pointed out that if the bees behave next year like they did this year, then this time next year we could well have 16 hives.

Good grief!

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