It’s been a while since my last post and quite a lot has happened!
At Archerfield we had three original hives moved from Gosford and then we moved a fourth to take advantage of the Oil Seed Rape. In June we carried out some artificial swarming taking the total number of hives to six. However, not all the artificial swarms worked, and we were back to four viable hives by the end of June but still hopeful a mated queen would show up in the other two!
At Gosford, we had six hives and carried out one artificial swarm to make seven. With all extra equipment gone, there was no further opportunities to prevent swarms so we were just hopeful that by adding extra super space, we’d give them enough room.
At our last inspection at the beginning of July, before going on holiday, we thought we had 11 viable colonies and there was no signs of swarming.
However, being away for the rest of July, in what felt like the longest hottest period I can ever remember, was not the best beekeeping plan! Swarming season is May, June and July. I know this. But in past experience, it’s been all over by the end of June. Not this year! We got back to several colonies that looked liked they’d repeatedly swarmed until there was nothing left. Those that had no queen before we left, still didn’t and were no longer viable. We had terrible trouble with wasps at Archerfield and, despite doing the usual wasp deterrents, the weaker colonies were attacked and didn’t survive.
To add to our troubles, the bees can be quite aggressive during inspections at this time of year and with my recent allergic reaction problems, we’re just not willing to carry out inspections that have an added risk. We therefore had a bit of trouble trying to get round all the hives and get a snapshot of what we thought was happening.
Our best guess is that we have four viable hives at Gosford. They’re big, busy and we’re assuming their ferocity proves their viability. They looked like they had lots of stores but we’re currently feeding them sugar water and will continue to do so until the first week in October. Hopefully they’ll make it through the winter.
At Archerfield, our best guess is that we have one viable hive that looks strong and busy. The other hive had little brood and we couldn’t find the queen. However, she could have started reducing her laying for winter so we’re not sure if it’s a worrying sign or not. We merged a queenless colony with this colony using the newspaper and icing sugar technique so hopefully, if there is a queen, we’ve boosted the colony numbers and they’ll go into winter a good strength. Again, we’re feeding sugar water and will continue to do so until the first week in October, after which time, it’s too late for the bees to process and store for winter.
Before starting to feed, we took off all supers so that no honey would get mixed up with sugar water. I then started processing the honey but with a break at Sunday tea time for a quick trip to A&E. Having quite aggressively smoked the bees out of the last few supers without incident, we were pretty confident we’d made it home with only a few stragglers. True to form those few emerged and made their way to the patio doors where I let them out. However there must have been a pesky bee determined not to leave her honey because as I reached to pick up a super full of honey, I got a super sting on the finger instead. Without any gloves on, I got a full dose and had to scrape the stinger out with a knife. Even with Piriton and Piriteze already in my system from being at the bees earlier, I unfortunately started to feel unwell. After taking more Piriton and some steroids, Stuart wasn’t happy, so with EpiPen in hand, we made or way to A&E. Top tip to beat the queue, turn up with allergic reaction breathing difficulties! Anyway, long story short, A&E were brilliant, few more steroids, observed for an hour and I was good to go! It’s that difficult call, do you wait in the house for half an hour to see ‘what will happen’ with the risk of having to call an ambulance or do you use that half an hour to get to the hospital but turn up and the medication has started to take effect? Stuart would argue the latter is the better option which is why he always puts me in the car and I love him for it!
On a final note, and apologies for such a long blog post, although it is disappointing to loose colonies, which I haven’t experienced before, it does free up equipment for cleaning, maintenance and disposal of old frames. It means we’ll start next season with enough equipment to carry out swarm prevention or splitting of hives to hopefully build up again. It also might not be such bad thing in terms of time and commitment as it’s been quite full on this year!
For those of you who have made it to the end of this blog – watch out for a honey sale announcement soon!