The first hives of which I can find pictures are almost trees in their simplicity. At a guess, some hollow tree full of bees had been plastered with clay and carried into the bee garden, laid upon stakes and fitted with a movable plank front … The interesting point is that the honey is being cut off by a curved knife, into a bowl, and the bees are flying round indignantly. Dorothy Hartley Food in England MacDonald & Jane’s, 1954.
I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer….
We closed active bee season in autumn around here with a bit of a dilemma, one we have not had to face because we’ve never had it before. The ‘it’ being honey. Of course, the bees have had their stores in the brood box, and every once in a while, they might look like they were readying to accumulate something major in the honey super. But then nothing much would happen.
This year though, we had about a half a dozen frames worth of honey in the lower super of our main hive–Let the good times roll! But it was spread out over the frames so in August we thought we would wait a bit and see if they did anything with it. But no. So we had to decide a)whether we should take the super away, and b)extract the honey. We were able to answer the second pretty quickly: not enough honey to warrant borrowing an extractor and embarking on all that work and mess. There was enough there to get a jar or two, though. It was around early autumn that I came across an interesting blog post that described the process of crushing comb, complete with photos. I immediately thought “That’s for us!” Maybe the same amount if not more mess, but low-tech, low cost. I think at the time I had ‘Liked’ the post, but have lost sight of it now unfortunately. I am going to try to find it, though, because the photos are really helpful. Luckily, though, Rusty over at the Honey Bee Suite covered the subject in early December in her post No extractor, no problem.. [I have since found this wonderful video on Linda's Bees blog. This gal knows her stuff!]
The next issue took a little more time to resolve because what we wanted to do seemed to go against all that we were taught in bee practice. You might remember in past bee inspection posts that we had been a bit concerned about the lack of complete stores in the brood box of the main hive. Because we had only about 6 frames of honey spread across the super we thought it might be best to leave the super on, through winter if necessary, in case the bees needed it. But we were not sure if this was appropriate or recommendable.
On the Long Lane Honey Bee Farms blog post, How Much Honey to Leave On?, I found what seems like sensible advice pertinet to our situation (albeit for a climate a bit colder than found in southern England):
Another common mistake is to think that a surplus of honey stored in supers guarantees there is plenty of stored honey in the brood nest area. This is not always the case. A colony can use two brood boxes to raise brood during the summer and store their winter surplus in the upper supers. Then, as late summer
and fall approaches, the colony will move the honey from the supers down into the upper deep.If a beekeeper removes all supers filled with honey without inspecting the brood nest area for stored honey, the hive could go into winter with very little stored honey
Honey frames can always be removed in spring before the season begins in earnest.
So this is what we have done.
Did I say ‘grim death’?
In November and December, we had quite a range of weather here, from a deep freeze with hard frosts to balmy almost spring-like weather. We continued to be concerned about the main hive on the balmy days. While the garage bees would be flying about on their poo flights, there would be no sign of movement from the main hive. So worried was I that I finally opened the hive on a day that was somewhere between balmy and deep freeze (week after Christmas I think). Much to my astonishment and relief, the bees in the main hive were not only fine, but vigorously so. To the extent that whenerver I tried to move about the frames in the super, they became exceedingly grumpy. They clung on to the frames, looking at me with their little bee eyes as if to say “Go on. Make our day.” As I hadn’t bothered to light a smoker, I felt little able to indulge their mood for stinging. I slapped some fondant in the main and garage hives and got out of town (so to speak).
Now we have snow and freezing temperatures, so no sign of life from either hive. We have ordered some oxalic acid in preparation for their January treatment.
Of Bees and Sheep
One of the enjoyable activities in which we participate as members of the local beekeeping association is staffing the bee booth at various events around the county. The last was at Ely Cathedral for its Harvest Festival. Although we had a lot of interest, we were located across from live sheep, and as we were without our glass hive of live bees, we were hard-pressed to compete! The sheep even made it into the newspaper account
Yet Another Queen Bee
I began this post with a quote from a book everyone must read. Yes, I said everyone (I made this comment at Thanksgiving dinner, and someone actually followed my orders! Must be because it’s a great book, or I am very persuasive, or because I made the best turkey of my life….). Dorothy Hartley essentially traveled around England to gather the information for this book. It was published in the 50s and is still in print. And, it’s not the food of royalty or upper class, but of everybody. For example, there is the process for assembling the ‘Bargee’s Pail’, resembling the ‘Mediaval Cauldron’. Basically this is the slow cooker for those working on barges, cooking not only the main meal but dessert as well all in one pot. Each course or component of the meal was separated by a layer of pastry.
And just one last question….
Why is it every time we have a warm day around here, a ginormous wasp appears out of nowhere?
****Almost forgot! The charming picture is of a bee sculpture given as a Christmas gift by Tony, he of the Christmas nuc last year and of the better photos to be seen on this blog. It is now a piece of garden sculpture, hanging on our garage. Thanks, Tony. Now get to work on that sour dough bread for my birthday!