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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, Blackbirds, Brood, Honey Bees

“This beekeeper is bleak with lack…”

Well, no, not this particular beekeeper who looks pretty satisfied. But, I did like the look of this German stained glass window, with the bees buzzing all around.

But, we are all a bit bleak with lack in winter, are we not, without our bees to keep us on our toes. This line is from a poetry journal given to me by my friend Kitty for Christmas:  Bee Journal by Sean Borodale, winner of the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize. As the title indicates, the book is composed of somewhat weekly short verses on the topic of seasonal beekeeping.  This particular verse can be found under “14 February.”  I like the image of the beekeeper going out “white from head to toe” as there are no bees as of yet buzzing about. Also this verse mentions  “the blackbird’s stark evocative and murderous motor of keeping active”  something I am quite familiar with as we have a veritable tear-away gang of them in the yard.

But best of all is the last line: “the hive is magnetic and grows magnetic…”  In stark contrast to the previous brief entry from January: “Everything is senile. I ask the box to speak about its bees.”

Winter feeding in December 

As beekeepers, we can’t really afford to wait for the box to speak to us. We must, in winter, force it to speak after a fashion in order to make sure it has enough food and in order to ensure its health.  In December, we were able to do a very quick check of the hives on a more clement day and at the same time give them some little slabs of fondant. When they are not being pissed off at us for opening the hives, they are all over the fondant when we put it across the frames. From our main hive, we also remove a slug that seems to have taken up residence. I check very quickly to see if any damage has been done, but not much that I can see. In the hive roof there are all manner of creepy crawlies which we evict.

Oxcylic Acid in early January

It’s funny, they’re always looking like they are interested in the fondant. But when we open the hive in early January for the oxcylic treatment, it doesn’t look as if they have made that much of a dent in it. I always read on other blogs how the bees gobble the stuff up and fresh fondant has to be applied. But not with our bees.

To be honest, this winter varroa treatment has me flummoxed. So flummoxed in fact that last winter I was flummoxed right into inaction.  The reason? All this talk about doing it now in December and only if a check of the frames reveals no brood. Before, it was fairly simple: wait for a warm January day. Now, I have to pull frames out? In winter? I don’t care how quickly you can do it, I really feel that it interferes too much with the bees at a time of the year when they are most vulnerable.  So, last year nothing because I kept going back and forth about it.  As it happens, nothing dreadful occured; they made it through the winter and judging by all accounts, were not struck down with any more varroa than any other beehive.

This year, I wondered what to do. Then, I kept reading about people doing varroa treatments in January on the BBKA FB discussion list (in fact, I just read of a man who, because of illness, has just applied his treatment in this first week of February).  And no one was heaping scorn upon their heads for waiting so late.  So, we did ours early January.

But they do insist on keeping us guessing

Today, is a lovely, bright day. About noon time, the garage bees (the mean beasties) are out and about. The main hive, all quiet, nothing.  Now, the sun hits the garage hive earlier in the day; the main hive later. I am hoping that once the main hive gets its dose of sun, there will be some activity. But can’t stop myself, between writing, reading, laundry, making beds, repeatedly going out to check.***  Yes, I am bleak with lack….

Rats in early Feb

OK, I have been promising you a rat story for a few months, Now, it’s become more of a story than I would like.  Back in December, my husband and I noticed a rat about the premises during daylight. We tried to keep an eye out for it to see if it would be followed by the trillions. Much the opposite. One day, instead of running off at our approach, it stayed still but trembling. We were convinced it had been poisoned. It ran off into the wood, and we stopped seeing it.

Until this week. Probably another one, lured out again in daylight by the bird banquet. I was willing to cut it some slack. After all, with all the fields, farm land and orchards about it would find more luscious offerings come spring. Or maybe our resident owls would get it. Or the cats who have claimed our yard as their territory (although come to think of it, we have not seen much of them recently). However, two things have dissuaded me from the more tolerant approach:  firstly, that it actually charges the birds off the food and practically runs them down; secondly, we have found a suspicious hole near one of our water pipes on the side of the house. Fortunately, our house is old enough and Fen enough to have foundations that go quite deep and does not have cavity brick walls. I have filled the hole with bricks after trying to investigate its depth/length with a stick. It has all the appearance of being abandoned.

But, a) I’m not spending a fortune on bird food to feed rats, and b)once it tries to breach my ramparts (oh my, sounds a bit euphemistic!), then it’s on, baby.

So, after opining about squirrel poisoning, I am contemplating this option (do I hear choruses of ‘Hypocrite’?) However, my husband wants to humanely trap it. Which I am ok with, but he is on notice that he is responsible for the results….

But let’s not end on thoughts of ratkins….

Although the country cousin brown rat (according to Wikipedia:  “also referred to as common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat,Norway rat, brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat (Rattus norvegicus) is one of the best known and most common rat.”) is surprisingly plump and cuddly-looking.

Let’s contemplate a few other gifts received in the last few months of 2014 (people who know an unrepentant poisoner like myself are surprisingly generous): a wax candle hive and bee from my mother, and a turkey plate from my friend, Jo.  Enjoy!


***Phew! For the last hour (from 3:30), the main hive bees have come out to meet the sun. Panic over!


Image By Ingeborg Bernhard (Schnorch) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bee-keeper.jpg

For more about The Bee Journal, see http://www.seanborodale.com/beejournal.html


13 thoughts on ““This beekeeper is bleak with lack…”

  1. Have you thought about, instead of poison, setting out spring trap(s)? You know the ones, they have a wooden base, the trapper (you. or your husband), places a morsel of food, and the unwitting rat (they’re not really, one of the problems with them is they’re very smart), commences chowing down on a snack and BOOM!!! the metal springs clamp down, usually on the head/neck and dispense with the rat immediately. It’s quick–he/she doesn’t know what happened. The likelihood is that no one else would be affected, but of course, kitties and other desirables should be kept at a distance. The results of the spring-loaded trap are gross, but…you wouldn’t have a rat.

    Until next time.

    Posted by Tina | February 8, 2015, 4:32 pm
    • It is likely we will go for a trap, but which one is still undecided. My husband as I said in the post wants one of those humane traps where you escort it somewhere else and set it free. But where? I ask him. No one will thank him for setting a rat free near their houses. And what if it’s like a dog, making it’s way back on the Incredible Voyage. I’m with you: if we are going to do the deed, then just do it….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 8, 2015, 5:36 pm
      • Oh, don’t feel any guilt, pound that rat. One rat becomes many, and chewed spoilt items. A trap is better than poison if possible (it is quick, and will not harm dogs, cats). Never catch and release rats, it just gives the problem to someone else. May your flowers bloom, and the nectar flow for your girls this year.

        Posted by wingless1 | February 12, 2015, 8:34 pm
      • I know, I know. Getting a little soft in my old age. Still, we live among farmland orchards, so rats are a natural part of the population…

        Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 13, 2015, 10:44 am
  2. “really feel that it interferes too much with the bees at a time of the year when they are most vulnerable” I know what you mean… me and Emma have been doing oxalic acid as close to the December winter solstice as possible, but have stopped short at pulling frames out to destroy the brood. With the warm December we had I realise we won’t have killed all the mites as there was probably brood present, but I just can’t bring myself to distress the bees so.

    Posted by Emily Scott | February 8, 2015, 5:42 pm
  3. Poison can be fatal to anything that eats a rodent before it dies as they bleed out to die. I have found dead bled out mice in the yard from the neighbors. One day their dog may get into it. The most humane way to kill is a well placed snap trap that won’t catch any other wildlife. This is info learned from a rehabbers and my sister a small animal vet..

    Posted by Rambling Woods | February 9, 2015, 5:32 am
  4. I tend to leave the bees alone after wrapping them up. I’m still new to this but I feed them in autumn, keep their hive protected and let them do their own thing in winter, then feed them again in the spring. So far, this method has worked for me.

    Posted by P&B | February 12, 2015, 4:25 am
  5. The new advice for oxalic treatment is to do a quick inspection a day or so before to check for brood, because, of course, the oxalic acid is less effective if the hive has brood, and harmful to the brood. I don’t think that you need to open a hive and pull out frames to see if it has brood. From observing our bees flying in and out, and watching them move as busily over the frames as they do in summer told us that there was likely to be brood in there. That activity hasn’t stopped all winter, so there never would have been a good time to give oxalic acid. We gave it anyway, as Emily says, before winter solstice as is traditional. Spring will tell the effects of this mild winter.

    Love Sean Borodale by the way.

    Posted by Emma Sarah Tennant | March 1, 2015, 11:42 am
    • I know, that’s exactly what I would do: regardless of what was going on, I would still administer the treatment, just to be on the safe side. I can’t think we are in the minority. I kike the idea of the solstice, gives me a definite to grab onto.

      With borodale, for me I think it is more the subject, than his style. He does have some good turns of phrases, though.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | March 2, 2015, 9:21 am
  6. Sorry, I hope it is obvious I meant ‘like’….

    Posted by mylatinnotebook | March 2, 2015, 9:53 am

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