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