Reviewing the year

dorset triangle

It seems no time at all since I was standing in front of my hive, in March, watching my bees bringing in their little golden baskets of pollen and hoping that this year would be more successful than the previous one. And now it is a frosty November and they are all tucked up again ready for the winter and it is time to reflect on this year’s successes and failures and to make some plans for next year.

On the whole, it has been a pretty successful year. I seem to remember I was hoping to have two strong colonies by the end of the year. Instead, my one hive has grown (with a little reinforcement) into three strong colonies as well as two good nucs. I had a healthy honey harvest – much welcome after last year’s dismal crop – and I have learned so much both from working with the bees but also studying to take the BBKA Module 1. I know anything can happen over winter, but my plan is to maintain three colonies next year – at least that is my thinking at the moment.

Unfortunately my bees are rather stroppy and this is pretty unacceptable. One exception is the nuc that I made up with the new queen I purchased from Ged Marshall late in the season. I was very indecisive about what to do with her and I should have put her into colony 3 when it started getting bad-tempered. Instead, I dithered about.

I need to do something about this situation, so the plan is to move this nuc (the green one), next to the most scary bees (far hive) in the cold winter weather. As the bees will be clustering and not venturing out, I will be able to move them without worrying about the 3 foot rule. As soon as it is warm enough, next spring, I will remove the stroppy queen and unite the two together, replacing the hive floor, brood box and half the frames at the same time. The intended outcome is a wonderfully calm colony with lovely friendly bees in a beautiful clean and hygienic new hive.

The trouble is that the other hives will still all be fairly unpleasant. I will need to give this some thought as I won’t have any other queens to play with at that time of year. I’ll just see how they all fair over winter and then make some decisions.

efb3There was an outbreak of EFB at one of the association apiaries which has been a stark reminder of how important each inspection is and to know what to look for. It was so sad to hear about all the hives that had to be destroyed. It’s when something like this happens that you realise how much you need to know.

Since I last posted I applied to take BBKA Module 1 (Honey Bee Management). As I won’t be able to take it next Spring I decided to have a go in November. I knew I was pushing it, but I did study really hard. However, I seemed to go to pieces in the exam. I came out and would have liked to start all over again as I knew most of what I was asked but couldn’t get my act together in the allotted time. I hadn’t taken an exam since I was eighteen and it was a bit of a shock!! Although I haven’t had the results yet I think I know the outcome. The annoying thing is that I won’t be able to retake until next Autumn – but the good thing is that I really learned a lot and it has given me a more confidence. I now understand some of the principles behind the various things going on in and around the hive. I am not sure I will be up to a retake as well as doing a second module at the same time. Perhaps I need to start revising now.

the apprentice

I was busy the weekend of the National Honey Show, so didn’t go this year. I did however enter several items – two cakes, biscuits, fudge, medium and light honey and a painting – into our association’s Show. It was very disappointing as many of the usual members weren’t around this year and as a result it was very poorly attended. The upside was that I actually scored most points and will receive an award from the association. But I feel like a complete fraud as it was all for cooking etc and that is not what beekeeping is all about. Hopefully next year we can encourage more members to have a go at something.

I am going to take advantage of the very much reduced time spent in the apiary and clean and prepare all my equipment for next year. I also need to check how well I have stacked all my supers as I am a little concerned that they are not protected against wax moth who can cause complete havoc. Its very cramped and not easy to manage all the kit in my current shed. So when I have a little more energy I will prepare the end of the garden for a new shed. I have already cut down the philadelphus in anticipation…

So much to do.

Lessons to self from this year: Be decisive; have the courage of my conviction; make sure I can recognise all the different signs of pests and diseases.

 

 

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