A late night preparing more hive equipment last night, has left me with an evening relatively free. So, with a bottle of red open, I wanted to share some pictures and thoughts about swarm seven of the season. I took three pictures of the queen of this swarm, but the intelligent autofocus of my camera was not intelligent enough to get those shots in focus, and after three of the ‘girls’ trying to sting my hands, I wasn’t going to risk taking my gloves off to focus the thing manually.
It’s nearly midnight, and I’ve just come indoors, after assembling more hives, to house my growing collection of bees. It’s not my choice to work so late, but the lack of rain means that I have to water my potted plants in the morning, my newly planted trees in the late afternoon/evening, and in the middle of the day I’m trying to catch up with my other chores, whilst maintaining my swarm watch. During my first round of checks yesterday, I saw one swarm emerging , and settling, which is pretty normal. What I wasn’t sure about was the noise and activity around the hive that was probably responsible for my first swarm of the season.
2009 was another busy year at the Sustainable Smallholding, with changes to the management of my bees, an increase in the number of chickens, and hives, the addition of ducks, the creation of swales, and lots of experimental growing. This included growing tobacco, manuka, eucalyptus, acacia, small scale wheat growing etc. So I thought that I’d do a short summary, and a look forward to my plans for next year.
Again it has been a while since my last post. The things keeping me busy are Bees, Scything, and Planting out, and all are linked.
One of the things that has occupied me of late is Scything. I ran the first course here on the 23rd May, am teaching at the Scything festival next weekend 13/14 June, running a workshop in Kent on the 18th, and another course here on the 20th. In addition to that, I have my own grass to mow. You can read a little more on my Scything Blog, the Grinning Reaper
Beekeeping has also been keeping me busy. I introduced four new queens last week, and so far all are OK. I still have to locate a queen, who somehow managed to get above the queen excluder. I found no evidence of eggs/larvae in the brood chamber, assumed the worst, and ordered another queen, which arrives tomorrow. Today I found larvae and queen cells in the supers, and will have to hunt through three boxes to find the queen, before splitting the hive, and introducing another queen. I have also been helping other people with their bees, and have to get everything fitted in so that all of the swarming checks, fit around my scything schedule.
In the Vegetable Garden I have been planting out as much as I can. Most things are growing well, although something is eating my lentils, and clover. The wheat experiment is going well, with most plants having between Twenty and Thirty Tillers, each of which should develop into an ear of Wheat. here is a picture of one of the beds. Sadly I didn’t include anything to give you an idea of the height of the plants, which have reached about three feet. One or two of the plants have blown over in strong winds, but most are growing really strongly. I will sprout and grow the next batch after the Summer Solstice, and plant them out later in the year, perhaps after lifting main crop potatoes. The lentils are growing well in the gaps between the wheat, and I think that peas would also grow well there. I’ve started the tedious job of potting on nearly two hundred Eucalyptus seedlings, some of which will be planted out in the Autumn, depending on how big they get. The smaller ones will wait until next year. I have the same to do with Mimosa and Passion Flowers. All for the bees. My work would be much less if I didn’t have bees.
Until next time
Things have been hectic again, and I cannot believe that it’s been so long since my last post. The aspect of my smallholding life that has been keeping me so busy has been beekeeping. This is a hectic time of the year as far as the bees are concerned, but the changeable weather, and a breakdown in communications, has made it even busier.
Firstly the good news. I extracted my first batch of honey for this year. 37lbs from one hive, which came from two supers. That is all of the honey that we will use in the next twelve months, put into jars in mid May. There is still a full super on, plus a spare brood body, which is being filled as well. The brood body is to give me frames of food to give to new hives, when I make increase. That should have been last week. I ordered four new queens, from an importer who has always been good in the past, with instructions to let me know if there was going to be a delay. No message came, so I created three new hives, and removed an old failing queen from another, ready to introduce the new queens the following day. They didn’t turn up, and will not get here before the end of this week, nine days late, at least. I have had to buy a product called Bee Boost, which is an artificial pheremone, designed to replace one given out by the queen. I’m hoping that this will keep the queenless hives working, and believing that there is a queen present, until the new queens cam be introduced. I’ve not tried it before, and it’s not what I would have chosen to do, but I don’t want to lose them. The bees for the three hives all came from one huge colony. Each hive has six frames of bees, including stores, but not much sealed brood. The colony was preparing to swarm, and I think that they had stopped the queen from laying, and were trimming her down to fly. The parent colony is still very strong, and I will need to monitor them, to see if the removal of so many bees has deterred them from swarming, and that the queen is laying again.
I have also been helping a local business with their bees. We have carried out a shook swarm on one colony, and moved it to a new location, and I have to do the second hive tomorrow. Weather permitting. The work is helping out my finances, and it’s nice to work with bees in a situation where cost is not a concern. I’m hoping that this will develop into something really special. The bees are being moved temporarily, so that a better apiary can be constructed. The bees will go back onto a 500 acre Biodynamic farm, and we may be able to adjust their planting regime, in order to provide additional forage. They already grow acres of good stuff, and the farm is just over the road from my own bees:-) I’ll keep you posted.
I have used essential oils in my feed, hoping that it would help with my varroa regime. I came across this article recently, which you might find interesting. varroa article
It’s dated 1996, so I’m not sure how up to date it is, but if you look at some of the treatments offerred these days, they are just essential oils, either natural, or synthetic. the same goes for some of the feed supplements.
Here are some more useful links. Varroa Control
I hope that you find them useful. I got the most from them by reading them, and then following all of the links, and reading those too. It helps with doses, methods, etc.
As I’m not looking to sell honey, but would prefer to raise more bees, I’m toying with the idea of only having two colonies at a time producing honey, and keeping the remainder for bee breeding. This would allow me to keep feeding with essential oils, without worrying about them getting into the honey. Having said that, I would rather have them in my honey, than some of the other chemicals. This regime would allow me to create strong colonies for splitting, with plenty of stores. The stores would contain the oils, which would then be used to raise young bees. The benefits of that are apparent from the first link. Less varroa, more bees, clean bees.
I’ve been making new hives, nucleus hives, a swarm box, and a couple of bait hives. I have liaised with a local pest control company, and arranged to collect their swarms, and put leaflets through doors in my village, to let people know that they can contact me for swarm collection. I suspect that when this windy, wet weather breaks, swarming will start in earnest, and I might run out of hives. I should be so lucky.
There are some things to update you with, that are not bee related, but I’ll save that for later this week.