A rare frost has covered South London in a white crust. The temperature has dropped below eight degrees for a few days so I’ve taken this as an opportunity to treat my hives with Oxalic Acid. This winter ritual marks, for me, the end of the beekeeping year and is a time to reflect on past performance as well as look forward to the upcoming year.
This year I acquired a new apiary on a local farmer’s land. It is a beautiful spot next to a lake, the hives sit in a small wild flower meadow; if I were a bee it’s the sort of place I’d want to live. I have almost unlimited space to place hives at this site, however, I don’t have unlimited time hence my goal is to eventually house only four full time hives here.
Before searching for a new apiary site I researched how to go about finding one. Most of the advice centered on knocking door to door at places which you would want to to host a beehive. However, I have a distinct dislike of people randomly knocking on my door so didn’t feel comfortable inflecting the same behaviour on others. With that in mind I took a simpler and frankly lazier route – I placed an advert in a local newspaper. It was surprisingly effective, within three weeks I had around a dozen responses.
My attempts at having any discipline around recordkeeping this year have been an abject failure. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m simply over complicating it with my addiction to technology in the form of apps and spreadsheets. I’ve tried various applications on my phone, both specialist beekeeping recordkeeping apps as well as other software such as evernote which I’ve used successfully in my working life for several years.
But in truth sometimes pen and paper is the easiest option. So next year I’ll be placing some record cards under my hive roofs. It’s less fiddly than trying to update an app on my phone whilst wearing gloves and surrounded by smoky bees.
I’m sure when seasoned beekeepers read this part of my blog post they’ll roll their eyes.
With my new apiary site secured I placed two small nucs that I’d been keeping at my bee club’s training apiary. These had been raised from the two hives I keep at that site which are both fairly gentle stock.
Both nucs only had three frames of brood and stores and by placing them in full sized 12×14 hives I assumed they would have acres of rooms to grow for several weeks. Underestimating the productivity of my bees I then proceeded to leave them to their own devices for several weeks … oops.
Weeks later I returned to inspect them finding chaos. Both hives were completely drawn out, packed with stores and brood. One had swarmed and the other had closed queen cells. In one particularly productive hive the bees had made their way into the roof and filled it with honey stores.
I find bees are really the best teachers a beekeeper could have and they’ve taught me here that weekly inspections really aren’t optional.