Monday, 13 April 2015


The 'new' hive in place by 9pm. Note gaffer-tape and straps.
You'll probably have read of our recent bee hive disaster and you may have picked up on the fact that I was delighted to be offered help by a fellow member of our Longford Beekeepers Assoc'n (BKA). I was anxiously awaiting her call. Bees and equipment do not come cheap so I could hardly believe that this lovely and very generous lady was offering me a whole colony. Fair play to her, she had been "gifted" a colony back when she started up and feels that if she then gifts a colony on when she is established and asks that person to do the same, then the world of bee keeping will be a far better place. We'll call her BO'D on here (No, not Brian O'Driscoll!) and she happened to be inspecting her 6 hives with our good friend Elspeth (who showed us our first active colony last year as part of our initiation) when I phoned the latter in my distress at finding our hive failure. She volunteered the colony without hesitation. Thank you so much BO'D. We definitely owe you.

10,000 passengers in the co-pilot's seat? Blocks of wood to
hold the hive up off the seat, pallet straps and rubber
bungees to keep it in place.
It won't surprise you to know that there is a whole art and complex M.O. around moving bees about. I won't bore you with it all here but the main pointers are that you have to do it late evening after all the flying worker bees have come home, you have to seal up the hive to stop any escapes in the vehicle and you have to be so, so gentle. When I say seal it up, you have to, of course, keep it ventilated as there is a risk that the bees get angry, the colony starts to 'roar' and the heat cooks the bees. You can arrive at your destination with a sticky mess of dead bees and melted wax and honey.

One of three dogs badly in need of a haircut.  Poppy. All three
 got it today - so much dog hair!
So you keep the mesh floor and the standard roof, windows open in the car if need be, no heater running and your ear attuned to the slightest change of noise from the colony. The 'gently' thing is because a lot of the bees world is all about the delicate and calm vibrations of 'waggle dances' and quiet communication. They do not cope at all well with thumps, lurches or vibrations such as you might find, for example, on a car journey and it is the angry bees, leaping to the defence of their colony, which do the heating up.

Plum blossom starting so the bees' arrival was timely.
Frames of foundation hang in the hive rather like filing cabinet files and, if you are not careful they can "flap" from the top lugs, so you load the hive into the car with the frames aligned N/S so that braking and acceleration will not flap them, and then take all the bends and roundabouts and changes of camber really gently. If they flap there is a risk of bees (and the queen of course) getting squashed and squashed bees give off 'attack' pheromones. It all has to be nice and quiet and calm. Of course the commercial boys move hives around all the time, migrating from fruit trees to citrus to almonds or oil seed rape to heather, sometimes on 1000-hive loads on HGVs stacked on pallets, but they also have an army of jobbing beekeepers to keep it all under control. I just had BO'D to help me load and then me and the little Fiat for our journey home in the dark and a wheelbarrow to get me from car to apiary.

The piggies are settling in well and have even had a few
visitors tempting them with apples. 
It went OK as far as I know. There was no 'roar'. The bees stayed quiet and were quiet when I gently laid the hive on its stand next to my existing stand. I un gaffer-taped the floor/brood join and pulled the piece of foam rubber out of the entrance. The theory is that they will calm down and recover from the trauma of the journey over night, wake up and start sending out scouts who will quickly spot that they are in new surroundings. Roscommon, not Longford! They will therefore start the day doing 'orientation flights' (which young new bees would be doing anyway) and re-write their visual maps of how to get back to the hive as well as sussing out all the local resources (gorse, pussy willow, orchard trees, dandelions, etc).

These brasses were a gift from Diamond
just before she died and have now been
mounted in this lovely moose-skin leather
"frame" created by the superbly 'crafty'
They have been set down right next to the old hive to rest the night. The plan is, within a few days, to move the frames and bees into the old hive; any of the 'old' bees still using it will hopefully be merged into the new colony to see out their final days. This will free up BO'D's boxes, floor, crown board and roof which I can then populate with brand new frames and wax "foundation" and give back to her to put back into her apiary to take one of her 2015 hive 'splits' or swarms.

Sophie Grigson brine.
So that is that, so far. We are back in the bee game.What else have I done today? Tomorrow is my birthday and though any celebrations will get postponed till Liz returns from the latest mission of mercy, one traditional mid-April event DID take place, the end-of-winter clip of the three dogs who were, by then, seriously shaggy. I do this myself. It's not beautiful or very highly skilled - I'd never be able to set up in business as a dog groomer, but I do relieve them of enough fur between the three, to make a fourth dog and this goes out onto the compost for the nesting birds to make use of. When we were cleaning out nest boxes in September in Kent we could easily tell whose fur had been used - the texture of Megan's coat was so hard compared to Haggis's fly-away wisps.

I also decided to convert some of last year's Tamworth pork into bacon/gammon (as in 'bacon and cabbage', not rashers). For this I was disappointed by the lack of recipes for brine in my two best pork books, and turned to the Gubbeen cheese-farm book given to us by Mazy. The Gubbeen people use a Sophie Grigson recipe for their brine and I was quickly able to track it down. As you'd expect this had the salt and sugar (plus salt petre if you are concerned that the bacon is not pink enough au naturel (we aren't)) but also, being Sophie Grigson, has me lashing in juniper berries, grated nutmeg, bay leaves, thyme, black peppercorns and cloves. She also says to add anything else that "goes with pork". It can only improve the shining hour.

Ah well, enough from me. I'll be the one anxiously checking that there are bees coming and going from that new hive tomorrow morning. Happy Birthday, me.

1 comment:

chapmancathy5 said...


MARK.CATHYx & lots of licks from Kes.