Wednesday 28 May 2014

School's Out!

Enjoying the surprise sunshine on Tuesday 27th.
In the previous post, we were just fresh from our Bee Keeper, 'preliminary' level written test and waiting on a slot for our practical 'exam'. Well, that came through the same day and we were instructed to show up on the Monday (26th) at the Longford Group's club apiary out north of Longford town, in the forest alongside Cullyfad village. We had to be suited and booted, gloved and armed with a smoker. We were also advised that because this test was to be done by Mary H, one of the "Two Marys", whose specialist subject is bee and hive diseases, that we'd do well to bone up on that subject. Further they thought it a good idea that we should all know how to take a sample of 30 bees for sending away for testing, should you need to. You use a special technique to catch them in a matchbox, but more of that later.

Back on the knitting - a cardie for R
Off we trundled the now familiar hour's run to Longford, but diverting off just short, headed for Cullyfad where we luckily came upon one of the Committee members out of his car and knocking a 'Bee Exam' sign into the roadside turf with a hammer. We followed him 'home'. The club has half a dozen hives well up a forest track where the road widens enough for them to have parked the club's container and the hives. We looked a bizarre sight, 20 odd bee keepers all in our brilliant white new 'space suits' but sadly no-one had thought to bring a camera, so no pics, I am afraid. Liz volunteered to go first. She had about 10 minutes of being asked to open a nuke-box (small nucleus colony) while naming parts, telling what she saw and answering questions about diseases like Varroa mite and American Foul-brood (AFB). I was next up for my session. I got the impression that they were being very gentle and friendly, coaching us and guiding us all to succeed; as if the group wants a good pass rate to show off and all of us safely onto the first rung of the training ladder.

George Junior learns to peck up food from Dad (l) and Mum (r)
Then it was all over, we could unzip the (sword fencing style) mesh-visor hats and compare notes. It seems we both almost fell into the same trap - asked about sending samples off for checking when you suspect AFB, we started down the 30-bees-in-a-matchbox route. AFB though is a disease of larval bees when they are still in their brood cells, so you should send off chunks of comb or a whole frame. Oops. A dubious and schoolmarm-ish look from Mary H had us both, in our turn, stumbling in retreat from our matchboxes and hurriedly correcting ourselves.

George Junior
Ah well, every day's a school day, as they say, and in the case of Bee Keeper training to preliminary level, we are done, 6 training sessions, a revision session and 2 exams, and school is out! We don't know when we will see results or the certificate. Apparently, it might be as long as 3 months, but we don't really mind. In  general we have been mightily impressed by the quality of the training laid on by Longford Group under the wing of the Federation of Irish Bee Keepers' Associations (FIBKA), and delivered via the Government quango "Teagasc" (the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland). It certainly knocks any training days we've done for goats or pigs into a cocked hat, excellent though they were for privately run one day courses. We feel very well trained, prepared and knowledgeable. The icing on the cake is that the Two Marys have now emailed to let us know that the bees have been breeding like Billy-O over in Drumshanbo, much better than 2013, and our 'nuke' should be ready roughly mid-June. We'll be ready for it.

The three colours of Goldie's babies - now 4 weeks old. 
One final anecdote on the bee exam. Poor Lizzie had a massive streaming cold that day as well as having just collected new specs from the optician. Worried that looking for tiny bee larvae would be 'close' work, she opted to leave the specs off for the exam. Worse, the suit is not quick to get into or out of - all those poppers and zips around the mesh visor to keep the bees out, so she was worried that she might have to break out of the exam to open the suit enough to blow her nose. In the event she went for a massive nose blow, quick bit of suit zipping, pile into the exam and get out fast to open the suit and blow the nose just in time. She wonders whether in between being 'half blind' and dripping from the end of her nose, she might not come over as a very professional bee keeper. Ah well. All over bar the shouting now. Water under the bridge etc.

Goldie with 9 of her babies. No room at the feast.
Where do we go from here? FIBKA runs all manner of increasingly expert courses through 'Intermediate' and 'Senior' up to the impressively named 'Bee Master', with a little siding out to 'Honey Judge'. Most of these you have to have been in the grade below for a year prior to taking the next level up. Liz opines that she has done with all this and is happy with just the Preliminary Certificate but I don't know. The idea of being able to call yourself 'Bee Master' has put a new gleam in my eye. I may well try for some upgrades at some point in the future.


Mr Silverwood said...

Do we have to call you sir if you become Bee Master?

Matt Care said...

Only if you are a bee maybe?