Sunday, 28 October 2007

I've just discovered that today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, when Constantine I defeated Maxentius outside Rome; Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the rout. This left Constantine as the master of the Western Empire, but it took another successful civil war before he controlled the whole of it. Whether you believe Constantine was a Christian or not, and I have my doubts, there's no question that the battle set the stage for the Christian takeover of the empire, and the subsequent development of the exclusive, intolerant monotheism which is so unfortunately familiar today.

Some have claimed that this rather enigmatic coin, issued in Constantinople either during Constantine's reign or that of his son, shows the bridge. There's no evidence to support this, and it's probably a generic bridge.
I've done the same with the broodless colony as the dronelayer; put a nuc, the bad-tempered one this time, in a hive where it was, then shaken all the bees out. Both colonies were in a temper, and I got three or four stings. I checked the new hive that's replaced the drone layer. the two strains are completely unrelated, but the drone laying queen made it back to the nest, and is still there. There are two distinct broodnests. I haven't seen this with unrelated queens before. I was short of time, and couldn't stop to find the queens. I left the bees to sort it out; they usually pick the right queen, and I doubt whether the drone layer, which they were already trying to replace, will last long.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

I got the last of my garlic in yesterday, and I've dealt with one of those bee colonies, whoch cearly had a drone layer for a queen. That's an unmated queen which only lays unfertilised eggs, which develop into drones. The bees were making doomed attempts to raise a new queen, and a lot of cells were being uncapped to reveal chalk brood, a fungus disease which infects the larva. All the capped cells had the domed cappings typical of drones.

I moved the broodbox aside, and replaced it with one of the small colonies I'd put in a nucleus box. this went into a full-sized box. Then I just shook all the bees from the original colony off the frames, and fet the frames back in till I had a box full. The bees found their way back into the new colony, but the queen, hopefully, didn't. I'll check everything's OK in the next few days. That just leaves one more to do, and that'll give me two golonies headed by my own queens, and two by the bought queens. I'll see what comes through the winter, then raise more queens next year.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The hive that had eggs last time I looked now has flat capped worker brood (drone has domed caps), which confirms that the queen mated. Another one has eggs. They're taking their time, but they're getting there.

It's a miserable drizzly day, but I've at least got my walking onions in. I've planted everything, and from a single row of mini-bulbs last year, I now have a complete bed, partly mini-bulbs and partly full-sized ones. Next year I'll get to taste them.

Monday, 8 October 2007

One of those hives had a patch of eggs at the weekend, as as long as they're worker and not drone (I'll know when the larvae are capped) then everything's OK. Hopefully the others will be laying as well very shortly. It's a bit late in the season, but native British bees are known for raising queens very late, so it's not too late. It's slow progress with my hedge cutting, since it's a horrible job, but I did another 15 yards or so yesterday. I'm getting there, and once it's all cut back, hopefully I'll manage to keep pace with it this time.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

I put a frame with a good patch of eggs into the hive I thought might be queenless, but by that time they seemed to be settling down, and I wasn't at all sure. Sure enough, they made no attempt to raise queens, confirming that they are indeed queenright. None of the colonies with new queens had produced brood by the weekend, which is a worry, but it's not a repeat of the disappearing queen scenario I used to get raising them in early season. Hopefully they're just a bit slow. Drones have been flying on some days, so there's no apparent reason why they shouldn't have mated.

We've had some welcome rain, and the weather is now decidedly autumnal. I'm just carrying on with the digging, with the aim of having more beds in cultivation next year. I'm not putting much in the ground at the moment, as the space will be needed for the crops my family really appreciates; sweet corn, tomatoes, and other tender veg.