Saturday, 30 August 2008

I've put numbers on the roofs of all four hives. I tried numbering them before, but I put the numbers on the broodboxes, and it got confusing when I moved colonies from one box to another. I can easily move the roof with the colony.

Colony 1 is the weak swarm. It's had less brood week by week, and this week I discovered queen cells, so it's given up on that queen. Rather than have a queen from dodgy stock, I broke down all the cells, and gave them a frame of brood of my own strain, to raise one from. There's plenty of time yet, native strains will often raise queens in early autumn.

Colony 2 is the 'foreign' hive. No brood as yet.

Colony 3 is the strong swarm, which is looking really healthy, with lovely black bees.

Colony 4 is my old colony, which again os looking rally good.

The peas have finished, and I've started getting seed off them for next year. I left the Ne Plus Ultra too long, and I'll have to supplement what I've saved with bought seed. Someone sent me some Lancashire Lad, a purple-podded variety, and Salmon-Flowered Pea, to try next year.

I've got rid of the tomatoes, due to hopeless blight, and started digging out one or two of the weedy areas. That's going to be the main job for the next few months, along with mulching. I want to do more winter mulching with dead leaves, as it should help keep the weeds down next year.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The potatoes and tomatoes are pretty well wiped out with blight, not surprisingly given the miserable weather. I need to cut them all down; I'll still get a potato crop (Vanessa is good despite some having rotted due to the effects of flooding) but there aren't too many tomatoes, and they're all green. I might make a bit of chutney.

I got a third for my garlic in the site show. I'm not too pleased with myself, but never mind, it brings people together. I only had four entries, and nothng else got anything. The peas are cropping magnificently, and I've started on the sweet corn, so it's not all bad.

The smaller of those two swarms is besieged by wasps, which have been finding their way into the roof in hundreds. They don't seem to be getting any further; they're after sugar syrup. Apart from that, the hives are looking good, and hopefully I'll soon have a mated queen in the 'foreign' hive. The big hive is cutting down the size of the broodnest, but I'm encouraged by the way it almost filled a 14x12 box at the height of summer. That's the sort of colony that will really bring in a crop in a decent year. I need to get the honey off now, before they take it all down into the broodbox. There's not a lot there, but a little is a lot better than nothing.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

That was the worst flooding we've had for several years; my plot drained in 24 hours, but other people didn't get off so lightly. Something's hit the tomatoes. My neighbour thinks it's blight, but they don't have the classic symptoms, so I'm hoping it's just the effects of the flood, and they'll recover. Otherwise, the sweet corn is flourishing, but the squashes are a mixed bunch. The plants in full sun are flourishing, but anything with any shade at all has just sulked and done nothing. I often underplant them with corn, or anything which is due to come out within a short time, but this year it just hasn't worked at all.

Those two swarms are both flourishing, with lots of flat-topped worker brood. The 'foreign' colony is well on the way to raising a new queen, from a frame of brood of my own strain. So no problems there. The trick is to get rid of their queen, and give them a week or so, in which they start raising new queens. Then destroy all the queen cells. By that time, thier own brood is too old to be converted into queens.

Give them a frame of eggs and young brood of a strin you do want, and they have no choice but to raise a queen from it. Leave it four days, then break down any capped cells. They cap then five days after hatching, andanything capped after four days was raised from a larva which was too old to make a good queen. Leave them a couple of open cells, and let them get on with it. As long as there are hives nearby with lots of drones, it usually works.