Saturday 28 February 2009

I had a proper look through the beehives this afternoon; they've all got from one to two and a half frames of brood, with varying sized patches on each frame. The colony I got in December is far and away the biggest (it would be with such a massive cluster). It still has the odd bee with shrivelled wings, indicating virus, but the number isn't increasing. I managed to get to the local Association AGM last night for a change, and got stuck on the committee. Apparently it's only a couple of meetings a year so it won't be onerous.

I've done a bit of digging as well; it's going much more easily now that patch of ground elder is dealt with.

Friday 20 February 2009

The ground's been on the soggy side for digging this week, so I've spent a couple of days barrowing dead leaves to mulch the asparagus. I was trying to dig a patch which has been invaded by ground elder, and it's really hard going. Fortunately, most of it was done before the freeze, and another go at it should finish that.

Ground elder is the bane of my life; it's in the hedges, it comes through from the next plot, and there doesn't seem to be any effective way of controlling it organically. I was reduced to using glyphosate last year, along the hedge bottom, but I'm not sure how much difference it will have made.

Yesterday I did what I should have done the other day, and put an empty 14x12 broodbox with drawn comb on top of the box that Hive 5 is in. It's the only hive in a standard broodbox. The bees will move up into the new box over the next few weeks, and then I'll be able to take the old one away and melt the comb. That'll move them painlessly onto the stuff I use, with slightly smaller cells, and give them more space. Since I've yet to have one of my own strain swarm from the larger size (it's bound to happen eventually) I think it's well worth it.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Yesterday was sufficiently warm and springlike to go through the hives. the temperature was about 8-9 degrees, and while this goes totally against tradition, I've opened hives many times in colder weather than that, and have never seen any evidence that it did any harm.

All the hives had brood and eggs, showing that they all had laying queens within the last three days. That was what I wanted to know, and once I'd established that much, I didn't look any further. I can now relax and plan on the basis of starting the season with four hives!

Hives 2, 3 and 4 all had 3-4 frames of bees, and small patches of brood. All had a little capped brood, showing that some egglaying continued even in the very cold weather. Hive 5, the one I got in December, had a huge cluster almost filling the broodbox, and, from the look of it, several frames of brood. They gave me several stings, while none of the others even looked like stinging. I can't wait to requeen that one. I'll have to give some thought to its position, as it's right outrside the shed door. They didn't bother me once I'd taken my gear off, but they're in a perfect position to get me as I come out of the shed minus my veil!

Friday 13 February 2009

I had to stay in today waiting for an engineer, as the heating system had broken down. The boiler turned out to be leaking, and it was dripping on bare wires. It's been made safre, but we've got nothing but a coupple of little convection heaters over the weekend. Meanwhile, I've got my proper computer up and running, which is a great relief after weeks with nothing but a slow laptop.

I did manage a quick walk round the allotments; the snow is going fast, and I've verified that the four colonies are all alive and looking good. My one and only decent native colony is looking particularly strong, despite having a queen entering her third season. I'd be in trouble if I lost her, as she's the only one which is going to give me the queens I want to raise.

Sunday 8 February 2009

This winter just seems to get worse. the snow's melting slowly, but there's more vile weather promised. It sounds like what local weather in Cornwall used to call 'precipitation', in other words, it could be anything. Predictably, I've been able to do absolutely nothing on the allotment. As far as I'm aware, four colonies of bes are still alive, but I haven't looked since the snow began. I' lost some snow pics once I get a chance, but I've still got computer problems.