Friday 29 May 2009

I've just joined the Bloggers' Seed Network ( I'll be putting seed up for swapping later in the season, when I've had a chance to save some fresh! There's also a lot of swapping at Allotments4all (

The swarm that moved in (now Hive 1) has eggs or brood on five frames. They're Standard Nationals, a third smaller than my normal 14x12's, but it's not bad for the first week's egg laying. Hive 3 is staying put at 4 frames of brood, and Hive 4 is up to five. I've messed that one around a lot this week though, getting eggs from it for queen raising. The real test will be where it is in three weeks' time. Hive Five is making queen cells as expected. It's also in a bad temper - not surprisingly, a queenless hive always is. They kept buzzing me, and several obviously meant business. I'll be glad to get that one requeened.

I potted up sixty sweet corn (Lark), and I've got the same to do again in a week or so. I've planted replacement seeds of Alderman peas, since the ones I saved were no good, and I've got more Magnum Bonum as well, since they didn't germinate too well. My saved Ne Plus Ultra were hopeless, and the seeds I bought in are just coming up. I think the problem has to have been a result of the wet weather when I harvested the seed, as they just rotted in the pots. They're all good Victorian maincrops, though my favourite is Magnum Bonum.

I've planted two lily species this week; formosianum and philippinensis. They're both immediate epigeal, which means they come up quickly, with the seed leaf emerging from the soil. So hopefully there won't be any complications. I've got some fresh Hellebore seed to plant as well, via a swap. Fresh seed is easy; old seed is a tossup. I have old seed of foetidus 'Wester Flisk', Helen Ballard hybrids, and H x sternii, all from Chiltern Seeds. They're good, but it's inevitably not fresh. They've been sitting in pots for a couple of weeks, and there's no knowing when, and whether, they're going to come up.

Saturday 23 May 2009

I discovered today that a swarm has moved into Hive 1. It's not exactly unexpected, since I noticed several weeks ago that the hive was being staked out by strange bees. The swarm is a fair size, fills half a National standard broodbox, and has eggs on a frame and a half already. This shows that it is a 'prime swarm', the first to issue from a hive, with the old, mature queen. the swarms I got last year were 'casts', headed by virgins which took a couple of weeks before they started laying. I left them badly confused, as I gave them a new entrance on the other side, where I really want it to be, and closed off the one they were using.

Hives 3 and 4 are as before, with 4 and 4 1/2 frames of brood respectively. Hive 4 is taking its time laying up the frame I gave them to raise queens on. It has a few eggs though, so it should be ready at last in a couple of days. I'll really be disturbing Hive 5 then, so I've left it alone for the time being.

Apart from that, I've been potting up tomatoes, and planting out broad beans.

Thursday 21 May 2009

I'm having problems with a few of the seeds I saved last year. All the pumpkin seed is empty. It looks OK, apart from being a bit thin compared with the old seed. But it's not viable at all. The flower must have been pollinated, or there would never have been a pumpkin. But something, very likely to do with the weather, went wring, and it didn't form viable seed. I've heard of the problem before. I've got very poor germination from two peas, Magnum Bonum and Alderman. I harvested the seed in the worst of the weather last year, and I can only imagine I didn't get it dried fast enough. Once planted, it just rotted. I've re-ordered both; fortunately, I managed to find a site in Ireland that does Magnum Bonum, and takes Paypal. . It's not an easy one to find.

I've split Hive 5. leaving the queen at the bottom. and the brood, apart from one frame, at the top. All the flying bees will have returned to the bottom, leaving only the young nurse bees at the top. This is now effectively queenless, and should raise queen cells. Then I break them down, and give them eggs from Hive 4; I've already put an extra frame in the middle of the broodnest, with only an inch of comb on it, for this. the frame will then go into Hive 5, and since they won't have any other eggs or young larvae by that time, they'll raise the queens I want from it. I can then requeen hives 3 and 5. The queens won't mate truly, but since the drones come from unfertilised eggs, they'll be of my strain. A second batch of queens should then mate within strain.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

I finally managed to finish mulching the potatoes yesterday. The amount of grass cuttings being delivered is rising week by seek, so I'm unlikely to run shrt again this year. The only problem now is what collecting it does to my back!

One of my empty hives has been staked out by strange bees. They're all striped, and while Hive 5 has bees of that colour, only about half are striped. I spotted them defending the hive against a black bee, with two madly chasing it. That's a sign that a swarm is likely to move in. They may yet decide on better accommodation elsewhere, but these days they're unlikely to find it. The hollow trees have mostly been removed, and modern building methods leave no room for bees in the roof. I hope they do arrive; I need to populate those empty hives, and a May swarm has plenty of time to build up and produce some honey before winter.

Friday 8 May 2009

I checked the hives after school. Hive 3 still has brood on 3 1/2 frames, which 4 has increased to the same amount, with quite a bit of drone brood present. Hive 5 is as it was last week, but there are noticeably more bees on the frames. This is good news, as I need lots of young bees before I can raise queens. There are still very few drones though.

One of the drones I did see had a crumpled wing. This'll be due to a virus, which is spread by varroa. I've only seen it before when hives have been overwhelmed. This one was treated in January with oxalic acid, and with Apiguard a couple of weeks ago. I know for a fact that the mite load is no heavier than that in my other hives, and none of the others show a trace of it.

Another odd thing is that a couple of weeks ago, there was a small knot of bees with crumpled wings outside the hive, and every one was jet black. Over half the bees in the hive have a yellow stripe, showing that they're hybrids. I haven't seen a single crippled bee on the frames with a stripe either. I can only presume that the bees of a single patriline (ie from eggs fertilised with sperm from a single drones - queens mate about 6 - 12 times) are particularly susceptible.

Saturday 2 May 2009

Hive 5 now has brood on six frames in the top box, but otherwise all three hives are very much where they were last week. Areas of brood are expanding steadily, and Hive 4 now has a large patch of capped drone brood. With a small number of workers supporting vary large numbers of brood, all three hives are obviously stretched to the limit. As a result, they're all very good-tempered; they only get stingy when there are unemployed older bees in the hives. I saw two drones in Hive 5, but that's all. They won't be ready for queen raising until there's a higher proportion of workers to brood, and a lot more drones.

I'm still smothering potatoes in grass cuttings, with only a relatively small amount of cuttings coming in so far, and Cara coming up fast.