Friday, 22 April 2016

Some people seek out a hobby ...

... Others have one foisted upon them.

After leaving the hallowed halls of the Educational Establishment formerly known as Wolverhampton Polytechnic back in 1985, I needed to secure employment in order to fund my crappy transport and incredibly limited social life.*

After a few months working in a laboratory at an animal feed mill, I ended up employed by the Ministry of Agriculture at their National Beekeeping Unit on the outskirts of Stratford-on-Avon. I spent a year there and have to say that it was an absolutely fascinating experience.

I experienced the full range of beekeeping experiences from general inspections, disease diagnosis and apiary management through to honey production and harvesting, hive construction and queen rearing.

Thirty years later I still remember those experiences and the fascinating relationship that has developed between man and this social insect.

So, it is fair to say that I was absolutely delighted when I was presented with two massive boxes on Christmas morning and discovered that it was a "flat pack" bee hive.

Jumping forward to today I can report that the hive has been assembled and positioned on a couple of paving slabs that have been laid in a sunny spot at the edge of the garden. A nucleus colony of Buckfast bees has been ordered from a Supplier and today was the day I headed over there to collect them.

It is fair to say that I was quite apprehensive about my reacquaintance with beekeeping as I realise that I am far from an expert but I was somewhat reassured by the Supplier who assured me that it would "all come back".

It is very easy for a colony of bees to fail and that scenario is a black cloud on the horizon very like those that make British Summers so challenging for a beekeeper.

By half past ten me and my 5 frame "nuc" were back at home. I positioned the nuc box on the hive stand and opened up the entrance. I was greeted by an advance guard of fifty or so noisy bees and I retreated for several hours while they became acquainted with their new location.
Later in the day TP and I returned with a lit smoker and fully garbed in bee suits. The nucleus box was removed from the hive stand and replaced with the brood box, which will be their permanent home.**  We then transferred the five frames of brood, stores and bees across to the brood box***and added three frames of foundation either side of the nucleus for it to expand in to as it grows.

An Ashforth feeder was placed on top of the brood box and 5 litres of sugar syrup were added . We then covered this with the crown board and roof and retired to a safe distance.

Now I just need to avoid the temptation to peek and let the little colony go about it's business, drawing out the frames of foundation and filling it with brood and stores of pollen and honey.
* It is fair to say that, back in the second half of the 1980's, my life would be described as unsophisticated. There was not a huge amount to do in, or around, a small town in South Worcestershire, but I remember it fondly. The few friends I had were close and loyal and we managed to enjoy ourselves immensely despite the dearth of facilities that are now available, often at the touch of a button.
** until the buggers swarm!
** We didn't see the queen, but we just wanted to get finished before it started to rain!

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