dinsdag 14 juni 2016

68 An unexpected visit

In two days I’m going back to Holland and don’t expect to be back before November. That means, no more Bee Blog entries. And suddenly Timothy the beekeeper was there again. He was called to Achill Secret Garden for a suspected swarming. He dropped by to see if any of my hives needed extra room. One last drawing I had to make although it doesn’t really add anything new to the blog. It turns out that one hive that came from a split hive in Belfarset is struggling. The other Belfarset split is doing swimmingly and got a new Pink honey box. The old Polranny hive whose splits are now in Belfarset needed another honey box too also Pink. It gives colour to the garden as if there isn’t enough yet and while on a visit somewhere one will instantly recognize one of Timothy’s apiaries. This year’s colour is Bright Orange. But first the last of the Pink has to be divided before I will see Orange on any of my hives. Timothy posed the question on feestboek: which colour will it be next year. I’m for Turquoise. I’ll keep you posted. (68 colourful hives 13-06-16)

woensdag 8 juni 2016

67 A new apiary

My neighbour Annie Masterson had been on to me for more than a year now. Her grandson Alan, who took over the apiary of his Grandfather had no time to come down to Achill to take care of the last hives that were left. Alan had already taken a number of the old hives, restored them and places them with his in-laws in Galway, but the ones left over were suffering. Alan should get in contact with Timothy the beekeeper, but never got around to it. Now Annie Masterson herself was taking action. She told me that when Timothy was again in the Achill area I should bring him around. He had already been up the boreen once and had discovered that the two hives were both dead. Now was his chance to put in a few starter hives and bring the apiary to life again. With his van full of splits put into styrofoam starter hives it should be up and running in no time. Timothy was a bit unsure what his role would be. Would he be managing Alan’s or was it going to be his own? Annie Masterson made no bones about it. She showed him a box full of brand new frames and other beekeeping implements and said. This is your. Do with it whatever you want. I learned something new here: there are two sizes used in beekeeper land: Commercial and National. Apparently Timothy uses National and the apiary at the Masterson is Commercial. But according to him it doesn’t pose a problem. For now the old home made hives are replaced by pink and green painted starter boxes. He will take it up from there. One of the commercial size handmade hives in 1974. (67 hive CM February 1974)

zondag 5 juni 2016

66 Looking for a queen

One hive was split in three. In one of the splits was the queen. Then the two new hives were exchanged with splits from the hives in Belfarset. That left me with three hives. The hives might harbour a queen in every one of them or no queen at all. In the hives without a queen the worker bees had to get busy choosing a larvae to raise as a queen. This larvae then got fed on Royal Jelly to form her into the new queen. To be on the save side the worker bees would feed more than one larvae the Royal Jelly. And Timothy was counting on that when he called again after a week. If there was more than one queen pod in the same hive but on different frames he could split the hive again. In The Secret Garden he had been lucky. He got three splits from four hives. In our apiary the first hive he opened had no queen but several queen pods on one frame only. No possible split there. As soon as the first Virgin Queen would come out of her pod, she would go to check for others. When found she would knock on the pod and if there was a response she would open the pod and kill the rival queen. Then after a couple of days in which she established her position as queen, she would fly out to mate. The second hive Timothy opened had already a queen. He saw that on the first frame he took out. Not the queen herself but as he showed me there were tiny little rice like forms in the combs eggs that had just been laid. He did not want to take a split from this hive, because the split could be too week. On the third and last hive he struck lucky. There were queen pods on different frames. He transferred the frame to a prepared Styrofoam starter hive. Good luck to them! (66 Looking for a queen 03-06-16)

zaterdag 4 juni 2016

65 Checking on the split hives

Timothy the beekeeper was back. This time he came to check on the hives he split last week. This time he had done the Achill run the other way around. He had first gone to Bull’s Mouth and The Secret Garden. The back of his van was loaded with starter hives. Three of them had colonies in them that he had split from the split hives of last week. They all came from The Secret Garden. In Bull’s Mouth the hives are not doing as well. Maybe it is the wind that is forever changing there. The channel works like a trough. Timothy had brought his bee suit for special occasions with him for me to wear. It was a beautiful clean white suit without any patch up, rents or dirt. I felt privileged! I took a chair and settled at the side of the apiary where I had a good view of the proceedings. And I wanted to catch his face in the sketch. I’m getting used to work in a suit. Even with latex gloves on it doesn’t present any problems. To get the stage set he first had to prop up a fuchsia branch heavy with enormous red flowers that hung over one of the hives and blocked part of my view. I offered that he could cut it, but he said it was lovely and it wasn’t interfering with the bees. Timothy works very fast and I didn’t get much time to do anything else but register the bare essentials. Still I got two sketches done. On this sketch he is about to lift the top of the middle hive to check if this one has a queen, or at least has queen pods ready to produce a queen. Very important: that the colony is strong and growing in size to be able to produce honey for harvesting later on. (65 checking the split hives 04-06-16)

zondag 29 mei 2016

64 Old and New in Polranny

We go back two weeks to 15 May. Dutch photographer Con Mönnich was back in Polranny after 42 years. He did sme catching up with old memories. A lot had unrecognisably changed and it took a while for him to find back his bearings. One of the places he revisited was the farm of our neighbours the Masterson. Sadly 20 years before Pat Masterson had passed away. He was a great lover of bees. When he was home from constructing the motorways in England he often sat in front of the hives enjoying the rituals of the bees. His children left Polranny; his apiary was neglected. Grandchildren wanted to pick up beekeeping again, but they live up the country, have small children and busy careers. Beekeeping has to wait. In February 1974 Con photographed one of Pat’s homemade hives. I remember there were a great number standing together in a clearing of a mixed stand of spruce and apple trees well protected from the wind. When Con took the photo it was cold and there was no activity around the hive. On the picture you can see how lovingly the hive is constructed with a small balcony and overhang to protect the entrance to the hive. When Con came back to the house in Polranny the weather was beautiful: warm and sunny. The bees were enjoying the warmth and were busy gathering nectar and pollen. Timothy the beekeeper was inspecting the surviving hive. All was well. Some things never change. (64 old and new in Polranny CM 15-05-2016)

zaterdag 28 mei 2016

63 What happened

Of the two hives we had one died over the winter. Timothy send me this answer when I reported to him in February when the sun came out that there wasn’t any activity in one of the hives. ‘Both hives should have adequate feed as both are on double brood box and received substantial autumn feed. However it is quite possible that one of the hives had died out. This is a normal process with beekeeping with winter mortality rates in Ireland averaging about 10%. I expect this rate to be quite lot higher this year (30%+) with a combination of the bad summer for queens mating and pollen gathering followed by the mild and damp winter. It is very difficult to keep the hives dry this winter as there is no real let up with the weather.. Winter deaths in hives can have several different causes from disease (nosema, varroa or acarine) to bad stores (fermented stores etc.) or queen issues (failing queen, unmated queen, attempted supercedure that failed, loss of queen).’ As it turned out one hive was dead and one was thriving. Timothy even put a new storey on top. But he couldn’t find the queen. The old queen that he had marked and clipped must have died and been replaced by a new queen. This time around he came with a van full of starter hives and brood boxes intend on literally making the most of the thriving hives and the consistently good weather spell we’ve been having. The sketch is of the inside of the van and the antique smoker Timothy restored for daily use. (The Beekeepers Van 27-05-16)

vrijdag 27 mei 2016

Dividing the hive

Timothy Stevens the beekeeper came around do a very special procedure. I was quick with the sketchbook. Afterwards he send me this report: 'Today I was looking after the beehives I have in achill both on the mainland and on the island. Peti Buchel drew some wonderful drawings of some of my activities today. I have a beehive located at her house. Since losses were so high this winter I have been doing a few splits. A split is where you break a hive into two or more pieces. In this case I broke the hive into 3 peices. 1/3 of the hive stayed at the apiary(bee yard) and the other 2 parts went to another apiary a few miles away. A hive of bees normaly only has one queen so when they are split like this 2 of the 3 parts will have no queen. These two parts will know they don't have a queen after only half an hour or so and will begin the preparations to produce a new queen. this means picking a few very young larvae(baby bees) and feeding them a very rich diet of royal jelly(food like a mothers milk), this will allow the young larvae to become queens instead of workers. I am using this to increase my number of hives that i have. each split is a full brood box(bottom box of a hive) and is strong enough in bees and brood to be able to produce a few quality queen cells. It is important when doing something like this that everything is very strong and you have ample bees to feed the young queens. If you don't have enough bees to do the feeding the queens will be very poor quality called scrub queens and are unlikely to be able to mate and take over the hive. When I got to the next apiary i repeated the process on the strong hives there and the splits made in this apiary came back to Peti Buchel garden. Hopefully the weather stays as good as it has been the last month or more and I will have a wonderful season.' The sketch is of the original hive divided in three.(dividing the hive 27-05-16)