I have been dreaming of honey ever since we got the bees earlier this year. I have diligently checked the hive each week, added a super to allow honey collection and seen the wax cells fill with nectar then capped. Then something strange happened, I have never been very good at spotting the queen but she was marked so it should have been easy. She had vanished, the bees had not swarmed and there were no queen cells indicating that the bees knew she was ailing or missing and had started to feed up a larvae on Royal Jelly to turn it into a replacement queen. Honey production slowed and the number of bees seemed to be reducing each week. So what to do?
I called my mentor who came out and looked through the hive. He confirmed the queen had gone and there we no obvious successors being produced. There were no more eggs or larvae so the first thing to try was to take some frames of eggs and (brood) larvae from another hive, put them in the middle of my hive brood box and let the bees get on with creating a new queen. A few weeks later an emergency queen cell was spotted, and after 5 weeks brood and eggs are present- proving a new queen is in residence and has successfully mated and returned to the hive to start laying. No more honey for this year as the hive will need to build up numbers in time for the winter and will need all the food it can get.
I was able to extract about 5 lbs (about 2.2kg) of honey which will all be for the family. It was mostly Oil Seed Rape honey which crystallised very quickly and was hard to extract. Still it takes very good and is a start, I hope to build up the number of hives and get a bit more honey next year.
Since my last update the weather has been full on Sun with the occasional very wet day. Records have been broken with up to 30 deg Centigrade, it has made work around the garden a bit slower. The main concern, apart from weeding, planting and stocking up the flower stall, has been the sheep. This is the first year we have been responsible for shearing. The hot humid weather added to the concerns about possible fly-strike. This is combated by spraying the sheep with chemicals but it cannot be done before shearing. If fly strike happens then it can kill they sheep, another reason to check them every day and keep them as clean as possible. We were very lucky to find a local farmer who was willing to do the shearing and came to check if they were ready ( the wool needs to rise) and we set a date. Then the forecast for rain meant a quick change of plan to shear a day earlier. The sheep, rather hot and bothered decided that being fed early was not what they wanted so they would not all go into their pen. This proved a problem. We had to try and corral them using a disconnect electric fence. This eventually worked and shearing begun.
One down, two to go
Snowdrop was first to go, the other two were not at all bothered about what was happening to her. As soon as the shearer went for Lotty, who should have been next, she jumped out of the fencing and ran around the field. So Matilda was next. She put up a big struggle and Lotty kept coming to see what was going on but not getting near enough to catch. Once Matilda was sheared we had the difficult talks of catching Lotty, the sheep are not dog trained and although a very experienced sheepdog was brought in to help, he hid under the Land Rover as he did not like horned sheep running at him! Eventually Lotty was caught, sheared and released with the others (the three took over 90 minutes).
Finally all are sheared!
All the sheep were interested in the bits of wool lying around but Lotty decided that she could use a piece as a disguise and was wandering around with a newly acquired handlebar moustache.
Lotty in her new disguise