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Nightmares and Disasters

We’re well into November now and I’m sure everyone else in the UK is feeling the plunges in temperature. Last week we had an emotional goodbye to our apprentice Gabriel, he is away for his block training and then, finally, he is head to his highly anticipated trip to New Zealand. We are all hoping he will have a blast and bring us back some Manuka honey (and a wealth of knowledge).

From now on we will be doing quick checks on our hive’s and nuc’s for fondant.  If you start feeding fondant you much ensure that you keep offering it.  We check to make sure they have enough stores for the next few weeks, but the rain has been making it very difficult to get to some of our apiaries and some (well one) of the team are petrified of getting stuck in the mud (again). Speaking of anticipating ‘nightmare’ situations, this is one of the most used words amongst our team, so Sian had the idea of trying to eradicate this little bit of negativity by making a swear jar, 50p charge for each blunder! The money is at least going to our Christmas Meal, and if Rob keeps slipping up the way he is, we might be able to afford to eat The Ritz rather then the local pub!

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We have some Santa Candles watching over the kitty.

I’ve been making gift packs and candles in advance of our Christmas rush, it’s quite a nice warm activity when it is bitterly cold outside. I’ve managed to make a forest of beeswax trees, a favourite gift amongst our customers.

And now, looking even further ahead to 2020 (I know, we’re already a bit too excited) we have put up our availability for reservations for 2020 mated queens on our website, as well as 2020 nucs, so if you’re the organised type, go ahead and put a small deposit for a queen/nuc for next year.

Buckfast Beckys Bees

Becky & the Team 🙂

 

 

Holiday

This week we have been working hard to get feed on all the bees and complete our varroa treatments. All nucs have been checked to ensure they have fondant on them. We have had so much rain recently that some of the tracks have been hard to get up. Sian and Gabe gave up trying on Monday and abandoned the hilux part way up one field. My son had to go to the rescue!

I’ve been out with Rob doing oxalic sublimation on the honey production hives, he will do the final treatments next week. Gabriel has and still is very busy making up new brood boxes, roofs and supers for next year. He has somewhere in the region of 50 roofs, 100 supers and 40 brood boxes to get made up before he goes away to New Zealand in few weeks! He is going there for 3 months as part of the apprenticeship with us. We are excited as he is but will miss him dearly.

On the note of apprentices; we are looking for a new beekeeping apprentice to join us in 2020. You don’t have to have experience of working with honeybees, but some knowledge would be useful. It’s a great scheme, full time, all training and equipment provided by us. It aims to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to make a successful career in the bee farming industry. Those successfully completing the three-year programme are awarded a Diploma Towards Excellence in Bee Farming by the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers.

If you have children, as I have, I hope you have a good half term.  I am actually taking some well earnt time off and we are heading to Wales for a week; I can’t wait. I’ve booked a detached cottage in the middle of nowhere so the wifi is likely to be a bit hit and miss (secretly hoping so the kids are not on phones & tablets every 5 minutes). The hallway here is full of walking boots, waterproofs and rucksacks. There are playing cards and board games for evening entertainment along with a few DVDs for film nights. Hubby has been working out how to get the boys mountain bikes on the back of the hilux tonneau as someone, not mentioning any names, ordered the wrong roof bars for it!! Roxy (the dog) is all excited too and we have lots of treats packed for her to keep her going on our long hikes.  No matter the weather we will have fun… 🙂

 

Winter is on its way

October is here and winter preps are almost completed.  With so many colonies now the varroa treatments took a little longer. We used Api-Bioxal as a trickle method on our 460 nucs and we will use Api-Bioxal with a the Gas-Vap for the main hives next week.

So a quick update on whats been happening with us.  I am really pleased to say that Sian is staying with us full time to work directly with the bees and head up our queen rearing next year.  With so many nucs to look after Sian is going to have her work cut out for her…  We are currently looking for a new apprentice, its a 3 year scheme, the frame work is fantastic and includes a trip to New Zealand for a 12 week placement 🙂

We have taken the plunge and brought a new truck, this is now my everyday run around!

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You certainly see me coming in this!

We have a new site with the most gorgeous views and are hopeful it will do well for honey next year.

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The time has come to look at your roofs, if you have shallow roofs on your colonies it may be wise to change them to deep roofs, not only does it mean you can feed fondant without an eke, they are also heavier so less likely to be blown off in the winter winds.  Before thinking about fondant make sure you feed syrup, again a deep roof means no need for an eke.  The bees are actively bringing in lots of ivy the moment, made obvious by the bright yellow pollen donning entrances, this does look quite orange once stored in cells. However we are trying to discourage this as they find it harder to break down the ivy honey in the spring and this in turn can unknowingly cause starvation as when you heft you may be tricked into thinking they still have plenty of edible stores!

Last little check, if you are leaving a super of honey for your bees remember to remove the queen excluder. We always put our supers under the brood box and then in the spring we move them back ontop at the same time as putting the queen excluder back on. This way the queen won’t lay in the super!

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What a season

Hello!  I am sorry its been so long since I wrote anything but we have been so so busy.   My latest phrase is “I work all the hours god gave me” and Robs’ favourite phrase is “I am flying without wings” or “I am like a windmill!”

My last blog was back in April, which seems like months ago; it was months ago… The season kicked off well and just hasn’t stopped.  Today is the first day that I have actually been able to stop and think about what else needs doing, hence me having a moment to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  Its quite unnerving actually as the phone is normally ringing none stop but today its been quite quiet, I have even managed to drink a hot cup of tea!!

So, what have we all been up to I hear you ask.  Well, Sian, Rob and Gabe have been busy nurturing customer nucs, we have packed and sent out over 300 families of bees this years which is a massive number for a small business like us.  I am so proud of the team and the feedback from our customers is great – makes it all worthwhile.

I have been just as busy as them but I have been busy in the office dealing with all our queen orders and stock orders.  I have pack and sent out 2000+ mated queens so far this season, Buckfast seem to be the most popular followed closely by Carniolan (my favourite bee)

I want to say that the guys have finished all the hard graft now. In the last couple of weeks they have made up over 400 splits in preparation for overwintered nucs, which has seen Sian starting work at 6am some mornings due to the heat.  But, they do still have plenty to do with bees.  There are many many supers to come off in the next few weeks and they all need extracting.  We also have bees to prepare to take to the New Forest for the heather. This year we are taking just 25 families of bees but still that is a quite a lot to prepare.  I have my fingers crossed for a better harvest than last year.

We were really lucky this year, a fellow bee farmer gave up a site not far from us that grows Borage and he very kindly offered it to us.   For years Rob has been looking for a site on a farm that grows Borage so he is now one very happy beekeeper!  I even managed to sneak out of the office last week and I went down with Rob to check how the bees were doing. I was pleasantly surprised and we had to put more supers on some of them.  Most of this honey will be kept on the comb but some we will extract.

It really does feel like the pressure is off now.  Many of our fellow bee farmers don’t do nuc production for that reason, its very demanding and really hard work.  So it really does feel like we have more time now.  We can relax just a little and enjoy the rest of the season working with the bees under less pressure. I certainly plan on getting out of the office more and donning a bee-suit.  I am off to Southampton on Thursday to check the bees out on the Raspberries on our pollination contact.

I hope the season is so far going well for you all.

1st Queens

We had our first lot of mated queens last week but we only received 25% of our order due to poor seasonal weather.  This obviously caused a lot of problems for us and for our customers but the excitement when they arrived was great.  I do love this time of the year.

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Our bees are working hard and we are doing our best to keep up with the nucs at the at the moment.  The shortage on queens is proving to be a real problem as we are running out of nuc brood boxes to put on top of the nucs to give them more space!

The honey production colonies are doing equally well but I don’t know what the crop from the oil seed rape will be like this year for us as some of the sites were out in full flower last week but the weather was so poor. What a contrast to today and yesterday though, I was in a vest top yesterday it was so warm.

Watch out for those swarms, even though all ours have been given room we have lost a few already.  Rob called in the first one a couple of days ago; he managed to hive it OK so at least we’ve not lost the bees.  That was from one of our over wintered langstroths that we had not had a chance to check because the temperatures had been too low!!!

Sians Breeder queens arrived yesterday as well. She is getting really excited (we all are) to get started with her grafting, we still have much to do and we need to make sure we don’t rush things and most importantly we need to ensure the breeder queens are accepted into there nuc boxes as it would be a nightmare if they are rejected!

Happy Easter to you all, Becky and the team.