As I was planting out some tomatoes at my Mum’s place today, I became aware of a voice emanating from my back pocket. I grabbed my phone and was horrified to discover that I had “butt called” Murray McGregor of Denrosa Apiaries. I’m crazy busy right now, what with queen rearing and making nucs and so forth. I also have accounting work to do, helping out my Mum, who is a bit knackered health-wise, and assisting eldest child with house moving. It’s all go here in Walrus City.
However, Murray is a quantum jump busier than most people, given that he has over 3,500 hives. He was surprisingly amiable, and we had a chat about bees mostly (what else is there)?! Not that Murray is usually unfriendly; far from it, it’s just that they are working twelve hour days right now. He explained that he is preparing hives for their annual trip to the heather. There are endless hills of heather in his part of Scotland in late Summer, and this is Murray’s main crop. In his part of the world, it’s been a patchy season so far.
Those of us further South had a lovely warm Spring. We got a good honey crop, but on the downside, swarming was much earlier than usual. We also had a pronounced “June Gap” and quite miserable weather in June, which meant that I had to feed my nucs. In Perthshire, they did not get the warm Spring, and they did get the dearth in June, which still seems to be ongoing. Murray has had to order in vast quantities of sugar so that he can feed his bees and keep them alive until the weather turns. Things often even out in beekeeping, so with any luck, Murray will have a bumper crop from the heather.
I make a lot of butt calls when beekeeping. It must be something to do with my walrus butt, which is surprisingly proficient at calling random numbers from my contacts list. It also changes reminders. For example, “put the blue bins out” becomes “put the xyklue bins out j4£?a.” Recently I have moved the phone from my jeans back pocket to one in my bee suit. Another lesson learnt. There are so many.
Speaking of lessons, a few weeks ago, I got the timing wrong on when my queens would emerge from queen cells. This resulted in eight out of ten of them dying in my incubator. Once the new queens are out, they need some water and honey straight away, or so it seems to me. They also need to be put into a mating hive quickly. I am sad that my incompetence killed some queens, but I am now determined never to repeat the mistake again. My last grafting attempt resulted in seven accepted cells from ten, and on Wednesday, I was there as they emerged, like an expectant father. They went into their mating nucs and hopefully most will be laying eggs in a week or two. I need to replace three queens in my hives; two because they are old and slowing down, and one because they are bad-tempered little beasties. I also need queens to head up new nucleus hives, which I am hoping to sell next year.
Walrus Honey Label
I got new “Walrus Honey” labels for my honey jars recently (see image). As you can see, I’m also now using a square jar, which I think is rather fetching. Who could resist such a wholesome product?
Not all plain sailing
So far this season, apart from murdering eight queens, I have had a few things go wrong. Two colonies swarmed, but due to bad weather, the new queens did not mate, and they became drone layers. I hate that. The queen in the bottom box of my cell builder also swarmed recently. It is a monster colony, about as tall as me and full of bees. I could not find a queen despite shaking them all through an excluder, so I’ll have to set up a new cell builder now. Oh yes, one colony got Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus and is either dead or as good as.
Workers who Love to Work
Most of my colonies are strong and healthy and bringing in nectar again. As far as I can tell the new flow is from brambles and possibly clover and lime. Hopefully, the urge to swarm has abated now that the days are getting shorter. As long as my bees have plenty of space and there is nectar coming in, they should do what they love most; work their little butts off. Back to butts again…must be time to sign off. Have a great week!