I live beside a main road in South Manchester and, despite high panelled fences and a monstous privet hedge, I am very aware of the presence of neighbours on all sides. I like them. Neighbours I mean. They all seem to have small children whereas mine are adults now. Perhaps I am meant to have moved away, to the place where older people go, but for now I’m standing my ground.
Anyway, the point is that even though everybody is always going on about “save the bees” I’m pretty sure they want to do it from a distance. Honey bee colonies get very big, very fast. And you don’t really want just one colony, because if you accidentally mess things up then you are suddenly an ex-beekeeper, with just empty boxes and an empty bank account to remind you of your former status.
You need several colonies to ensure your continued status as “keeper of bees, saviour of planet earth”. And that creates some serious bee traffic, like the traffic on Barton Bridge near the Trafford Centre at 5pm on a weekday, but flying and potentially stingy. For this reason I have my apiary about 10 miles away near Lymm at the bottom of a field on property owned by some farmer friends. Except they don’t do farming anymore because the new A556, welcome as it is to drivers heading to or from Manchester, scuppered the viability of their little arable paradise.
Having kept bees for seven years I felt that the time had come to select my best queen – the one with the biggest colony making the most honey, and who coincidentally is easy to find on account of her light colouring – and breed from her. But I couldn’t find her! Bees do that. I think they hate me. So I bred from another queen, who I could find and who has a very chilled out “hey dude, take all the honey you want, love and peace man” type of colony. I will write about that rather disappointing experience another time, but suffice to say, I ended up with 2 small nucleus colonies (nucs) each containing bees, stores and a sealed queen cell which would soon emerge as a new queen.
I have a lovely garden at home and always fancied a couple of hives by the shed. It is great watching the bees zoom off to collect pollen and nectar and then see them staggering back fully laden with the fruits of their labour, unload, then do it all again. Endlessly. I decided to take my 2 new nucs home, so that when the queens emerge they will mate with street wise city drones instead of the country bumpkin drones by my apiary. We’ll see what they turn out like in time.
But for now, I have a sneaky couple of nucs in my garden, and my neighbours don’t even know. It can’t last, and I will have to move them back soon, but for now it is such a joy to have a cup of tea down by the pond, listen to the water, the birds and watch my industrious new arrivals. And then there are the police sirens to shake me from my daydreaming and get on with the rest of my day.