It’s finally happened. I bought a van. It’s only a small van, but a van it is. Not only can I carry around a lot more bee stuff and bees, but I can also drive like a madman, and nobody will care – vans do that. It’s part of the code. Actually, I try to drive sensibly, especially when transporting bees. Unfortunately, reversing out of my drive onto the main road while trying not to kill cyclists racing along the cycle lane that I must cross…is a challenge. Another reason to move out of the city – they are piling up.
The van in question is a VW Caddy C20 DIESEL 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech 102PS Highline Nav model. It has done about 50,000 miles and is four years old. I only travel about 2,000 miles per year to and from apiaries, so I hope it will serve me well for many years. I have just ordered some livery (see image), which I think will look very smart.
On the beekeeping front, I’ve been busy selling nucleus colonies. I took twelve national nucs into the winter headed by 2021 queens. Three didn’t make it, seven are sold, and two are not quite good enough to sell, so I’ll have to think about what to do with them. I also killed a queen in a hive that had turned very unpleasant. As Mike Palmer says, “she failed the hive tool test.” They will be making a replacement, but I will intervene and provide a queen from different genetics.
This is a tricky time of year because it’s a bit early for reliable queen matings. Many of the nucs that I sold were big enough colonies that I could leave a frame of brood and some bees. They will be making emergency queen cells. I have three mated queens from last year, which came through the winter in their mini plus hives. They were getting powerful, so I had to remove frames to create ‘splits’ which will try to make emergency queens, plus the queen-right hives are now four boxes high (mini plus). Small hives plus prolific queens mean lots of work.
Cell Builder In Progress
I have started a cell builder colony in the form of a Demaree. It has ten frames of brood in the top box taken from other colonies that were getting very strong. If I graft in about a week, I won’t have mated queens ready to use in hives until early June. I have already written about not catching newly mated queens until at least three weeks after emergence. So, my queenless nucs will mostly have to ‘get on with it’ on their own. In the same situation, this time last year, disaster ensued because May was so horrible that I ended up with drone layers.
One option that I’m looking into is buying virgin queens from a top queen producer further south who is a little ahead of me. Even he doesn’t have mated queens available yet. The only real gain, which could be substantial, is that I’ll know that the bought queens have been raised in ideal conditions rather than my under-populated nucs. Once we get into June and July, I’ll have more queens than I know what to do with – it’s the way it goes. Like waiting for a bus for ages, then three turn up at once.
I see that the feisty chairman of the BBKA has exercised his right to reply to the Ken Basterfield letter that appeared in the April edition of Bee Craft magazine. I don’t know why, but so many organisations and individuals are becoming increasingly intolerant and extreme – I think they call it ‘cancel culture’. The information war is fought with competing scientific papers, and let’s face it, there is rarely universal agreement on anything. You are not allowed to be neutral or nuanced about much these days. Anyway, it must be a shock to the BBKA that one who passed all of their exams, then taught students and marked exams right up to NDB level, and has been a trustee, has voiced dissent.
Have I mentioned my van? It’s lovely. It doesn’t have Apple Car Play, though.
On the subject of nucs, upon which I landed earlier, Randy Oliver did an interesting talk covering how quickly they grow. He also has an article about this on his website. Nucs are incredible things. Even if you start a nuc with 1 frame of brood and 2 frames of bees plus a ripe queen cell, they will grow to be 6 frames of bees and brood in about seven weeks. Imagine what happens with 2 frames of brood, 3 frames of bees and a laying queen. You don’t have to; his model says they are bursting out of their nuc box in three weeks. They fill up a brood box in seven weeks – all from such small starting resources. These numbers are based on the model using cold conditions, which is what we are (compared to California). The upshot of all this is that you only need to make up strong nucs if they are for sale and destined to go straight into a hive.
Tomorrow I’m meeting an ex bee inspector at one of my apiaries. He will be checking on some nucs that I’m hoping to take to an auction next weekend. They have to be certified as disease-free and queen right to be accepted. I wonder if a bee auction will be like selling a Van Gogh painting, and I’ll make millions? Unlikely.