Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The (Almost) Naked Beekeeper!

 With working weekends we dont seem to get much time to get to the plot after work atm, but after not seeing any evidence of the emerged queen (or eggs/larvae) in the last nucleus we took (after 3 weeks and seeing that the queen cell is open) when we did the bee inspections this week, we decided that the four of us would open up the hive and make a thorough check on Sunday, so we all met up at the plot after work to have a look!

Lee and I arrived first, so after watering in the greenhouses and ploytunnel we suited up, although not as thoroughly as we normally do!

 As you can see, here we have the 'Tesco Beekeeper', Lee, still in uniform (though I dont think they'd let him wear his wellies to work, I was also in my uniform, which is black in colour and consists of cargo type pants (that are fairly form fitting) and tshirt, and seeing as we weren't planning on being in the apiaries for too long, I put my bee jacket over the top of my uniform! This proved to be something of a mistake!

Now, normally I wear gaiters over my shoes, to seal the trouser legs (and prevent bees from crawling up them, which has happened once before, and normally results in a sting to your leg when you move - as the trousers then squash the been against your leg and it retaliates by stinging you!), but seeing as we werent doing a full inspection, I didnt bother with my gaiters, and also forgot the fact that bees dont like black clothing, it makes them think you are a 'bear' come to steal their honey, not a great situation when you've got black trousers on and are upsetting them by opening the hive!

So,as Pat and Colin hadnt yet arrived, Lee lit the smoker and we went into apiary 1 to have a look at hive 7 (aka the nucleus)! On opening the hive and having a good look, we have to conclude that its gone queenless, there's no sign of eggs, grubs, larvae or a queen in evidence anywhere within the hive, so we've only got a couple of choices of what we can do with it!

Without a queen present the hive will not survive, and with no eggs present, then the workers cant raise an egg to become a queen, so they are doomed unless we do one of two things! The 2 choices we have are to combine it with another hive (possibly hive 1 as this is our weakest colony), by putting the brood boxes above each other, separated by a layer of newspaper (once the bees have eaten their way through, then they will already have gotten each others scent, so wont fight and will combine happily together), or (as its still - just about - early enough for a new queen to be mated and start laying) we could give them a frame of eggs to enable them to raise an egg as a queen and hopefully the colony will then become strong enough to survive!

We decided to take a frame of eggs from Hive 3 (in the other apiary) as this is a hive with calm bees and thats nice and strong, so after sealing up hive 7 temporarily we moved over to apiary 2 to see if we could get a frame of eggs to move! As we went into Apiary 2 it was to find that our smoker had gone out, so Lee quickly relit it!

Hive 3 is a strong colony, and has 4 supers on it at the moment, so before we could remove a frame we had to remove the 4 (heavy) supers, then the queen guard before we could start looking for a frame of newly laid eggs! As I removed the first frame of bees from hive 3 they realised I was wearing black trousers, so one decided to sting me on my leg straight away! Ouch!

We then found the smoker had gone out again, and the bees were getting upset at being disturbed at such a late hour, so there were a lot of angry bees flying around! We managed to find a good frame of newly laid eggs, removed it and gently shook the bees off the frame, only to find that some of the uncapped honey from the frame then flew out and landed on my black trousers! This sent the now angry bees into a bit of a feeding frenzy, so my legs were covered in bees, and worse than that, I could feel them crawling up inside my trouser legs!!!

Pat and Colin arrived at this point, to find me stood with my legs unmoving, a frame of eggs in my hand and Lee laughing! Pat relit the smoker, then took the frame of eggs over to hive 7 (in the other apiary) and closed up that hive, before coming back to us!

Lee had managed to clear the bees off his legs by this time (gently brushing them off), so he got the smoker and smoked me to remove as many of the bees from my trousers as possible, but I was stuck with bees inside my trousers, if I'd have moved either leg they would have stung me, and I could feel them getting higher, one was already above my knee!

I tried lifting my trouser leg, but as my work trousers are fairly form fitting, I couldnt raise them far enough without risking squashing a bee and receiving a sting, so only 1 alternative was available to me........ I'd have to take my trousers off! Ok, I'm no prude, its not something that I'm accustomed to, but it doesnt worry me, except for the 200000 stings flying angrily around the enclosed space of the apiary!

Nothing for it though, either I remove my trousers and hopefully get the bees out without a sting, or try to walk out and invariably get a sting! I got Lee to give me a thorough smoking, then managed to remove my trousers without getting stung (although I'm sure my bottom made a nice target for some of the bees to aim for) and freed the trapped bees, before exiting the apiary, luckily without any more stings!

The only good thing about the whole situation though, is I'm gald I wasnt 'going commando' today, as that definitely could have been embarrassing, not to say downright painful! Lol! And, before you ask, no, I didnt let anyone get any pictures of me trouserless in the apiary, you'll just have to take my word for it!

Anyhows, the nucleus in Hive 7 has a frame of freshly laid eggs now, so we'll let them alone for a couple of weeks and see whether they manage to requeen themselves!

I havent shared any piccies of the polytunnel recently, so I tok a couple today, the toms in there are fruiting well, but with it being soo close to the fence and hedges its quite shaded in there, so they arent as far on as the ones in the greenhouses............

............. mind you, I have to say that the lavender we grew from seed has done fantastically well! Some of this is going to be transplanted into the front of Plot 1 next year, as underplanting of the plum tree we hope to plant there!

Anyhows, the moral of the beekeeping exerience, dont think you can just quickly do anything where bees are concerned, and dont cut corners with your bee protection! I was lucky today, I could easily have been stung a lot more than the once that I was!

Hope your plots are cropping well, and if you have bees, I hope they are behaving themselves and not forcing you to do a naked dance around your apiary! Lol!

Thanks for reading, more updates to follow soon!


Steph said...

hahahahaha! brilliant!! glad you escaped with only one sting. won't be doing that again in a hurry eh? ;)

Murey said...

Indeed! That's quite the story. Excellent work.

Mrs Dobby said...

Hi Steph, glad you saw the funny side of the situation, I have to admit that it is fairly commical, but when its you thats potentially going to get stung, it doesnt feel funny at the time! Lol!

Im not planning on doing it again tho, I've learnt my lesson, full bee protection, even if only going in for a few minutes!

Mrs Dobby said...

Hi Murey,

Quite a story for sure, methinks my fellow beekeepers at the Stockport BBKA are going to enjoy it! Mind you, at least we gave the frame of eggs to the nucleus, so hopefully it will be able to get requeened and have at least a chance of becoming fully viable, only time will tell!

Green Jeannie said...

My next door Allotment neighbour has bees, so I find your posts about them very interesting.

Although, I have to admit, this post really had me feeling quite weak.....not with laughter, (well a bit) but with fear for you!

Also, for some reason half way through reading my computer crashed.....which was really frustrating too!

I was stung by one of the next door bees when the summer first arrived, it was very painful, so I think you were extremely brave.

I guess you get used to it, but I am not sure I ever could.

J x

Mrs Dobby said...

Hi Jeannie,

The stings do hurt at first, but the one I got the other day wasnt too bad, I dont think the bee managed to sting me deeply because of the trousers I was wearing! Mind you, I wouldnt have wanted a further 4 or 5 stings on my leg inside the trousers, so it was better to try and gently get them out by taking my trousers off! It is quite surprising at how calm bees normally are, the last thing they want to do is sting you (as it almost always means they will die from stinging you), so as long as you dont move quickly or upset them, then they will by and large leave you alone (though there's always one who will buck the trend!)

If you get the chance to go into your neighbours apiary (with a spare suit if s/he has one), you will probably find it very interesting, most folks who've had a loo in ours think its brilliant!

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