The bee stand at our recent successful Picnic Day was buzzing with children as well as adults throughout the whole event, emphasising the high level of interest that there is in the presence of honeybees at Fishers Field. Many of our guests rolled beeswax candles and learned about the life of honeybees and their management through demonstrations given by myself and several of my beekeeping friends who came to help on the stand.
Our visitors also learned that the past year has not been an easy one for the FF bees. Spring was damp and apart from one relatively short sunny period, it was fairly cold for them too. Nevertheless a little honey was harvested although as I have said many times before, the primary intention of this project is the pollination of Fishers Field and the surrounding areas and not honey collection.
The two original hives have continued to flourish. Both replaced their queen bees late in the year but the colonies are healthy, have good food stores and are well prepared in numbers for winter. I have fed and organically medicated them, and taken protective measures against winter pests such as mice and woodpeckers. I decided not to insulate the hives against the cold as this can cause condensation and mould. Even though honeybees do not hibernate and can survive at pitifully low winter temperatures, hive insulation is a debateable point amongst beekeepers and I may even change my mind if the winter turns really Arctic!
I also decided to close down the new third hive as it did not appear to be thriving. It is not clear why although the crowded conditions in the apiary may have played a part. I look forward to using the extra space planned for the apiary and plan to replace this colony next season.
Security and access are ongoing concerns. The big low wooden gate at the entrance to the apiary compound looks attractive but is easily breached. I am grateful for the additional security further inside. We must continue the efforts of us all to be vigilant in monitoring the site and to report any suspicious situations regarding the bees or FF in general either to me (my telephone number is on the notice board), to our Chairlady Betty or the Police.
Clearing the undergrowth along the path beyond the wooden gate to the apiary is an important and very necessary job. I regularly have to carry large amounts of clumsy equipment to and from the apiary cage. The brambles appear determined to tear the mesh on my protective mask too. The area around the cage also needs to be cut back on a regular basis to ensure sunlight and ventilation around the hives. I am doing my best to keep these areas clear myself and I sincerely appreciate help given in this respect.
I am pleased to tell you that I passed my first beekeeping examination this summer and although I am continuing my studies, both my former mentors feel I am ready to ‘go it alone’. They and the rest of my local beekeeping club – the famous Harrow Beekeepers – are always supportive, and in my next report I hope to be able to tell you that the FF honey bees have come safely through the winter of 2015-6