July begins with warm damp days and spells of sunshine. Some thunder clears the air and plants grow with great resolve. Weeds are knee high in the garlic plot and the air is perfumed with heady scented roses, honey suckle and elder flower. With a bit of luck and consistent warmth, lime trees may even secrete some nectar this year.
Beach Tidy Up.
We borrow the gate key from Cawdor Estates giving us access to the land beyond Nairn’s East Beach so that we can clear the rubbish from around the bothy and beach. Mostly we find detritis washed up from the sea, but picnic litter has been chucked out into the grass around the red tin-roofed bothy.
I’ts like stepping back into the 1960’s when insects were prolific, and the land is alive and loud with insects of many kinds. I’m distracted by this glorious butterfly and cannot believe my good fortune when it stays still long enough for me to get a decent shot. I see flashes of orange all day among the grasses and this is the best litter pick I’ve ever been on. It would also be true to say that I did more nature watching than litter picking.
6-spot Burnet moths are everywhere. This one, taken on my phone, is not so clear but they are to be found on thrift along this coastline. Red streaks fly up and out of the long grass as I bend low to wrestle well embedded plastic bottles from the soil.
A fox runs across our path and there are large foxholes in the dunes. Rabbits are prolific and the ecosystem seems just right for these animals.
The short grass at the edge of the beach, where it meets the piled up sea- washed egg- shaped stones, is patched with wild thyme heaving with bumble bees of all sizes. Thyme releases its distinctive perfume when crushed between fingers or underfoot and the heat of a strong sun intensifies this delightful experience.
Marram grass holds together the sand and soil and knits the edge of the beach to the land preventing erosion. We drive carefully on the grass track to avoid disrupting this fragile ecosystem.
Farewells and New Starts.
True to her nature, Connie shares the rocker and the tiny colourful topping on the empire biscuit with her younger sister at our farewell tea party with their family. They move into their new home in Rhos-on Sea very soon after making their way south in their camper van. It’s been a most memorable time beekeeping with Connie over the past three years but it isn’t nearly as hard to part knowing that she has a friendly mentor called Mary waiting in the Conwy Valley which is 9 miles away from Connie’s new home.
Peter McFadden, secretary of Conwy Beekeepers Association, responded immediately to my request for a mentor for Connie and within 24 hours Mary emailed to offer support. How amazing is that! Mary and Connie share the same surname too which is a great coincidence. An auspicious start to new friendships and beginnings.
More Excitements and a Blast from the Past.
Have you ever had a Scottish folk band stop by for a cuppa and give you a private performance of very beautiful music? I bet you haven’t! How lucky were we when Maggie Cassie, my very old friend and retired nursing colleague from the neonatal unit at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, dropped in with her friends on their way home from Ullapool and gave us a concert. You can listen to their music on their Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/Halesome-Farin-424928661250310/?__xts__[%25AB0%25BB]=68.a
Beekeeping this week involved checking that some colonies were queenright after swarm control, adding supers, processing more soft set honey, writing a book review for Northern Bee Books, mentoring and checking a new out-apiary site.
I’m running out of equipment and need to cap colony numbers at 12 till I buy in more next season. I’m helping a nuc expand to fill 10 brood frames before the end of the season by using the poly double brood box nuc below and feeding a 1:1 sugar syrup till the frames have been drawn out. You will be relieved to know that the photo was taken last winter, and, though it can be cold here in summer too, we have not yet had snow in July.
Nuclei build up faster if fed syrup and a contact feeder is good at this time. Robbing is a great risk so the entrance is best kept very small.
I’ts easy to let a 5-framed nuc expand and become congested enough to swarm so I keep a close eye on it and give more frames when they are covering all 5 with bees. I like my system here because I can add a super with 5 frames and get them well stocked up for winter. They are cosy and well insulated and the brood nest is shaped rather like it would be in a natural tree cavity, long and narrow and surrounded by insulating stores.
Expanding a Nuc In Full Sized Brood Box.
Once your nuc is covering 5 frames with bees you can put it in a full sized brood box and hive being careful not to let the brood chill by restricting space and using a dummy board at one side of the brood nest. The other side of the brood nest will be against a wall of the brood box.
The best way to do this is move the nuc to one side and place a floor and brood box on the original site. Find the frame with the queen on it and place that in the new brood box. Transfer the other frames across in the same order as they were in the brood nest and shake or brush any remaining bees into the hive. Move the nuc well away to discourage bees from returning to it as soon as you have removed the bees.
Only give 2 or 3 new undrawn frames at a time when building up a nuc, and place them outside the brood nest on both sides. Move the frames up against one wall for better insulation and place the dummy board on the open side to provide insulation there since there will be a gap until all the frames have been placed in the hive. This is where I use my insulated wide dummy boards (see previous post on wide dummy boards) to instantly reduce the gap.
Continue to feed a 1:1 sugar syrup if there is not a nectar flow on. To hasten expansion you can add a frame of emerging brood from another healthy disease free colony. This can be done every few weeks but it is important to have enough bees to keep the brood warm so only add one frame of brood at a time.
Add more undrawn combs as the others are drawn out until the brood box is full. If this is carried out early enough in the season you might find the colony ready for a super before the end of the season.