As the Covid rules about maximum numbers of people gathering were still in force, Marion had organised a QR code for track and trace purposes, for those with a smartphone and the NHS app to scan on arrival. For those unable to do that, Jane and Michael were on hand, both to arrange the parking and to list names.
The main purpose of the meeting was about setting up colonies for the anticipated nectar flow.
We were all given a programme of items that would be covered, on the back of which was a diagram of the apiary, with comments about each of the colonies.
For various reasons, I hadn’t seen Marion & Geoff for quite a while and was surprised to find that Geoff had reverted to the (nineteen) sixties, with his “rocker” look. He did seem to have left the Harley at home, though.
Marion welcomed us to the apiary, making a few remarks about Geoff’s appearance, explaining about the set up of the apiary and the reason for the extra “fencing” (to deter keen visitors from approaching the hives). She made the point that they do what they have found to be the best way for them, in their apiary, since there are various ways to run one. She explained that they normally change the comb on most frames in each hive every other year, but that some of the hives currently have quite “dirty” brood comb as they were not strong enough to stand the disruption of a major comb change this year.
They run their hives on 14×12 brood boxes, so that each frame has the equivalent area of a brood and a half of a “normal” national hive.
She handed over to Geoff, with instructions to “keep it short” and on point.
Since quite a lot of the attendees, 29 I counted, were from the latest training courses, Geoff started by defining the summer flow and the likely/usual timing, mentioning the blooming of various plants, to be aware that the flow had started. He then went on to stress the importance of checking that you have enough equipment to cope with demand, whether that is supers with frames of drawn comb from previous years, or with foundation; how to space the frames, for personal preference, which prompted conversations around how many frames to put in a super and the pros and cons of each.
He briefly discussed extraction, with the usual invitation to new members to visit the Cooper household when they do theirs, later in the summer. This prompted a short discussion on the benefits of owning an extractor and the type, tangential or radial. At this point Michael Main explained about the association ones that are available to members for a nominal fee.
We got the usual, amusing, interaction between Marion & Geoff, in terms of keeping on subject. All this, of course, was done with the help of equipment from their inventory, to illustrate the talk.
Geoff then handed over to David Parker, who gave us a talk about cut comb and the various ways to produce and package it for sale. Unfortunately, one of the bits of equipment failed in demonstration, but we were all able to get the gist of how it is supposed to work.
By now, the assumed timing had overrun slightly and it was time to inspect a couple of the hives.
The group split in two. Geoff went through a hive in which the bees had ‘chewed’ almost every frame of comb! I stayed with Marion, who showed us a hive that was used earlier this year for queen rearing, by packing the bees from the brood box and two supers into a small area (only 6 frames), so that several queen cells were created as swarm preparation. The queen was removed into a prepared 2-frame nuc just before the queen cells were sealed. Before the queens emerged the queen cells were removed and put in nucs or mini-nucs made up from the main colony. The space in the colony was then restored, and the queen nuc reunited with it. Our group also looked into a couple of the nucs in the apiary. The queen was spotted in each one. Following this Geoff showed us his Asian Hornet trap. He has made his own patterned on an original that he looked at, which he felt was of inferior quality. It hasn’t caught any Asian Hornets yet (on Guernsey), though it has trapped some wasps. Let’s hope it’s a long time before any Asian Hornets are in the area.
I was unable to stay for the socialising that was set to follow the talk and demonstration, so I can’t comment on that, but I expect that some more useful time was spent by all. (I think that must have been the case as some of the members did not leave until nearly 6.00 pm, and we had the pleasure of receiving some appreciative comments. Everyone had brought cakes and savouries to make a lovely picnic which was enjoyed by all. – Ed.)
Thank you to Marion and Geoff for this opportunity to visit their apiary and especially for the time they devote to helping all the members of WBK. Paul Hildersley
Thank you Paul for your report and appreciative comments. Sorry you were not able to stay to the end.