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A novice's guide to producing his own food

Where do I begin…

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The apiary in January. The hives second and third from the right belong to another beekeeper)

The apiary in January. (The hives second and third from the right belong to another beekeeper)

Nobody told me divorce would be so time-consuming. I’ve spent the last few months chasing my tail, and I’ve had lawyers, a financial adviser and my work’s pensions dept chasing mine —  but they all been working on my behalf, and the good news is I still have my house, my kids, my car, my greenhouse, my bees and my allotment. And it’s almost all over.

Personal problems aside, so much has happened as far as the subject of this blog is concerned that I could write several thousand words bringing you up to the present.

But I won’t.

Instead, I intend to write more frequent, shorter entries — less boring to read, and less daunting to write.

OK, let’s start with the bees. 2014 was a pretty successful year. The plan in the spring was to split each of my existing three colonies into three, so that I’d end season with nine. However, I have eight. Well, to be exact, four full colonies and four nucs (half colonies). However, not all of them came from artificial swarms and splits. I caught two swarms during the season (one had settled in empty brood boxes in my garden), and lost three swarms. That makes eight.

This year I’m going to try a few new techniques to minimise swarming  — clipping one wing of each queen, “locking” her in the hive after an artificial swarm, and not giving her any brood to look after when I transfer her. I need to stop future swarms, not because of the loss of bees (that’s bad enough), but because they always seem to settle in the chimney of a nearby family who are terrified of them. It’s embarrassing and expensive.

Clipping the queens is going to be tricky. I haven’t done it before, and I’m still hopeless at spotting them. Having said that, I did manage to find unmarked queens a couple of times last year (it made my heart race), so perhaps I’ll crack it this season. If I can become consistent in spotting queens, then I reckon that could be the final step in me becoming an independent beekeeper, who doesn’t rely on others for hands-on help. That would be a great thing.

You’ll notice from the pic that not all the hives are mine. I have been joined by two other beekeepers. There are now 15 hives in total at the site, and I’m a little anxious that there won’t be enough forage come the spring. Also, what happens if that family finds another swarm in their chimney? I’ll get the blame, but it might not be my bees. And who will  pay the bill for their destruction? These problems have kinda pushed me to start thinking about another apiary site for myself. Somewhere completely in the country, where chimneys aren’t an issue.

It’s early yet to work out how many hives will survive the winter. I’d be extremely surprised if all eight make it, but if six or seven do, then I’ll try to stick to that number for this year. When it comes to the swarming season, I’ll try my hand at making up some nucs to sell.  Whereas last year, I focused on building up the number of hives, this year I’d like to make as much honey as possible. The plan is to sell it all in one go at the Flower & Food Festival come September. I need the cash. Divorces don’t come cheap ….

2 thoughts on “Where do I begin…

  1. Best of luck with your plans for the coming year 🙂 Emma and I are thinking of selling one of our hives in the spring, as four is a lot to cope with.

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