The peace of Sunday afternoon was disturbed when a friends children called to say, very politely, that err there was a swarm of bees in their garden and might they be mine? Possibly, I said, though you can’t pin it on me guv, but I’ll come and look anyway. If you’re not used to looking at swarms of bees, its the dark blob just to the left of the point of the loppers, and the little specks in the sky to the left again are bees. For some faint idea of how heroic I’m being see how high the ladder is – bees delight in swarming into inaccessible locations.
What I’m doing in the pic is cutting away excess branches. The usual next step is to snip the branch they are on, so the whole swarm falls into the box you’re holding with your other hand… except I need both. So Ben, whose garden was holding all this wonder, thought of hanging a bucket from a very long pole that he just happened to have in one of his many sheds.
From there it is all easy: drop the bees in the bucket, put the bucket in a cardboard box, loosely put on a lid, and then all the little bees who got all excited and flew up in the air follow the scent of their queen and end up inside the box. I even found a colony-less friend who wanted a swarm, so that was all very good.
At which point you could justly complain that I haven’t lived up to my post title. But wait. Today – at very long last – I finally got around to taking the honey off my own hive, for this “spring”, unseasonably delayed by bad weather for about a month.
This brings me to my exhibit:
which (the expert among you will recognise) is what happens to your hive if you don’t have enough frames to fill the super over winter, so you just leave a gap at the edges and hope you’ll remember, come springtime, to fill in the gap. And then don’t. Of course, the bees happily build their own comb to fill the gaps. Here’s a close-up; and here is the offending super, with the good comb in the foreground (standing on top of the spare hive) with the real hive in the background.
After that its all plain sailing: bring the usable frames back down the garden in a wheelbarrow, cut off the cappings with a breadknife (the nectar, as collected, is too thin to store. So the bees concentrate it by fanning in the hive. When each cell is ready, it is capped off with wax for their over-winter use), and then spin out the honey in a rotary extractor. Or in this case get Darling Daughter to do for me.
That leaves you with empty frames (some damaged but never mind: the bees are very good at repairing them) that can be returned to the bees for re-fill and the autumn recolte.