The Railway Terrace Honey Bees

It all started on Thursday 13th November 2014 when I received a telephone call from a very good friend informing me that some Honey bees are living in Cardiff and could do with re-homing.  Due to other work commitments, the soonest we were able to pay them a visit was on Monday 17th November 2014.

So we come to Monday 17th November 2014… and what a day this turned out to be…

I aimed to be there for around 1400hrs but I was then reminded about my Fracture Clinic appointment at 1630hrs.  So Kate and I arrived at the given address in Cardiff for noon and were greeted by the sight of a beautiful small colony that was in fact living approximately 7 foot up in a Blackthorn tree.  There was very little comb present and even less honey stores were seen. The comb was built around some crossing branches which gave them much needed stability, but also required us to give careful consideration to aid in removing these ladies.

The Railway Terrace Honey Bees

Our very good friend who gave us the call initially was also there with us as we thought he would appreciate the opportunity to see them be re-homed.  We chatted and quickly decided the best course of action for them; this involved using a step ladder, a pair of tree loppers and the remainder of our beekeeping retrieval equipment.

We began with a gentle pruning of the immediate area beneath the colony, being very careful not to disturb any branch which was attached to the comb.  There was a lot of banter flying around due to my pruning techniques, as Kate and our friend are both highly trained in horticulture.  After some 10 minutes we were ready to focus on the Honey bees themselves, with one person on a step ladder and the other cutting through the remaining branches which would release the comb and let them fall into the waiting container.

It went absolutely perfectly, the Honey bees were placid and now inside the container, I placed the lid of the container on, to seal them inside.  All in all it took some 20 minutes before we were loading the car up with our kit, saying our goodbyes and were on our way back home.

It was a leisurely 45 minute return drive home when I decided to drive my car into the paddock where the bees were going to live from now on.  I decided on driving into the paddock for a reason.  Only 2 weeks earlier, whilst climbing over the wall into the paddock I ended up with a very badly broken little finger when a piece of the wall fell off (you can read about that little adventure here), plus my car is a 4×4 so there should be no problem… Or so I thought…

The transfer of Honey bees into their brand new Warre beehive was as simple as it comes.  We set the hive in its final resting place and placed a Queen excluder between the two boxes to ensure that when we placed the bees inside, the Queen, if she is in there, would not be able to leave.  The Queen excluder will be removed as soon as I seen signs of comb building, which means that they are happy to settle.

We removed their very empty and very wet comb (from the recent rainfall) from the Honey Bees and lowered the ladies into the Warre beehive on top of the Queen Excluder.  We had been anticipating the arrival of these little ladies for a few days, some food and top bars which had wax starter strips was on hand to complete their rehoming.

After the food was placed on and the hive was closed up, it was time to leave the paddock and get ready to go to my Fracture Clinic appointment which was fast approaching.  So we got in my car and began to drive the long way around the paddock.  It was an unusual but great experience driving through the paddock which was dying back from a year’s growth.  Earlier in the summer the plants were at least 7 foot tall and resembled a thick jungle.

Just as we came to the exit the paddock, my 4×4 car lost some grip; in fact it lost its entire grip.  I tried to reverse, nope that didn’t work, OK well lets go forward again, nope not that way either. There was a lot of laughter coming from within the car at this point as my co-conspirator Kate, often has a joke that my car is not a real 4×4 as there is no differential lock. We quickly decided to go and get her much larger 4×4 which does have a differential lock to pull me out.

Moments later the “Deli” as it is affectionately known arrived in the paddock to rescue my wonderful car.  We lined the Deli up in front of mine, got the ropes ready, attached the vehicles together and began to move my car from its muddy resting place.

This lasted all of about 5 seconds before the Deli too succumbed to the muddiness of the paddock, even with its alleged all singing, all dancing differential lock.

Boy oh boy did we laugh, both of our cars which should easily manage this type of ground, didn’t.  After several attempts of moving the cars we went back to the house to see if any assistance was available.

Two 4x4s stuck in the paddockThe cavalry arrived… Hooray… With a look of disbelief upon his face, as to how we managed to end up here.  There were some more attempts of moving either vehicle before the camera came out and the photographs were made.  My Fracture Clinic appointment was now looming, with just 30 minutes to go, so we decided to let the muddy quagmire win this battle for today, but we were determined to win this war on mud.

Thankfully there was another car for me to use to visit the hospital.  Upon my arrival I was sent to the X-ray department to have another X-ray.  There were 4 people in front of me also waiting, so I was anticipating a lengthy wait.  Fortunately for me, when the next named was called, all 4 of these people stood up and headed towards the relevant room.  I immediately noticed the subtle uniforms and handcuffs restraining one of them.  So there were 3 prison guards escorting a prisoner for whatever fracture that he has received.

After my X-ray and meeting with the Consultant to see how my broken little finger is healing, I headed to Waitrose to collect a couple of items for the household from my mentally noted shopping list.  Once inside Waitrose I noticed that my shopping list had completely disappeared from my memory, so I took a phone out of my pocket and called home to ask for some assistance in remembering.

Once the items were again made known to me, I went to get a trolley, returned to the store to collect the items and headed to the till to pay up.  Once at the checkout, it now quickly became apparent that the money that was in my pocket was not there now…

This induced a panic of searching all of my pockets but to no avail, even though I checked each pocket several times.  The checkout assistant advised me to ask at the Customer Service desk to see if anything was handed in.  I retraced my footsteps through the store before heading to the customer service desk to ask if any money had been kindly handed in.  I explained how much was missing and what notes they were, and then I was given the fantastic news that a very kind hearted citizen had not chosen to keep the money for themselves.  Phew… I was most certainly thankful for such honesty.

The following day, both vehicles were still being held captive by the mud.  In the meantime our friendly local farmer offered to help out; therefore we were waiting of the arrival of a tractor.

The following day I went to my car to collect something while I noticed that the ground was slightly firmer.  This urged me to see if my car would now move, and in fact it did.  It drove directly out of the paddock to my amazement; this encouraged me to try the Deli as well.  Well that didn’t go quite so well and the Deli remained there until the following day when the farmer arrived with his tractor.

A whole week has gone by since we first got stuck and now I have sad news to report.

I checked upon the Railway Terrace Honey bees this morning and found a lifeless hive.  This is always a sad time for me finding dead honey bees.  We tried our very best for them, providing them with a home, with plenty of food and with the best of intentions it seems that they were beyond any help.

I know that they would not have survived if they remained in the tree at Railway Terrace, but I thought that maybe, just maybe we would be able to help enough so that they could see another season.

Sometimes no matter what we do… nature calls

Feeding the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2

It’s time to check on the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 (Honey Bee 2).  So I paid the ladies a visit the other day to see how they’re coping with our mild, yet damp winter so far and to check on their food quantities.

This is a normal requirement for a lot of beekeepers alike to ensure that these hard working ladies have enough food to live on and if not, introduce some food into the hive to ensure they make the spring time ready for the next burst in natures life and reproduction cycle.

Honey bees who are being cared for by a beekeeper have been working in partnership through at least, the previous summer, maybe even spring or longer.  This usually means that they have spent considerable time working together to build up enough storage of food to ensure their survival through to the next spring.  

As for the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 and myself, our lives came together in 29th August 2012.  For those that are unaware, what this means is that, this is not a lot of time for them to produce enough honey for themselves in their own preparations for the looming cold and damp months (not much different to the summer of 2012 really). 

Due to the amount of rain that fell on this area from September on-wards to ensure that there are still lovely ladies in the hive come spring, I needed to introduce an emergency drastic feeding regime.  

I have been keeping a close eye on them, more so than I would normally as they live just metres away from my workshop.  Always managing to spend some quality time sitting near their home just watching their activity, for which time just seems to fly by as I get absorbed by their behaviour.

Because they have not had enough time or suitable weather conditions to build up their own supply, I have needed to step in and supplement them.  Some will agree with me for doing this but some others will not, stating that bees would not normally eat manufactured sugar so therefore I should not feed them and just let nature take its course. 

Well personally my plans are to feed them through this winter into spring (if needed) and allow them to build up their own stores next year ready for the winter of 2013, therefore living a more natural life.  I must point out that I’m not spending my time with Gwenyn Mel 2 so that I can take their honey, I will leave more than enough for them to survive on.  So hopefully next summer will bee a great one and they can bee as natural as possible.

So anyway, back to why I came here… to update you…  The food level for the ladies was low, so some fondant was needed.  Time to get onto the internet to learn how to make my very own fondant, which is needed this time of year.  There was a wonderfully explained video found on how to make fondant which meant I needed to put my chef hat on.  

After a few curious looks from onlookers (there’s just no trust when I’m in the kitchen) I proceeded to make a “slight mess” which was fully cleaned up afterwards, there now proudly sits, made by moi, 5 little trays with fondant in readyness to pass onto Gwenyn Mel 2 as and when required.

Yesterday I paid the ladies a visit and placed a small amount (no bigger than a 10 pence piece) of fondant in through the crown board to see their reaction.  Within seconds, 2 of the little darlings were busy with their tongues, within a minute, there were a few dozen over the fondant.

Woo hoo…  Success…

So as quick as my hands would allow me, I lifted the crown board enough to place the contents of 1 of the trays directly on top of them and lower the crown board again.  Staying briefly to watch the ladies and ensure that my home cooking was not a one off, I returned the roof and stepped back.

I think I will check on them quickly later in the week just to gauge how fast they eat this fondant as this is the first time that I have ever needed to do this as previously they were left copious amounts of their own food.

Take care and will speak to you soon   

If you are interested, there are a few photos of Gwenyn Mel 2 in their very own photo album which can be found on my facebook page by clicking HERE