About East Morton Apiary
The apiary is on a south facing patch of ground, and is in reality nearer the Aire Valley Road than East Morton. We have had this base for 40 years in total, and currently have 10 colonies on the site. We produce honey which we sell at the East Riddlesden Hall Christmas Fayre and at the Keighley Show.
The apiary itself is fairly sheltered, and a bit of a sun trap. There’s a number of trees around, quite a bit of bramble and bluebells, with some interesting spring flowers and plants emerging.
Mid June 2016
This week, the bees were calmer, and the team grateful. Maybe it was the weather, which was no longer oppressive and thundery. Maybe it was the lavender sugar water we sprayed them with (controversial!). Maybe it was the new virgin queens, so small only Sue could spot and mark them before they could rush away. Whatever it was, the spirit of bonhomie did not reach as far as hive 4, who remained resolutely unfriendly. So much so, I suggested sending them to hooligan for us at Euro 2016. Surely the Russian bees (Apis mellifera caucasia to be precise) with their susceptibility to nozema would be no match for our psychopathic brave British girls? But no government would allow them to travel, so we returned them to hive 4 and hoped for a change of mood.
Two huge buddleja globosa on the boundary
of the site are just beginning to come into flower.
They look quite different to the more common buddleja davidii, or butterfly bush, which you see on wasteland everywhere. But it’s just as attractive to bees and butterflies with a lovely honey scent.
My favourite buddleja, however, is buddleja weyeriana ‘Sungold’, which combines the peachy golden colour of globosa with the long racemes of the davidii. Sadly, I don’t own one.
Oh, and for any other keen buddleja spotters out there (No? Just me, then) there’s a lovely buddleja alternifolia in flower right now outside the vets on Aireworth Road. Just like this one in the picture here.
Back to the apiary. Sue performed another heroic task this week, by arriving first on site, only to find that a line had been put across the drive to prevent the horses stampeding down it. Had Jonathan arrived first, future generations might have been treated to stories of the ‘Headless Biker of East Morton’. Luckily, Jonathan remained capitated, and here he is, with head intact:
Testing times for the EM team, as the bees continue to refuse to read the manual. Keeping track of 10 hives is surprisingly challenging, especially when you begin to split some colonies and unite others. It seemed that we had just got all colonies queenright, with all queens marked and swarm safe when the bees decided otherwise. Then a combination of queenlessness and thundery weather meant many of the colonies were in foul temper today, and quite challenging, with some guard bees taking their jobs all too seriously (it’s just a job girls, you’ll be foragers in a week or so, chill out!). However, we soldiered on, and ensured that all queenless colonies were provided with queen cells before making our retreat, accompanied by zealous guards. And if you haven’t yet seen someone ride a motorbike in full beekeeping gear, then you should see Jonathan as he leaves on a Wednesday. It certainly shakes them off. But don’t worry, he does changes into proper gear before riding on the Queen’s highway.
The previous week had seen several incidents of bees getting inside beesuits. Jonathan’s suit has a tiny gap below the chin, where the flap doesn’t close properly. The bees showed a keen interest in colonising his beard, from which he had to remove them at regular intervals. Interestingly, they showed no interest in stinging him. And I had a surprising moment when I realised I had a bee up my nose! I have never had a bee inside my suit before, so was rather shocked. I had failed to press the velcro strip down properly under my chin, so it was my own fault. So do remember, everyone, to check every time that you are properly protected.
We’re all hoping that next week the bees will be happier, and our work will be easier. Watch this space!e
A small team of willing volunteers was formed to take on the work previously done mainly by John Tatham, with help from people like David Wadsworth. It soon became clear that many hands make light, or at least lighter, work, and we were aware of how much John had done. Undaunted, we set to work on the most pressing priority: creating somewhere where we could sit down and have a cup of tea.
Once that had been sorted, we turned out attention to the bees and inspected all of them. Some colonies were moved from the muddier areas (carrying well populated brood boxes whilst slithering in mud is no laughing matter), many were put on new stands, and all were given nice, clean new floors. A lot of kit cleaning was completed, and numbers tacked on to each hive. On 19th April, Ivor Flatman, the bee inspector, gave each hive a full disease check, and confirmed us as a healthy apiary.
Autumn saw a lot of site clearing work, and the installation of the new shed.
Once complete, the shed also proved useful for incarcerating badly behaved beekeepers.