Properly … not likely.
This time final yr I wrote my 2020 looking back submit. Trying again the previous few years I’ve at all times tried to submit these retrospective opinions of the season per week or so earlier than Christmas.
In December 2020 we had a quickly rising variety of Covid circumstances being identified, peaking in early January at ~68,000 a day. One yr later – truly rather less than one yr – we’ve simply surpassed these worryingly excessive numbers.
So, not déjà vu in any respect … as meaning the feeling of getting already skilled the current state of affairs.
We have skilled it already 🙁
Like chalk and cheese
Covid and the lockdowns of 2020 had a dramatic influence on my beekeeping. I did the naked minimal to take care of the colonies. This concerned little greater than some rigorous swarm management adopted by feeding them up for winter.
2021 has been fully completely different.
Regardless of the self-imposed restriction of residing 150 miles from nearly all of my bees, I had a extremely busy time and was beekeeping kind of all season.
And it was an excellent season.
After a chilly, late begin to the yr I used to be involved that the colonies weren’t going to be robust sufficient to take advantage of the oil seed rape and different early nectar.
I needn’t have nervous.
By mid Could the colonies had been booming and I managed the largest spring honey harvest since returning to Scotland in 2015 .
The honey bonanza was repeated once more in the summertime, once more with a document crop.
What was notably rewarding was that these good harvests had been achieved from considerably fewer manufacturing colonies than earlier years.
This isn’t actually a case of Much less is extra, it simply displays what a very good yr it was right here.
I had lived in Fife since 2015. From 2018 I’d spent growing quantities of time on the west coast which – with lockdown – had included nearly all of 2020.
For a lot of causes this was preferable and, with no expectation of Covid (and all it had entailed) disappearing anytime quickly, we took benefit of a quick hiatus in authorities restrictions to sell-up in Fife and transfer completely to Ardnamurchan.
The transfer was in February 2020 … and there are nonetheless some issues which have but to be unpacked.
The one factor I didn’t transfer was any bees.
Bees in Fife, like ~98% of the UK mainland, have Varroa. In distinction, the Ardnamurchan peninsula, along with some components of neighbouring Morvern and Knoydart, are Varroa-free.
Due to this fact, in preparation for shifting away from Fife altogether, I’ve been decreasing my colony numbers on the east coast this yr.
As many beekeepers know, one of the simplest ways to do that is to separate colonies into nucs and pop in a ripe queen cell.
Three weeks later you must have a mated queen and two to 3 weeks after that you’ll have a nuc prepared on the market.
Have you ever seen the value of nucs just lately?
All of which meant that I spent a lot of the primary half of the season rearing queens.
Queen rearing in Fife
I most likely get pleasure from queen rearing greater than every other side of beekeeping.
I believe I’ve beforehand recounted first studying Hooper’s Bees and Honey e-book and skipping over the queen rearing chapter considering ‘Why on earth would I wish to do all that?’.
Have you ever seen the value of nucs just lately?
As Hooper stated, there are few issues extra satisfying than working with a peaceful and productive colony headed by a queen you’ve got reared.
And he was proper.
I began queen rearing on the tenth of Could. Looking back, regardless of getting good acceptance (10/10) of the larvae, this was a bit early as subsequent queen mating was patchy and sluggish.
If at first you don’t succeed …
The second and third batches of queens (on the 1st and seventh of June) had been far more profitable and the higher climate in June improved mating success. Total, nearly 75% of grafted larvae resulted in mated queens with queen rearing on the west coast.
To assist me keep in mind what didn’t work final season – or to help my recall of the few successes I did get pleasure from – I hold information.
In earlier years I’ve accomplished this with bits of paper that I carry round with me from apiary to apiary in my bee bag.
Nonetheless, the mix of the home sale and my shockingly dangerous organisation had resulted in me beginning the 2020 season with no clean printed varieties on which to maintain information.
I subsequently cobbled collectively a barely expanded model of the shape on a spreadsheet and used this for all my document protecting.
I at all times have a laptop computer with me when travelling and nearly all of my bees on the east coast are in apiaries with at the very least some shelter. Due to this fact, relatively than taking notes and transcribing them to the spreadsheet I simply typed them up, there after which, throughout the inspections.
The downs and ups of being a digital nomad
The N, M and comma keys at the moment are sufficiently gummed up with propolis that the laptop computer is nearly unusable.
Nonetheless, protecting information like this has been a revelation. Not solely are my information extra full than standard, they’re additionally much more helpful.
For instance, they’re immediately searchable. If I seek for ‘OA’ I can discover the 18 situations after I referred to this throughout the yr – all of that are within the Remedy column.
With slightly Pivot Desk magic I can see how busy I used to be throughout the season.
I’ve not damaged this down into east and west coast apiaries, and I’ve exclude situations when the brood field wasn’t opened or after I did nothing however add syrup/pollen patties and so on.
Over the season I inspected one thing like 340 colonies, however as is obvious from the graph above, the majority of the work was in Could and June. A number of colonies haven’t been absolutely inspected since late July, although all these on the east coast have had the Apivar strips added and eliminated.
Large deal … present me one thing helpful
OK, I agree the graph above is of little use. Maybe extra helpful is the power to simply get an thought of assorted facets of colony efficiency.
For instance, after I’m queen rearing I solely wish to choose larvae from my greatest colonies.
That’s not essentially the colony I thought was greatest final week.
Maybe I used to be notably clumsy that week with an excellent higher colony?
Perhaps I’ve merely forgotten how psychotic the apparently good colony was in earlier weeks?
It actually needs to be the colony that has, over the vary of traits I rating, carried out greatest over the season.
My queens are numbered, or at the very least the bins they’re in carry a singular queen quantity.
Due to this fact, by being cautious to not duplicate queen numbers throughout the season, it’s potential to get an thought of which colonies (queens) have carried out greatest … once more with slightly Pivot Desk magic.
These are cumulative averaged scores of three separate standards e.g. mood or steadiness. I don’t hold information of honey weights, or longevity, or swarminess, or any variety of different standards … however I may if I wished .
Subsequent season I’ll have a reasonably good thought which queens to pick larvae from after I begin queen rearing.
In some unspecified time in the future late in July I acquired the dreaded ‘AFB inside 5 km’ electronic mail from the Nationwide Bee Unit.
No matter how cautious you might be in earlier inspections, or of how rigorous you might be with apiary hygiene , these emails are at all times worrying.
No less than they’re to me 🙁
I bought my first-borne little one and bought a load of AFB take a look at kits, ordering them en route to Fife and gathering them from Brian in Thorne’s of Newburgh earlier than arriving on the apiaries.
I then spent a complete day going via each body in each hive within the ‘in danger’ apiary and one other website that I exploit.
It was a busy day.
After taking a look at just a few hundred thousand cells you begin to get paranoid.
Inevitably you’ll discover just a few partially capped cells … in any case, they’ll’t go from open to capped with out – sooner or later – being partially capped. I didn’t lateral circulation take a look at each one, however I did the ropey larva take a look at on a big quantity … all the pieces was destructive.
I used to be subsequently informed that, though further apiaries (a number of, bee inspectors are, rightly, cautious to not disclose confidential info) had been discovered with AFB, all had been immediately linked to the index website i.e. AFB transmission concerned the beekeeper-mediated switch of bees or contaminated tools, relatively than via drifting or robbing by the bees alone.
Forewarned is forearmed … subsequent season I’ll watch out to examine the colonies as they construct up within the spring.
The dying of the sunshine
I’m scripting this as we strategy the shortest day of the yr which, right here on the west coast, is about six and three quarter hours lengthy.
There’s not a lot gentle, however what there may be may be beautiful …
It’s a very good time to look again over the season.
To work out what labored and what didn’t.
Total 2021 was fairly good so far as my bees had been involved. The season contained a standard vary of peculiar successes and abject failures, brought on – in equal measure – by my standard insightful interventions and appallingly cackhanded meddling.
It was enjoyable.
I learnt just a few new issues.
I most likely re-learnt much more 😉
And, like each season, I noticed issues I’d both by no means seen earlier than or not been alert sufficient to note.
I’ll finish this retrospective with a photograph taken on the final day of August as I transferred a colony to a brand new brood field.
It’s not a very good photograph as I needed to rigorously put down the body I used to be holding and scrabble round for my digicam.
Within the far again nook of the hive, diametrically reverse the doorway (which was diminished to assist the colony repel wasps), there was a ‘clump’ of drones. They had been tightly wedged into the nook of the hive and – at the very least to me – it appeared as if they had been being herded there by the employees.
Everyone knows that drones are evicted from the colony as autumn approaches.
Their job is completed.
Truly, to be pedantic, if they’re nonetheless alive in early autumn they’ve singularly failed to do their job 😉
No matter … they’re surplus to necessities so far as the colony is anxious.
Normally you see the drones being turfed out of the doorway of the hive.
I believe this photograph reveals what occurs to the drone contained in the hive. The employees pester and harry them. Both they try to cover within the corners of the hive, or they’re successfully herded there by the employees.
It will probably’t be loads of enjoyable being a drone in late August 🙁