Lughnasadh

Trail cameras

First off is the trailcam video for 2021-07-26, again thanks to Dan's editing skills. This video was taken during a heatwave, when the local human population were all inside trying to stay cool. There are frenetic mice here. There are cute scenes of fawns having a scratch and looking around and being chased through the woods by the does. There are rabbits hopping all over the place, digging at the ground, rolling around in the holes, and assuming sunbathing positions in the late evenings. There are foxes and badgers with reflective eyes. And then there's the stag, walking around the beehives at 7am. Is it just me, or is he giving them a wide berth? Maybe he didn't have a good first impression.

Monday: Bees being weird

After swapping the cameras' SD cards we thought we'd peek under the bees' roof to see how they were getting on with the food we had left them. We're now at Day 10 after all. I lifted up the roof and found myself looking at the frames themselves. The bees had used propolis to fix the crownboard to the roof itself. Dan noticed through the two holes in the crownboard some tubular comb structures. Even though they had made progress in the broodbox, they seemed to have made the decision to set up home in the roof of the hive.

We're keen to disturb them as little as possible in these early days, so we decided to give them a feeding layer consisting of an eke and another crownboard. Basically, a second false roof. In this false roof we'll continue to feed them while leaving the roof, where the vast majority of their comb is, alone for now. We hope in time they'll consider concrentating on building more comb in the broodbox. You know, like all other bees seem to. In time, we could even use one-way escapes to get them to move down there without disturbing them, and move the comb onto the frames in the broodbox. They've cleverly got double food out of us though! Not that they need it really; the board under the mesh floor showed hundreds of heads of tiny wildflowers indicating they are foraging effectively.

The other thing we noticed was how docile and calm they were. Not one of them attacked. We couldn't possible repay this by cutting up their wild comb.

Saturday: The first inspection

Well, we said we'd wait three weeks, but we decided to inspect the bees on Day 15, given our accidental view into their brood box earlier in the week.

The roof section of the hive felt lighter, indicating that the fondant had mostly been taken, so it was just as well that we had a plan for continuing their feeding. As a late swarm they will need it, after all. Fondant was a great initial bribe for the swarm to stay around, but syrup is more suitable at this time of year, with all the water in being more useful for the bees. It reputedly stimulates the queen to lay. So, while I got a 1kg bag of sugar dissolving in a saucepan, Dan examined the Adapta eke and the syrup feeder I had lying around, and noticed it needed a bit more height to function as a second feeding section. And, after a walk into town to get the required tools (and a nice lunch at the Swan Hotel), Dan got to work with some leftover wood applying a bit of improvisation. The newly adapted Adapta eke looked great. He had extended its height so the feeder ended up fitting snugly. This snug fit is going to help the bees not to get into the feeder and drown. There's a hole for them to access the syrup feeding later, and, through another hole, into the roof where their comb is.

It was a muggy afternoon in the wood and Dan's first proper inspection, and he did great. We opened up the brood box and saw activity on four frames. There was healthy brood in all stages, pollen of various colour, and stores being built, additional to the ones in the roof. We didn't see the queen, despite her red spot, but we did see new eggs, so we know she's in there somewhere.

In the last three months there have been three cases of European Foul Brood within 1km of our colony, so this is always a worry. We didn't see any signs of it in the hive this time, which is a big relief. I've taken the local bee inspector up on her kind offer of a visit in the next couple of weeks so we should get some expert confirmation of this too. We saw a moth in the hive, perhaps the wax moth, but none of the characteristic trails left by their tunelling larvae.

Though I felt like looking around inside their world a bit longer, we strapped them up with a new, badger-proof ratchet strap, and said goodbye to them until next week. It felt like a really good inspection.

Again, they have to be the most relaxed bees I've worked with so far. They were acting like we weren't even there invading their hive, and they got agitated remarkably slowly. They seem happy with their woodland home with its diverse wildflowers, and I have the feeling it's going to be great to work with these bees.

Also this week

Dan's new kittens; Local cryptid The Beast of Exmoor on the This Paranormal Life podcast; WebProtegé; the Playdate handheld game console; QTeletextMaker; git manpage generator.