Thursday, 26 August 2010

Queen cells have gone out

I aim to replace most of our queens this time of year using the supercedure impulse. At this time of year many colonies will replace an older or poor performing queen by raising a single cell, allowing it to hatch and mate resulting in a young healthy queen to go through the winter.
The method I use tries to replicate this by placing a sealed and protected queen cell in each hive which will hopefully be accepted by the colony as their own. The virgin then emerges from the cell, mates and I have young queens going into winter.
This system has a fail-safe in that if the virgin fails to emerge and mate we still have a viable queen established in the hive.
Not the situation when replacing existing queens with new mated queens as the resident queen has to be removed or destroyed before her replacement can be introduced. So any acceptance problems of introduced mated queens will result in a queenless colony.
The bar of cell cups before grafting, six days before they are installed in the colonies.
Each cell is wrapped in tin foil to prevent the colony ripping out the side of then cell and destroying the larvae. We have used electricians insulation tape but stopped when a local bee keeper lost three batches of sixty cells due to some fire retardant on foam he was using. I suspect that electricians tape will have some fire retardant so decided not to take the risk.
When installing the cells I open all the hives on the pallet, fill the feeder then prise apart two frames in the centre of the brood nest and push the cell in, put the lid back and jobs a good'un.

The success rate of this method will vary according to the weather but I estimate it to be between 50% and 75% of cells introduced becoming mated queens.
Will check again in three weeks and any colonies without a laying queen will be united for the winter.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Just a quick check

As usual on a Thursday I was in a rush to, check the Hereford sheep, pick up the additional items for the market, collect chicken food from Batchley Mill then up to Shrewsbury set up the market and back for tea at 7. Bit late setting off should have just enough time arrive at Stoke Prior 2.30pm

So First stop Millie and I walk into the orchard to check the sheep.

Away she goes rounds up the sheep ready to be checked, OK seven healthy sheep no lameness,scouring or other obvious problems, that's good ....except, there should be 16. Nine sheep gone. With a rising pulse rate I check all the fences no holes, they must have been nicked.

The thing is to keep calm do not panic... a whole 12 months worth of sheep work lost. Check the neighbouring field. That's clear only another farmers sheep about 1/4 mile away 9 in a 20 acre field. Wait a minute 9 sheep in a massive field,the little buggers have legged it and taken up unauthorised residence in a neighbours farm, look pretty relaxed for gate crashers.

Off we trudge Millie rounds them up narrowly avoiding mixing them with a flock of 100 sheep in a nearby paddock, we get them back by lifting the fence line and pushing reluctant ewes under, a temporary job on fastening the fence down. Now what to do, can't leave them here or they will be off before the morning. The only option move them to a secure field before the night is out. Time now 3.00pm

Plan one off to the owner of the field and borrow his trailer and move the sheep now, just changed my mobile so don,t have his number. Nothing else for it I'll have to drive up there and talk to him. Needless to say he's gone on holiday and the house sitter doesn't have a key "don't worry he'll be back next Thursday" she helpfully suggests. Next Thursday they will be halfway to London by then. Wasted time now its 3.30pm

I know Batchley Mill have a trailer I could pick up the fruit from Phoenix Organics, as usual they are well organised and I get loaded quickly and then hot foot to Batchley pick up chicken food and the trailer move sheep jobs "a good un". Arrive at Batchley load feed but no sign of John or Mary so no trailer. Time 4.00pm, market closes 6.00 so need to be there before 5.30 to have time to unload

Plan C go to Shrewsbury set up as planned (although time is running out) and borrow Ken's trailer from the village. Call him, no answer leave a message hope he's not on holiday.

As fast as legally possible drive up to Shrewsbury Millie is loving this rushing around and chasing sheep. First thing to go better than anticipated arrive at Shrewsbury market 5.15 so enough time to unload.

So back home cup of tea to keep me going then with Nicky over to Ken's to hook up his trailer, but not before he shows us his Downs cross lambs now 7.30pm. Right we're off the Stoke Lacy, pick up the sheep still in the field thank goodness and over to drop them at Butford. Back home to put the chickens away (late) at 10pm. Not bad for a quick check.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Extracting finished for another year

I have completed extraction for another year, here is our Thomas 12 frame radial extractor I chose it because it had the biggest motor while still being able to take it through a standard door. Its bolted to a 2' wooden platform for stability and takes about 4 to 6 minutes to extract a full load. Allour honey is stored in 10litre tubs which take about 30lbs each.
We had about 90 full depth supers this year , slight improvement on previous years and have extracted a total of 1,500lbs over the season. The honey season was shaping up to be a good one this year but July all but failed completely, judging by the supers I put on at the end of June which were all but dry.
We use standard Langstroth boxes throughout our operation, most of which are plastic which is much easier then making up wooden frames but can be quite hard on the hands when extracting. They are also very robust, I haven't had a single frame break this year for the first time. The wooden frame you see there has a a plastic foundation sheet rather than wax.

Vegetable update for July Aug

The season is now moving from weeding and planting to harvesting and seed sowing for autumn and winter crops.
We have finished harvesting our garlic which we have been selling as fresh bulbs, they will continue for a couple of weeks then we will be selling them as dried bulbs until they run out. This is our first year growing garlic, we've found them much more popular on the market than the bought in bulbs and we've been pleased with the quality and size of bulbs. Next year we will grow more in the tunnel to get the earlier crop as well as the outdoor bulbs.

Leeks are progressing well the variety on your right is Hannibal on the left Atlanta, Hannibal is a late summer autumn crop while Atlanta will hopefully take us through to April next year. We used bio mulch gain this year but we are concerned that late summer rains are not getting to the roots so are considering using a woven mulch next year which will allow any summer rains through to the crop.
Onions have suffered from mildew this year, the first time we've experienced this. The bulbs have however reached a reasonable size so we will harvest them as normal and hope that they keep for long enough to sell them.