The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Update on our new colony of Buckfast bees after three weeks

Posted in Bees | 4 comments

Update on our new colony of Buckfast bees after three weeks

I grabbed the chance between showers to go into my hive of Buckfast bees this afternoon. They got very agitated initially but settled down after a while. And so did I! The key thing to remember when examining a hive is to keep calm as possible. When I begin to feel a bit overwhelmed by the bees (these supposedly calm bees were dive bombing my veil) I always think of the indomitable and kind August Boatright and her advice to Lily in the novel The Secret Life of Bees: “I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a...

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The arrival of the colony of Buckfast bees

Posted in Bees | 7 comments

The arrival of the colony of Buckfast bees

“I’m so pleased and relieved that you are home.” The postman grinned nervously. “I didn’t want to put this back on the van.” He gently laid the nucleus box of bees on our doorstep. The nucleus box is a temporary container that holds the brood frames securely. There are several little grills on the sides to let air in but not allow bees to escape. “Have they been buzzing a lot?” “Yes. Particularly down at the post office. All the others were laughing.” I thought it best not to mention the time when I collected my first new...

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Why do honey bees swarm? A local swarm of bees moved into one of our empty hives

Posted in Bees | 9 comments

Why do honey bees swarm? A local swarm of bees moved into one of our empty hives

“Bees will be bees and do what they want to do however hard you try to manipulate them.” Brenda announced this over a leisurely mug of tea years ago and she’s right. Brenda is married to our one time Bee Mentor Mike Hastings. She has that special something – our Min Pins fawned on her rather than yapping and dancing away with their normal ‘don’t touch me’ skip. She is one of the calmest most centred people that I have ever met. Of course Brenda didn’t mean that bees should not be husbanded. They need care and help to...

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Beekeeping plans and projects 2012

Posted in Bees | 17 comments

Beekeeping plans and projects 2012

Our colony of bees didn’t make it through the winter. I always start checking to see if they are flying on sunny days. It’s so heartening to see them buzzing in an out of the hive. A real sign of spring. But this year the hive is silent. I’ve sat beside the pond for ages hoping that eventually they’d appear. But there is no sign of them.  All the honey bees that I’ve spotted in our garden must have come from the hives across the road. It’s really disappointing. I haven’t looked inside the hive yet – I suppose I’ve been...

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‘The Bad Beekeeper’s Club’ by Bill Turnbull : a review

Posted in Bees, Reviews | 6 comments

‘The Bad Beekeeper’s Club’ by Bill Turnbull : a review

  Bill Turnbull’s interest in honey bees was tweaked when a swarm arrived in his garden and was removed by a local beekeeper. A few years later he took a local beekeeping course and was not daunted by his first painful stings. He had arrived for a practical beekeeping session straight from a TV studio. Unaware that bees have an aversion to hair gel, he was stung twice on the head. When he finally managed to get into his bee suit he found that a bee was trapped inside the veil. But even this horror didn’t put him off beekeeping. In fact...

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Easter

Posted in Bees, Cottage tales, Easter | 19 comments

Easter

I much prefer Easter to Christmas. There isn’t the same pressure, generally the sun is shining and there is true evidence of spring. The daffodils are out, the tulips and bluebells are just a breath away from flowering. The new leaves on the trees are that bright, squeaky clean spring green. The birds wake me early. Singing to attract a mate for the summer. We have hung fat balls on the rose bush outside the kitchen window and marvel at the succession of birds that visit, wary and fleetingly to feed. Our pond is full of frog spawn as the...

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Driving with bees

Posted in Bees, Featured | 11 comments

Driving with bees

One of my earliest activities as a novice beekeper was also my scariest few hours. I had been helping out on the Cambridge Bee Keeping Association stall at a country fair. One of my co-helpers suggested that I might like to collect a free new colony from his apiary after the fair. “That’s if you are ready. With all your frames built?” I was both thrilled and terrified. I had completed the long CBKA course, built my hive and bought my bee suit. All I needed were the bees. If I took these I would be one of the first in my class to get my...

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Another swarm of bees has taken up residence in our apiary

Posted in Bees | 10 comments

“Are you sure that they haven’t moved from number 11 to number 10?” “Of course not. Can’t you see the gentle flow of bees to and from number 11? The ones in number 10 are a much bigger swarm. Just listen to them.” We have renamed our small apiary “Downing Street”. Here in the UK, the Prime Minister occupies number10 and his most powerful assistant, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), lives next door. Events on the bee front have been dramatic in the past week or so. And drama is the keyword for UK politics at...

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