Sunday, 21 July 2013

Boys Toys

I’ve started on converting my oil storeroom into a work room.  The earth floor has been replaced with concrete and next up was replacing the Perspex sheet I’d put in a few years ago to block the hole in the wall, with a real window.  I didn’t want to go upwards as there was already a lintel there and I didn't want to go down as the hole in the wall is only a couple of feet off the ground as it is.   Eventually I found a window of the right depth that tipped inwards rather than swing open.  It was however wider than the original hole.

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No problem, I thought; I’ll just get out my trusty angle grinder and cut through the concrete blocks.  After an hour I stopped and assessed how far I’d got.  The cutter disc had been glowing red and I’d donned my hard hat to protect my head from the hot pieces of disc and brick that were flying about.  I was also wearing goggles and had my arms protected too.  I had only managed to cut a groove of about a millimetre or two depth on each side!  This was going to take ages.

Enter knights in shining armour, both male and female.  Friends said, “we have a proper stone-cutting angle grinder” and what’s more, B said he would do the cutting as well.  I’m really pleased he did as I’m not convinced I would have had the strength to control the cutter safely. 

Comparison picture!!

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Even with the proper cutter it took a good hour to cut through; goodness knows what had been done to these concrete blocks, I think they must have been designed to be bomb proof.

But before long the window was in place and the foam filling in the gaps was left to set.

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Next day I trimmed away the excess foam and am now cementing in the gaps.  Outside there is a bit more work to do as the edges and windowsill need rebuilding.  This will take a little while as I can only do it in the morning before the sun gets there and it also needs to be built up.  I think I’m going to need to rig up some shuttering but at least I can get on with the inside here it is cool enough to work.

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So next up, I will be learning how to apply doublage – plaster and polystyrene panels.

A Bit More Bees

I collected my wild colony of bees in a standard Langstroth brood box, but because of my height or rather lack of it, I don’t want to be lifting heavy supers so I’m trying out the horizontal version of a Langstroth hive.  While the hive itself is more difficult to move, the frames are always easy to reach.

So the morning after collecting the colony I put the traditional hive in place and let the bees out and gave them a couple of days to orientate while I fed them sugar syrup to help persuade them to stay put.  As they didn’t all fly away immediately I was hopeful that we had got the queen.  Even if we hadn’t  I knew we'd got eggs and uncapped larvae so they could raise a new queen.

As I still had bees after a couple of days it was time to move them to the long hive. There is a rule of thumb for moving hives, you either move them to a spot less then 3 ft away or more than 3 miles away.  So despite the two hives looking slightly different I decided to just exchange them but making sure the new entrance was in the same place as the old one and transfer over the frames.

So we went from

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My experiences as a beekeeper are rising exponentially at the moment, every check of the hive is another learning opportunity.  I’ve fed the bees for about a month but now they have had time to mature and have a complement of flying bees along with the improvement in the weather and the return of flowering plants, I’ve stopped.

I’ve still not seen the queen though, partly due to not yet being able to make a proper inspection.  One of the reasons for this is that where we’d used rubber bands to to hold the wild comb against the frames the bees weren't keen on them and had started chewing through them before they’d built up enough new wax to hold the combs in place.  The combs were falling off the frames and into each other and in general a total mess was in process of starting.

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So a carving knife joined my beekeeping kit and I bought some different stuff to tie on the combs.  The ties are lengths of thin plastic tubing that is slightly stretchy and designed to tie in plants.  The knife is to cut the comb between the frame and the scissors to trim the tied ends of the tubing.

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Considering what I was doing to their home the bees were really calm.

A week later, another check showing a bit more of the kit and a couple of extra frames with foundation.

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I’m gradually getting better at keeping the smoker alight.  I’ve once had it go out mid inspection but was able to continue as I had my water spray and could ‘persuade’ any bees that were taking too much interest in me to head back to the hive.  I also use the water spray to clear away any bees that may have landed on the back of my bee suit before I take the suit off.

My bees, they really are there, they just carry on working on the comb as long as I don’t keep smoking them.

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The smoke agitates them so I use it by the entrance before I start the inspection so they fill up on honey, (they are less likely to sting if they are full of honey), and then try only to use it around me if I have a bee that is insistent on flying round me.  They really are very calm and as long as I don’t drop the frames or knock them they tend to leave me alone to get on with the inspection.

I’ll be inspecting them again early in the week and really hope to see the queen.  There were lots of uncapped larvae last week so something has been laying eggs but it could be laying workers so I really need to see the queen.  One positive sign though is that while I have spotted a couple of queen cups I’ve not seen any queen cells.

Bees like all insects need water but can’t take off from the surface of water and drown if they land on it so I’ve put in a bee drinker for my bees and any other insects that need it.

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