Saturday, September 5, 2009

Autumn cometh!

The weather here has been absolutely dreadful for the last fortnight but there was no option this morning but to inspect inside the hive.  The temperatures remain very cool still far below what we could expect.  It's struggling to get to 16 degrees and the wind has been quite strong. [I am not helping the cause of the Irish Tourist Board, am I?] The inspection had to be a rapid affair for fear of chilling any brood.

Despite this, the girls still seem to taking every chance they get to fly outdoors for reconnaissance and refilling the fuel tanks. They were still bringing in plenty of the vivid orange pollen although I remain unsure where this originates given our surroundings.  It's fairly rural here with a lot of what is known as "bog" all around.  In beekeeping terms, these low lying peat bogs can be tremendously important due to the heather which flowers around this time of year.  The story of the peat bogs is a long one and is crucial to the tale of Irish history especially in terms of the supply of heating fuel.  [Horticulturally, there is a growing movement away from the use of peat particularly in domestic gardening products e.g. compost materials  because of the recognition that the peat is limited [see for further details].  I will return to the subject of peat another day maybe.

Many beekeepers or beeks - a term I learned from Mark in NC - take their hives to the moors and bogs to allow their bees to forage on the heather during the latter part of summer.  A honey known as ling is a speciality in itself but that's also a subject for the future and something which I hope to try out in 2010.
Getting back to this morning, the hive stores were dangerously low although there's been no serious harm as I could see - just a reduction of stored honey in the brood chamber but I hope that this can be raised back up through some intensive feeding.  Given the late start there was always going to a limited opportunity for supering and it looks like the weather isn't going to allow it now.

Interestingly, I noticed the presence of several drones once again which surprised me as I thought they'd been given the elbow by now, especially given the low levels of supplies. Although I never seem to spot her, I am sure that the Queen is laying well and the drones don't indicate anything amiss. Definitely something to keep an eye on though.

Probably the most important plant in this area for late flowering is the evergreen common ivy (hedera helix) which is just starting to come into flower. It's really the bees' last opportunity to stack up on those extra goodies prior to the winter -  we have ivy over some of the walls around our cottage garden although, in beekeeping terms, more would be better. Planting for honeybees is going to be an important part of how we progress the garden.  Maybe I should plant some ivy around the local gardens in the local area when the neighbours aren't looking!

Lastly, I noticed half a dozen dead workers on the ground around the hive.  Not too alarming but I'm noting this for my own records.

With the refilled circular feeder in situ I will be checking this daily for signs of uptake and keeping it full so as to build up the stores again.

Sorry about the epistle but it's been a while...


Lynn said...

Cliff. No need to apoligize. I'm so interested in what other new beeks are doing and what's growing in their specific area. One of the most important things I've done this season (I think) is to keep track of what's blooming and make sure those particular plants are available for my bees next season. I've spent the last 2 days redoing much of my garden in anticipation of next season. I'm glad you mentioned heather. It does well in my mountains and will most certainly be an addition to the garden next spring.

I hope you'll get out the camera and start posting pix of the hive and the garden. I would love to see what your Irish garden looks like.

BTW, I haven't seen a queen in either of my hives this season, but I know there are viable queens in both because of the number of bees and the amount of honey each has produced. I think outside the hive.

PhilipH said...

So can we now call you Cliff Beek? Sounds OK, don't you think?

Hope your count of dead workers does not go any higher.

Weatherwise it's been chilly and rainy for the past three weeks in Scotland. The far north east has been very badly hit with floods over the past few days although it has eased off now, thank goodness.

Beegirl said...

Hope your weather turns for you soon! It has been beautiful here and the girls are packing it in! Wishing you and your bees well!

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

This ling honey sounds really interesting. We don't have any really exotic honey here in Ontario but then we do have Blueberry, Golden Rod and Basswood honeys - they're some of my favourites.

The bogs of peat are so historic. Remember that man's body they found that was a few thousand years old and beautifully perserved. When we were in Scotland we visited bogs and saw the peat process (this was a LONG time ago!). I wondered if peat is still burned today. I guess for some folks traditions die hard.

Cliff W said...

Absolutelely! The smell of the peat fires in the country houses during the colder months is as traditional as Apple Pie or Fisn 'n' Chips. A well-known organic TV gardener described the burning of peatin his book (he was speaking horticulturally and environmentally) as akin to chopping up a Chippendale for fire wood! It's a senstive subject and one which is so engrained within the Irish psyche.

I think that there is also a number of peat-burning power stations in Ireland still. Hopefully, in time, the development of the greener renewable technologies will allow cessation of the peat-burning. [Ireland has one of the consistently windiest climates on the planet (according to a fellow beekeeper!) and, of course, nowhere is far from the coast.]

I lived in Scotland for a several years and remember visiting the distilleries in the Islands producing peat-flavoured whiskies! An acquired taste, for sure...

Latest news is that we are to a 4-day heatwave this week!

Ngaio said...

Hows the heat wave going ?? Us kiwis are pretty good at judging the weather - not !
In the large Waikato valley where I live there are a number of peat lakes and swamps, all protected now with many of them having million year old Kauri ( huge native tree)logs preserved in them. Even that old, the wood is still useable with beautiful furniture being made out of it.Much of the peat swamp was drained by early settlers and became productive dairy farms.