At last we have some honey bees. We collected a package of black honey bees from Charles Austin in Barnsley on Monday, 8th July. They were shaken into a Langstroth hive on Tuesday morning after giving them the night to settle down. Not putting them into one of the Top Bar hives was a difficult decision, but as none of our colonies has survived longer than a year in a top bar hive so far, we felt duty bound to try an alternative. Hopefully our previous disappointments have been more due to weather and unfortunate circumstance, and we’ll eventually move back to the top bars. But for now its a Langstroth.
On Wednesday the queen’s cage, which until now had been sealed while the bees became used to her, was opened. It took the workers three days to eat through the fondant that still retained her, by which time it seems they accepted her. The first indication of this was on Friday morning, when workers were spotted bringing pollen back to the hive – an indication that the queen is laying.
Contrary to popular opinion, these black bees are exceptionally gentle. I was able to move the frames apart and remove the empty queen cage without wearing any protection or using any smoke or water, and without being stung! They are also good workers – out with the morning sun. Not like some of my more laid-back European bees that wouldn’t go out until midday!
On Friday 12th July we took delivery of two retired sows – one a Gloucester Old Spot with a touch of Tamworth, called ‘Ginger’. The other, an English Saddleback, previously called ‘Woopie’, now renamed ‘Rosie’. They are here for life, to turn the land, dig up the rushes, and help us prepare for sowing – sows to sow!
And what amazingly friendly creatures they are! Once settled in they grunt away in conversation with whoever has the time to talk to them! They love being rubbed on their bellies and tickled behind the ears. But its the way they are silent until you talk to them that is so endearing. Ask any question, and you’ll get an instant series of grunts in answer!
So come along on the Open Day and meet the two of them. You could do a lot worse for a conversation partner!