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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bee News

Last Saturday it was warm enough to open the hives. One has not survived the winter. It has quite a lot of live bees still, and many dead ones, but there is no sign of brood and clearly no queen. They had plenty of food, and were a really big colony. I don't think their dying out has anything to do with mice getting into the hive (if mice did get in) and certainly nothing to do with the legendary Colony Collapse Disorder. More probably the queen died or was damaged, resulting in what old beekeepers called "spring dwindling". The other two hives are booming, lots of pollen going in. I've fed them both with 2kgsx1pt sugar solution, just to pep them up, though they both have quite a bit of food still in store.
At the end of the 2008 season I had three supers of solid rape honey, which I had not been able to get off the hives in time to extract. I stored it over winter in a shed, hoping to feed it to the bees later. Throughout last summer the shed was alive with wasps, and even though I wrapped the supers in black polythene they continued to try to get at them. When I unwrapped the supers last week I found that the wasps had cleaned them out perfectly. Every scrap of rape homey was gone and the drawn comb in the frames was clean and dry and ready to go back on the hives. So wasps have some use.


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Book Events and Bees

I shall be talking to Michael Schmidt about my Golding biography at the Glasgow Book Festival on Saturday 13 March at 3.30 in the Mitchell Library.
More bee news. I replaced the wooden slides on the two hives where they had been eaten and two weeks later the slides on one hive had been eaten away again to enlarge the holes. A fellow beekeeper says it is rats, which may be right, though the holes do not seem big enough for a rat to get through. The weather is too cold to open the hives and see how the colonies are, but last Sunday the sun was shining and, though there was a bitter wind and an air temperature of only 5, bees from the central hive of the three were flying - so maybe all is well. Hope so.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

Beekeeping Problem

I wonder if any other beekeepers have had the experience I have had this weekend. I went up to check on the hives after a fortnight of snow and ice. They are WBC hives and I found that on two of them the wooden slides that I put on in the autumn as mouse-guards had been gnawed away in several places to enlarge the apertures. The colonies seem quite OK and on Sunday, a sunny day, they were flying in large numbers. Presumably the gnawing of the slides was the work of freezing or starving mice during the cold spell, but it's astonishing to me that they could have managed it given that the slides are a quarter of an inch thick and solid cedar. The third hive had a metal mouse guard, fitted under the little roof over the landing board, and this had been pulled forward. When I took the top lift off the hive I found that the quilt had been chewed up to make a neat mouse-nest of soft fabric, a bit like a ball of wool. There was no sign of mice, so I suppose they had heard me coming.


Monday, 18 January 2010

Book Events

On Friday 22 January at 7.00 I'll be talking about my biography of William Golding at the Savile Club, 69 Brook Street, and on Tuesday, 26 January, at 6.00 I'll be giving the William Golding Memorial Lecture at the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus (also known as the Tremough Campus), Lecture Room A. The lecture will be based on newly discovered facts and documents that shed light on Golding's engagement to a local girl during the 1930s - an episode in his life that he fictionalized in the love affair of Sammy Mountjoy and Beatrice in Free Fall.


Monday, 16 November 2009

Book Event

On Friday 20 November I'll be at the Bridport Literary Festival and will be discussing my biography of William Golding in the Bridport Arts Centre at 11 a.m.


Friday, 30 October 2009

Book Event

I'll be giving a talk at the Royal Society of Literature on Monday 2 November. It will be called "William Golding: The Making of a Novelist" and will start at 7.00 in the lecture theatre at Somerset House. Claire Tomalin will be in the chair.