New life all around…

| 4th April 2012

Welcome back to Hen Corner!

This week has brought us our first schools visit to Hen Corner, some Spring planting and we successfully managed the Shook Swarm; but let’s begin with the next film in our series ‘Ten Top Tips for Keeping Chicks’:

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Tip 6: Where and when to buy your hens

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Come and join us…

We were delighted to invite the youngest children from St Paul’s School to Hen Corner during their last week of term to look at all the new life that is around the garden in Spring. We started by looking at the chickens and all the children were certain that baby chickens were chicks that hatch from eggs, I then went on to explain that because we don’t have any boy chickens our eggs are just for eating not for chicks. As it was a morning visit, the girls were queuing up to lay their eggs; the children also lined up nicely to peek into the nest box and were delighted when eggs were laid while they waited! Whilst we didn’t get too close to the bees, I explained that there was one ‘mummy’ bee, the queen, who was busy laying lots of eggs that would hatch into larvae and then develop into baby bees (a bit like caterpillars and butterflies), we then walked past the spring flowers and blossom over to pond. Fortunately, probably due to the netting that is protecting the pond from the heron, our family of frogs and their offspring are safe and happy this year. With small groups of children we clustered around the pond and examined the frog spawn in several stages; we didn’t see mummy frog, but we did see some tadpoles…

We had a lovely morning together and the children left with the eggs that they had collected and an invitation to come back if we hatch chicks again this summer. A couple of days later I was given a folder of thank you letters from the children; so precious and hopefully the beginning of many more visits!

Shaking all over…

Well, we did it! The shook swarm, that we have been planning for weeks and that had kept me awake at night has been performed, safely, without incident and my lasting memory was Pat Turner (very experienced beekeeper) exclaiming many times how calm and gentle the bees were… Here you can see me lifting the frames from the old hive before shaking the bees from it into the new hive. The old frames, stacked in front of the hive were all to be burnt as a precaution against both the Varroa Mite and European Foul Brood (both could be disastrous to the colony). A real highlight was seeing the queen for the first time, she was considerably bigger than the other girls/worker bees and, as promised by Andy Pedley who had given them to me, she was marked with a blob of orange nail varnish!

This next picture shows a brood frame that has been the home to eggs, larvae, capped pupating larvae and stores of pollen that the nurse bees use to feed the helpless larvae. If you look closely you can see soft furry bees start to emerge from their cells and walk across the frame.

Whilst it was very sad to burn the old frames, most of which contained brood, we were delighted by the surprise of four frames, at either end of the brood box, quite full of honey stores as a little early harvest of our first honey.  I can’t tell you how sticky I got trying to extract it from the frames, but 5lbs of  Hen Corner honey and 400g pure beeswax was a real bonus, and did I mention no stings?

Other News:

  • We’ve planted the chitted Anya potatoes in the rubble sack, like last year
  • We’ve planted the baby pea plants (from the cold frame) into this year’s ‘Legume Bed’ and sown some extra pea seeds around the base of the wigwams for a longer cropping.
  • We’ve replenished the codling moth traps and replaced the glue bands at the base of the apple and pear trees

Jobs for next week:

  • Continue to follow the Planting Plan and plan to water by hand with the imminent hosepipe ban
  • Transfer the onions and leeks from the cold-frame seed tray into the ‘Allium Bed’
  • Tune into BBC2 each Wednesday at 8pm for Our Food. Giles Coren, Alys Fowler, James Wong and others journey around Britain discovering how our history, landscape and climate have influenced what we eat. Looks great!

Have a good week yourself…

Join us on the Journey!

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Emily Heath 5th April 2012 at 6:29 am

Yay, shook swarm all done! Good old Pat, he is so helpful.

I find it fascinating how the bees know when and what to feed the larvae. Obviously they can’t chirp like baby birds, so what the larvae do is release different pheromones at different stages of their development, so the workers know what they should be eating.

They also start giving off a different pheromone when their cells need capping – unfortunately that’s also how the varroa mites know when to hop in!

hencorner 5th April 2012 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for this Emily,
Now that the shook swarm is done, I’m enjoying the Easter holidays and reading the very funny ‘The Bad Beekeepers Club’ by Bill Turnball (whilst munching on toast & honey!)…


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