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More Naughtiness – Or Bad Beekeeping?

My Beehives

My Beehives

Well, my second queen bee, Victoria has left her palace to set up in the wild with a load of her workers. Not sure when they went but they’ve definitely gone.

An experienced beekeeper who has been advising me says that this has been a really bad year for swarming. The warm June and high pollen levels have convinced the bees that they can make a go of it on their own and they’ve followed their natural instinct to spread out and start new colonies. (A bit like the British in 200 years or so ago. Hmmm maybe Victoria wasn’t a good name to choose for one of my queens?)

I suspect my problems have been caused mainly by me being a bad beekeeper. I don’t think I have been ruthless enough in destroying the unwanted queen cells which has encouraged the bees to swarm. So today I went through all the frames and squished every single queen cell except one nice big one in each hive. Hopefully I’ll soon have 2 new queen bees who will be better behaved than Liz and Vicky.

One consolation is that I have inadvertently boosted the local wild honey bee population which can only be a good thing.

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Naughty Bees!

My followers will recall that I became the proud owner of two beehives last month each with a queen and a nucleus of 15-20,000 workers and a few drones. I named the queens Elizabeth and Victoria and their hives (palaces) Sandringham and Balmoral respectively. Everything has been going on brilliantly – the numbers of workers increasing and the honey stores building up. Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting have been very docile and well mannered and her palace and all her children have been very well tended. Victoria’s workers have been a lot more feisty and less well brought up but the numbers in Balmoral have increased more quickly than in Sandringham. So much so that last week I noticed some queen cups had been made and wondered if it was a sign they were thinking about swarming. However I had been told more than once that they probably wouldn’t bother swarming in their first season so not to worry too much. No sign of queen cups in Sandringham where the ladies were quietly going about their business as usual. I usually check the hives on Friday/Saturday each week provided the weather is OK and this Friday I went through Balmoral first. I immediately spotted a lot of queen cells with big, fat grubs in them. This is a sure sign that the colony is preparing to swarm. The new queens would emerge and whizz off to pastures new with half of Victoria’s workers or Victoria herself would clear off with 1000’s of her girls, leaving the new virgin queen to take over what was left of the old colony. This would result in insufficient honey for us humans if the bees were to have enough to last them through next winter. “Eek!” I thought. Victoria was wandering around amongst the bees so I (look away now if you’re squeamish) set about squishing all the princesses in their cells. I decided it was lack of space to lay her eggs that was causing this behaviour so I put a super on top of the brood box and beneath the queen excluder to give Victoria more space to lay her eggs. Fingers crossed! In Sandringham I was surprised to also see lots of queen cells with larvae inside. (Gruesome bit coming up) I set about squishing them as before. I worked my way through all the frames without spotting Elizabeth but there were quite a few eggs in the cells so I wasn’t too concerned. – If there are eggs there must be a queen in residence. Afterwards I couldn’t stop wondering if all was well with Sandringham and Elizabeth. Were there fewer bees than there had been last week? I decided to go in again and check on Saturday. Well, I opened up Sandringham and went through all the brood frames three times – no sign of Elizabeth. And there were definitely fewer bees. Conclusion – Elizabeth had zoomed off with half her ladies in waiting to start a new colony somewhere else. And I had murdered all the princesses! Or so I thought… Luckily I found another queen cell that I’d missed tucked into a corner so I’m hoping that, with the care of her sisters, a new queen will emerge in a week or so to continue the dynasty. I can’t believe that my nice, quiet, well mannered queen has been so treacherous. Still, the good news is that I also checked up on Victoria and she was happily wandering around her new loft extension and has already laid lots of eggs. So, hopefully the crisis has been averted. I should get some honey from Balmoral this season. I think Elizabeth II will have to concentrate on building up her household staff at Sandringham this season and I will look forward to some honey next year!

Queen Cell under Construction

Queen Cell under Construction

Queen Cups

Mini Beekeeper


No my hat is not on fire!

No my hat is not on fire!

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Where do all the hours in the day go?

Well I’m back again after a short break from blogging.

I haven’t been idle during my absence (chance would be a fine thing!). I have continued to rid my home of unneeded items as I’ve come across them but still feel far from minimalistic.

I have found that I need to involve my family as much as possible with my new way of living. I spent a week noting down how long I spent on each task I ‘have to’ do. – I know, I know, sometimes I can be very sad! It proved to be interesting. I was already aware that I don’t have enough hours in the day to do what I ‘have to’ do let alone what I actually WANT to do but this has clarified where all the time goes. I’ll give you an edited version of my findings:

Laundry – 12 hours per week. I have modern laundry equipment and detergents so I’m not having to carry it down to the river and scrub it all by hand so why does it take up so much of my valuable time? 2 reasons I think: 1. The children put clothes on and then get changed more than once per day sometimes. At the end of the day they just chuck it all in the wash so a lot of what I wash isn’t even dirty. 2. A lot of my time is spent folding and putting away clothes. So, now I’m trying (and partially succeeding) to get them to keep one set of scruffs to put on after school and only put their clothes in the wash when they need it. – Do the ‘look at the front and back test’ followed by the ‘sniff test’. I’ve also been putting a pile of each person’s clothes on their beds and they can put them away themselves. This also helps them to know where all their clothes are when they’re looking for something. Husband’s clothes now look like the leaning tower of Pisa on top of the chest of drawers.

Tidying Up – 9 hours per week. This is just simply picking up things which have been left out and putting them away. This has had to stop.  Each day I now spend 10 minutes walking around the house, picking up anything that has not been put away and piling it all on the culprit’s TV chair/beanbag. They can then not watch TV until they have put all the stuff away. This has worked quite well with the children. They have been trying to keep their things more tidy and have sorted out their books and toys to reduce the amount of stuff they have cluttering up their playroom and bedrooms. We did a big tidy up which took 2 days and they now know where everything ‘lives’ and are spending 10 minutes per day picking up their stuff and, on the whole, their space (and the rest of our home) is a far less cluttered place to be. The person who ends up with the most stuff on his tv chair every day is my husband. He is not really getting it yet. After a week of having a great big heap of stuff to put away every evening before he can watch the world cup, each new day’s pile doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. It is certainly true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks ha ha! My tidying up has now gone down from 9 hours per week to 4.

Work – 24 hours. This is my ‘proper’ job as the finance director of our company. This varies depending on the needs of the business and was quite a short week.

Childcare – 12 hours. This is mainly ferrying them around and driving them to and from school. It also includes ‘persuading’ them to do their homework, testing spellings etc. I don’t begrudge any of this but it can be exhausting.

Other Work – 24 hours. This covers cleaning, cooking, filling/emptying the dishwasher, washing up, dog care, shopping, putting out the rubbish, home paperwork/admin. Boring but necessary.

So my working week was 81 hours. 13 hours per day Monday – Friday, 8 hours per day at weekends. No wonder I’m knackered.

My leisure time was a total of 24 hours. This seems a lot but it included sleeping before 10pm or after 6am, eating, showering/bathing, getting ready to leave the house (dressing, makeup, hair etc.), time spent with husband/friends/children, tv, beekeeping, gardening, walking the dogs, time spent online…..what I would really like is some time spent doing absolutely nothing at all.

I think the worst thing is I feel as if I’m on a treadmill, doing the same old stuff which I feel I have to do and never being able to get off it to follow my dreams. I’m 50 next year so I’d better get a move on!

So, apart from the laundry reduction and tidying revolution above, what else can I do to reduce the workload? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Holkham Beach Nofolk

Holkham Beach Norfolk – wish I was there!