Saying goodbye hurts...literally
With two stings later (one on my cheek, bum cheek that is) I'll never try and predict the mood of my bees again. Here I was thinking that I'd go visit them for the last time before the winter to tuck them and possibly sing them a lullaby (kidding obviously) and they'd be all sleepy and docile – not a bloody chance!
Before I left for South Africa three weeks ago I had put a full feeder of Ambrosia syrup on top of the hive (one of the cover boards has a hole in it for just this purpose). This was the last of my two gallon supply and I thought that for my little colony this would be more than ample for them to convert it into honey stores to be able to snack on during the winter when it's too chilly to leave their home.
My plan for the visit today was to remove the feeder and supers and then replace the cover board that has a hole in it with one that doesn't. This way there would be no draft making the hive snug for winter. It was really going to be a quick 'in and out' job taking less than two minutes. I wasn't going to light the smoker but I thought that I should just to calm them down and warn them that I was coming in. I really didn't think they would be too fussed with me being there. Boy was I wrong.
As I lifted the first cover board and peeked underneath I thought that it was a bit odd that there were loads of bees on top of the frames. When I lifted it off completely a cloud of bees came up and flew directly for me (ok, I may be exaggerating a bit but that is what it felt like). Thinking this was going to be a very simple operation I only wore my marigolds and the husband's 'half' beesuit, which is essentially just a top with a gauze hood and hat.
I knew I needed to vacate the vicinity when I felt a sting on my thigh and then one on my bum cheek – they were stinging me through my jeans. I was trying not to panic but I knew I needed to get back to the car and drive home to get my full beesuit with wellies and long leather gloves. I put the cover board back and as calmly as I could walked away but it took ages for the bees to stop buzzing around my head.
A bit shaken up I zoomed the two miles home and then came straight back again to finish what I started. The bees weren't happy to see me again but I managed to do what I had to in just two minutes or thereabouts. On my way home I stopped at Tesco and bought some allergy pills – I really hope they stop the itching. Last time my bee sting itched like crazy and considering where these ones are, scratching them won't be a pleasant sight for any onlookers :/
So, why did this happen? I asked some of my fellow beekeepers on twitter who said that it can be down to a number of things such as the weather, which was mild but foggy, they are being protective of their honey stores or are sick of being stuck inside. But I do feel relieved that's not just me with grumpy bees.
For obvious reasons I didn't take any photos on this visit, but below are two from my last visit before I jetted off on holiday to South Africa.
|The Beehaus with the feeder in place. The feeder has a round hole on the lid with fine gauze on. Once filled with syrup it is inverted on top of the hive and the bees then feed on the syrup through an opening in the cover board.|
|I messed some of the syrup on the outside of the hive and here you can see the bees enjoying it.|