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Bee Blog - January 2022

Happy New Year to everyone.

This is the quiet time of year for me as a beekeeper and the time I usually look back at the events of the last year and look forward to the upcoming year.

I suppose the most important thing looking back at last year is that I have survived! I have not yet been affected by Covid (yet) and I have managed to pass another year without being stung by a bee. Readers may recall that a bee sting is quite important to me having suffered two severe allergic reactions in previous years. I may not have been stung by a bee this year but I have been receiving an injection of bee venom every eight weeks as part of my immunotherapy treatment. I am now half way through the three year course. So far it has been straightforward and relatively painless. The whole process is much less onerous than I had thought it would be. I take two anti histamine tablets before each injection and have had virtually no reaction to the injected venom. I do wonder what would happen were I to be stung by a real bee sting. I shall certainly try to retain my no bee sting record next year. The most difficult thing has been programming in the eight week injections with the two doses of Covid jabs and the booster. I try to space them out and using alternate arms. Who knows what will be needed re Covid injections next year.

On the bee front I was surprised to read in the latest newsletter from the Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association that most people in my area have had a difficult year. The season was reported as being poor for many beekeepers, unrewarding in terms of the honey crop, frequent swarming, problems with queens and a late honey crop typifying the season. Whilst I did experience problems with queens I had none of the other problems with my best ever honey crop.

It only goes to show that you can never predict nature. Perhaps because of the location of my apiary or its micro climate and in-spite of the pressure of many additional hives in the locality I seem to have bucked the local trend.

I go into this winter with, what I think, are three strong hives. With the onset of cold weather and the first snow the bees are hopefully clustering as they should do at this time of year. There is very little activity to be seen outside the hives now.  

I am optimistic about next year. If my crop recognition is accurate, there seems to be several fields of oil seed rape being planted by local farmers. This flowers early in the season and is loved by the bees. If the colonies build up rapidly my plan is to carry out early splits to form several extra nucleus colonies as early in the season as possible as a back up in case some of my hives fail during the season as they did this year. I plan to keep to the three hives. That should provide all of the honey I need to keep my village shop in stocks for the village residents to be able to access local honey.

It has not been a bad year for the Asian Hornet issue in this country. A few nests have been identified and destroyed but there appears to have been no large scale expansion as had been feared. The Chanel Islands have not been so lucky as the mainland. There have been many sitings and issues. I assume the hornets find it easy to fly over from France on a following wind where there is still a large scale problem.

Who knows what next year will bring on all fronts!