Wednesday, 5 August 2015

It was the maggots that did it!

Here are some bees. They are not our bees because last year ours did not survive.
Hornets, that is what killed our bees, but not before they had set up swarms,
one of which we kept, the other we let go off to find a new home. 

The thing is, that these bees might be from that swarm, we do not know,
but it would be nice to think that they were, and here they are,
back in the courtyard, but only for a few hours,
just long enough to collect the honey,
which was made by the original bees,
and which they now were taking back to wherever they lived.

But ......why didn't we take the honey? 
After all, that is the main reason why bees are kept. 
Lack of organisation and knowledge that is why. 

So..... our bees came under attack from hornets, and / or been on crops which had been chemically sprayed. Either way, their numbers dwindled,
but we did not know this, had seen them flying to and fro the hives, 
and assumed that all was OK with them. 
It was not until late summer that I noticed the hornets hovering in front of the hives waiting to ambush the bees as they tried to fly into the hives.
But life was being its usual busy self,
no excuses, just the same old story of trying to renovate a house, and build and run a smallholding at the same time. There is not enough time and energy to efficiently do both, and things which should done are not. 
For the bees, this meant that the hornets won the day. 
The crop poisoning we could do nothing about.

Late autumn 2014, and it was with much sadness that we realised that all the bees had died.
A few weeks later, and Lester had the urge to have a look inside the hive, just in case there might still be a few bees left. There were not. But what he did find was a super half laden with honey. 
This he brought into the house.
He was keen to immediately get the honey released, but I was in the middle of doing other things, so we didn't. And then I did have time but Lester didn't and so it went on, with neither of us finding a moment which both of us were not occupied with doing other things. 
So the super sat on top of one of the freezers, covered over, waiting for us to do the job.

 And then it became time to move the freezers out into the middle barn. 
The super was picked up. It was sitting in a puddle of honey. This tweaked my guilt no end. I hate waste, and this was indeed a waste.
So the super was put on a box in the front kitchen.
It had not quite climbed up to the top of the 'To Do' list, but was on its way up.

Weeks continued to roll by. 
I kept almost starting the job of getting the cells uncapped from the frames,
but didn't, 
looking at the little trickle of darkness dribbling down the side of the box on which the super was sat as honey drying in the air. 
It wasn't.
But I thought it was.
No good. Must do. 
'Honey harvest' day had arrived.

And so it came to be the morning of the day, and it was time to get the honey out. 
Ah, but no, it was not to be........
As I lifted off the cloth on the super, what did my eyes see,
but a jumble of maggots.
The dark trail running down the side of the box was their excrement.
Oh. Oh, Oh.

Nothing to do but go find Lester.
On wings of speed did my feet fly,
with the main thought being in my head that I hoped that the maggots would stay in the super and not go gallivanting all over my nice new kitchen. 

But Lester responded with admirable speed,
and he gathered up the super, still covered with the cloth,
and got it out into the courtyard,
there it was upturned so the frames fell out,
some were still full of honey,
the maggots not having got to those yet. 

So what to do with all those maggots!
Charging out from wherever they had been skulking came the chickens, 
racing at full speed towards what they saw as their breakfast.
They must have had full tummies by the time the last of the maggots was eaten.
There had been an awful lot of maggots.

And then the hornets came, to feast off the harvest.
 But no, they were not going to be allowed,
 so I covered everything up with a cloth, 
not sure what to do with it all, but a problem for tomorrow.

To tidy the courtyard up a bit, I scooped the now maggotless frames into plastic storage bins,
and covered them over to keep them away from the hornets.
The flies were also buzzing. 
I did have a silly fleeting thought that perhaps I should let the flies go on the frames again,
so they could lay eggs,
which would then produce good protein meals for the chickens,
once the maggots hatched.
But I dismissed this thought quite quickly,
realising that this was the stuff that nightmares were made of.

It was now the morning of the next day,
and I could not help but lift a tiny corner of the cover to see if all the maggots were done.
None could be seen,
so yes, all were recycled into our egg laying hens.

And then it came to be time for the afternoon nap.
Upon waking, Lester called out that he was off to get something or other from the shops,
adding that there were lots of bees flying about.
What bees....

These bees!
And wow, but there were thousands of them,
milling about,
dancing on the cover of the box,
and making a thick carpet on the frames inside the box.

Bless them, they had come to fetch the honey.
And it had a 'feel good' factor that they had done so,
for not only was the problem of what to do with the honey sorted,
but it was being recycled to a worthy cause.
After all, bees had worked hard to make the honey in the first place,
it was only right that they should make use of it,
when we could not.

And then the hornets came.
And I started swotting the hornets.
I only got stung once.
Not to worry.
A slosh of cider vinegar on the bite sorted that out.

And now the feasting is done.
No bees have come,
the hornets have finally given up,
and now the frames lie waiting for me to get the wax unstuck from the frames.
It may take a while. 
This job is on the bottom of the 'To Do' list at the moment.

We have not given up with bees.
I have an affinity with them which I do not fully understand.
Perhaps in a previous life I was a bee keeper,
or maybe even a bee.
But the Bee Project is also down at the bottom of the Project List.
Ah well,
there is always another year.



Kirsty Udall said...

That's a great story Vera and I'm so happy you found a great use for the honey. I, like you hate waste but it's certainly not waste when the bees got to take home a feast, I bet queen bee was happy today!

Kerry said...

I read this while eating my breakfast but wasn't sure where the maggot thing was going, but thankfully it was a happy ending. I hate waste too. I picked a load of raspberries to freeze and didnt bother doing anything with them. By the morning and with the heat they had gone mouldy, what a waste so definitely not doing that again.

DUTA said...

We all seem to have problems with the 'to do' list . The list has a top and an end. We struggle between the two , and in this struggle something always gets lost.

I like your optimism regarding the bees.I'm sure you'll make it work again with even greater success.

Vera said...

Kirsty, it was indeed a nice feeling knowing that the honey was to go to a good cause. We don't waste anything here because there is always another living being who is willing to eat it!

Kerry, chickens! They are great recyclers of anything which can be eaten. This morning our chickens are getting one soggy tomato, lots of apple pealings (left over from dehydrating the apples), the tops and tails of the beans (now also dehydrated) together with a few beans whose pods were too fat, some cheese which came out of the freezer but got forgot about and went mouldy, and the peel from the melon we had for lunch. Chickens! They would have loved those raspberries, and give you eggs in return! Just a thought to send across to you this morning!

Duta, ah, the 'to do' list, and the battle to get it reduced, but the more I try to reduce it the longer it seems to get!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

ahhh i hate waste too! but we've all done that. but it all works out in the end.

Dawn McHugh said...

I hope you do some-day get back into bee keeping, I havent given ours as much attention as they needed this year the result was they swarmed, we ended up with three swarms in total so now have 5 hives on the go, next week is marked down ar hive inspection so the first fine day of the week and I will be in the hives :-)