Thursday, 26 September 2019

Books and Bees

On Sunday 13 October at 6.30 I shall be taking part in an event at the Cheltenham Literary Festival (full details on the Festival website). It will be chaired by Dominic Sandbrook. The other participants will be Lara Feigel, who will be talking about Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook (and also about her own memoir Free Woman, Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing) and Laura Freeman, who will be talking about Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and also about her memoir The Reading Cure, How Books Restored my Appetite). I shall be talking about William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Bee news is good on the whole. We are ending the season with three strong colonies, the most recent being a swarm hived by John Heathcote who spotted it just at the end of Lyneham village street in June. We have harvested about 200lbs of honey.
There was an interesting incident in February. Some neighbours in the village have a field where they keep a couple of horses. Last summer a swarm of bees made a nest between the inner and outer walls of a wooden shed in the field, and proved ill-tempered. The neighbours asked for help, and I advised leaving things till February when the colony would be at its smallest and the honey store (which cascades everywhere if you try opening up a wild colony in summer, and the bees drown in it) would be depleted. This proved good advice. When John and I and the neighbour, who is a carpenter, cut a panel out of the shed wall to reveal the colony, there were relatively few bees and almost no store. The bees has cleverly fitted four long strips of honeycomb, fanned out like a hand of playing cards, between the inner and outer walls (a space not much more than 6 inches from back to front). Using a good deal of smoke, we cut the combs out, put them in a cardboard box, and took them up to an empty hive in the apiary, hoping we would manage to have got the queen. We had not, and the remaining bees died out. But at least the neighbours could tend their horses unstung.

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