Despite the unpredictable weather this summer, we have had some excellent apiary meetings.
The first one on 23 July was at Osmington on a site owned by Heritage Seeds. They supply wildflower mixes for Amenity and Agricultural biodiversity projects and these vary from back garden wild flower patches through pipeline restoration to the covering of closed landfill sites. These seeds are either grown on the adjoining fields or “harvested” from various sites including the banks of the cutting through Ridgeway and flowers meadows, around Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge and as far north as Gloucester.
Nineteen members braved the very inclement weather to turn up for the meeting. It was still raining when we had all arrived so we dealt with the tea and cakes first in an adjoining poly tunnel. Twenty minutes later the rain stopped and we were able to look at the hives. After we had finished looking at the bees the owner, Gerard, gave us a guided tour of the harvesting machines (including mini combine) and cleaning equipment. The numerous barns and poly tunnels are used for drying and cleaning of wild flower seed. He explained how the different flower seeds varied considerably in weight, size and shape so each needed a different cleaning process. Having a look around at these workshops and equipment and learning more about how they collect the wildflower seeds was certainly an added bonus to the apiary meeting. We then had a weekend of events. The first, on Saturday 12 August, was an Extraction Afternoon at Stinsford, the honey having come off some of the hives at the Stinsford Apiary, which is the site we have been using for our Saturday afternoon apiary sessions. Although this event was mainly for beginners we had some experienced beekeepers turn up as we were showing how to use both of the Association’s extractors (9-frame radial & 4-frame tangential), as well as the refractometer and how to get cut comb. Everyone who turned up had a go at extracting from removing the cappings to filtering the honey. So everyone got slightly sticky and sweaty in the nicest possible way. The afternoon finished with tea and lovely home-made cakes.

The second was an Apiary meeting on Sunday 13th at Furzebrook Farm, Weymouth. This is a lovely site near Littlesea Holiday Park. The owner, who uses the land for a riding school/stables, has a small orchard tucked away where she wanted some bees so three lucky members now use it as an apiary site. The weather was wonderful so we were able to look at all their hives without rushing, including a poly hive. We managed to find two queens which had been very elusive and used the refractometer on a super that was almost ready to come off. As the reading came to 19.3, it was decided to leave it for a while longer. The meeting finished with tea and bread & honey. This nearly didn’t happen as the site owner has 2 goats which wander around, one of which found the bread and started chomping away. Luckily one of the members noticed this so all hands on deck to push the reluctant goat off the site. After this excitement it was back to inspecting the hives before partaking of the lovely honey and bread and sitting around chatting about bees.

Our last meeting of the season was on Saturday 19th August at a site off the Weymouth to Wool road near Winfrith. This apiary meeting was specifically to show how to extract honey from a flow hive. Consequently there was a lot of interest in this and the meeting came up to expectations. I have attached a separate write-up on this meeting. I would like to thank all the members who hosted these apiary meetings. Without their support and willingness to offer up their sites we would not have had this wonderful programme of meetings, all of which were different and all very successful.

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