Bees

BEES.

When one of the parents at the Parents’ Saturday gave me a little comb honey it awoke an interest which I had without being particularly noticing it.  I thought that perhaps this was something which we could do with the boys at JH so approached Br. Terence for advice.  He said that I could have a hive at JH and then gave me some books to read on the subject.  I became immediately fascinated at everything to do with bees.   I read the books and remembered most of what I had read.  I found others and though it did not become an obsession, I became keenly interested.   I spoke to the Martin and Jane  Constantine about it and it appeared that they had both been keen beekeepers and wanted to get rid of their hives and kit.  So they gave them all to me if I could collect them.   They had 6 English standard hives and quite a lot of accessories.   When Ralph Pattisson wanted me to keep his three hives for a summer since they were bothering the neighbours, I was able to fill the hives with the swarms which came from his.   We put them in the fenced off new woodland just West of the Junior House skating rink.   With many stings I was able to get the show off the ground and used the scullery in the JH for the place to spin the frames and extract the honey. We began the system of taking the bees up to the moors for the August honey flow.  I got in touch with John Mexbrough whose son, James  was in the JH, and through their agent was able to put the hives on the track towards the farm near Holly Hill where Fr. Aidan established his hermitage in 1970s.  This track joins the main road over to Osmotherley at the point where the moor road starts with a cattle gird. When Br. Terence went on to the parishes, I was asked to take over the bees in the orchard and found myself with some 20 hives.  There were too many of them to do any more than keep collecting swarms and keeping them in reasonable order.  I joined the Ryedale beekeepers association and attended a number of meetings.  Br. Anthony who was having health problems joined me and he soon became both knowledgeable and interested.    We had a meeting of the RBKA at Ampleforth in 1994.   I had by this time been to Buckfast and talked with Abbot Leo who was running the bees.   I also met Peter Donovan who had been instructed by Br. Adam since 1945.   Br. Adam was around but not connected with the Bees any more.  .  He was now 95 and the Abbot felt it was the right time to hand over control.   The Buckfast system which he set up is probably the best in the world because his Germanic concentration and accuracy over 70 years mean that he not only developed the perfect queen for Buckfast, but also the perfect size of hive and the perfect system for extraction, pressing and storing the honey.  As some quarter of a million people go through the Buckfast Abbey shop each year, he had an ideal opportunity to sell his honey.   In 1994 varroa had made its entry into the consciousness of Beekeepers in UK.  I learnt at a lecture at Askham Bryan agricultural college that the continent had had varroa for ten years or more.  It had come from the far east when the varroa mite had mutated to be able to survive by growing in the cells of worker bees and not only drone cells.  The mite then ate part of the developing bee and it hatched unable to do its life’s work.  Hence in time the hive died through lack of food since the workers were unable to provide the supplies.   Varroa cannot be stopped it can only be controlled.  On the continent the degree of care needed to keep bees in good order means that the amount of honey produced is greater than before because greater care  in management is needed by those who keep bees.    By 1996 we had not found evidence that our bees had varroa, but Peter Donovan assured us that we would have it.