Apologies for the delay in this blog. Schools And Brownies have gone to ground and so it has been a chance to concentrate on networking and getting lots of bookings in the diary for the Autumn and Winter terms and 2020. I know, 2020… it’s just around the corner! And, to add to that, there has been much thought going in to the future of, not just Betsie Valentine And The Honeybees, but me myself and I too!
Much has changed since the publication of my first run of Betsie Valentine And The Honeybees. It has been a tremendous learning curve for me. I had no experience of the publishing world, marketing, sales or business in general. I am not a business woman, in spite of having been self employed most of my working days, as a professional editorial and portrait photographer. I never got involved with networking or looking for business. In the last seven years of my days as a photographer I had teamed up my nephew, Leo Holden, who is a talented TV producer and photographer. He was the young cool one who did all the Tweeting, Instagram, FB, you name it he did it, social media was his domain - I sat back in awe - half the time wondering what on earth he was doing. I never gave credence to the fact that I could jump on board. My children were my priority. My work fitted in and around their lives, not the other way round. Now my children have grown up and I am a grandmother I have so much more time on my hands. And time is what it’s all about. The ability to come and go as I please and not to constantly have one eye on the clock. It is a gift after 41 years!. Oh, for sure, there are the horses and honeybees, of course there are, but people can help you out here and there if you ask nicely, but being a wife and mother, I always considered my sole responsibility. And so, it is with my heart and soul, I am busy filling my precious time with that which I feel so passionate about - getting the word out there about the honeybees - and I feel tremendously honoured to be doing so.
I have grown in confidence in the last year. I am attending large networking groups and standing up proudly talking about Betsie Valentine And The Honeybees and my talks about the honeybees. Last wednesday I went for an audition with The WI to become a Speaker. I have been waiting for 6 months for this audition and the phone call came out of the blue. I was given less than 24 hours to prepare, so decided the best thing to do was NOT prepare and simply turn up and be me. Talking for fifteen minutes about the subject I love so much is not difficult and making people chuckle along the way seems to come naturally to me. As my eldest son said, not so long ago, “Mum, you are a power talker, you have finally found an outlet!” Never a truer word spoken in jest!
The audition went well. Lots of smiles and thank you’s as I left and made way out of the hall for the next person to go in. Three bookings came during the course of the following three days, all full of praise for my ‘presentation’.’ I am hoping, therefore, with all my heart that his is a good omen and I have been selected as a Speaker. Next blog will reveal all!
It has not all been straight forward. I am struggling with the second print run of the hardback version of Betsie Valentine which is a great source of frustration. The company that printed Betsie Valentine so beautifully first time around, sent the second print run out, (500 copies), that was so shockingly bad I immediately halted the delivery driver in his steps and re-loaded all the boxes back in to the van and told the delivery driver to take them back with a copy of the original hardback for the printers to look at. I wasn’t surprised to receive an email a couple of hours later, saying that they were sorry, the person in charge had been away and they must have gone out unchecked. What a waste of their time and money, not to mention my time too. Five hundred copies of BV in the bin.
I was then sent a proof, which was completely wrong again. We had a long conversation and I was told the fact that the colours were so beautiful in the first book was more or less ‘a fluke’ A fluke? Really? If you can print it beautifully once, nay twice (the Soft cover, although not quite with the punch of the hardback, is still a lovely book), why not again? They said they would send over another two proofs, one of which, hopefully I would like.
Nope! That’s the short answer to that. They have told me if I don’t like either of the latest two proofs they are unable to to do any more. I am currently in conversation with another printer.
I cannot compromise on the quality of the colour of the images in Betsie Valentine. Tegan’s art is so beautiful and her images truly jump out at you with every turn of a page.
Again.. I have to say…watch this space. Ad interim, I have no hardbacks in stock, The National Honey Show is looming and lots of talks, in the meantime, are being put in the diary. Massive hurrumph.
And so to the honeybees. “Yay” I hear you say! It has been a couple of weeks so much to catch up on.
The Red Hive - My busy buzzy hive. They seemed quite agitated a couple of weeks ago, I did manage to spot the queen, which I was pleased about as I couldn’t find her last time but was happy she was there as there were plenty of eggs and no queen cells. Seeing her is always good though, it takes out the guess work and worry. I did get stung three times which wasn’t pleasant and one of the stings, I am guessing was a guard bee as it spread down my arm and in to my hand which swelled up and was was very painful. Naughty bee!
This week - no stings - still buzzy but I forgive that as long as I am not stung. No matter how hard I tried to explain to them I was there for the good of them they just weren’t for listening. However, buzzy bees, it is said produce lots of honey and the first super, has indeed been removed ready to be spun tomorrow. So they are good girls really!
The Yellow Nuc - My home grown queen experiment! Not much been happening which is worrying, they had expanded a little but not a lot. I had spotted a couple of eggs in one or two of the cells which is a worrying sign of a laying worker, but the queen is there. Sometimes, a young queen can lay a couple of eggs in one cell until she gets herself going. I decided to shake some bees in to the hive from a couple of the other hives. If you shake bees in from two hives they don’t fight as they get confused as to who is a newcomer and who isn’t. Well that seemed to do the trick because this week they seemed to be more lively and evidence of more eggs, but no brood as yet. So I have transferred them into a proper hive with a dummy board in place to give them a bit more space. I really do hope this hive takes off. It will be a real pat on the back for my patience and belief in this queen!
The Green Hive - I found the queen and marked her. Always a good feeling as it makes her easier to spot! This lot are as buzzy as the red hive, annoying but, like the red hive, I have taken off a super to spin this week. They are obviously getting on with their work and as they are not in the habit of stinging me I will put up with their buzzing! They are putting a lot of stores in the brood box, rather than using the top super, which is great for their winter stores, so no complaints there.
Amelies Hive - The Blue Hive.
Where did I get to? Ah yes. The queen has gone and I left one open and one closed queen cell. When I went up to inspect them a couple of weeks ago.. one of the cells had been part opened and the other was no-where to be seen. I left well alone. The bees were quiet so I assumed they had it all in hand, a queen had been born and was around and about. Best not to disturb them in the early days of a queen being born.
This week Amelie came up to the hive for another visit. It was the day before her birthday, she is eight. How fantastic that she has shown such interest in the honeybees and I can blog about someone so young showing such cause and dedication. I am so chuffed I cannot tell you! So she came all dressed up in her pucker gear with her smoker et al. I told her I had been a bit cheeky and popped up in the week to see if I could see evidence of a queen and sure enough I spotted her. So together we set out to find and mark her. We found her, she is very big, so clearly mated, and very quick. I managed to get her into the clip then couldn’t isolate her from the other bees to get her in to the marking cage. Finally after a bit of a struggle she fell in to my gloved hand which made it difficult to delicately manipulate her into the cage! I placed her on the floor of the hive. Let the bees settle down and then Amelie and I began our search again. I told Amelie we may not find her again this week and didn’t want to disturb the bees any more than necessary so we would just have one final check as we put the frames back in order. Lo and behold Amelie said “There she is!” - et voila - I caught her again in the clip. This time successfully transferred her to the cage and Amelie had the honour of marking her own queen. Boom! Because of all the waiting for the queen the bees had been filling up the empty cells with stores, so not a lot happening in the super. We decided to leave that super on and wait until she comes back from her holiday to spin her hives’ honey together. She left with a big smile on her face. Quite something for a girl of 8 to find and mark a queen. She has a lot to smile about and a right to feel proud.
Finally.. an amusing tail to end on. You gotta love a lady with a sense of humour!
Last week I was called out last Saturday to have a look at, what a lady suspected to be, a swarm of honeybees in a bush in her garden. The swarm had attacked a friend of hers so badly on the previous Saturday that he was still in hospital on his second blood transfusion.. true! Alarm bells rang because the swarm was only noticed on Saturday when said friend was trimming her bush, (make up your own jokes), and the Sunday had been a lovely day and I think a swarm of honeybees would have moved on to pastures new. A swarms' first port of call is rarely their last. Up I went, nonetheless to check. It was absolutely pouring with rain. Donning my bee suit and with my smoker at the ready, I was guided to said bush while the lady, very sensibly, beat a hasty reteat to her kitchen. I gently parted the twigs of what was/is a very dense bush and sure enough out came some angry flying creatures. I instantly thought they were wasps just by the way they flew around and the sound of their buzz. They were moving very quickly in the torrential rain so it was difficult to identify them immediately but they were, from what I could make out as they speedily darted all around me, more vibrant in colour than a honeybee. I wanted to be sure so I thought if I clap one between my hands and kill it I will know for sure. I was standing in her garden clapping away, missing every time and I noticed the lady watching me from her back door. I stopped and said..
"I haven't gone mad. I am not trying to kill or catch a swarm one bee at a time.. I just want to catch one and identify it"
"Oh" she said "I did wonder. I was beginning to think I ought to put dinner on for you as you were going to be there for quite some time!"
Long story short...Finally got one and... yes they were wasps!