An election in the frame

Too late, I’ve made a rather important discovery in these politically-charged times: general elections do not make for good beekeeping. There shouldn’t really be a connection, should there? On the one hand it’s all rosettes and handshakes and shouting and manifestos. And on the other hand it’s, well, none of those things. The two should never mix. Their paths never cross. Which is why I’m writing this from a hotel room in the north-east of England with a delightful view of a car park and the back end of a carvery, while my bees are – I hope – managing on their own to build up their numbers in preparation for a bumper season.

The trouble is, as I’m 200 miles away, I have no idea what they’re up to–nor can I do anything about it. One moment I’m making plans as to what to do next in the apiary, thinking I really should get round to knocking together some fresh frames for them to bed down in. It’s a good idea to give them the equivalent of new bedding in the spring as it lowers the risk of disease spreading. But then–bang! A general election is called and I get my marching orders: North, North-West, North-East, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the West, South-West, Wales, the Midlands, and the South. In fact, anywhere that’s not close to home, and all in the next three weeks or so.

Of course, I should have seen it coming; it wasn’t exactly a surprise. I should have been prepared. I should have done any number of things. But I didn’t write a whole book about bad beekeeping for nothing, did I? To be fair though, I can still partly blame the weather for the fact that I haven’t seen most of the bees since the last time I wrote. It’s not that the sun hasn’t shone – it just didn’t shine on the right day. There was one lovely warm afternoon when I could have gone to the farm, but the responsibilities of supporting a seriously relegation-threatened soccer team got in the way (Wycombe Wanderers, if you must know).

If I’d been prudent, I would at least have made up all the new frames over the winter, and wrapped them up in newspaper and plastic to have them nice and fresh for the start of the new season. And I’m sure most beekeepers have a little voice occasionally nagging away at the back of their minds that they should be Getting Ready For Spring instead of watching repeats of Only Fools and Horses [British Sitcom]. But when was the last time a bee made you laugh?

So once again I’ve had to leave the bees to their own devices, though I do have a Plan B of sorts. Just before I headed north, I managed to dash down to the beekeeping supplier and buy a huge boxful of frame components and sheets of wax. In the early hours of Sunday morning, I gave Mrs. T a hurried demonstration of how to put one together. She in turn, is going to show one of our student sons what to do. And for a rate of pay significantly higher than the minimum wage, he will construct enough frames to house four hives of bees. Then on one of my short trips home, I’ll take advantage of what is bound to be a delightful sun-kissed afternoon, make a quick trip to the apiary, and give the bees their full spring inspection and slot in all those freshly-made frames.

Breaking News: Pigs spotted flying over Buckinghamshire…

This blog post was first seen April 15, 2010 on the Saga Magazine website.