On Sunday Kate Ringrose, myself, and John Karl Jones received our long-awaited delivery of honey bees from Mr Mok of Tung Chung, who has been a bee-keeper for forty years or more. He supplied us with two colonised hives, plus two empty hives which are in readiness for the moment the bees swarm and split from their original colony. If we’re lucky we’ll be able to catch them and thus have double the number of active hives. It seems as if this is the swarming season, and I’ve noted that other beekeepers are hanging up inverted wicker baskets to ‘catch’ the bees. Consequently, I’ve hung up a few hats like those used by Vietnamese rice farmers in the hope that they will do the trick, but I’ll be on the phone to Mr Mok to seek his help if at all possible.
The bees seem to have settled in very well, and are extremely busy flying back and forth all day long. I don’t like to disturb them too much, but I’m on a steep learning curve at the moment, so I want to be able to identify the different types of bee, and to get some awareness of what they are up to. We’ve certainly been given large colonies with lots of combs being made, and what seems like plenty of honey and a good number of babies (is that the right word?). However, at the moment, it’s all new to me and I don’t really know what to do, except observe.
We’ve bought the bees largely because we want them to pollinate our crops, and those of the other organic farmers around us (Mabel and Leo), and, of course, because we want to produce and sell honey. There’s not really a problem of Colony Collapse Disorder in Asia, but if it does develop here – and the Chinese abuse of agricultural chemicals is worrying – then maybe we can be a little beacon of sanity in the midst of it. Meanwhile, I shall endeavour to treat the bees with respect, and not to talk about them as if they were my little babies! If we can make conditions comfortable enough for them, I’m sure they will reward us amply.