Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bless the winter cluster

All the colonies have finished taking syrup from their feeders.
A last quick peep under the hive roof of each colony satisfied
me that all is well.  So the extra covering was put on each, the
front entrances closed to one bee width and the mouse traps primed.
Nothing more can be done now to help them through the next 4-5 months.

Ad-B - QB needs your help in correcting whatever fault prevents the uploading
of pics. to make this blog more interesting.  Please wake QB from her hibernation
when you come for Christmas.

Now QB leaves you until next Spring with this verse lifted from Mary Ann Duffy's
poem "The Bee Carol"

"Flightless now and shivering,
 around their Queen they cling;
 every bee a gift of heat;
 she will not freeze
 within the winter cluster of the bees."


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bees think it's Summer!

What a lovely day - sunny and warm after a cold, misty start.
Far too good to sit in and read the Sunday papers.  They'll have
to wait!
All hives, Blue, Red, Yellow and Silver have loads of bees literally
hurtling in and out.  Because the entrance to each hive is only one-bee
width now to stop robbing and mice the bees are queueing up to get in.
When they come out the fly fast in a big upward spiral before shooting off.
Where to??  Well the Michaelmas Daisy bushes are teeming with honey bees,
bluebottles, hover flies, small furry bumblebees, and some wasps.  The noise
of contented buzzing is very loud.  More than I've heard all Summer.
Unfortunately the flight path from the hives crosses the washing on the line.
So QB needs to duck out of the way now and again!
More Syrup is mixed ready for feeding tonight.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Indian last?

When the fog and mist finally cleared today I went out into the veg. garden.
One of the few successes this year has been (unexpectedly) the carrot crop.
 They need digging now as I am noticing some mouse-nibbly holes in them.
The sun was warm and the birds were singing and, guess what?  The borders were
buzzing - yes - the honey bees were out again!  There's not much for them but does
that deter them?  Oh no!!  Globe Thistle, perennial and annual Rudbeckia, thyme, lemon
balm - well quite a lot really.  Every hive was sending out workers to forage.
This means that the winter stores will be being used - so they'll need some syrup feed
Mustn't forget to put rocks on the hive roofs to stop the badgers getting in.  Yes there has
been evidence of regular nightly visits -- Stiff black & white hairs in the trays below the
brood boxes; long claw scratch marks across the landing platforms; paw prints in the mud on the path.  Badgers can do a lot of damage in their search for honey comb.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

An unusual request

Our good friend Ga - bee from Germany came to stay.
The bees are still storing honey(from the sugar syrup we feed to them).
Ga-bee asked if she could come and feed the bees with me.  I've never
had such a request before.  Specially unexpected as it was pouring with
rain and nearly dark.  This is the best time of day to feed as there is less
chance of other colonies robbing the hives with the fresh, warm syrup.
Anyway, she fed the Blue hive - remember they are a bit later than Red,
Yellow and Silver as they have been out foraging on the heather moors.
We stood and watched and listened to the busy workers as they gorged
on the warm syrup. Gaby was as fascinated as I always am.

The house is scented with the soft sweet smell of beeswax this week.
I am making candles to sell at Christmas.
Queen Bee will be hibernating very soon.  Look out for a lovely poem
from "The Bees" by Carol Ann Duffy.  That will be my signing off till
next Spring.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Oh, my!!  The weather is cold enough for those pesky little
mice to be looking into the hives for warmth.
Just checked the hives again - one more trapped mouse.
Add this to the 16 caught nibbling at the baby brussel sprouts
and you can see the size of our problem.


Monday, 8 October 2012

The Garden's Buzzing!

Interestingly two colonies have stopped taking syrup
and two are still sipping and storing.  Now the interesting part
is that the two which have stopped feeding have mouse nests
in the top of their hives but the two which are still feeding have no mice.
QB assumes that mice only dare enter if the colony is clustering.  Then
the mice can sneak in because there will be no guards at the entrance. 
Last night we had the heaviest frost of the season.
Almost all the flowers died overnight except for a few cosmos, nasturtiums
and rudbeckia.  And yet the garden is buzzing today.  The sun is bright and
still has some warmth in it.
I think these black northern bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) are the toughest of all
the species.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


Lovely sunny day today but temp. only 12C.  Tough Northern
black bees are not deterred and have been foraging for winter stores.
Cosmos and rudbeckia and a late budleia (wrong sp.?) have been most
attractive today.
We have done a varroa mite count after putting a thymol paste into each
hive.  Each colony averaged just 1 dead mite/day.  So there's nothing to
worry about - unless the mites have become resistant to the treatment!
Very unlikely- let's think positive!
Two hives are showing evidence of mice making nests above the top
boards.  They use shredded insulation material (sacking and carpet
underfelt).  We need to catch them in humane traps and release them
a long way away.  If we leave them the mice may venture into the brood nest
as the weather gets colder and the bees cluster.   They cause a lot of damage
as they gnaw at the wax combs.  If the bees become active they may sting the
mice to death but the comb damage will have already been done.

Monday, 1 October 2012


All the colonies have been active today. It has been warmer.
Bees have been out on the platforms pushing out drones
and repelling robbers.  There are a lot of tiny furry bodies
strewed around.  We are still feeding them with sugar syrup
but this is done at dusk (I have just come back in) so they can
get to work moving it into the combs overnight.  This should
reduce robbing by other bees and wasps.
I also did a count of the dead varroa mites on the trays beneath
the hive floor.  The average across all colonies was 1 mite per day.
Nothing to worry about.  The colonies are well set to survive the winter.
The critical factor now is if there is enough food stored to last them the
winter and also if they can reach the stores when they are clustering.
So many "ifs" and "buts" and "what ifs"!!!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Last Lick

Queen Bee has been spinning out the last honey from the combs.
Now the buckets are being scraped of the last precious drops.
The empty combs are still glistening with the sweet wetness that
the extractor could never remove.
These combs are being put back on the hives and the hard working
houseproud bees will lick out the last drops, dry the combs and polish the cells.
The combs will be stored somewhere cool and dry to use again next year.
The bees are still taking the sugar syrup into their stores to add to the honey
stores from the summer foraging. They can chemically reduce the sucrose with
digestive enzymes to form glucose and fructose which they can store and seal
without any risk of fermentation!
Today Queen and Consort visited the farmer who so kindly allowed us to put
the Blue hive on his pasture among the heather.  It is traditional to say "thankyou"
with a comb of heather honey which is very well received.
Tomorrow is the Show where we will sell our honey, candles and furniture polish.
The income will be spent on the bees.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Queen Bee Fedup

On this ghastly day QB has been making candles.
Beeswax has been used for making candles  for centuries.
The wax is produced in tiny scales secreted from between the workers'
abdomen scales and is molded by their mandibles. 
Wax can be remoulded and formed into all sorts of shapes - a truly flexible
Beeswax candles burn slowly, without drips and smoke.  As a bonus they scent
the air with that lovely smell of honey and summer.

The Blue hive has scores of dead bees outside its front door.  There has
probably been some robbing by their neighbours - Red, Yellow, Silver.
A battle between raiders and the home team results in many deaths.
They've just come home and have some bee-delicious honey comb.  This is
unresistible to the other bees who are being fed on sugar syrup!  No contest!
Also the colonies will now be throwing out their drones.  They simply can't
afford to feed them precious stores over the winter.
QB is looking forward to hibernating soon1

Friday, 21 September 2012

Time to Cluster

Well the nights are getting colder.  Tomorrow is the Autumn equinox.
I'm assessing the strength of each colony to see if there are enough bees to
form a cluster which will generate enough warmth to help them all survive.
Worse than cold is damp.  I am making sure there is enough ventilation to
keep the hive dry. 
So ................. Plenty of food, no mites, dryness and somewhere to cluster.
On top of the top box and below the roof is some old carpet to keep out the chill and
a mousetrap  ...... yes you've guessed it - to keep out those ******* mice!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Smite the Mite

Now as part of the winter "tuck-up" any surviving varroa mites must
The mites that ride on our honey bees, like tiny jockeys, are the species
Varroa destructor.  It is doubtful that any colonies are free of this parasite,
the adults and young of which feed on the blood (haemolymph) of the bees.
They reproduce by laying their eggs in the wax cells containing bee larvae.
A colony of bees can support a very high mite population.
The real problem comes from the diseases they pass on.  For this reason the
colonies need treatment.  Unfortunately the mites in many regions have become
resistant to the commonly used pyrethroids.  The only other legally allowed
treatment in UK is  thymol based, which causes the mites to let go and fall off.
Obviously treatments like this can only be applied when the honey crop has
been taken out of the hive.
So...................................... now is the time.
There are other ways of keeping the mite population down throughout the year.
which are less effective but do not use chemicals.
Got to go - to watch Derren Brown (Svengali) on Ch4 - !!
More "tucking up" tips to come.
PS A mite on a honey bee is proportionately like a large dinner plate on your back.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Heather Honey (What's so special?)

We took the Blue Team to the heather moors in August, just as the ling flowers
were beginning to show that lovely purply shade.
The weather has been pretty bad, but the northern honey bees will work as
soon as the temperature is right(about 15C).
We brought a full super home last week and now we have some more comb in
the hive we have brought home.
However, extracting heather honey is a problem because it isn't runny like most
flower honeys.  It's a jelly and doesn't spin out of the comb.  The jelly is
thixotropic which means if it is stirred it becomes a liquid.  Stirring it in the comb
is possible but very labour intensive.  The usual way is to cut the comb into chunks
and eat the honey and the wax.  Delicious!  especially on hot breakfast toast.
The flavour and colour are like no other.   People round here ask for heather honey
and they're quite prepared to pay the extra price. 
It has to cost more because taking bees to the heather rquires special management
of the colony and the prep. and packing of the comb is highly labour-intensive.
The heather-honey season is very short - around 2-3 weeks; so production is low.
Back to tucking up the bees for the winter - today we start feeding them their winter
stores. (1kg sugar: 1l hot water)
'Bye for now XXQBXX

Friday, 14 September 2012

Bringing the girls home

It's time to fetch the Blue colony back from the heather.
The hive must be secured so the boxes don't slip in transit.
It'll be very heavy to lift because as the Queen slows down
her egg-laying the brood nest shrinks leaving empty combs for storing honey.
Each comb holds about 5lbs so, again, do the maths.
On top of this is a super which will contain some stores.  Anyway there'll
be 3 or 4 of us to lift it into the pickup.
When the Blues are safely back I can get on with the winter "tuck-up".
This is my plan for this weekend - at least 2 weeks later than last year.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Ready for Winter?

It's dark here by 8.00pm - honey bees don't fly in the dark -
they navigate by the sun.  Even on dull days.  The nights are
quite chilly too so the colonies are slowing down.  It's time to
make sure they have enough food for the winter - 20kg or more
depending on the length/mildness of the cold weather and the size
of the colony.There will be around 40,000 - 50,000 bees in a good-sized colony.
A deep comb holds 2kg+ and a shallow 1kg+.  The beekeeper
needs to check the quantity of stores each colony has and then
make up the difference.  This can be done by giving them the
boxes of wet extracted comb to lick out.  They LOVE this.
I've been giving my bees wet combs  over the last week.
Then the bees can be fed sugar syrup (2kg white sugar: 1litre water).
2kg sugar can be converted by the bees to 2.5kg of honey - so
you do the maths!
There're more things to do to help the bees through the winter...but one
thing at once.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Stolen Hives

Can you believe that people steal honey-bee hives?
Recently 2 brand-new hives were stolen from a youth-project in
Hartlepool.  Youngsters learning how to look after bees are devastated
by the loss.
It's very important to mark your hive parts and frames.  Some beekeepers
use a branding iron and some use a black felt-tip pen applied thickly.  Then
IF the thieves are caught your valuable property can be traced back to you.
And what of your precious honeybees? Suggestions please.
Hopefully if the criminals end up in court they will not be rewarded with
a short Community Service Order and a commendation from the Judge for
their courage (as in a recent case of house burglary in Teeside)!

This week it is time to start the count-down to tucking up the bees for their
winter rest. More tomorrow.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Busy on the Heather

I've been to visit the Blue workforce on the moors.
There's a super full of comb honey!  So I gave them
another empty super to fill and took the full super away.
A full super will weigh 30lbs so you can't carry it far.
Blue Team  weren't very welcoming and certainly were not
in the mood to offer assistance.
As that very wise young Ad Bee said "I wouldn't be very pleased if someone
broke into my home and walked off with my belongings".
The horrible summer weather broke today bringing even worse.
So I don't think the heather will blossom for much longer and I'll
bring them all home for the winter.
More Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing tomorrow.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Beeswax Candles

When you have honey bees you also have loads of wax. 
Beeswax was used to make candles for churches and monasteries as long ago
as 3000BC.  Animal fat was used by the common people to make smelly tallow.
But for the houses of God only beeswax would do.  It's smell is reminiscent of
summer meadows;  it burns evenly and slowly without smoke.  So monks and
nuns became bee-keepers - caring for honey bees and processing their wax.
Madame Tussaud's first wax figures were made from beeswax poured into plastercasts
of the features of dead people.
Anyway today has been another horrible dark, windy, drizzly day.  So now is the time
to plunder the beeswax store and make some candles to use in our home and to sell at
the local show. 
Candle moulds are quite expensive to buy but give us a wide range of diferent shapes -
twists, tapers, night-lites, ornate columns, tree-shapes, beeskeps and many more. 
It's a bit fiddly threading the wick in and then pouring in molten wax.  You have to
be patient and wait several hours for the wax to set before you release the beautiful and
shiney wax model.  It's well worth the trouble.
While you wait you could make a few rolled beeswax candles which are quick to do and
a lot cheaper too.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Leave some honey for the bees!

Hot sunny day today - so more honey from the Yellow hive.
It's very important - when glorifying the golden nectar - that
the whole reason for all the hard work by the honey bees at this
time of the year is to store food for the colony's survival through
the winter. This is the only bee that plans ahead like this. 
So I must leave some stores for the bees - and not be too greedy.
We are running late this year - but now is the time to take the last
capped combs and leave the rest for them.
Blue hive is still out on the heather so there is quite a bit to take from
these bees when we bring them home - in about 2 week's time.
I am now giving the bees here at home the 'wet' combs on top of their
supers and they will clean them all up for me.  Then I'll store the dry comb
somewhere mouse/moth-proof to be filled again next year. Brilliant!!

When the last honey comes off the hives and the 'wet' combs are dry
there is more work to do to tuck them up safely for the winter.
Then the candle-making begins.
Watch this space Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Furniture Polish and other things

Sorry I'm late.
I've just finished making some polish - so here's how.
First - out to the solar wax extractor - to get 375g clean beeswax.
You need 750cl natural turpentine (you can get this from a 'friendly'
furniture restore.
Place wax and turps. in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
Keep strirring until the wax has melted (do not over heat the mixture)
Pour mixture into flat tins.

This will make 12 x 100g tins of polish.
The house will smell of beeswax and turps for ages!
We need to be thinking of getting the bees ready for winter now.
More tomorrow after I've checked the hives for honey stores.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

What to do next?

The temp. has been 11C-13C all day.  What's a honey bee to do?
Well there's lots of beeswax spare from this season's work,  so how about
making some candles?  Or how about some furniture polish?
Beeswax has lots of uses.  When people were asked here are some of there
suggestions :
to seal wounds on trees and shrubs
to fill scratches in furniture
for tying fishing flies
to ease wood screws into wood
etc. etc.etc.
the uses are only limited by your imagination!
Tomorrow I'll make polish so tonight I'm assembling:
an old pan and an old bowl to heat ingredients (as a waterbath)
250g beeswax pieces
500cls natural turpentine ( not white spirit)
some carnuba wax if a harder shine is wanted
lavender essential oil (if perfume wanted/ natural wax/honey smell is lovely)
Some tins to keep the polish in
Tomorrow see how I got on.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Honey has medicinal properties

I'm looking at rows of jars of honey. Honey has been revered for its antibacterial
properties for centuries!  It is used as a cough/cold/sorethroat remedy; a hangover
cure;  helps cure ulcers; wound care.
You won't believe it but apparently bee venom can be used to treat rheumatic diseases too.

Today has been another wet day so spinning honey from comb and sieving it has been
the main job.
We got a ray of sunshine at about 3.00pm and the bees came hurtling out of the hives
always with an eye (composite) for an opportunity to dash over to the Rosebay Willowherb
to collect that nutritious nectar and tuck the fantastic dark green pollen into their baskets (corbiculae)
to feed the larvae which will become the long-lived bees to survive the winter cold.
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  Queen Bee

Monday, 27 August 2012

Wet Wet Wet

Honeymoon was so named as a newly-wed couple, for the first
month from their nuptials, was given mead (honey wine) to drink,
to ensure the conception of their first child. (In those days this was the purpose
of marriage)
Today has been WET all day so we've been busy uncapping the combs - this means
removing the wax cappings from the filled cells in the comb.... and spinning the combs in the extractor.  This takes great effort and trying to get the last drops of honey out is not worth
the effort.  So the combs are still WET with honey. 
Tomorrow I will put these sticky empty combs back on the bees for a couple of days and
they will lick them dry.
Then I can store the wax comb ready to reuse next year.
A day like today is good for bottling and labelling this golden gift from the bees.

Honey is the only natural food that really does not go off.
It is a great healer and has many uses.  Log in tomorrow!
Buzzzzz Queen Bee.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


Today I have been busy with honey.  Despite what the newspapers say the honey
here is flowing golden and prolific.  Remember we must leave at least 40lbs in
each hive as stores for the colony over the winter - so we can't plunder it all.
We love honey here, believing in its health- giving and antiseptic properties.
Mr. Bee (Queen Bee's Special Love) is especially fond of  'cut comb' honey.
A.A.Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh comes second as the best-known honey-lover.
Unlike Mr. Bee, Winnie had to go to great lengths to get his honey.
Remember when he hit on the brilliant idea of floating up to a bee-nest in
a tall tree as he dangles from a toy balloon?
What has honey got to do with "honeymoon"?  Watch this space.  Meanwhile I'm
off to stick labels on jars - there are rigorous regulations attached to labelling honey
for selling.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Queen Bee's Birthday

My good friend (Sarah Bee) made this lovely cake for my very big birthday.
Us Queen bees can live for 5 years!  Each is equiv. to 20 human years so figure
it out.  That's me on top but I can't bear to eat it. Still I need to lose weight. What shall I do?
Today is perfect for spinning honey off the combs.  It's pouring down so I can't
get out to collect nectar.
The News says there will be a shortage of honey for people to buy as the poor
weather has forced some bee-keepers to feed sugar syrup to their colonies.
In our local village store today a customer said that she relies on my honey
to give her immunity to hay-fever.  She thinks she'll start 'stockpiling'.

"Bees are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them"  - (Virgil's Bees from Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees)

Friday, 24 August 2012

On the heather moors

Queen Bee went to the moors today to visit Blue Hive which we took
there last week.
The temp. was only15C but they were working fast and furious but with a contented "BZZZ".
The honey box (called a super) is getting heavy - but we aren't sure
the prize is heather nectar or something else.
Received wisdom says the Scottish thistle came into bloom before the
purple Heather so .............?
The hills are tinged with that beautiful dusky pink now.  We are offering
up a prayer to that Ever "honey- dancing" Bee - in - the - Sky to bring warm, sunny weather
and that deep, deep purple and sweet heather scent to help the Blues with their winter stores.
And now Queen Bee is going back to that oh-so sticky task of taking honey off the comb.
More about that tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Olympic Stadium reminded me .....

I felt quite at home in the Stadium.
It reminded me of my hive with 80,000 honey bees all buzzing!
All individual and yet all there with a common purpose.
Think of a honey bee colony as one super-organism - each bee has its own job
- nurses, guards, food collectors, sperm providers, comb-builders - all devoted
to the common good.
Queen Bee's in danger of getting Political here - so at this point she'll leave you
to think about it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mercy Dash

Mercy dash to a bee-buddy with comb of eggs,larvae,sealed brood to boost
a failing nuc.  Took the frame from silver hive - hoping they can make up the loss.
The queen no longer seems to be in the nuc.
When these queens go a.w.o.l. where exactly do they go?
Anyway, if the little colony starts to build new queen cells around these new eggs
we have just about enough time to hatch out (say 24th Aug.), get her mated and laying
in September.  Given a really good  Autumn  the colony might just be strong enough
to get through the winter!
So many "ifs" in bee-keeping!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Queen Bee's Buzz2
Just heard European Foul Brood in Darlington area!
Must warn my troops to watch out - another horror! 
Thank goodness we have regional bee inspectors. Just E-mailed mine today to say thanks for recent
inspection. Kind, helpful,professional and a good lot of advice when asked - and no disease!!!!!
Like " Black Northern bees are more prone to 'chalk brood'.
Well I didn't know that!
If you're worried or suspect EFB ring 01904 462510 (in England or Wales)
                                                             0131244 3377(Scotland)
                                                             0289052 4426(N.Ireland)
Bee Craft does an apiary guide wth pics. (01733 77 1221)
There's lots of help out there. 
Lots more day by day "buzzes".  

Queen Bee's First Buzz

Two supers nearly capped on each hive - Blue,Red,Yellow,Silver.
Unbelievable !!  Where have they found nectar and when. Such wet days
and my team aren't waterproof!
My back aches lifting the boxes to check the brood - still no sign of swarm preparations
all summer long - the first year I've been properly prepared for swarming.
Folks are wishing for this year's honey round here.  So we'll take it off inthe the next week or so.
The Blue's are off to the heather (ling) this week as the moors are just beginning to show pink.
Let's hope the next 2-3 weeks show  beautiful purple and that heady perfume.
Now off to empty my pollen baskets - meadow sweet today.
More buzzes tomorrow.