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.