Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winter Management (?)

I've been unable to find a dry, or warm enough, day to do some winter management on my bees; anytime I've been free it seems it's been either too cold and windy or just too wet.

At long last the weather was warm enough for me to take a trip out to the apiary today.  I've been fretting over the fact I have a queen excluder on top of a deep and under a couple of (heather honey) filled supers.  I was concerned I'd been separating the queen from a food source.  I wasn't so worried for right now, it is more a concern for the new year.  If the queen can't reach the honey she and/or the bees might starve.

Anyway, it was warm enough, and even though I say so myself, I was a bit of a ninja beekeeper today; in and out before they noticed!  However, I wasn't so quick that I didn't notice there were a lot of bees in the hive and some reasonably hefty boxes.  So I'm quite happy at this stage that there's sufficient stores in the hive for the winter.

All the hives in the apiary looked busy so there's reason to be cheerful.


B3 Bars are back

It's really been quite a while but I've just managed to make a few B3 bars with the wax cappings I collected this year.

Like much of the bee-stuff I used to do in the US, I've really missed messing about with cocoa butter and coconut oil!  Anyway, the few I've made have gone down well (they always did) and I'm looking to get a couple of batches prepared in time for Christmas.

So for those of you out there who wonder why B3; well a couple of reasons...

B3 - Beeswax, Body Bars
B3 - Just three ingredients: Beeswax, Cocoa Butter & Coconut Oil
B3 - have at least 3 uses... Moisturizing hand cream, a hydrophobic barrier cream, and a luxurious massage bar

Message me if you would like to try one...

B3 Bars ready to go!

3 Ingredients, B3...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Am I losing it?

First I was organised, then surprised, now I'm into a bit of self doubt!

I went through the old "combined" tall hive with the tower of boxes in the hope I'd be able to sort things out a bit.

Last time out I found the bee escapes hadn't worked and I also found I had a Queen above a bee escape in a super of brood. So I made up a hive from that super of brood, the "harvested" heather honey and the deep I was trying to clear.

This time out decided to just go through the tall hive and remove bee escapes and have a look to see what's been going on.

Nothing above the queen excluder - just capped and uncapped honey. There is one full super and three partially full ones on this hive. There is also a deep under a queen excluder - and in this deep/brood box?  I found brood!  So there I was trying to combine two hives each with a queen! D'oh!

I went through this hive a couple of weeks ago and had convinced myself there was no brood. I thought it needed help! Now I'm confused. Perhaps a couple of weeks ago there was a dearth of forage and she simply shut down for a rest? 

Anyway I just hope I did no lasting damage. I wasn't able to complete going through the tall hive - I'd really love to find the queen in order to satisfy myself there really is one and not some kind of skinny queen that could get across bee escapes and queen excluders! 

Maybe I need a break! I think I need a better, more effective, bee escape!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

So much for being prepared

I was all set last week... Then reality hit!

We extracted about 7.5 kgs of honey from one of the supers we took off, last week; so far so good.  The other super was however stuffed full of heather honey so we couldn't extract any of it! Agghhhh!

We had planned to put the empty supers back on the hives for the bees to clean up. Now we're going to put the honey back as winter feed!

To compound the issues, the bee escapes didn't do their job.  So where we were originally planning to remove a cleared deep and super we now were fighting off a load of bees happily residing in the hive!

So after the surprise yesterday (and a hasty retreat given the gloomy weather) I went back this morning.  I put the heather honey immediately above the brood chamber, and the cleared frame above this. Then went on a bee escape (fingers crossed this time) and the supers I added from the combined hive last week (yes, that seemed to have worked ok) and finally the deep and super I had from the other hive that didn't clear. 

Outer cover
Inner cover
Deep
Super
Super
Super
Bee escape
Super - for cleaning
Super - full of heather honey
Queen excluder
Deep
Base board

This is now quite a tall hive that one way or another next week will be significantly smaller. If the supers clear we will extract them or leave on as feed!

It all seems a bit pointless planning ahead! We will see where we are next week.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Autumn Preparations...

Somehow I'm feeling organised!  I'm not sure why, but I think it's because I have started preparing for the Autum now!

Ok, so I will confess I probably was forced into it, but still, it's a start!

I nominally have 2 hives at the apiary, and Dave has 2.  We help each other out, but we kind of think we each have our own!  Anyway, one of my hives has been quite prodigious; I extracted 51 lbs of honey in July.  However, this hive became Queenless (I don't really know why) but continued to produce honey and as of last weekend I had 4 supers stacked on it. Two are pretty much capped and the other two are perhaps 50% full.

The other hive I have was 'sick' earlier in April but it pulled through and has left me with a crammed full super of capped honey. There is a queen in this one!

So back to Autumn management. What to do with the Queenless hive? Well, I decided it was better to not generate problems next spring by not having equipment available for new splits and swarm control, so I united the hives.


I removed two full supers and I will extract honey from these. The resulting combined hive now looks like this...

Outer cover
Inner cover
Deep
Super
Bee escape
Super
Super
Newspaper
Queen excluder
Deep
Base board



The idea is to keep the Queen way down in the hive, to clear and then remove the deep and a super from the top (for later use?) and to leave two supers of stores to the bees for the Autumn.  If all goes well (that's got to happen at some point, right?) I'll further reduce the hive for winter - but I'll move full stores from the 'removed' deep into the deep at the bottom!

I will then have lots of equipment and drawn frames for the coming spring!


The mite count I did last week showed some moderate number of mites.  I'll treat once things have settled down after the combination!  Depending on the count level then I will treat with MAQS or try oxalic acid for the first time!!!

It's a plan of sorts!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Preparing for Mite Counts

I returned from holiday to take a look through the bees.  Just to get a feel for what might have been happening over the past two weeks or so. This is what I found...  the Plan...

Hive 2 looks like there is no Queen present - there is little brood.  So, should I take a frame from the swarm hive (Hive 3), which is temperamental, and put it in one of the supers?  I have no idea why this production hive would have lost a queen but I'll give it a week just to see if she's been taking a break!

The swarm hive (Hive 4) that had difficulties earlier this season seems in good shape now.  The single super is pretty full and is mostly capped.  I'm thinking to move a couple of empty or part full supers from Hive 2 over to this one. There seems to be sufficient space in the single deep, so that's okay.

I took the opportunity to put an open mesh floor in this hive and added some sticky boards to both Hive 2 and 4. I will do a mite count next Friday.  I hope that the recent broodless periods in these hives will mean there's currently a low count.

I have no plans to inspect the swarm hive (Hive 3), other than maybe take some eggs from that and put it into Hive 2.

No inspection was carried out on Hive 1 but Dave said that his hive appears to have a Queen present; at least he said he saw uncapped larvae.  As I put a frame of eggs and a queen cell in here more than 10 days ago I think we may have a new queen. So again no need to look at that; perhaps the end of next week.

So, I think next Friday, I will reduce the number of supers on Hive 2 and move them to Hive 4 and transfer a frame of eggs from a super in Hive 3 (the Swarm hive) to Hive 2.

We will also check Dave's hive for the presence of a queen.

Jars and Labels

I had some fun playing with labels; clear labels this time - I've not used these before.

As ever my trademark bee design (actually it's my wife's artwork) is on the label, but this time I've tried to comply with EU labeling regulations.  This proved more of a challenge than I expected. Squeezing all the required data on a small label is tricky.  Still, I think it looks good!


I think clear labels work really well with the set honey but I'm not so convinced about them on the clear honey.  There's too much backlight coming through the honey. I need some contrast so next time I think jars of clear honey will be on white labels.

Oh!  I also put the honey to good use...  A Bees Knees...

2 oz gin,
3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey to water)
1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and pour into your favourite bee glass!