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
Bee escape
Super - for cleaning
Super - full of heather honey
Queen excluder
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
Bee escape
Queen excluder
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!

Majorcan Honey

No, I didn't have a holiday romance but I did find some lovely honey in Pollença in Mallorca.

The vendor was not the bee keeper but she did have lots of different types of honey on offer; almond,  orange, lavender, mountain and wildflower, I think - all from the same beekeeper.

The Almond honey was very interesting and had a very strong taste of almond.  But I have to say I didn't like it much. Instead I walked out with some very dark strong flavoured mountain honey.

It's going to be interesting to compare that with my own honey and some that I still have from America.
Mallorcan Mountain Honey

Second Flow

So, just before I went away on holiday (29th July) I managed to take off and extract the remaining honey from the single hive; Hive 2.

In total I got 23 kgs (51 lbs) of honey from this hive which I think is very good considering it was its first year in production.

I've "jarred" the first batch and the second batch of honey separately; it is quite different in colour. I even made some set honey, although to my regret I used cheap supermarket honey as the "starter" seed honey; not next time.