Monday, August 29, 2011

New Kids on the Block!

I got a call from a neighbour about a nest of bees in her yard!  Makes you wonder how long they have been there and what size of hive it is.  But, it's a bit to high in the tree, and the tree's a bit to big to cut down just to find out...

The Queen is out!

I looked in the hive this evening to check if the Queen is OK.  She was put in the hive last Thursday evening - 4 days ago.  Well, she was not in her cage and so I hope she is in the hive somewhere preparing to lay!  I will leave it a few more days to see if I can see any eggs and/or larvae.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Queen is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

I got a new queen from "Long Lane Honey Bee Farm" yesterday and popped her in the hive yesterday evening.  I really looked hard through the hive for the old queen – not a sign of her, but I did observe a new bee emerging!  The timing of this is really weird.  I came home from vacation on 22 July, went through my bees about a week later to find there was no brood, just a few drone cells and isolated workers.  I left some queen cells alone for three weeks and looked again, still no brood and no queen.  By way of comparison the hive next to this had lots of brood and larvae so it wasn’t as though the queen just shut down in the hot weather. 

So I took the decision to re-queen and the new queen is now in the hive.  Time will tell if she is the only queen there and is accepted by the workers.  I guess in a week I will know one way or the other!

Later today I plan to look through my city hive – the one that is really defensive.  I have a super to remove and some mite treatment to perform (Mite Away Quick Strips).  We’ll see how they behave.  It is a lovely dry day today so I hope the bees will be out of the hive and not inside waiting for me….

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Local Honey!

This is fun!  The “St. Louis Post Dispatch” did a piece on us, well Elspeth and her honey recipes.  Kathleen (who looks after the Tower Grove bees) has a journalist friend who expressed an interest in my mead making.  It turned out that mead making wasn’t quite what the Post Dispatch was after, however they were interested in other recipes where Elspeth used honey.

So a journalist, and photographer, came to see us a couple of weeks ago, asked us lots of questions about what we did in St. Louis and what we liked to do and what influenced our cooking etc. etc. and low and behold today in the paper there is a feature containing a photo of Elspeth and a dish of her honey ice cream and honeyed figs.  Lots of people have noticed and it’s been a lot of fun!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mead making!

So my latest venture is to make some mead.  I found a receipe published by Gary Reuter who works at the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. He gave a really good series of talks at a conference arranged by the Easterm Missouri Beekeepers Association in 2010 so I thought if he knew about bees (and he does) he must know about mead!

Anyway the receipe is dead easy to follow. I have made two one gallon batches so far.  Each gallon has used honey from a different hive; my white queen hive and my blue queen hive.  I have used the same yeast and followed the instructions as closely as I can. This means the only difference between them is the source of the honey! Both batches are currently bubbling away in the basement!

I hope I will be able to discern a difference between the two brews once they have matured - I'm targetting Christmas for the tasting!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Well I'm a bit shell shocked!  My fantastic, highly productive "Blue" Queen has gone!  Not a sign of her in the hive!  I went in to the hive on Sunday morning; admittedly it's the first time in about a month, and got a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

I saw no brood, other than some spotty drone brood, and rather tellingly, several queen cells!  Doom! she must have swarmed I thought! But the queen cells were not just in the classic supersedure location (at the bottom of the frames), some were also on the body of the frames.  So I'm not really sure if she left, or died and is now being replaced.  I counted about 6 capped and therefore vital queen cells.  I reckon with all the absence of brood the hive must have been queenless for about 3 weeks, as it takes 21 days for an egg to be transformed into a hatched bee. So something happened just after we went on vacation. But what?

Anyhow where does this leave me?  Well I think it's actually quite interesting.  I was already thinking about re-queening this hive, albeit in the spring, but re-queening nevertheless. All this means is that the process I was going to induce has been brought forward a bit.  A lot of people swear by re-queening in the late summer as a good young queen can give a hive a healthy start to the next year.

So, I think the capped cells that I left in the hive will hatch in the next few days. Subsequently an emerging queen will take about a week to get ready for her maiden flight (but it could be less than this) and with luck she will return mated and will start laying soon after.  So in about 2 weeks I may be able to observe some new brood!  I'm pretty confident that with all the bee hives in the neighbourhood the drone stock out there will be from selected 'hygenic' stock and I could have another good laying queen on my hands for little fuss and bother.

Oh, and there's another major bonus!  The absence of a queen for about 3 weeks means that any mites that were in the hive should be killed off! The lack of brood will have disrupted their life cycle. No brood means no cells containing pupae in which the female mite can lay her young!  All in all it could be doubly good news.  You have to remain positive! Perhaps every could does have a silver lining?