Sunday, December 3, 2017

Out and About

It’s been ages since I’ve seen any activity so it’s brilliant to see one or two bees brave the damp weather. I’m not sure what forage is out there but I guess they must like the warmer weather to do some cleaning!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Going Nuts!

Thanksgiving is now past so Christmas must be just around the corner... as a result we’re going nuts here at Sandhills Honey!  Hazelnuts, Walnuts and Pistachios to be precise! I just love how the colours are warmed through a filter of Honey!!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Cheeky Monkey

Thanks Cici

Lovely to see some of my Kirkwood marketing material is still hanging around and being put to good use!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2018 Preparations

OK. So it's a bit premature but I actually saw a bargain (or what I thought was anyway) and went and splashed out on a 4-frame stainless steel manual extractor. Not an electric one, as really I don't have enough need for that, and besides I thought the exercise would be good for me!

It's now stashed in the shed waiting for an opportunity to extract.

Next job is to remove a couple of supers, if I can, to reduce the boxes on the hives over winter - then some mite management in a couple of months - oxalic acid crystals vaporized in the hive in late December...

Dave and I may even move the hives to a new location in the winter.

Lots to do and consider even now!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Harvest Time!

Working away from home and going on holiday certainly don't do much for keeping the blog up to date!  The late summer was fairly uneventful and Dave and I finally managed to harvest, mostly in August, and we got a reasonable haul!

All in all the current count is about 54 kgs, or 120lbs, which I'm really quite chuffed with. It took a while to get all the labels for the jars sorted out but the following photos I think do the product justice.

I managed to source a few Muth jars as well as my favourite hexagonal 12oz and 1lb jars.  My great thanks goes to colleague Fiona in Salford who put up with me badgering her to help me with the design of the labels and I think she came up with some wonderful ideas!  

There were just enough jars even to sell through a couple of local shops - Apothacary27 in Wey Hill Haslemere and the Haslemere Wine Cellar in West Street.  Most gratifying of all however is the trade I did with Dylan's Ice Cream.  They have made a couple of flavours... "HoneyHoneyDontStop" (a pure honey flavour) and "Bumblebee" which is a chocolate and honey ripple with crunchy honeycomb pieces in it. The latter will be available at the Haslemere Food Festival tomorrow (23 September 2017) on Lion Green. Come and try some while you can!

And earlier today I was up winterizing the bees and I think I will be able to harvest another 25 pounds or thereabouts.  This is after leaving a at least a single full supers on each of my 4 hives.  

So I may do some cut comb or even some jars of honey & nuts... watch this space.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hot Hive!

It's been a while since I've had one of these! Fortunately I was warned in advance.

Dave tried the other day to put a bee escape on the hive under the supers but was beaten back almost before he started.

So prewarned, I tried. Two thick layers under the suit, plus taped up gloves and I was ready. I was suiting up close to the hive and it was barely 5 minutes before I was being bombed; I hadn't even started to get ready and wasn't fully dressed!

So I heavily smoked the hive - not sure if that made things better or worse! When I cracked the top of the hive I straight away had bees on me. But I managed to lift 3 supers off, put an empty one back, then the bee escape, then two full supers and then the cover - all the time repeating the mantra "keep calm, keep calm". As soon as I was done I walked off in the opposite direction of my car and through bushes. Some bees were very persistent and one even got into my veil somehow.  I think past a zip but I'll need to double check for holes!

Anyway I got away with it - no stings - but I am not really looking forward to removing the two supers now!  But I'll grin and bear it somehow!

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's Been Hectic!

A lot has happened since I last blogged- it's been nearly 2 months - a lifetime in bee terms.

So I'm not sure where to start. Last time I talked about the swarm Dave caught. This gad been Queenless so I put a frame of eggs in it. We checked in this about 4 weeks later and found no brood etc. In it.  So it appeared the bees didn't raise a Queen.  We decided that rather than do the frame of eggs thing again we'd source a mated queen instead.

We found one easily enough (from Sinah Common Honey) on Hayling Island and I went down a couple of weeks ago to pick her up. The following day (Saturday) I went to install her, but found eggs in the hive! But it looked like laying workers; multiple (2) eggs in some cells. After a call to the queen supplier he reassured me it was more likely an inexperienced queen who was not skilled at laying was present.  The sign is that eggs were at the bottom  if the cell and not on the sides. Laying workers can't reach the bottom! Anyway, could I find her? Not a chance! We looked through the hive 3 times.

What options were available? To leave the swarm alone and use the new queen in a split? Well, given the nature of our other hives (feisty would be an understatement) we were cowardly and decided to put the new queen in the hive with the inexperienced queen and let them do what they needed to do.

I came back a week later- could I find the queen? Nope! But there were lots more eggs and brood present so I conclude that this hive is well and booming! We left it not knowing which queen is in residence.  We will find out in due course.

All this time the other feisty hives are doing well - supers are filling and we're close to harvesting - but the weather and other events have betrayed us so no honey has been extracted.  But we do have plans for this weekend...

So what else could possibly happen?

Well, I caught a swarm last weekend. I got directed to a Facebook post from someone in Haslemere with a swarm in his hedge.  It's on High Lane not far from where I caught my first swarm in 2015. A small one but easy to catch.  I went over on Saturday morning picked it out of the hedge and installed it next to the other hives. Very easy indeed! And during their walk into the hive I saw the Queen! The word swarm is so misunderstood - these were perfectly behaved!

I'll check on the hive this weekend to see how they're doing!

So currently we're up to 6 hives! 3 producers (and maybe a fourth) and 2 new swarms.

Once the honey is harvested I'll treat the 4 main hives with MAQS and then pop some wireless foundation on to try to capture some heather honey!

Not sure how I'm managing to do this and work in Manchester in the week...

Friday, May 26, 2017

End on May - Lovely Weather and an Almost Healthy Swarm

It's fantastic weather here today; about 25 C, a clear sky and breezy.  I went over to the bees just to have a look at what they were doing. I didn't intend to ruin their day by rummaging through their nests. Let them get on with it is my maxim - although that changed...

There was a lot of activity in the garden; bees busy charging in and out of the hives. I was just content to have a look from the outside, but after I got to chatting with Dave about the good weather and the prospect of good foraging prospects this weekend we decided to add a super to his hive. The single super he has there (HIVE 3) is already quite full and I suspect the bees would draw out some more foundation if it were added.  

As I carry my equipment in the car it is easy to get ready, although I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Once I ad added the super I couldn't resist taking a quick look under the top covers of the other hives - a lot of bees inside and some heavy supers too. More supers will need to be added over the next week I think.

Some more thinking...

I was enjoying the weather so much I thought I'd take a look at the new swarm hive Dave caught just over a week ago.  This was very calm but devoid of any brood and eggs - Queenless!  However they were active and drawing out comb well.  They simply need some eggs.  After more discussions we decided to take them from the smaller of the two established hives I have (HIVE 2)  This has been the better tempered of my hives but has still been quite feisty at times. I donned an additional sweatshirt over my t-shirt, and got into the hive; after a lot of fuss and bother lighting the smoker - I really must get some better fuel. 

I was not really bombed by the bees, even after I shook them from the frames to check for eggs and larvae - quite a surprise. And although I didn't see any I'm hopeful I got some eggs.  I definitely got larvae in the frame so I know there's a resident Queen about in the donor hive. Once I selected the best frame I walked it around the corner to the new hive and popped it in.  I'll ask Dave to check in this hive in about a week, just to make sure there are queen cells being formed. If not it will be back to the donor for more frames.

So events do take over and ruin our plans - a bit.  I went just for a look and ended up doing some major manipulations - I love it.  But that should be it for the weekend. 

Spot the hives...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Split progress

The split I formed on 30/4 (Hive 4) appears to be on the road to success!  I did an inspection yesterday (14/5) and found at least 2 capped queen cells. This means two things. The split contained eggs and the old queen remained in the parent hive (Hive 2)!  Just what I wanted! In a couple of days there should be a new queen in residence.  Give it a couple more weeks and with luck she'll be laying! So no further inspections until early June!

I did go through Hive 1 but this was quite feisty and I got stung a couple of times.  It is bursting with bees and looks ripe for a split, but I didn't do this as I felt they were not very accepting of me. I will go back wearing more protection - layers on my arms!.  I did however add a third super - bottom supered.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I've been back to the apiary once since Easter to see my bees and they weren't too bad - their behavior seems to be a bit erratic and unpredictable this spring.  The last time I was there (a couple of weeks ago) it was poor weather but I managed to get though the bees; enough to see that they were doing really well and were potentially in need of splitting.

On my visit last weekend (30/4/17) I found that I successfully trapped the queen in Hive 1 in the deep and the supers are now clear of brood - although there are some drones kicking about above the QE. I might have to go back and shake these supers out in order to clear all the drones. So this hive is set up well - there were no sign of queen cells!

Hive 2 was bursting!  I popped a second deep on a couple of weeks ago and this was pretty full of bees. I was half expecting this so I was prepared to make up another hive (thanks to Dave for preparing all the wooden-ware etc.).  I went through the upper of the two deeps to try to spot the queen - no such luck; but there was brood, eggs and lots of bees.

I decided to relocate this entire deep into a new hive (Hive 4), frame by frame.  My intention was to have them raise a new queen from eggs. I also gave this hive a partially full super.  If the queen wasn't with the bees I moved and there are eggs, by next weekend (6/5/17) there should be some queen cells present and my work was successful, so far.  If there are no queen cells in the new hive then the queen was in the group of bees I moved and there should be some queen cells in Hive 1.  Not quite what I was planning but I think that should still be OK. Again, I saw no queen cells in Hive 1. So that's a plus too.

I didn't look though Hive 3 (Dave's original hive).  I think I was pushing my luck by this time and so I decided to beat a retreat.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I went back to the bees on Saturday on what I thought was a pretty perfect spring day for an inspection.  I went around about 11.30 am, it was sunny, warm(ish) and not particularly windy. There were a lot of bees flying around the entrance and out foraging in two of the three hives. I thought it would be lovely

I decided to go through Hive 3 first as this was the 'quietest' of the hives on my arrival.  They didn't seen too problematic but once I got into the brood box they started being defensive - trying (and succeeding on a couple of occasions) to sting me.  I just about managed to determine there were 4 frames of brood on the deep but I closed up pretty quickly once I found that out.

I then went into Hive 1.  I was planning on introducing a couple of queen excluders in this hive in order to isolate the queen (with luck in a brood box). These bees were not impressed with me but I managed to get the excluders on - but I had to beat a temporary retreat mid inspection.  Maybe it was the alarm pheromone on my suit that they sensed but I got out as quickly as I could - picking up a couple more stings!

Quite why I opened the hive, Hive 2, I'm not too sure! They were just as cross and not too keen on my presence.  But my objective was to put on a super I had brought from home.  The previous week this hive was looking like the bees were starting to quickly fill the supers so I was planning on providing more space. I had thought about checking the brood boxes to see if the queen had started on the second layer - I never even started that!

So what is to be learned?  I'm not sure.  I suspect the alarm pheromone set them off.  But why on such a nice day did they get so cross in the first place?  I will have to do a bit of research.  My experience has usually been that they are fairly calm and quiet in the spring on fine days!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Early Spring Management

I dropped in on the bees today to catch up on where I left things a couple of weeks ago.  The good news is that since I removed the removable bottom boards the moisture in the hives has disappeared. It's either that or down to the fact the bees are growing in number and are therefore keeping moisture levels down through their fanning.  Ventilation is much better now and the weather warmer.

Hive 1: This now has brood throughout the 2 supers as well as the deep on the top of the stack!  I'm going to have to get things back on track and I think the best way is to trap the queen in one of the 3 boxes using 2 queen excluders and then re-organise things.  I'll add QEs next weekend, then look for larvae the following week.  Bingo where there's larvae that's where she'll be!  Apart from that the hive looks good - quite a bit of stores and brood present and some, but not a large quantity, of drone brood.

Hive 2: This is doing well.  There's even a couple of completely capped frames of honey in one of the supers! The brood is in good shape too.  There were 6 or 7 frames with brood on them in the deep so I added a second deep to the hive and 'seeded' the this with a couple of frames of brood. I may take the supers off in order to make space for fresh foundation - but that's something for next week or at least once spring really gets moving. If this hive builds up well I will attempt to make a split from this hive.

Hive 3: I took the empty deep from this hive and added it to Hive 2.  The bees are mostly in the deep below the QE but there are several frames of bees and I'm happy with the way this is coming on!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

First Inspection of the year!

I completed my first inspection of the year yesterday.  It seems late I know but there just really hasn't been a good enough weather window when I was around.  Anyway the fog lifted, the sun came out and I leapt at the opportunity.

I wasn't sure what I'd find; the bees have been quite active so far this year so I was hopeful to find things were all settled and in good shape.  And generally that's exactly what I found! Although I have to say they seemed further advanced than I was expecting for mid March.

We have 3 hives, all had mite treatment in December, all have been active, some more than others...

Hive 1:
This is the hive that is nearest the big house (on the left in the above photo) and I think this has been the most active over the winter; at least every time I have been to the apiary this hive has had the most bees flying.  When I arrived yesterday I found a great crush of bees trying to enter the hive, many laden with great piles of pollen.  

This hive comprises 1 deep and 2 supers.  We left the supers on over the winter with heather honey we couldn't extract. I found there was quite a bit of honey stored in the supers, together with significant quantities of brood (see the following photo)!  There was plenty of pollen in the supers near the brood as well, so apart from the fact the brood is in the wrong place the bees looked OK.  

The deep was empty of brood but did contain some honey so I decided to move the supers (and therefore the brood) under the deep.  I hope the supers will gradually empty and the deep will fill with brood. I'll pop on a Queen Excluder on soon.

Hive 2:
This hive has a single deep and 2 supers and is usually quieter than the first and sure enough there were fewer bees around the entrance. Inside the hive I found lots of stores in the both supers, but no brood.  In the deep (at the bottom of the hive) there was a tonne of brood - 5 or 6 frames worth in a lovely pattern, a nice oval with some space for laying in the middle, together with pollen and honey surrounding the capped cells.  This is looking really,  really, strong!

The thought occurred to me that perhaps the reason they were quieter was down to the fact they had more stores in the hive and so didn't need to venture out as much!

I popped a Queen Excluder under the supers and will keep a watch on the brood - certainly on a week by week basis.  I think this could be my main hive for splitting this season - We have the necessary equipment available but I have nevertheless made some enquiries about additional stands, OMF etc.

Hive 3:
Dave's Hive. This hive comprises 2 deeps and a single super.  One deep contained brood and stores, the other deep had no brood and was mostly empty of stores.  The super contained some stores. I left the deep with brood at the bottom of the hive, slipped a Queen Excluder over this then added the super and finally the deep (which is a 'new' one) on top.  I may well use this deep for the future split. Again this hive looks to be in good shape.

I removed all the entrance reducers, the mouse guards and the OMF screen boards; the latter to help improve ventilation within the hive.  I found in all hives a lot of condensation, in the frame rebates and particularly at the top in the roofs where there was some mold growth too.

So it was an excellent first inspection.  The hives look strong and more advanced than I expected for the time of year.  I will have to keep a close eye on them, most particularly the middle one as the brood chamber is filling quickly.  Opportunities therefore exist for making splits.  I need to get organized, get some existing equipment cleaned up and buy some new deep frames and foundation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Early Spring Activity

It's been about a week and a half since I went to the hives and found a lot of activity. Bees were out foraging and drinking water - or perhaps they were bringing it back to the hive in order to dissolve some crystallized honey? It was lovely to seem them in apparent good health and mite free.

I say mite free.  Since the treatment in late December I have checked the board under the OMF for debris and have found little or no mite drop in the weeks since.  Not a perfectly scientific approach I admit, more empirical if you will, but it gives me confidence that the treatment was good.

I also  plan to open the hives up this weekend to do a proper early spring inspection and also to remove any old frames. I left several supers on the hives over the winter as they contained some heather honey I couldn't extract.   I will be checking the brood (quality and location) and will look to remove any empty supers, especially if there are any signs of wax moth.  I hope to reduce the empty space in the hive.

The inspection will also give me a chance to see if I need to embark on any spring feeding.

In the meantime here are some photos and videos I took of the hives.  I love listening to that buzz!