Thursday, 19 June 2014

New Home

While out wandering in the week with the children it was lovely to see lots of bees foraging on plants along the road. Gives me hope that they are still strong and not as weak as the media makes out.

Foraging bee seen in Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-sea

Yesterday (Wednesday) I searched high and low for our smoker so we could transfer the bees to their new home. Alas, it was not to be found. Feeling brave I opened the temporary brood box up but the amount of bees in there made it impossible for me to safely move them to the hive.

Thankfully my husband was able to borrow a smoker from his work.

Temporary home being smoked

Today I went down with the borrowed smoker to move the bees. It was much more successful this time and they seem to be very nice bees, despite the fact I got stung.

I transferred the frames into their permanent home (see below) gave the box a shake to get the majority of the bees in the hive and left the rest next to it to go into the hive before dark. A sugar syrup solution was given to them to help them draw out the new foundation.

National Hive; permanent home

Although a thorough inspection wasn't done because I didn't want to disrupt the bees any further than I already had, I did notice that there was at least one full frame of stores and several brood frames. There were also a few play cups (false queen cells), however a proper inspection will be done in a few days once they have settled, to check for the queen and look at any queen cells.

We have had the bees less than a week, so the hope is that even if there are queen cells in the hive they won't yet be ready to emerge so we should still have time before they swarm. In addition by putting them in the hive they will have additional space so should help quell the urge to swarm.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

We have bees! ....... Part 2

Unfortunately since I last posted we lost our bees. It was a long drawn out winter and as the cold weather continued the bees were dying but the queen wasn't laying so they slowly reduced in size until they could no longer keep warm.

We were due to move down south and had another addition to the family (Lachlan, our little drone) so decided getting bees last season (2013) was probably the wrong thing to do.

Lachlan Georg, 04/10/2013

However 2014 is a new year and a new season. We were offered bees from a friend of a friend and this morning they were delivered. They aren't a swarm but a colony which has grown too large so they have been split up. A very full box of buzzing bees was dropped off.

Temporary brood box

I moved the hive off the stand and put the box in its place and opened the entrance so they can come and go as they wish. 

Bees venturing outside after being cooped up overnight

Additional frames have been ordered and in a few days will go back to transfer them to their permanent home. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Extracting the honey

Through friends we have been informed of a new "Bee collective" which aims to help London Beekeepers by extracting their honey in exchange for some of the honey or a small payment.

This is excellent for us!

We send off our supers and await news. A couple of weeks later we receive our honey all 41 1/2lb jars of it. Along with some lovely pictures that I can share on here to show how our  honey went from capped cells in frames to beautiful jars of honey.

Firstly the frames are taken out and using an uncapping brush the wax is taken off the top of the cells which are filled with the honey.

Uncapping the honey

The frames are then placed into this lovely contraption called an Extractor, it is basically a very large salad mixer.

The Extractor

The frames are placed inside and it is then spun quickly. This way the honey is spun out of the extractor onto the sides, it finally settles at the bottom of the tank.

This can all be done by manually spinning however it needs to go fast and for a while which can hurt the arms, most extractors now have a motor which makes this process much quicker.

Once the honey has settled at the bottom of the tank, the valve is opened and the honey is poured into a bucket through a sieve to get out the bits of wax and the occasional bee body part.

Finally it is put in sterilised jars just like those found in the shops but much tastier and not processed within an inch of its life.

We also received an extraction report which means that we can sell the honey if we wish, knowing that it has all been processed hygienically and all the tests done correctly.

This year London honey is going for £7/lb although not sure we could part with it.

The Bee collective is a new enterprise which started this year. After going through the process we can definitely recommend it and can't see any reason (barr no honey) using them again next year.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Honey, Honey, Honey

Its November and we finally get to the bees to take the supers off.

A few quick checks have been done over the last few months so we know that they are still alive and have been building the honey stores up. Before it gets too cold we have to take the supers off. The more space there is in the hive the more energy it takes to keep it warm enough to survive.

A few days previously we put the crown board under the supers with porter escapes in. This allows the bees to go down into the brood box of the hive but not to return up into the supers. It is an easy way to clear the supers without having thousands of bees chasing you for the honey. Because we have taken their food stores (they do still have stores in the brood box) we have given them food in the form of fondant so that they have enough. We will continue to do this throughout the winter to ensure they don't starve.

The supers come off easily with bees not included. I take off a few of the cappings and we along with our 6 year old nephew dip our finger in to taste the honey. It is beautiful, tastes completely different to the store bought honey you can actually taste the flowers.

We have a super and a half of capped honey currently stored in black bin bags in the car. Not owning an extractor we now have to figure our how to extract the honey. We are not doing what we did last year. It was complicated and sticky with inedible honey.

We haven't done the varroa treatment and now it is too cold for us to start so we will have to leave it this winter. We have been keeping an eye on the varroa numbers and it doesn't seem too bad at the moment so hopefully we haven't damaged them. There is an unproven method of using icing sugar on the bees. I understand the theory behind it is that it gets the bees to clean each other and therefore getting rid of the varroa in the process. It is something to consider if we want to do something.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Again we have been lax with our bees and when we checked them we found 5 queen cells scattered about a couple of frames, the bees were getting quite anxious because of the weather so it had to be another quick check. We couldn't see the queen but there were larvae and eggs so we were confident that there was a queen in there.

Upon reading the bee books (unfortunately the bees don't also read) we find that it is likely to be a supersedure rather than another swarm. A supersedure is when the current Queen isn't performing as the bees would like so they decide to replace her and produce another Queen. The two Queens can actually live side by side for a while before the older Queen is either kicked out or balled and killed.

It is very late in the season to swarm and even with a supersedure it is cutting it fine for the young virgin queen to get mated and successfully take over so we are cautious. We both agree to leave it a week and let the bees deal with it. If it is the case of a new queen taking over then the advise would be to leave them to it anyway.

Meanwhile in the world away from bees we have had our own supersedure.

Naomi Lily  was born on 28th August weighing 7lb 2oz and has taken up most of our time although we are aware that we really need to check the bees have a Queen and take off the supers before winter. It is too much for the bees to keep the hive warm with them on and we want the honey.

We haven't been informed of a swarm so fingers and toes crossed all is well in the hive.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Dodging the rain

We have been keeping an eye on the bees over the past few weeks and things are looking good. Wimbledon may cry of with the slightest bit of rain but our bees know how to work through.

We have healthy bees making comb in all available space even at the bottom of the frames which they are filling with drone brood. A few play cells which were squished but nothing to worry about, there is still plenty of brood and stores so all going well.

Despite the rain which is threatening the whole country the bees are still getting out and have drawn all the comb in the super, they have filled a lot of it with glistening honey. As you can see below at the top right they are also beginning to seal it so that it remains fresh for our consumption.

Looking forward to the possibility of having our own honey this year. Will have to look into hiring an extractor and getting some jars.

Even though it was drizzling there was some lovely foraging going on, managed to get a picture of one of our girls.

It isn't only the honey bees which are out, the bumble bees seem to be getting in on the action. They  love the plant outside our bedroom window.

We have also had an update about the hives on my Uncles apiary in Essex.

The Beekeeper has been down and let us know that the two hives which were full of bugs and moths with no bees have been taken away to be cleaned and blow torched to get rid of any nasties that may be in there. They have been replaced with two lovely new clean hives full of bees. 

The hive which has been taken over by a swarm has built up lots of honey stores but alas there is no Queen. A frame from one of the other hives has been placed in it to see if they will turn that brood into a scrub (emergency) Queen.

All have supers on ready to collect the honey for their September extraction.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Marking the Queen

On Thursday we had an email informing us that there was a starvation risk and if there aren't enough stores to feed the bees. We went along and the supers were still unused so fed them sugar syrup 2:1.

Today we went to check on them, they still had plenty of stores so no risk of starvation at the moment. We went with the intention of taking away the super however they have in fact started to draw out the comb in there with plenty more bees working. We have therefore left the super for them to play with and hopefully fill.

We also found the Queen, huzzah!! and even managed to mark her. Worried about using the cage we just dabbed her slightly with the yellow marker, you may be able to see the yellow mark on her abdomen below. As you can see she is much larger than the other bees with a slightly different colouring. She is also much more tapered to enable her to lay eggs at the bottom of the cells.

I am very proud that I noticed her first, it is the first time that I have managed to find an unmarked Queen so chuffed that I did as she was scuttling around the place.

I also have a video with my rather unsteady hand, you will see lots of capped brood, there is larvae which is pearly white around the edges but not captured well in the video. I haven't worked out the skill of editing yet so you get to see the whole clip unedited.