A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Apiary inspection 15/08/2011

I've finally managed to get caught up with my blog posting with this post. 10 days ago me and Steph did an inspection, however this time she was really brave and did most of it. In fact the only things I did were light the smoker, open the hive, remove the first frame and any heavy lifting. She enjoyed it so much that she has agreed that a hive in our back garden is a strong possibility but is likely to be a top bar hive; a top bar hive would mean less heavy lifting and looks a lot nicer than just a wooden box not to mention a top bar hive will be cheaper!

Steph all suited up

The smoker ready to go

If you look almost in the centre there is a Bee emerging from it's cell!

Steph looking very professionally 

Queen Bee-atrix and plenty of brood

This is the frame nearest the entrance, I think they put the holes there for extra ventilation

Beekeepers together!

I also took the debris from the varroa board and later that day counted the mites. I found 37 mites and that was over 14 days. Using the calculator on the Beebase website I got the following result:

Average Daily Mite Fall = 2.6 varroa mites
Estimated number of adult varroa mites in the colony = 110
Treatment is recommended in about 9 month(s) time (counting from day of first monitoring).

Although the results are again fairly low I intend to treat the hive as soon as I've removed the honey, which hopefully will be next Monday or Tuesday. I will then contact my local Beekeeping club who offer a extractor for hire. With any luck I should have some honey in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Plum Wine

On the 19/08/11 I started a batch of plum wine. In the background of the first photo there is a few jars of plum jam we also made. By the fact we made over 20 jars of jam and still had enough left to make wine you can get an idea of the amount of plums we collected. We have been back since and it doesn't even look like we've taken any. If this wine is nice then next year I will make a much bigger batch.

The recipe I used for the wine can be found here in full but I will go through what I did. I started off by removing the stones from the plums to make up 6lb of fruit. I then poured over 2 pints of boiling water and crushed the fruit a bit to start releasing the plum juice. Next I added a teaspoon of pectolase when the juice was cool; this helps break the fruit down. I then covered the mixture and left it overnight. The next day I dissolved 3lbs of sugar in 2 pints of boiling water and added that to the fruit mix, which was then left 48 hours. The next step was to add the yeast and put it all into a demijohn. Before putting the juice into the demijohn I strained the mix through a sieve. If I do this recipe again I will use something much finer to strain the liquid from the fruit; this is because a lot of the pulp must have also gone into the demijohn as when I woke up the following morning there was a lot of pulp that had been pushed up by the fermentation over night, the airlock was full and some of the mush was over the kitchen table. I managed to clear this up and there wasn't too much of the mix lost. I did take a gravity reading using my hydrometer so will be able to work out the alcohol level at the end. The reading was 1.08 which will give a final alcohol level between 10 and 15 %, I will now leave the wine a few weeks then rack into another demijohn.

The wine in the demijohn, the pulp at the top is the same as what overflowed after the first night

Monday, 22 August 2011

Beehive Number 2

Carrying on from my last post which mentioned the reason why I have fallen behind with my blog. This post is just to mention that I have got a new Beehive and have started building it already. I won't post any pictures yet as it isn't finished but will do when I have made a super so it can be shown as a complete hive. At the moment I have finished making the stand, the brood box and the roof. This hive has been bought from a different place to my first hive and is made of ply rather than cedar; this means it doesn't have the same weather resistance so I will need to treat the wood against rot. The site I got it from is www.fragile-planet.co.uk and I will go into more details of the hive as I finish building it.


Due to recent death of my mother this is my first post in a couple of weeks so my blog has fallen behind a little. She was an exceptional mother and grandmother who always encouraged me to do the things I'm passionate about so would have wanted me to carry on with my blog. I have several things I would like to post about and the first is the racking of my mead and wine.

I had several days at racking as I have a lot of mead on the go at the moment. The 30 litre batch that I started at the beginning of the year was split into 4 demijohns a few months ago so that took a couple of days to rack. This batch is just a straight mead with no other flavourings apart from 1 of the demijohns which I added extra honey to sweeten. Though I didn't have a hydrometer to begin with I have since roughly worked out the starting gravity or S.G. to be 1.060 and the current gravity is 0.97 which would give a ABV OF 12%. This batch is also clearing nicely and will be bottled next month and then set aside to age, hopefully this will make it taste nicer!

The dandelion wine, which is in a 3 litre pop bottle, was also racked and that has a nicer smell than it had before! The colour is still similar to red wine, due to the red grape juice added, but it appears a little clearer. No gravity readings have been taken at any point on this wine so will be a wild card when it is drunk.

The lemon and ginger mead I started in March was the next. This had a S.G. of 1.090 and is now about 15-16% ABV. I did mention in a earlier post that I would bottle this at 12% but as it's already gone over I will now leave for it to run it's course. I didn't taste this while racking so am unaware if it's got a nice taste yet but in time will find out.

Finally I bottled my second batch of JAO mead. This followed the same recipe as the first batch I did but am unsure what it tastes like yet as I haven't tried it yet. I didn't write a post about this when it was started and  haven't recorded the gravity at any point so again I am unable to tell how strong it is. Oh well, that just adds an extra layer of fun when drinking it!

The dandelion wine.

Racking from the earthenware "johns"

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Honey Bee on Himalayan Balsam

While walking down some woodland the other day I found a huge area of Himalayan Balsam that was alive with Honey Bees. 

I was visiting a friend and we decided to get out and see if there were any blackberries ready. Although there was a fair amount of blackberries ready we didn't collect any as another few days and they will be a lot bigger and easier to pick. We did pass a huge area of Balsam flowers and I was able to capture this photo on my phone. I did get another photo however the flower is in focus but the Bee moved and is just a blur so I haven't included it. There were literally hundreds of Bees busy collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers. The pollen in Balsam flowers is very light, almost white, and it's easy to tell when the Bees have been visiting them as they look like they have been dusted with icing sugar (to me anyway).  

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Honey Bee In My Garden

This morning while collecting some onions from my garden I noticed a rather large flower on my courgette plant. On further inspection of this flower I noticed a Honey Bee collecting pollen or nectar from it. After visiting the courgette she went to a squash flower and then back to the courgette! I may try to save some of the seed and see what the hybrid is like! I'm really impressed with these pictures as they were taken with my phone!

Honey Bee on courgette flower.

This time on the squash
As it was the male squash flower and the female courgette flower then the seeds from the courgettes will be the mixed seed.

Below is a short video of her moving between the flowers.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Apiary inspection 02/08/2011

This inspection both me and Steph went as my sister was babysitting. As Steph was a little more hands on with this inspection I'm letting her write the bulk of this post. I will be back at the end with the varroa count.

There's a change in author this week! I am very scared of bees, but I am facing my fear. Slowly, I am getting a little braver. I started off near to the closed hive without a suit, but standing very close to the apiary door so I could make a quick getaway should I panic. Next, I put my suit on and went right into the apiary while the hive was open, and Morley did the full inspection. And this time with a suit on I actually held a couple of frames! The rest of the time I play role of paparazzi to the bees. Apparently I'm doing a full inspection (under supervision) next time we can get a babysitter... So this is to prove that I listen to my other half and pay attention when he talks about his buzzing girls (and few boys)!

The roof of the hive and the two supers were removed to expose the Queen excluder, which can be seen above. The bees can be seen building foundation in the wrong place, and most of this was removed.

The first frame in the brood chamber to be examined; the damaged area is where the dummy board had stuck to the stores, and it looks like the bees set to repairing the damage immediately. There are capped stores to be seen at the top of the frame.

Me, inspecting a frame. It was heavy and covered in bees, and also had many cells of larva. It was the first time I'd been able to clearly see the babies. 

Me, relieved that I did it! It wasn't as bad as I expected. In fact it felt safer to hold the frame than stand next to the open hive with individuals buzzing around my head!

Handing over to the expert for the really busy centre frames. Next time...

A busy centre frame; Queen Beeatrix is in the middle to the left.

Me again! This time checking out a super frame. No problem after doing the one absolutley covered in bees before!

A super frame, almost fully capped, full of honey. It was extremely heavy! Thanks ladies :-) Can't wait to sample it!
 And now for the technical bit...

Thanks for that Steph. Also mention that I added a wasp trap to the allotment; this is basically a large jam jar with some diluted jam in, then a wasp size hole in the lid. Apparently this will trap lots of wasps without harming the bees. I'll try to get a photo of it for next time.

 When we got home I got onto counting the varroa mites within the debris. I found 21 mites which is 7 more than last week, however I am still not worried as the estimated amount in the hive is still well below the danger level. Also I have not seen any sign of varroa related disease.

Average Daily Mite Fall = 3.0 varroa mites
Estimated number of adult varroa mites in the colony = 120
Treatment is recommended in about 9 month(s) time (counting from day of first monitoring).