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.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Apiary Visit 28/04/2012 - Feeding The Bees

Anyone who lives in the north of England will be well aware of the lovely weather we have been having over the last few weeks, in fact we have had little more than a few hours of dry weather since the last time I went to the Bees and split the hive. Due to this bad weather I have been increasingly worried for the Bees, especially the hive that I know is queenless. For a few days I have been trying to get to the Bees but kept putting it off due to the rain but then I received a email from the National Bee Unit advising us (the Beekeeper) to feed our Bees as starvation is a real issue at the moment. I decided that opening the hive for a short time and risking a little water getting in was better than letting them starve.

Friday just gone would have been a perfect day for feeding the Bees as it was much better weather and the sun even revealed herself for a short time, unfortunately I had already made plans for the day and wasn't at home. By the time I did get home it had started raining again anyway. The following day, yesterday, was again slightly better so I prepared some syrup and took a spare frame feeder up with me to the apiary. I had to stop off at my Dad's on the way as he has the keys to the allotment gate, it was about this point it started raining again.

When I got to the allotment the first thing I did was to have a look at the apiary and I was surprised to see a Bee flying back into one of my hives; it was only lightly raining and as it wasn't raining a short time before she could have been returning from a foraging trip. The first hive I fed was the new hive that has Queen Bee-atrix in. It was fairly simple to do this hive as it has no supers on yet so less equipment to move. I removed the hive roof and slid the crownboard slightly back to reveal the feeder frame only. The sugar syrup was then poured into the frame filling it to the top. I didn't fully open the hive but from the small amount I opened it I could see there was a lot of activity. I will do a full inspection as soon as the weather allows.

The next hive was slightly different. As it already had two supers on it I had to remove these first; I did have a quick look in the supers first and found that they did still have some stores but not much. This time of year with better weather they should be full of oil seed honey but unfortunately it was not to be. Once I had taken the supers off and placed them to one side I removed the Queen excluder (not sure why that is still in as this hive is Queenless!) to allow me access to the brood chamber, which was full of Bees! The first thing I needed to do was remove a frame so I could put the frame feeder in. Last time I was in the hive I moved a frame of brood further out to the edge of the box, this was a mistake and I will not do it again. With the weather being wet and cold the Bees may have formed a ball to stay warmer and by doing this they have left the frame that was at the edge and due to this it has got colder and all the brood has died. I have taken this frame out and taken photos of it which I will put at the end of this post. With the space created by removing this frame I placed the other frame feeder in it's place and filled it with the remaining syrup. Now for the good news......

......The rain was even lighter now so I decided to have a quick look at a frame, unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures of what I saw which is a shame as it was the best sight I could have hoped for, a Queen cell fully formed and capped; this means the Bees have realized they have no Queen and raised a new one from eggs that where already in the hive, they do this by feeding a freshly hatched larva royal jelly only. Now with any luck there will be some decent weather once she has hatched so she can go and do her mating flight, fingers crossed! After seeing the Queen cell I closed the hive up. There probably will be more that one Queen cell in there but I didn't want to disturb them too much.

Frame of Dead Brood
The frame of dead brood. 

I removed some of the cappings to see what state the larva was in. 

The larger cells have drone brood in them

This shows pollen present in the frame

A Queen cup on the side of the frame, if an egg had been placed in this the Bees could have created a Queen cell from it

By placing a match into a cell you can test for American Foul Brood; if it was present it would "rope" from the match, I can only describe this as a snot like substance stuck to the match, luckily it looks like I don't have AFB

The lines of empty cells are actually where the wire runs through the foundation to give it extra strength, the Queen has detected this and chosen not to lay in there. I have read somewhere that this is actually a good trait for a Queen.

A dead Bee not fully developed, if it had died of European Foul Brood you would be able to see it's gut through the skin and it would be bright white or creamy. It looks like I don't have EFB either thankfully.

Another Queen cup

I have learned a lesson with this and in the future will not move frames out of the cluster in the brood chamber. I have had a good look at the frame and I am fairly happy the brood died of being chilled at the edge of the brood box, rather than any kind of disease. I will do full inspections soon, if the weather picks up, and hopefully will get photos of the new Queen. I will also attempt to mark her to make her easy to spot! 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Coopers Mexican Cerveza Lager Kit

Yesterday I started a new 40 pint batch of lager. This one is by Coopers and it is their Mexican Cerveza. I have heard good things about this lager so I'm hoping it will turn out good. One difference I've made is to use golden syrup instead of sugar as, again, I've been told this makes a nicer end product. I also used 200g of sugar as the golden syrup doesn't quite have enough sugar contents to complete the fermentation. When I checked on it this morning I could see that fermentation has started. I do intend on using a slightly different method to prime the lager when bottling but I will mention that when I bottle the lager in just over a week!

Coopers Mexican Cerveza
The beer kit - Enough for 40 pints!

Mexican Lager Kit and Large Tin of Golden Syrup
The home brew kit and the golden syrup.

Sugar Weighed Out For Homebrew
200g of sugar weighed out

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Apiary inspection 16/04/2012 - The Split

This is the Beekeeper's Wife speaking now. I volunteered to write this blog in order to keep what could be a very technical and complex apiary visit simple for those of us who aren't as knowledgable about Bees.

On Monday (16.04.12) I had a day off work and the Beekeeper's Daughter was with her childminders and the weather was warm and bright so we went to visit the Bees to do an inspection and to split the hive. When we parked at the side of the allotment we could see a huge amount of Bees in front of the hive and they were very noisy. We put our suits on and lit the smoker (even though it was barely used) and approached the hive taking with us the brood box and roof of the spare hive (Hive 2). What follows is the step by step guide to "How to Split Your Hive".
  • Take off the roof and supers of Hive 1 (AKA Buzzingham Palace) and set aside.
  • Move Hive 1 about a metre to the left and place Hive 2 where Hive 1 once was. This will mean that any bees that were out foraging will return to Hive 2. All the bees that were still in Hive 1 will learn where they have been moved to on their subsequent flights out.
  • Inspect the frames in Hive 1 as normal, looking for the Queen, eggs and larvae.
  • When the Queen has been found place the frame that she is on into Hive 2 leaving Hive 1 Queenless. When the remaining Bees become aware that they have no Queen they SHOULD start to produce a replacement by feeding some larvae with Royal Jelly.
  • Move a couple of other frames of worker bees from Hive 1 to Hive 2 so they can look after the Queen and continue to collect pollen and nectar.
  • Add a frame feeder to Hive 2, full of sugar water (2lb sugar dissolved into 2 pints water) to help the newly moved bees to eat well as most of their honey stores are in Hive 1.
  • As Hive 2 needs to have some more adult bees than just those on the couple of full frames that have been transferred, it is necessary to "shake" some more bees into Hive 2 from the frames taken from Hive 1. To do this take a frame full of bees in both hands and hold into Hive 2, brace yourself and shake down really hard, dislodging most bees into their new home.
  •  Replace the roof on both hives and keep fingers crossed that Hive 1 will replace their Queen and that Hive 2 starts to produce lots of baby bees to collect nectar to make lots of honey.
This operation was very interesting to watch and participate in a little. I was amazed at just how many bees were flying around and landing on me and just how noisy they were; and just how un-scary it was!

Step shaking a frame of bees
Shaking a frame of bees

Splitting the hive
A beekeeper and his hives!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Apiary inspection 10/04/2012

Tuesday just gone was my latest inspection of my beehive and maybe the last time I visit a single colony as I'm hoping to split the colony on my next inspection. As usual when I arrived at the allotment I started by lighting my smoker and then going to see the Bees from just outside the apiary. There were a few Bees coming and going but not a huge amount of activity. I suited up and went into the apiary... it was at this point my smoker went out! I exited the apiary and together with my father got the smoker working properly!

Once in the apiary properly I removed the roof and started looking through the super; I was happy to see quite a good amount of honey being stored. I removed the super next and started working on the brood chamber. Underneath the Queen excluder I was shocked to see how many Bees there actually was; in mid summer last year there were a lot of Bees and I would say that there was as many as then! When I started working through the brood I could see lots of sealed brood and larva at all stages and then I saw her majesty. I didn't see any Queen cells but due to the amount of Bees in the chamber I guess that they are probably not far off being ready to swarm. When I had finished my inspection I put the hive back together but added another super so there are 2 on now. This should give them plenty of space for honey and also relieve congestion in the hive. The next time I visit them I plan to split the hive, that will probably be my next post and possibly a long post depending on how successful I am!

I took a few photos while at the allotment, 1 inside the hive and a short video and a few of the flowers in the area that the girls will hopefully be working on.

Bees in the super
Bees in the super

Oil seed rape
Oil seed rape in field next to allotment

Plum Tree
Plum tree in blossom

Plum Flower
Close up of plum blossom
Apple Blossom
Close up of apple blossom

Pear Blossom
Close up of pear blossom

Dead Red Nettle
Dead red nettle, considered a weed but I quite like it and apparently so do the Bees

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rhubarb Wine

The time of year has come again when in my dads allotment there is a ridiculous glut of rhubarb. He has about 3 large plants and possibly a couple more smaller ones and each can produce a good amount each week. Within quarter of an hour I'd managed to pick all the stalks I needed to make a gallon of wine with plenty left over to eat and give away. The recipe I used was the first that came up using a google search and can be found here. I took pictures along the way so you can see what I did.

Rhubarb growing in the allotment; this is a tiny portion of what my dad grows.

Rhubarb Wine
Just over 1.5kg of rhubarb
Rhubarb Wine
Exactly 1.5kg of rhubarb once the ends are trimmed!
Rhubarb Wine
Cut into pieces; the recipe says about 6mm but I didn't measure!
Rhubarb Wine
Add 1.3 kg of sugar
Rhubarb Wine
After a short stirring the rhubarb is already breaking down in the sugar and releasing juice.
Rhubarb Wine
Cover and then leave for 3 days.
Rhubarb Wine
Each day I took the cling film off and crushed it to release more juice
Rhubarb Wine
On the third day I had loads of juice.
Rhubarb Wine
Using a new cloth and sieve combination I started straining the juice away.
Rhubarb Wine
The juice was collected in a food grade bucket.
Rhubarb Wine
What was left over when all the juice was squeezed out of the pulp.
Rhubarb Wine
250ml of grape juice was added.
Rhubarb Wine
Finally using cooled boiled water filled up a demijohn. I added yeast, yeast nutrient and pectolase enzyme at this stage and it is popping away nicely!

All that remains now is to leave it a few weeks then rack it away from the sediment at least once, maybe twice, then bottle it up to mature or just drink! I'll let you know how it tastes!