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.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Bumble Bee on Daffodil

This is a photo I took earlier in the year in my back garden. I don't profess to being good at taking pictures but sometimes I take one that really appeals to me. This is one of them and I am considering printing it and entering it in the upcoming Emley Show. I doubt it will win but who knows unless you enter!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Apiary Visit - Queen and Queen Cell

After work today I visited my apiary to check on the Bees and see how my nucleus hive was getting on. Upon arrival at the land I was greeted by my Dad and Brother-in-law working hard at the land. My Brother-in-law was busy wrestling with some more clay in the ground and I'm not sure what my Dad was doing but he was rather sweaty. I had a quick chat with them then lit my smoker ready to get into the hives.

The first hive I inspected was the nucleus hive which I made last Wednesday. I gave it a really small puff of smoke and opened it up. Within the second frame I saw what I was hoping to see which was a Queen cell dangling off the face of one of the combs. As this cell that I saw was already capped it must be at least 8 days old which means in just over a week she should hatch and then with some good weather do her maiden flight and get mated with drones.

Queen Cell
Queen Cell

Next was the main hive and to start with I checked the super I put on last week for any honey. At the moment there is no honey in there but under the Queen excluder in the half brood box below there about 3 frames almost absolutely full of honey and also mostly capped. This is the honey that I will be leaving them as stores for a couple of reasons. Firstly they worked hard for it so they deserve it and secondly as there has already been brood raised in the cells it may taint the honey. The honey in the super is on a combination of drawn out clean frames and foundation only frames so will be clean for when they start filling it with honey.

When I moved onto the main brood chamber I was keeping an eye out for the Queen and any signs of Queen cells. Within a few cells I had found everything I needed to find but not what I wanted to see; I needed to see eggs, pollen and larva but I wanted to see the Queen! After a couple more frames I was rewarded with a sight of Her Majesty!

Queen Bee

When I had finished the inspection I put the hive together and went over to help my Dad move some equipment around the land. We moved a large storage box to a corner and when we got there we saw a frog. Unfortunately it was a rather camera shy little beast and kept jumping away before I got a decent picture of it but you can just see it in the below picture.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

New Bees

As mentioned in my last post I am quite excited (understatement) to announce the arrival of my new Bees. After the devastation of finding my hives had died earlier on in the year it is such a relief to be back in business. I consider myself very lucky to have made some good friends in the association and through one of them have been sold a new colony. Unlike the first Bees I bought, the one I just bought is a colony at full strength basically meaning that rather than the 5 frames of Bees you can get in a standard nucleus colony, I got a brood box full of frames of Bees, stores and eggs. To make it even better there is a half box of brood as well which is just brood in a super. This extra space allows for a larger amount of brood and less congestion.

When we took the hive down to the apiary site the colony was still housed in equipment lent to me by the guy who sold me the hive. I have since been down and done an inspection and transferred it all into my own equipment. I also took some frames out of the colony and placed them in a nucleus box to make a new colony. In this box I have placed a full frame of worker brood that is ready to hatch and a frame of eggs so they can raise a new Queen. I also put 2 frames of food and a frame of foundation for them to draw out themselves.

Me and Bees

 I have since spoken to another Beekeeper and he has given me some guidance on how to raise a better quality Queen than the method I'm using but he says not all is lost. He recommends I knock down any Queen cells that are created until all the brood has hatched an then put another frame with only a few eggs on. This will force them to only make a few cells and then I will destroy them all apart from 1. With all the brood hatched there will be more workers to feed the new Queen cell and as there will be only a single cell to feed she will develop into a better Queen.... in theory. I will let you know how that goes on.

In the video you can see there are quite a few Bees to say the least and to the right of the main hive you can see the nucleus hive as well. In one of my next inspections I will be doing the method explained to me by the other Beekeeper to raise better Queens. It involves having a second brood area above the supers and raising a second Queen in the top but I'll go into more detail when that is done.

Happy Beekeeper. In the bottom left of pic you can see where my good wife fixed a hole in my suit!

I'm Back!

After quite a long hiatus I have returned to the blogging world. It's not like I haven't had anything to blog about, on the contrary, I have had lots to write about but due to the time lapsed I think it would be better to bring you up to date with a summary. First off I will give an explanation to my lapse in writing. There were a few factors but firstly was ill health which I will say little of other than our toilet roll expenditure went up somewhat for a period. Then when all was settling down in the bowel department I was hit hard with the loss of a close friend. Along with me loosing my Bees and 3 out of our 5 chickens dying in quick succession I have just not felt like writing. Now I feel like enough time has passed and the amount I need to blog about has built up so I have lots to catch up on.

Anyway onto the summary. I have started a few new batches of wine, 2 made with dandelion, 1 with rhubarb and then a week or two later I made another batch with rhubarb. The dandelion wines are slightly different from one another as I have used red grape juice in one and white grape juice in the other. The recipe is here in the comments section of a previous post. I will write it up eventually and add it to the recipe page (eventually being the operative word). The batches of rhubarb wine are both the same recipe, the only difference is the size of the batch, the first is only 1 gallon but the second batch is 5 gallons! Keeping on the theme of wine I have also bottled 2 gallons of elderberry wine and started drinking it. I'm sure it'll taste better when it has aged more but at the moment it is drinkable and the further down the bottle I got the easier it was to drink although I had a headache at the end!

The land my Dad recently acquired is coming on nicely with more than a little help from my brother in law Lee, although in truth my Dad has done more work than should be expected of a 65 year old! He is a Yorkshire man though so a bit of hard graft doesn't scare him. I have mucked in as much as I've been able to, but due to there being no toilet down there I had a long period where I didn't dare go down there! Between us we have moved loads of clay and exposed the workable land beneath, then covered it in manure in preparation for next year. There is still loads to do down there and now the weather has improved it has got a bit overgrown in a lot of areas but we are working on it a bit at a time and large areas are covered with old carpets for the time being to keep the weeds down. All the trees that were moved down there are coming along nicely but won't produce much fruit this year. This is of little concern, the main thing is that they have plenty of leaves and are putting out new growth. With any luck next year will be a bumper crop!

I never got round to writing up about the last Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers Association meeting and now can't remember enough to do it justice. The main subject was on the Warre hive which is a form of top bar hive that involves making tall stack of boxes. One of the big differences with the style of Beekeeping is that rather than adding boxes to the top for the Bees to store honey in you add boxes underneath and the Bees move their brood rearing area down and start storing honey above; this has the advantage that it means the brood is always built on new comb. I may do a more detailed blog about the Warre hive at some point but as my knowledge on the subject is limited I may wait until I know more.

To finish off I will just mention one small last thing....... I have bought a new colony of Bees!!!! Ok, so it is more than a small thing, rather large to be honest and as this post has reached a fair length I will write a separate post for the new Bees!