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.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Apiary inspection 26/07/2011

Over the last couple of weeks I got an email from Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers telling me that there was a potential new Beekeeper in the village I live in. They passed me his contact details and today we arranged to meet up so I could show him my Bees. He had already been to see another apiary in the village, but the other apiary had several more hives than mine, I believe he said around 15 hives all together!

At around 3PM I met up with him and we headed up to the apiary together. Upon arrival we suited up and lit the smoker then headed into the apiary. The first job I did was remove the varroa board and scrape the contents into a box so I could do a varroa count later on. After that I handed the camera over to him and asked if he would take photos as I went. 

First I took the roof off

Next I removed the super and put it to one side exposing the Queen excluder

Then the Queen excluder was removed, making sure the Queen wasn't on the underside

I then removed the plastic dummy board
The first frame with capped stores

The capped cells in this one are worker brood

Queen Beeatrix with her entourage 

Me and a Bee inspecting a frame

Holding the hive tool so it's at hand when needed

I tried to remove as much of the excess comb on the top of the frames

A frame from the supers

Capped honey stores

Looking into a super

After we had checked all the frames in both the supers and the brood chamber I added another super so there are now 2 supers on the hive; this gives the Bees plenty more room to store honey as there is a good honey flow on at the moment.

When I had dropped my visitor off I returned home and poured the contents from the varroa floor onto a sheet of white paper and counted the mites on there. I counted 14 mites and then using the calculator on the Beebase website I got the following information:
Average Daily Mite Fall = 2.0 varroa mites
Estimated number of adult varroa mites in the colony = 80
Treatment is recommended in about 2 month(s) time (counting from day of first monitoring).

Varroa mites 

The Search For Bees

In the last few days I went for a walk down the woods very near to my house. I followed the stream looking for a large patch of himalayan balsam that pops up every year. I walked a good distance before I found the area and then started looking to see if there were any Bees, especially Honey Bees, foraging on them. There were plenty of Bumble Bees, but I only managed to see 1 Honey Bee and was unable to photograph it.

Himalayan Balsam

Large Patch of  Himalayan Balsam

I carried on further until I was out of the woods and found a patch of willowherb. There were a few Honey Bees on the flowers but I only managed to photo a Bumble Bee and some other strange insect that I can't identify. Also due to the location of this patch of willowherb, there is a good chance that the Honey Bees I saw were from my hive as it is less than a mile from my hive!

Unknown Insect. Can anyone identify me?

Bumble Bee about to land on Willowherb....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Raspberry Wine

As there was a huge glut of raspberries again this year, along with jam, we decided to do a batch of raspberry wine. I did a quick Google search and came up with a recipe found at this link. I didn't fully follow the recipe but used it as a guide.

A small section of raspberries, there is about 30 metres of them!

8 kilograms of berries!

We started with a huge container of raspberries and started straining the juice out for use in seedless jam. First off we filled a muslin square with berries and once a knot was tied in the top we started squeezing the juice out. When we had 3 kilos of juice we put that to one side and used that to make the jam. What was left in the muslin was then squeezed out into a bucket along with 7 pints of water, a crushed campden tablet, a teaspoon of yeast nutrient, half teaspoon of pectic enzyme, half teaspoon of citric acid and about enough sugar to bring the mix's starting gravity to 1.092. I then left the mix over night and then squeezed the bag before adding a teaspoon of wine yeast. After 5 days the mix had reached a gravity of 1.020 so I squeezed as much juice out of the bag as I could and then racked it into a glass demijohn and added a airlock. I will now leave it a few months before racking again.

The mix in the fermenting bucket with the hydrometer to measure the gravity.

The wine in the glass demijohn.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Apiary inspection 19/07/2011

Today I have checked the varroa levels in my hive for the first time. On the 13th I added a varroa board to the hive; this is basically a bright coloured board that collects the debris that falls from the hive, including varroa mites. Before starting my full inspection I removed the varroa board and scraped the debris into a container and placed the container in my car. I then replaced the varroa board back into the hive. I will be monitoring for varroa each time I inspect the hive from now.

The varroa board prior to removing the debris.

I then moved back to the apiary to do my inspection. Inside the brood body there were 2 full frames of food stored with plenty more stores around the brood frames, along with plenty of pollen stores. There were 9 frames with brood although 1 frame only had a small patch of eggs and the rest of the frame was stores. On the 7th frame in I saw the Queen. There were a couple of Queen cups present but they weren't fully formed Queen cells so nothing to worry about. After the brood I checked the super. At the moment only 3 frames have been drawn out and the Bees have started storing nectar in there, which in time will be honey. I only took 1 photo while at the hive which shows weeds growing outside the hive, these will need to removed before it gets too overgrown! 

After I had finished my inspection I returned home and emptied the debris from the varroa board onto a sheet of white paper. I then spread the debris about so I had a better chance of seeing any varroa mites that had fallen; I found 3 dead mites and 1 live one. Using the calculator found on Beebase, I found that the levels of varroa are acceptable but I will keep a close eye on them. The calculator said I have roughly 35 mites in the hive and upto 1000 is a acceptable level. 

The mites are the tiny shiny things. I have placed some wax comb next to it give a idea of size

These are different pieces of pollen, demonstrating the variety of colours of pollen

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Great Yorkshire Show 2011

This Tuesday just gone me and Steph went to the Great Yorkshire Show. Steph's Aunt had kindly offered to baby sit all day so we didn't have a 7 month old to contend with. We set off fairly early from York, waving the still asleep baby goodbye and wishing Steph's aunt good luck for the day. We travelled along the A59 hoping this way would have less traffic but unfortunately we were wrong. We got about 8 miles from where the A59 crosses over the A1(M) and hit the traffic. We were stuck in a tailback for quite some time but once we got past the A1(M) junction it started to speed up and we then made good time and got parked up.

Upon entering the show we bought a programme so we had a map. Prior to setting off we had printed out a list of things we would like to see at the show to avoid just wondering around aimlessly, however we did just end up wondering but saw most things on the list. The first part we went to was where the horses, cows, pigs, sheep and goats where being shown.

After seeing all the farm animals we went a little bit further and saw the hounds. So many dogs in the same place at the same time was rather noisy and I did feel for the people who had a stall right next to them! We then had a look at our map to try to find where the Beekeeping related area was and found that it was a short walk up a hill through the army demonstration area so we made our way over.

When we arrived at the area for Beekeeping we got talking to a guy who was representing Bees Abroad which is a charity that helps provide Bee hives and equipment for people in Africa. This is a fantastic charity that works with the people providing them with the means to help themselves; by providing hives they can then keep Bees rather than having to climb trees to take honey from feral colonies, this way they will be able to harvest honey and wax without destroying the colony setting them up for many years. The guy we were talking to said that through donations they provide plans for them to make their own hives and then the top bars are bought for them from local suppliers. The suits that they were using were made from old mosquito nets and maize bags, all in all the suit costs approx £1.

Next we talked to Dohn, who was one of the people running the course I have just taken. I mentioned to him that my Bees haven't started working the supers yet; he said one way of encouraging the Bees up into the supers was to smear some honey or syrup onto one of the frames. We also got talking to another guy called Malcolm who is a member of Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers, I have met him before but never had a chance to talk to him. He gave me his card and showed me a nucleus hive he has made himself from plywood; he did say that there is no need to get the expensive cedar hives and that the hives he has made himself work just as well. He gave me his card and I will probably contact him for a price list and to see what products he does.

Outside there was a guy repairing a skep; a skep is a old Beehive made of reeds and is the traditional image people have when thinking of Beehives. Although they are not used so much for keeping Bees nowadays they are still useful for collecting swarms. The reason they are not used any more for keeping Bees is that there is no way of managing them and to harvest the honey the colony has to be killed.

We then moved onto the honey room but they were judging at the time. There was a small section of the room open with about 10 different honeys available to sample. We tasted a few each and was surprised at how different they tasted. We later returned after the judging had finished and had a look at the various different classes of honey, wax and mead that were on display.

Outside there were 3 hives behind mesh, a very similar set up to what I have but with more hives. There was also a observation hive; this is a hive with a glass front so you can see the inner workings of the hive.

Throughout the rest of the day we visited as many areas as we could. We spent a good while in the food hall trying loads of samples; these included cheeses, curry pastes, sausages, oils with bread, pickles, chutneys, jams, alcoholic goodies and a lot more! We did end up buying some cheeses and sausages. If we had bought everything that we liked we would have needed a new mortgage! All in all we had a excellent day and hope to go again next year but with the baby next time!