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, 27 July 2012

Apiary Inspection - 14/07/2012 (...and a quick trip to A & E)

Me, Steph and Lauren have been on holiday in Corfu for the last week so I haven't had time to post for a while. Since coming back from holiday I have done another inspection and done a bit of home brewing so I have plenty to write about in the next few days to catch up. It makes sense to start with the inspection I did just prior to going on holiday.

It was a lovely summers day, which made a change due to the horrible weather we've been having, so me and Steph went up to see the Bees. We also took Steph's aunt as she was interested in finding out how the hives work. Lauren was also present and to begin with Steph's aunt looked after her while me and Steph inspected the first 2 hives. The hive I checked was the one that I believe is either Queen-less or failing. This hive still has workers and small amounts of brood but not much other activity though there seems to be plenty of stores. The hive Steph checked was much better. Eggs, brood and Queen Bee-Atrix all to be seen with plenty of workers and activity. We didn't use smoke and by the end of it there was a few angry Bees but once the lids were back on the hives they all settled down.

After that Steph took over baby sitting duties and handed her suit to her aunt. Me and Lyn (Steph's aunt) entered the apiary and started looking through the supers. Everything was going well for the first few frames when disaster struck and one of our party got stung. I was stood behind the hive with a frame in my hand with Bees all over it... I didn't get stung. Lyn was stood just to my side peering over the hive, less than a half a foot away from me... she didn't get stung. Steph was stood a few metres away from the side of the apiary... she didn't get stung. Lauren was in her mothers arms, also a few metres away from the hive... she DID get stung, further more she got stung right on her eye lid!! The next few minutes went by quite quickly and I'm not sure how much I remember about it all!

Steph took Lauren much further away from hives, to the car. Lauren is screaming and saying "BEE...EYE!!"

Lyn went to the car and quickly got out of the suit.

I put the hive back together quicker than I have ever done and nearly tripped up leaving the apiary!

I ran back to the car, again nearly tripping up over raspberry bushes and the slippery path.

Back at the car I removed my suit and started the car, Laurens eye is swelling up and she seems to be hyper ventilating, I feel somewhat panicky and start going over any first aid training I have had in the past... my mind is blank other than making sure she can still breathe, which luckily she had no problems with.

I set off from the allotment at what seemed like setting off from the Formula 1 starting blocks (and then slowing down again realising crashing would do no-one any favours).

The next 15 minute journey to the hospital seemed like an eternity, with Steph sat in the back next to Lauren making sure her condition doesn't start deteriorating. She had got a lot quieter and was seeming to start nodding off, albeit it was approaching nap time and she does usually fall asleep in the car.

We managed to keep her awake long enough to get her into A&E where I took her and ran with her across the car park (later I was told that when I was running across the car park she was smiling and laughing but I couldn't see that).

Once inside the hospital, typically, she seemed to improve drastically. The nurse gave her some calpol and sent us back to the waiting room and when finally called in again she was given the all clear and some stickers for being such a  brave girl (although we passed on the sticker with a bee on it!).

When we arrived back home she was absolutely fine, just with a slightly swollen eye which later bruised slightly just in time for our holiday. Looking back we realised that taking her up to the allotment while we did an inspection was a little silly, though in the past she has been closer and seemed to enjoy looking through the netting at the hives. Next time we all go to the allotment she will be kept well away from the apiary until she is a little older and can have her own suit.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Elderflower Wine - My 100th Post!

I'll start of by giving a quick mention to this being my 100th post. When I started this blog I never expected to actually be still going this long. My expectation would be that I would get bored of it quickly and just use it as a tool for logging my beekeeping rather than writing it in a note book! It has actually turned out to be so much more. In the couple of years I have been blogging I have met new friends through other bloggers and extended the subject range to include home brewing and also increased my writing skills although I still rely heavily on my proof reader and wife, Steph, who is also now an author for this blog. There has been a few time when I have said I will just write a quick blog and ended up writing a several hundred word essay so I will change the subject now and start the real post which is about wine!

In the last few weeks the elderberry trees in the area have started producing their flowers so me and Steph decided it would be a good time to go out and collect the flowers to make some wine with! In just one short walk near some farm land where we live we managed to pick nearly a full carrier bag full of the flower heads. We made sure we left plenty of flower heads on the trees as later on in the year we will probably try to make some elderberry wine as well! The recipe I'm following for elderflower wine can be found here. In the recipe it gives measurements for making either 1 gallon or 5, I am just going to make 1 on this occasion. Below is the list of ingredients copied direct from the website.

The quantities below are for 5 gallons, with the quantities for 1 gallon brews given in brackets.

Elderberry Wine

After the walk I spread the flower heads on the table at home and left them a couple of hours to let any bugs make their own way off the flowers. When I came back I could see loads of tiny bugs on my brand new kitchen window, I imagine they were from the elderflowers!

Elderberry Wine

The recipe says to use 24 heads that should be approx 1 pint of flowers when they are trimmed from their stalks. I didn't bother to count the heads and just measured out a pint of heads. With the amount of flower heads I had collected there was enough for the batch I'm making leaving 2 pints that I bagged up individually and have popped in the freezer for later.

Elderberry Wine

After I had chopped up the sultanas and weighed out the sugar and citric acid I placed them all in a large bowl with the pint of elderflowers and the tea. I then poured 2 pints of boiling water over it all then covered with a tight covering of clingfilm and forgot about it until the next day.

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

The next day I added the yeast and yeast nutrient and another couple of pints of water, this time cold water. I then covered it up and left it for 4 days. Each day I opened it a small amount and gave it a small stir.

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

After 5 days in total I poured the mixture into a demijohn using a sterile washing cloth to filter the debris off, then topped the liquid up to a gallon with cold water. At this stage it had a very inviting smell developing. When I checked it later the airlock was bubbling away nicely. I will now leave it to clear and rack the wine a couple of times and it should be ready for Christmas (which is only 173 days away) but will taste best if left until next summer!

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Apiary Inspection - 03/07/2012 - Bad News, Worse News, Good News, Better News

About a month ago I purchased my third full hive and have been building it and painting it over the last few weeks. As with the last hive I bought, this one is from www.fragile-planet.co.uk. The last hive I bought from them was fairly easy to construct and had 2 supers, this hive has 3 supers included and was incredibly easy to construct; this one just seemed better made, the saw cuts more precise and smooth. I had heard people at my local Bee meeting say to avoid them but I have had no issues with them. Below is a picture of the hive fully built but the supers haven't been painted yet. The reason I paint them is because they are made of ply boards rather than cedar which doesn't need to be painted. Also in the picture at the far right you can just see a demijohn full of elder flower wine, there'll be a post on that later!

Hive Number 3

The reason I started with the building of the hive is that today I took the hive up to the apiary to move the swarm into from the nuc box that it was in. The supers are still unpainted in my loft as I have a couple of spare supers ready anyway so there is no urgency to finish them. So from the above picture I took all the bits that are painted white up to the allotment, stopping off at my Dads to pick the keys up for the gate. 

The Bad News!

The first hive I inspected when I arrived at the apiary was the first hive I bought. The last mention of this hive was in a previous post, that can be found here, in which I mentioned the multiple eggs in the cells, possibly indicating laying workers or a new Queen that hasn't learnt to lay properly; in the last weeks since then I have checked on them a couple of times and all the brood has been drone brood, when I went today there was no brood, no eggs and no sign of a Queen. What I think has happened is that I did have a Queen but due to bad weather she never managed to get mated and so started laying drone brood. After a couple of weeks of this I believe the workers have committed regicide (killed the Queen) due to her ineptness. The problem with this is that the Bees have no means to make a new Queen. Due to this I have taken a frame of eggs from one of my other hives and after shaking all the Bees off the frame, placed it into the hive. I'm hoping next time I check the hive I will see a Queen cell or 2 on the frame. 

The Worse News and Good News!

When I opened the nuc hive I had a bit of a shock. Over the last few weeks I have been feeding the hive with sugar syrup but due to lack of space in the nucleus hive I was unable to put a frame feeder in so used a baggy feeder; this is basically a plastic bag with syrup in that has a cut in the top so the bees have access to the syrup. I think that the cut I made in the bag could have been too large and the syrup leaked all over the back of the hive because when I lifted the lid one end was covered in mould! The majority of it was on the hive rather than the frames so it wasn't as bad as could be, the Bees were still doing well, but the hive may be beyond repair as the mould was quite thick and wouldn't wipe off. The better news is that I have managed to move the frames over to the newly built hive successfully and put a frame feeder in full of syrup so hopefully no more mould! This hive is the one with Queen Bee-atrix in who is marked with a white dot so really easy to see. I easily spotted her when passing the frames over. I haven't taken a picture of the moldy hive but have taken a picture where you can see part of the frame that has been marked. 

Honey Bees!

The Better News!

The last hive I checked is my first hive I bought from fragile-planet and also the one that the swarm came from. I haven't seen any evidence of having a  Queen in any of the checks I've done since the swarm left the hive but I also have tried not to disturb the hive too much until today. When I opened the hive everything seemed good. The frame feeder was empty so I filled it with syrup and will keep feeding them until they are successfully storing their own honey. The first frame I checked was doing well, the Bees had drawn half the bare foundation out into comb and better still the next frame had eggs in it! This means I have a successful laying Queen somewhere as the eggs were nice and neat at the bottom of the cells in a good solid pattern. While inspecting this frame I noticed a rather large Bee on the side bar of the frame. I had to look twice and when it sunk in I realized I was looking at a Queen! I was delighted, I'd managed to find an unmarked Queen, albeit she was on a frame that wasn't fully occupied and when I first saw her she was on her own. I quickly got my marking cage and pen out one handed  and then attempted to catch her in the cage. My first couple of attempts were fruitless but I eventually managed to trap her in there and gently press it down so she couldn't move around too much. I then carefully put a small white dot on her back (and a few dots of white on the wings of the workers around her) and left her for a few minutes for the paint to dry. I couldn't get a picture of her as I had a frame in one hand while in the other I was juggling the pen and hive tool. When I was happy the paint was dry I carefully replaced the frame and checked the last few frames. As I was putting the hive back together I noticed a Bumblebee had landed on a piece of equipment I had lying around.

Bumble Bee

I also took a picture of some borage that we are growing next to the apiary. Honeybees apparently go mad for borage. At the moment it looks rather unimpressive but when the blue flowers are opened up it will look great.