Liquid gold

It’s happened!  We have spun, filtered and jarred our first honey!

We’ve been keeping an eye on Hive Caitlin’s super.  The combs have been filling up and, because I know the bees will have been on the local Oil Seed Rape (OSR), the combs needed to be removed quickly, before the honey is capped, so that it doesn’t set solid in the frames.

On Saturday we inserted a clearing board which has a one way valve.  The bees pass through this, down into the brood box, and cannot get back up to the super leaving it bee free.

On Sunday evening we returned to remove the super.  There were still a few bees in the super but we removed it from the hive and then brushed the remaining bees from the frames.

Sunday night we cut off any wax cappings, placed the frames in the spinner and spun!  The centrifugal force, forces the honey from the cells and after 3 rotations of the frames, all the honey was removed.

We then opened the valve and passed the honey through two sieves to remove any wax or debris, one coarse and one fine, and into the settling tank.  The settling tank was then left for 24hrs to allow air bubbles to escape and any remaining debris to float to the surface.

Last night, we opened the value of the settling tank, filled our sterilised jars and put our labels on.  It was a proud moment for us all to open our first jar of honey and have toast and honey for supper.

This batch wasn’t enormous so we’re going to keep some ourselves and give some to family.  Hopefully this is just the first batch and in a few months a sign can go in the window – honey for sale!

Advertisements

Collection day!

Last November, fearing my one colony might not survive the winter, I ordered 2 nucleus colonies as a backup plan! Thankfully I didn’t need that backup plan but I was still looking forward to their arrival. We collected and hived them today and are now the proud owners of four colonies!

Snelgrove saga continues…

After last weeks debacle, I had no idea whether the queen was in the bottom box, were she should be, or in the top box.  I had hoped to inspect last Friday (day 5 of Snelgrove Method 1) but the temperature was only 9 degrees with a cold wind so it wasn’t possible. I assumed/hoped she was in the bottom box and just adjusted the Snelgrove board exits as per the instruction.

Sunday was a good day to inspect because if the queen was in the bottom box, we could carry on as per method 1’s instructions.  If, by accident, she’s in the top box, we could swap to using Snelgrove method 2 as Sunday was day 7 of that plan.  Method 2 requires the queen to have been in the top box for the last 7 days and then moved to the bottom box. The schedule is then re-set to day 0 of Snelgrove method 1.  Are you following?

We inspected the bottom box and found no eggs but there was a queen cell. No eggs meant the queen wasn’t there and must be in the top box. I destroyed the queen cell because no eggs had been left in the bottom box last week and any queen cells would have been made for larvae which would produce a poor queen.

The pressure was now on to find the queen and put her in the bottom box once and for all.  On our first pass through the frames, looking carefully, we couldn’t see her. Lots of worker bees and drones but we just couldn’t see the queen. On the second pass through, I was beginning to loose hope when, on the second last frame, there she was! She was moving fast but we managed to cage her, mark her and put her, finally, in the bottom box with a fresh frame of brood.

The top box is now definitely queenless and has all the brood frames. I double checked the frames and there were very small eggs so this box should be able to raise a new queen from those eggs.

Hive Rebecca is now back to method 1, requiring a Snelgrove board exit change on day 5 (Friday). I will need to inspect the bottom box and destroy any queen cells and I should hopefully see queen cells in the top box. Fingers crossed!

Other news, Hive Caitlin is doing well. It was busy with bees and there were no queen cells. Under normal circumstances, queen cells are a sign the hive is getting ready to swarm. May, June & July are the main swarming months, so regular checks need to be carried out and remedial action take if any are found.

The hive is on a brood and a half (brood and super) which I’d prefer wasn’t the case. I smoked heavily, to force the queen down and added a queen excluder between the brood and the super. Hopefully, she’s gone down and at the next inspection, all the eggs will be in the brood box. Encouragingly, the bees have started to draw out comb in the upper super. Hopefully they’re maybe thinking about filling it with honey!

FullSizeRender

Queen under cage at the top

FullSizeRender

Queen cell

Snelgroved!

Hive Rebecca, on the double brood, is getting quite large.  I decided that the weather forecast for Sunday was good enough to try to start the splitting process. I have two reasons to try to split the hive, firstly as a swarm prevention and secondly, as a means of increasing my stock by producing a new colony.

I decided to use the ‘Snelgrove’ technique to do this. Having attended a demonstration of the technique a while ago, I chatted it through with my beekeeping friend Fraser, thought it through myself, worked out a plan, looked out the relevant equipment and persuaded Stuart he really did have time to help me even although there was more Gala stuff to sort out (people of the village – you’ll know what I’m talking about!).

This technique relies on you finding the queen, containing her in the bottom brood box, adding one frame of brood and filling the rest of the box with fresh frames.  On top of this, a queen excluder, two supers and the Snelgrove board are added and then the remaining brood, now queenless, is put on top. The flying bees, leave the top brood box by the Snelgrove side door and, after foraging, return to the usual entrance and thus the bottom brood box with the queen.  As the bottom box is virtually empty and broodless, they think they have swarmed and set about making a new home.  The top box, emptying of flying bees, is left with house bees who tend the brood.  They realise they’re queenless and raise a new queen from the tiny eggs I’ve ensured they have available to them.  The queen hopefully gets mated and a new colony is established which can be moved from the top position to a new position within the apiary.  All sounds reasonable!

Stuart and I set up the equipment and got started. Within 2 frames, I found the queen, caught her, marked her and kept her safe.  To cut a long, and quite stressful story short, we moved the relevant frames about, stacked it all back together again and congratulated ourselves on a great job!  Awesome!

A few hours later, I decided to go through the photos to have a look at the queen again only to discover it wasn’t the queen at all but a drone!  In my inexperience, I’d caught and marked a drone – idiot!  Now feeling totally devastated, I phoned Stuart (who was at the Community Hall sorting out Gala stuff!) to say we had to go back and find the queen.  So, instead of the hive being in a nice, logical Snelgrove state, I’d created chaos!  The bottom brood could be queenless, full of foraging bees with no eggs to make a new queen. The top box, teaming with house bees and brood, could have the queen and therefore be too full and want to swarm.  Or by some miracle, Stuart kept going on about ‘probability’, the queen is in the bottom box and all is well.

We returned and when through the busy top box twice and couldn’t find the queen.  She’s either very good at hiding or is, indeed, in the bottom box.  Only time will tell.  According the the Snelgrove technique instructions, I’ve to inspect on day 5 to see if there are any queen cells in the top box. The perfect scenario would be eggs in the bottom box, proving the queen is there and a queen cell in the top box, proving she is not there.  If that’s not the case, and I can’t find the queen, I think I’ll have to re-merge and try again another time.  Ho hum!  I’ll let you know what I find.

 

 

 

Inspection Day!

Today has been a busy bee day! This afternoon Sandy was inspecting his hive with help from Graeme and I was invited along to help and observe. We then went to Graeme’s apiary and inspected his three hives. It was so interesting to see how other beekeepers inspect their hives and to observe the little things they do which make life easier. A very informative and productive afternoon.

With the weather being so cold, it’s been a while since I’ve managed to inspect my own hives. With the sun shining, the thermometer showing 14 degrees and enthused by my afternoon, Sam and I heading out at 5pm to inspect the hives.

Great news! Hive Rebecca has 12 frames of brood in all stages between the two brood boxes, capped drone cells and plenty of stores. I couldn’t see any Varroa on the count board, although I’m sure there will be some, but there was quite a bit of chalk brood.  Hopefully that will just sort itself out. I’ve asked a beekeeping friend when he thinks I should split the double brood into two single broods and I’m awaiting his advice. It might still be too early if there aren’t many drones flying – no point producing a queen if she can’t be mated!

Hive Caitlin also looked good. When the cold weather hit again, I removed the queen excluder from between the brood box and the super because weirdly, there was absolutely no stores in the brood box, it was all in the super. If the colony clustered and moved up into the stores with a queen excluder in place, the queen would have been left behind and she would have died. So, the inevitable has happened and the queen has started to lay in the super as well as the brood box. I now have what’s called a brood and a half!  Having said that, I’m please to say she’s laid over 5 frames in both the super and the brood box with nice looking larvae, capped brood and some drone cells too. Again, I didn’t notice any Varroa on the count board and there were not other signs of disease.

Sam was a fantastic help today. He helped crack the hives open, smoked when it was needed, took photos, observed carefully and was completely unfazed when the bees started to get tetchy. Unfortunately on the way home, while holding the smoker out the car window because it was still smoking, he burnt his thumb. I just loved his explanation when his saxophone teacher asked him how he’d managed to burn this thumb. He said “We’re beekeepers and I burnt it on a thing called a smoker.” Not my Mum is a beekeeper or I was helping with the bees but “We’re beekeepers.” He is, he’s a beekeeper!