Saturday, 20 August 2011


From this from the super, all capped.

using this to remove cappings

To this

Stick three frames in extractor

Spin until honey stops hitting the sides of the drum

YouTube Video

Empty frames with honey extracted go back on the bees to clean out remaining honey and possibly refill :-)

Finally honey pours into the bucket for straining into jars!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 9 August 2010

Unexpected results

Again, contrary to the weather forecast it brightened up yesterday afternoon so I decided to get in and have a look at what they were up to. Having had to replenish the feeder three times this week I hoped they were doing something for their syrup. I had placed a varroa board in under the mesh floor on Monday to see what the level of mite infestation was, I had pulled it out on Wednesday to have a quick shifty but could only see one mite so replaced it. Well I pulled it out yesterday, expecting to see loads but again there were only two on the whole board one of which was alive and scurried off! There was also a dead bee, a decapitated head, some pollen and lot of wax shards but only two mites! Surely that can't be right can it? Can the mites crawl or get blown away? I've looked but can't find the answer. Maybe look into some Vaseline or sparymount or something, obviously something with no insecticides in it, that would be silly! Anyway, due to the lack of Varroa evidence, I shall not worry too much and just go through the routine Apiguard dosing in a couple of weeks time, which reminds me, I don't have an eke, EEEEk!

After opening up the hive I was encouraged to see they had definitely increased in size and there does now appear to be activity on all but the outer 2 or 3 frames. As it was sunny by this point I was hoping that the majority of them would be off foraging but it seemed me girls wanted to wait and say hello which many of them did, repeatably against my head! A few puffs of bee tobacco and they gave up and went down like the nice well mannered ladies I hope to encourage. They are still a small colony which too be honest is good for a novice like me, I can build up confidence whilst they hopefully build up numbers. I went through the hive fairly quickly checking for usual, any sign of disease or disorder? None. All capped brood was tidy, all uncapped was healthy looking, no signs of disease. Checked for signs of laying but didn't see any but as this queen seems to favour these inner frames and all but the wire line cells having something in, either capped or uncapped I assume she is up to her old tricks as the colony was calm. They had started to draw the outer frames and two sides were filled with stores so I think this queen will be sticking to these 5 inner frames for the remainder of the season. They are still producing a lot of brace comb but it's no biggie, they could be doing much worse things. There is some drone comb on the bottom of some of the frames but she ain't laying in this so I can't think what they are doing. No queen cells though.
I guess that's it for this week, need to make up and paint another hive as may swap them into that one over winter as this one is getting a bit old and needs a bit of TLC, I also want to get them onto a stand before long, I may as well do that whilst disrupting them with a house swap.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Not the busiest of bees

Did a very quick inspection of me gals yesterday, conditions weren't idea, a bit windy and there was damp in the air but I needed to check their progress and ensure that they were doing something. I had to be quick as they weren't too happy about it, too many bees in the hive not out foraging. To be honest, they haven't really progressed since the last inspection but the weather hasn't been great so that could explain it. They have still only managed to draw out the 6 frames. I haven't seen the queen yet but as there are eggs, capped and uncapped brood so I can be sure she is present and even if not the busiest of creatures is active. I checked for queen supercedure (peanut shaped cells, more usually hanging down from middle of frames) and swarm cells (usually hanging off the bottom of the frame) and as there are none I can only assume the colony is happy enough with her and aren't looking to get shot of her yet. The colony would supercede the queen with a newer model if she was getting to the end of her useful life and was failing. They are apparently good for 3 years or so from mating but as I got this colony as a swarm from an unknown location I have no idea how old she is. I also checked for any sign of disease, all cell cappings looked perfect, no pitting or raggety holes. All the uncapped brood looked healthy too. The only oddity was that on a couple of frames they had chewed through from one side to the other on one or two cells, not sure why they have done that, will research.

As usual, my saviour Maureen suggested I do a check for Varroa Mite  levels within the colony. Since its emergence in the UK around 1992, the varroa mite is now present in most, if not all colonies and if not controlled can weaken a colony to the point of collapse, there are various methods for keeping levels manageable so that the colony can thrive. I'll put in the board under the mesh floor, leave it for a few days and then count the mites that have dropped on the floor. If levels are within tolerant levels I will need to look elsewhere for the issue but I suspect Maureen may be right and the levels may be high in which case I'll take steps. Not sure what yet, should have treated them when we hived the colony and there was no brood but didn't know then what I know now. Ho hum we live and learn :-D

Monday, 26 July 2010

Logic prevails. Yay!

Friday brought about enough of a break in the weather to get my 4th hive inspection done. I was a little bit more laid back about finding the queen and getting her marked , being more interested in what they were up to. After the realisation that I had stupidly installed a random mix of drone and worker foundation in my brood box and that it was probably this school girl error that had halted the progress of the drawing out, I was relieved to find on today's inspection that swapping the drone foundation frame with a new worker frame had encouraged the poor little confused gals to start drawing it out and hopefully my fickle queen may deign to lay in this. Having seen that this tactic worked, I swapped out the other end too, am really hoping they get the idea and forgive me for my stupid error but if not I am resigned to not getting any honey this year and just ensuring I get them strong enough to successfully over winter.

The following is a very heavily edited vid of the inspection, the unedited version is 26 minutes long. At 9 minutes it is still interminably dull but I would appreciate the more experienced amongst you (i.e. everyone) to criticise anything you see that I'm doing drastically wrong.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

School girl errors

After the disappointment of Wednesdays inspection, I followed the advice I'd been given by various kind souls. Don't panic, leave it for a few days and it'll probably sort itself. So I shut up the hive on Wednesday and ignored it until this evening. What do know, all is not lost after all.

Popped in today, was only going to take off the super frames (still not sure what I was thinking), replace the crown board and feeder and maybe have a quick look. After a few puffs of bee tobacco they went straight down, no fuss no bother. I noticed some young ones about so thought I'd check the state of the empty cells and there they were, fresh eggs, perfectly placed dead centre in the empty and tidily cleaned out cells. So my queen is still there. Read up on @beesinfrance's blog and my bee bible today about laying workers so fairly certain it is the queen and not the workers. So that's good news but why aren't they drawing put the empty frames to make more space for her to lay? Still got 6 virtually untouched frames in the brood box so what's their problem? Plenty of feed and forage, they seem content enough, rather placid in fact, I can only assume that they just don't like the foundation wax in the frames. When I had a closer look at the ones they had drawn and the ones they haven't it dawned on me that the foundation in the untouched frames has larger than normal cell print on it so is in fact drone foundation.This may explain why they are ignoring it, I'll swap these frames for some fresh and keep my fingers crossed that this will kick them into action. Time is marching on and we need to build up the size of the colony for it to have a chance of surviving the winter let alone giving me some honey which is looking extremely unlikely at this juncture. On another matter, the brood box is supposed to be 11 frames, again, not a clue what I was thinking. Am coming to the conclusion that this blog is outing me as a complete idiot! I may have to stop posting all my silly mistakes just to keep some level of respectibility!

Update - Having this morning swapped the offending frames out, I will leave them bee for a while and keep my fingers crossed that they'll get on with it. Next time I go in I will find that queen or possibly die trying!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

2nd inspection

I was determined to get into the hive again this week to see what was going on and to make a concerted effort to get the queen marked before all the new bees emerged and the colony increased in size. After talking with Maureen and Jim last night, I was even more determined as they told tales of a couple of their newly hived swarms covering the majority of the brood frames in just a couple of weeks. Forecast for today was sunshine and showers so I was not hopeful I would get the opportunity. At about 12 the weather looked like it would hold for a couple of hours so I took my chances and popped up to the allotment to get in there. I remembered to take the queen marking cage, the marker and the icing sugar shaker along with the special bee tobacco I had been given for the smoker.

All tooled up I went in. They had brace combed up the feeder again so this needed to come off and they had fully propolised the mesh on the open hole on the crown board. I got the crown board off, not too sticky and I remembered to twist gently and lift rather than just yank it off. After checking that there was no queen on the underside, I put it to one side. Well, I have to say I was a little disappointed to see that there had been no further activity in the hive since last inspection, 8 days since. The five central frames that they had drawn out last week were still the only ones drawn. I went through each of the five frames looking for the queen and indeed any activity to signify that she was present. Nada. The majority of the brood that we observed last week has been capped, there are no eggs or young larvae present so I am guessing that she hasn't been around for a good 8 days which coincidentally was when I did my last inspection. This leads me to believe that I must have done something to her during that inspection or that she buggered off before that inspection with the majority of the colony and I didn't notice any reduction in size as it was my first look see last week. BUT there are no queens cells. If they had swarmed before last week's inspection there would have been queen cells. If I had killed the queen last week the workers should be raising one or more of the fertilised eggs as an emergency queen. It's possible I guess that she's gone off the lay as it were but surely the colony wouldn't stand for this and would supercede her. I'm flummoxed but not panicking just yet. I closed the hive back up but instead of putting the crown board on top of the brood box put on the queen excluder and framed up the super. Why I did this I have no idea. I shall have another look in a few days time to see is the situation has changed, by then some of the capped brood may well be emerging which may egg ('scuse the pun) things on a bit.

Have just twigged that I possibly should have 12 frames in my brood box rather than the 11 that are there, this obvious boo boo may explain the amount of brace comb I'm getting in the hive. This along with the upside down crown board error last week would, I guess be violating the 'bee space' rules and therefore encouraging the dears to build comb in appropriate places. My problem is that I am using second hand frames which are a mix of hoffman style and flat sided, I've got those little plastic spacers on them but I don't think the spacing is right. When I inspect again in a few day time I'll be taking my ruler to check if that is indeed the problem. In the meantime, anyone got a spare queen ;-)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A bit of housekeeping

After sitting and watching the bee's flight patterns I was beginning to get a little concerned that they were only getting to about 4ft before making a beeline for the blackberry flowering on a fence three plots over from mine. In the middle of these plots, directly in their path, Bob tends his ever growing sunflower forest. Bob is a good 6ft 6in so was in imminent danger of getting a bee up his nose. The allotment beekeeping guidelines suggest screening the hives to a height of 6 ft in order to force the bees to fly up and out rather than straight over, it seems they will always take the path of least resistance to conserve energy, makes sense. So with this in mind and considering my legendary (in my own head) womble like approach to the whole allotmenting thing i.e. "making good use of the things that we find....." I started rootling around for something suitable to use as screening, I didn't really want to buy anything (see womble like comment) but after seeing Mrs Dobby's allotment beekeeping blog and how they had screened theirs I decided that was the way forward. I'd seen some reed screening in one of the local bargain shops but hadn't checked the price, I assumed it would be out of my price range but scurried off to have a look see. Result! 2 x 6ft x 3m for £18.00. Just ideal to screen off the open side and make the fence side prettier. Back to allotment with my booty, by then it was late afternoon on a very sunny and blustery Saturday, the bees were still flying but I thought I could get in there and get the screening up without protection. I thought wrong. It turns out if you suddenly stick up a screen in front of the hive they get confused and not a little bit cross with the nearest moving big thing (me). With the screen half up I decided to guy-rope like secure the rest of it and beat a hasty retreat to the pub! When I returned the next morning, all was calm and I finished the job off with no drama what so ever. Screening now up and secure I feel happier that Bob won't be inhaling any of my girls. The added benefit is that I can now pick and weed the raspberries and watch the hive entrance through the screening but I can no longer sit on my sofa and watch them coming and going. Ups and downs, the worlds full of them.