Posts Tagged ‘bee’

Honey for sale….


We have reached that time in the year when the majority of apiary tasks are complete and the bees are beginning to reduce their flying hours, except on hot days when you will still find them clustering on the outside of the hive, and our thoughts turn towards the the autumn, mending,  cleaning and storing equipment and studying to understand our bees more.

The honey crop was removed and extracted in August and has now been filtered and is all jarred and labelled ready for sale…

If you don’t normally buy local raw honey consider it, supporting your local beekeepers in turn helps the bees in your area and they pollinate a lot more than your garden flowers!

There are lots of health benefits associated with raw honey as well as having a fantastic and unique taste!

Supporting your local beekeeper will allow them to maintain a number of healthy colonies in your area as well as training the next generation of bee guardians for the future!


Please get in contact with me if you are local to Tunbridge Wells and would like to buy some of this year’s honey crop via the comments below or on twitter @danieljmarsh 

Autumn arrives and the girls keep flying….


Bee with ivy pollen

Bees bringing bright yellow pollen back from the ivy arrive at the hive entrance – October 2015

As I come towards the end of my beekeeping year in October (as far as apiary tasks are concerned anyway) I am surprised just how active the bees still are.

A few weeks back the bees were arriving at the hive entrance looking like ghosts, painted white by the pollen from the Himalayan Balsam flowers but now they are bright yellow returning from the ivy which will probably be the last source of pollen for use as food for this years late, and next years early, brood.

Bee collecting Ivy pollen

Bee collecting Ivy pollen

Flowering ivy - a great source of late pollen

Flowering ivy – a great source of late pollen

The final hive inspections have allowed me to check that the bees still have sufficient stores of honey and pollen, that the smaller amount of brood is still healthy from disease and that they are going into winter with young strong queens. Additionally now that the colonies are substantially smaller the queens that managed to elude me over the last few weeks have finally been found and marked and this will help me keep tabs on them come the spring.

Marking a queen in a 'crown of thornes'

Marking a queen using a ‘crown of thorns’

The newly marked queens looking ready for colony building next year

The newly marked queens looking healthy and ready for building the colony  early next year

Its been another busy year and whilst I have seriously neglected the upkeep of my beekeeping blog but I have had yet another fantastic year with the bees, trying to keep one step ahead of their unpredictable antics and occasional escape plans….The summer months were busy with several attempted swarms that were rescued with colony splits, only to find that both halves had later swarmed and re-queened. The supers also began to stack up in the apiary as the bees worked relentlessly bringing in nectar from flowering trees and wild flowers in the surrounding woods and meadows.

Supers on August 2015

Supers stacking up in the apiary –  August 2015

We harvested the honey crop from four of the hives during early August and ended up with  approximately 169 lbs of raw honey, which in turn became 225 (12oz) jars of liquid gold.

And supers off - August 2015

And supers off – August 2015

Uncapping honey comb - August 2015

Uncapping honey comb – August 2015

Honey for sale!

Honey for sale!

The news reported that 2015 had a record low number of wasps but it certainly didn’t seem that way around the bee hives as we got towards the end of August, maybe we had attracted them in from the rest of the country! The hive entrances were reduced but the wasps continued to rob the hives and it seemed that every time I lifted a roof wasps flew out alongside the bees despite the colonies being very large and strong. I decided to put up a trap for the first time in seven years and hung a single bottle baited with apple juice, cat meat and wine vinegar from a tree in the centre of the apiary.

Wasp trap - August 2015

The wasps became a real problem in the apiary  in late August 2015

The Trap didn’t  have the instant ‘wasp appeal’ that I had hoped for, I guess it was naive to think that these greedy wasps would give up on the chance of my honey and head off to certain death, however on subsequent inspections I was pleased to not only find out that it had been highly effective but had also pulled in a number of European Hornets which at over an inch long look massive next to the wasps!

Wasps and hornets in the trap

Wasps and hornets in the trap

As the nights have closed in and the temperature has become cooler recently I have put on the mouse guards over the hive entrances to keep any would be visitors out and covered the woodwork with chicken wire. I have spent the last few weeks admiring the beauty of the green woodpeckers in the apiary, and although they have never been a problem here it is a small price to pay for the insurance that they wont turn my hives into kindling and destroy the colonies when the first frosts arrive.

Mouse guards covering the hive entrance

Mouse guards covering the hive entrance

Finally each hive is capped with a small paving slab to keep the roof in place if we get strong winds again this year. I wont be opening the bees up until December again now when I will be trickling an oxalic acid solution between the seams as part of my varroa mite control and giving each hive a lump of home-made bee candy, again I hope that they wont need it but its better to be safe than risk starvation in my opinion…

Now’s the time to get any equipment cleaned and safely stored away then sit back and plan for next year, read about bee improvement and enjoy some of the fruits of ‘your’ labour….

Honey on toast

Honey on toast

I will continue to write about my journey with the bees in 2016, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings and for your continuing comments and questions – this makes it all worth while for me as the writer….

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Bee Venom Therapy – The Charlie Mraz Story


Bee Venom Therapy

Bee Venom Therapy

Having written a couple of articles about bee venom therapy (BVT) and sharing the experiences that my wife and I went through during the spring and summers of 2011 and 2012 to cure her rheumatoid arthritis I was really pleased to find this video on YouTube. It is an interview with Charles Mraz and although BVT has been around and used as a cure for thousands of years he is considered to be the modern godfather of this method and here he shares some of his knowledge and experience after literally treating thousands of people.

I have also previously recommended his book as one of the main texts that I read before we embarked on this treatment route. If you suffer from arthritis or Multiple sclerosis (MS)  and are thinking of doing this yourself I suggest that you too read this book, read my earlier posts, speak to your gp and take a few sensible precautions – bee venom can be vary dangerous if you have an adverse reaction so make sure that you are prepared, even if you have previously been stung by bees. Some beekeepers develop an allergy after many years of keeping bees so it is not a given that previous stings mean you are immune to anaphylaxis, please make sure you are not alone, that you have antihistamine, or even better an epi-pen, and can get to a hospital or medical center quickly if you need too!

Health and the Honey Bee

Health and the Honey Bee

I will keep adding to this blog as and when time allows in 2014 so feel free to subscribe if you would like an email to notify you of new posts, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings your continuing comments and questions – this makes it all worth while for me as the writer….

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

HONEY FOR SALE!!!!!


Image

It’s that time of year when I have finally extracted the honey from the hives and it is now ready for sale. The bees are located just outside Tunbridge Wells and I have a very limited amount that was taken off the hives at the beginning of August this year.

This is local honey and it is not the same as ‘supermarket’ honey, it has not been superheated and forced through ultra-fine filters nor blended with honey from multiple sources or indeed countries and it does not contain any sugar syrups. It is 100% natural honey from bees that forage in the countryside on the Kent and Sussex borders.

It has been manually extracted and naturally filtered under gravity but retains some of the fine particles of wax and pollen which give it the aromatic and health qualities that honey is famed for.

It costs £4.50 a jar, please let me know if you would some asap and if you are able to either collect from me in Highbrooms, near Tunbridge Wells, or to make another arrangement for collection.

I can be contacted at: danieljmarsh@gmail.com  or via twitter @danieljmarsh

August arrives but still no joy for the bees….


What a wet year this has been …. July was again dominated by low pressure fronts bringing in cloud and wet conditions for the first three weeks then it was unseasonably hot but this only lasted for a few days before the unsettled weather returned. The bees have been unable to fly on many days and even though many plants have been late to flower this year the bees just seem to be playing catch up all the time.

By the beginning of August last year I had three full honey supers on two of my hives and two on the other, full of delicious golden honey ready to extract but then the bees took advantage of the exceptionally warm and dry spring, this year I have about 1 1/2 supers to extract and even that has not been fully capped yet and it is still ‘loose’ so is unlikely to be reduced enough yet to prevent it fermenting in the jar – I have decided to leave it on for a bit longer to see if the current warm weather and late flowering brings a late crop or if the bees decides to take the honey down for winter stores, then that is also fine.

Hive inspection

Hive inspection before removing this years honey

I started this beekeeping year with 3 strong colonies, I have lost queens, added new queens, lost swarms only to catch and rehouse them – at one point there were 5 hives on the go but now I am back down to four with one being queen-less and with so few bees (about 3 frames) that I am letting them go rather than merging them this late in the year and risk damage to a laying queen preparing for winter so I will enter winter once again with three very strong colonies and all with healthy fertile 2012 queens.

Fanning bee

Bee fanning at the hive entrance to help regulate the temperature for brood rearing and honey reduction

Having started this blog entry at the beginning of August I have waited until slightly better weather in mid-August before I decided to extract the honey. I attended the apiary on Saturday morning (the hottest day of the year so far) to shake the bees out of the honey supers as best as I could and place the clearer boards with bee escapes in over an eke (‘spacer’ box) above the hive. The idea of adding an empty eke or super under the clearer boards is that it allows a bit more space and prevents congestion as the bees leave the honey super through the bee escapes, which in turn do not allow them to return.

Uncapped honey

Uncapped ‘ripe honey’ being worked in the hive

 

 

The theory is that in 24 hours your honey supers are clear of bees and ready for you to carry off unnoticed… of course the reality each year is that the the supers still have bees in them that need brushing and shaking off . I do this frame by frame, placing the clear frames of honey in a super over an upturned roof with a towel over the top to keep the bees out. This year there was an added complication of lots and lots of wasps in the apiary, as soon as I lifted the honey super off wasps were carrying the dead bees from the crown board off to feed their young, guess that’s nature and it saves them going to waste but angry wasps flying around your head is very off putting even to a beekeeper!

Frame of capped honey

Frame of honey before extraction

 

The honey frames are removed to a wasp and bee free space and uncapped, literally cut open, to allow the honey to flow out and then placed into a centrifugal extractor when they are spun at high speed to allow the honey to fly out, hit the sides and drain to the base of the drum.

 

 

Once the frames are all emptied into the base of the extractor the honey is run through a coarse, then finer filter, to remove any larger pieces of pollen and wax, these won’t effect the quality of the honey, indeed they add much to it’s aromatics, texture and beneficial qualities that have been removed from highly processed supermarket honey to give it a longer shelf life as runny honey.

Uncapping fork

Using the uncapping fork
to ‘open’ the honey cells

 

As soon as the honey has been removed it is time to feed the bees with a heavy sugar syrup to make sure that the removal of the honey has not depleted their food stores so much that they would not survive the winter.

I always leave my bees in a ‘brood and a half’, over the winter months, effectively I leave an additional super on as this allows them to have a greater level stores in the hive to try and prevent them from starving and also gives the space for the queen to lay up a large brood early next year when they are fed a weaker syrup to give them a boost in the spring.

The bees also start their treatment to combat the Varroa Destructor, a parasitic mite that are present in virtually every UK hive these days.

Coarse honey sieve

Sieving the honey for coarse bits of pollen and wax

Once the honey has been filtered it is allowed to sit in a settling tank for at least 24 hours so that any air bubbles introduced into the honey during the rapid spinning at extraction escape, again this is purely for aesthetics – it wont affect the quality of the honey but people seem to think it looks much nicer without them. Finally the honey is run off into freshly sterilised jars and the labels are attached ready for sale, or in the case of a lower crop like this year, ready for eating and making more mead!

There are many European rules and regulations relating to the labelling of foods, including honey, and these can be found at the ‘Foods Standards Agency’ website by clicking here, but if you don’t have time to read all 23 pages there is a quick summary at the bees-online webpage here.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.

Spa Valley Honey

Spa Valley Honey

Bee Venom Therapy in action – does it really cure the pain?


Following on from my previous post, titled Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) …. is it a sting too far?, I now want to write a little about the experiences that my wife and I had last year using bee venom to treat her rheumatoid arthritis (RA), if you have just stumbled across this post then I would strongly recommend that you read my previous article to gain some background and understanding of what BVT is and why we are doing this!

Having read Charles Mraz’s book we felt quite confident with the actual direct application of  venom at the target sites. We informally discussed the process that we were about to undertake with our GP so that he was aware, and although western medicine doesn’t really prescribe this sort of treatment I think he was both intrigued and entertained at the same time, however he was not dismissive having heard anecdotal stories of similar treatments in the past and has maintained an interest in the results since.

Before the main treatments began we borrowed an epipen (just in case of an emergency!), we then carried out a single ‘test sting’ on the hand to make sure that my wife didn’t have an allergy to bee venom, even though she had previously been stung we needed to make sure that an allergy hadn’t subsequently developed in the intervening years. This also gave a taster or reminder of the pain that would be experienced in the coming weeks and an opportunity for her to change her mind. This whole treatment had to be very patient led, so I did not push the sessions and let my wife decide where she felt she wanted the stings to be applied. Luckily as a chiropractor who also does dry needling she has a very good understanding of the bodies mechanisms and where the trigger points or target areas should be.

Bees in a jar

Bees waiting their 'turn to help'

The bees are collected into a jar during the normal hive checks and this also set the frequency that the BVT sessions took place, purely through convenience as my bees are located in an ‘out apiary’ (so not kept at home) and we didn’t want to disturb the colonies more than we already do (also bees don’t ‘store’ that well once bottled). The collection jar is just an empty  jar with air holes drilled in the lid and some foliage for supporting the bees as they struggle to grip on the glass sides. If they were being left overnight a little honey was also added although this is best avoided as even the bees get sticky.

When the bees are to be ‘used’ they are plucked from the jar using ‘reverse’ tweezers, sometimes called jewellery makers tweezers, that close shut when the finger pressure is released rather than open as in normal tweezers, this allowed me to clamp the bees ready for application of the sting.

Bee in 'reverse tweezers'

Bee held in 'reverse tweezers'

I can’t say that my wife really relished the thought of being stung numerous times, and although she had seen the minor effect it had on me during my previous seasons as a beekeeper she had also seen the slightly more entertaining and dramatic effect of the histamine production when I was stung on my top lip. With the ‘test sting’ being a resounding success we decided to push on with the BVT.

The bees were collected and stings applied on average every 10 days or so, we applied between 10 – 12 stings at each session. Normally this would involve 2 in each foot or on the ankles, 2 on each of the knees and two on each hand, anywhere on the knuckles but we varied this routine depending if one area was  particularly painful with the arthritis  prior to that session. The stings were left in place for anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes so that  full venom dose was received. When the stingers are removed it is important not to use an alcohol wipe on the sting site as this neutralises the effect of the venom. Unfortunately the bee dies after they have used their sting and they also release a pheromone so the dying bees were removed from the immediate area as the BVT sessions took place outdoors and we didn’t want attract any extra non-participants into the area.  A few bees flying around your head when you are not behind a veil can be very off-putting!

Stings applied to joints on both hands

Stings applied to the knuckle joints on both hands

By the end of the 2011 season my wife had been stung 129 times, so you must now be thinking that she is either a very brave or possibly a slightly mad women, but if you had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 35, if it was in your body and your joints, and you were told that the only answer that modern medicine had to offer was to spend the rest of your life taking a cocktail of anti-inflammatory and other drugs (with pretty unappealing side effects in their own right) then maybe you to would be willing to take the chance that an alternative cure could be found.

Well of course I know that that my wife is an intelligent, level-headed women and as I have previously stated we didn’t start this whole process without a lot of thought, research and planning, I guess it was just a case of weighing up the options available to us and the western medicine route felt a bit like giving up hope.

Sting swelling

Localised swelling shortly after applying the sting

The stings did exactly what it said on the (yellow and black) packet. They caused localised pain for a short period, followed by a slight redness and swelling at the sting site. Then as histamine is produced by the body the swelling spreads across a larger area of the body, often causing  large red swollen areas that last for several days.As the season progressed Emma definitely developed a tolerance to the venom, in the same way that beekeepers often do, and the effects of the venom became less visibly evident.  I think that the most discomfort was caused, not by the initial pain of the sting as one may have thought, but rather by the itching over the next few hours and sometimes days, particularly during the hotter days of the summer.

So was the BVT effective? 

When my wife was first diagnosed with the RA in 2010 she attended an appointment with an NHS rheumatologist. She had blood samples and x-rays taken to assess her current condition and the extent of any existing joint damage.

The early signs are that the RA is in remission but more importantly than that, having just had the autumn and winter period so dreaded by many RA sufferers as their symptoms worsen during this period my wife has not complained of, nor suffered from painfully swollen joints as she  had done during the previous year. So it looks like the BVT has gone some way into reducing both the swelling and pain, the thing we need to find out now is if it prevents damage to the joints or even reverses the process.

The subsequent visits to the rheumatologist has involved further x-rays and tests and although they feel that, against the odds, that Emma is definitely showing signs of remission they do not have much interest in the BVT or accept that it is a potential contributing factor. We will have to now wait until further tests are carried out in future months to see how the BVT is really working, but all the early signs are positive.

I should point out that during the period that the stings were applied my wife was also undergoing other treatments such as acupuncture and a cleansing diet (to me this was harsher than the stings!) so any remission may be attributable to a combination of these treatments. When we reached the end of the beekeeping season in 2011 my wife became concerned that with the bees being ‘away’ and no longer being stung that the symptoms would become worse again and she became quite worried about not being stung, a complete reverse of a few months earlier!

Over the last few weeks my wife has also started to take ‘honeygar’, a combination of honey, cider vinegar and a little water, as a medicine. This come highly recommended in Margaret Hills book ‘Curing arthritis the drug free way’ as well as having more modern day champions such as Ranulph Fiennes, who swears by it for his own arthritis control.

So what is the plan for the future?

As the new beekeeping season is about to begin in 2012, and the girls are out flying again, we will also be starting the next set of BVT sessions. This is my wife’s choice so it shows that she must feel that there was a strong enough benefit from last years BVT to subject herself to the pain and swelling again and hopefully we will continue to see the RA in remission. In the testimonials that I have read people are sometimes ‘cured’ after just a few treatments and others have a longer journey. I guess it is part dependant on the level of RA being treated in the  patient as well as other factors such as the level that their auto-immune system is functioning at.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article, if you have any experience of BVT, either personally or anecdotal, or would like to make a comment I would love to hear from you. It is still early days for us but sharing this experience is important and maybe it can also be of help to others.