Posts Tagged ‘bees’

Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees


Its been quite a while since I added anything to this blog but not because I’ve given up on the bees, life just gets in the way sometimes and as ever I have been very busy down at the apiary looking after all the ladies and through swarm control I am now up to 7 hives this year… intending to combine a few before the autumn and aim to over winter with a maximum of 4, we’ll see how that goes…

Recently my daughter took part in her schools ‘extreme reading challenge’ where children are encouraged to be photographed reading a book in an ‘extreme’ location. Many children take part in the challenge and produce some outstanding photos, we decided to head down to the apiary and use the hives…

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Firstly my daughter calmed the bees with a little smoke…

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then she introduced Winnie-the-Pooh to some Bees

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finally we were ready to take our ‘extreme reading’ photo…

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So here it is, what do you think? Was this worth the effort? Reading Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees to the bees at the apiary. I think most of them enjoyed it but unfortunately one objected to the story and decided to sting her through the suit… this led to a few tears but a quick recovery and a return to the hives was rewarded with some honey filled brace comb which seemed to completely erase any memory of the sting… mind you who doesn’t like fresh honey?

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I thought that I would also take the opportunity to get a review on this years honey from an expert (she’s been eating it from the hive since she was a toddler!) and here is what she had to say….

I hope you enjoy sharing my beekeeping journey with me, please feel free to comment or share.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook if you would like to get in contact.

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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.

Winter is over and here come the girls….


Its been relatively quiet down at the apiary over the winter months with the bees mostly staying in their hives even if they did not cluster for long periods due to the warm weather we experienced again in the south east.

I did not feed any syrup in August following the honey removal last year as it was such a good year that the bees were still bringing in pollen and nectar late into the season and I had left a good amount of honey on the hives as this has to be better for them than a sugar substitute! I checked back on the bees around new year when I also applied oxalic acid, dribbled between the frames to help control the mite whilst the colony was without sealed brood, and gave each hive some bee candy above the crown board as an insurance policy against starvation. Its always nice to see the girls doing well at this stage but I am quite aware that this is never a guaranteed sign that they will all make it into spring.

The bees were still quite active and a few followed me when I left the apiary which was sad knowing that these would soon chill and fail to find their way back home….

View across the new apiary site in April 2015

View across the new apiary site in April 2015

My bee buddy Paul and I also moved the apiary to a new location around new year, it was only a few hundred meters across the land so that the bees will now get more light earlier in the day as they had become overshadowed by the tress rapidly filling the skyline around their old homestead. Winter is one of the few times you can move the hives like this, at other times you have to stick to the ‘less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles’ rule to prevent the bees returning to the original hive location and clustering on the ground.

We strapped the hives but didn’t block the entrances and wheeled them carefully across the bumpy ground in a wheelbarrow. All the bees behaved and stayed indoors until we got to the final hive with the feisty black British queen (these are my best honey makers) and they came streaming out en-mass and found a hole in Paul’s gloves to let him know about their disapproval, needless to say I ended up moving that one on my own.

Bees landing at the hive

I returned to lift the roofs and check how the bees were getting on in February and a couple of hives had started to nibble the candy, despite still having some honey in the outside frames, just goes to show that they would rather go up than sideways in their search for supplies.

Early April saw a mini heatwave across the UK with above average temperatures and sunshine hours and the bees didn’t waste a minute of it. The bees have been very busy and nearly all the hives had 8 or 9 frames of brood and pollen across the ‘brood and half’ system that I run. With colonies this strong it was definitely time to add the first supers to give the bees more room for stores, prevent hive congestion and maybe delay the inevitable swarming for a couple more weeks whilst I get my backup gear sorted and ready for use.

As a beekeeper with a busy life, young family and full time employment I don’t often get the opportunity to simply stand back and watch the bees but I recently took some time to photograph the bees activity at the apiary and just enjoy watching them in flight bringing in the spring pollen, you can learn so much about the strength and health of a colony through observation at the entrance and its far less intrusive to the bees than opening the hive up. I hope to get the time to do this a bit more often in the future….

landing gear down

landing gear down

Lots of activity at the hive entrance

Lots of activity at the hive entrance

The weather has become more unsettled, with cooler wet and windy weather across the UK this week and the girls are not flying as much but I have no doubt that they are still just as busy indoors and planning the plot to their own ‘game of thrones’ so now I am just waiting for a break in the rain to try and catch up with them….

As ever I will be adding to this blog as and when time allows and I am not actually elsewhere or with the bees in 2015, 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.

Guard bee at the hive entrance

A worker bee guarding the hive entrance

Happy Christmas from the apiary


Well its coming to the end of 2014 and its been another fantastic beekeeping season, the apiary has expanded and its been a bumper year as far as honey production goes. I’ve started experimenting and using more wax for candle making on a hobby scale and am currently cleaning up the propolis that I have collected over the last few years and am hoping to start making some medicinal tinctures with this, possibly blended with echinacea, in 2015.

The first real frost of 2014 but it has warmed up again since...

The first real frost of 2014 but it has warmed up again since…

 

It’s just beginning to to get cold in the south east and hopefully the girls will stop flying soon, we are still waiting to apply our oxalic acid and will be moving the apiary site to a better location in the coming weeks.

The blog articles that have generated the most interest over the year continues to be my writing about using bee venom therapy (BVT) for treating rheumatoid arthritis and it has been a real joy to hear the really positive stories of other people who have felt inspired to try this after reading of our success and have themselves made real progress in overcoming this auto-immune disease. I hope that others looking for advice and information on this subject continue to find the blog and realise the the western drug route for controlling the pain is not the only option open to them.

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Another highlight of my beekeeping year was my wife finally joining me at the hives now the children are slightly older and can entertain themselves whilst we attend the queen and her workers. I think that she was amazed at just how spiritual and humbling the whole experience is of opening up the hives, watching and listening to the bees communicating and absorbing all the associated scents of honey, wax and propolis. I’m looking forward to more joint visits in the sunshine as the 2015 season rolls out.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog this year, there have been over 37, 000 visits at the time of writing this article. Please keep the comments, questions and feedback coming as it is always nice to hear from fellow keepers, wherever you are based in the world.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year, keep an eye on your bees over the winter months and remember to give emergency feed if required and check the hives if we get a repeat of last years storms or any heavy snow.

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

Dan

Down at the apiary....

Down at the apiary…. December 2014

Products of the hive – cleaning and using bees wax


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Having previously written about both honey and the use of bee venom I thought it would be good to mention another product of the hive and share a bit of what I do with the wax that I accumulate from the hives. Having kept bees for several years I have ended up with quite a lot of wax from old brood frames and honey supers, cell cappings removed during the honey extraction and all those scrapings and bits of brace comb that the bees seem to build whenever they spot a little bit of space accidentally left in the hive by the careless beekeeper. The colour of the wax varies from near white cappings on the fresh honey combs to dark brown, heavily ‘propolised’, wax in the brood frames that are just a few years old.

Using the uncapping fork

clean wax cappings being removed from cells during honey extraction

Comb is quite bulky to store and often contains other bits and pieces from the hives so I initially melt this down to reduce the size and start the cleaning process. I use a large pan with about 2″ of water from the garden rain butt, bring it to the boil then reduce to a simmer and add my wax lumps. Bees wax has a relatively low melting point of around 62 – 64 degrees centigrade so this doesn’t take long and as it reduces the bulk, I can often get a large bucket of comb melted down in a single saucepan. I then leave this outside to cool over a couple of days, the wax ‘shrinks’ away from the sides of the pan so it is easy to remove and all the non-wax components sink to the base giving a layer of ‘crud’ which can easily be removed with a large knife and disposed of. This then leaves me with a round ‘cake’ of wax that I can store somewhere dry until I am ready to use it.

These wax cakes are then broken up using a large wooden mallet and melted down a second time in fresh rain water, I then pass the wax through a muslin cloth. To make this easier I cut a square of cloth to fit over a plastic plant pot that I have removed the base from, I attach the cloth with an elastic band to make a filter that is easy to use when I also have a large pan of hot wax to juggle. The wax is poured through this filter into containers that act as ‘moulds’ and again allowed to cool slowly. I now have wax that I consider to be clean enough for use in candle making.

A wax 'cake' that has been filtered through a muslin cloth filter

A clean wax ‘cake’ that has been filtered through a muslin cloth filter

In the past I have made tapered candles through ‘dipping’ wicks repeatedly into hot vats of wax but although great fun this is a very slow process,  traditionally families would have got together to share a meal with all the generations helping out with this task. For the purpose of this blog though I am looking at using a candle mould to make some small candles.

Wax is best heated using a double boiler, you can buy all sorts of devices for this purpose but to be honest if you are only using small amounts a recycled tin can in a pan of boiling water works very well. I use needle nose pliers to flatten the ‘lip’ and create a pouring spout to control the wax and reduce wastage (and cleaning up afterwards).

I have also seen YouTube videos where wax is melted in a microwave in a pyrex jug and guess this works very well if you have an old microwave and jug that you don’t mind using.

Melting wax in a 'double boiler' using a recycled can and pan of hot water

Melting wax in a ‘double boiler’ using a recycled can and pan of hot water

The silicon mould that I am using was purchased from Thornes beekeeping suppliers, although you can buy moulds from other bee suppliers, online from specialist candle making websites and very cheaply on eBay from China. You initially need to cut a partial slit down each side of the mould to ease the removal of the candle when made, then fix elastic bands around the mould to hold it back together again, feed the wick through the base (I use a skewer for this) then attach something to hold the wick in place – a hairpin is perfect for this.

Mould prepared for candle making

Mould prepared for candle making with wick fed from the base

Once the wax in the double boiler has melted it is simply a case of carefully filling the mould to the top and leaving it to set, for these small bee light candles it only took around 15 – 20 minutes to set enough for removal but obviously larger candles will take significantly longer.

Pouring the molten wax into the mould (slight spillage as poured left handed whilst using the camera)

Pouring the molten wax into the mould (slight spillage as poured left handed whilst using the camera)

Once the candle has had time to set and been carefully removed from the mould you simply cut the wick and re-attach the hairpin ready for the next candle to be made.

We take so much for granted these days and it is cheap and easy to buy a packet of paraffin wax tea lights but these will not have had the journey from bees to hive, then cleaned and moulded into shape. There is no real value to selling them as a product as the price would never reflect the time or effort of the beekeeper in producing individual  candles but there is a certain pride with putting them out as homemade when friends come round for dinner.

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There are of course many other uses for bees wax, from cosmetics through to cleaning products, so I would be interested to hear from other beekeepers as to how you use your wax.

I hope to keep adding to this blog as and when time allows in 2014, 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

Spring 2014 and the bees are flying again


Well it’s been a while since I have had a chance to write anything here but as ever the beekeeping year has sneaked up on me and I have to be careful not to get to far behind as the bees are not hanging about waiting for me and are well under way with colony building and bringing in the pollen and nectar and making lots of beautiful honey.

Blues skies - April 2014

Blues skies – April 2014

It was an incredibly warm winter in the UK with only a couple of light ground frosts and the bees didn’t really seem to have clustered at any point when I checked on the hives to apply oxalic acid and again to feed candy. It was also the wettest recorded winter for 250 years and the UK was repeatedly battered by strong winds and storms, starting in early October, then again at the end December and continuing into early March.

Every time we had a big storm I had to visit the out apiary just to make sure that the hives were still standing and despite feeling my house shaking several times during the night of one of the storms we only had one warre hive blown over. When I attended the apiary the boxes were split and the bees were wet, I did my best to reassemble the hive and scope bees up in the rain and although I didn’t see the queen amazingly the bees all pulled through and are flying again this year – they really are the most resilient little creatures.

One of the downsides to the bees not clustering is that by being more active in the hives they used their winter stores up far earlier than normal and there was a very real risk of starvation in all the colonies despite feeding heavy syrup in August and September.

Emergency candy was fed from the end of December, when I also applied the oxalic acid as mite control, up until early march when the girls were flying again and bringing in pollen.

Bees bringing in the pollen to feed the brood - Spring 2014

Bees bringing in the pollen to feed the brood – Spring 2014

My first proper hive check this year was at the beginning of April and I wasn’t sure what state I would find the colonies in but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were all very healthy and the queens had been busy and there was brood of all stages on 9 of the 11 frames in all the hives as well as honey and pollen. I don’t recall the colonies being this large so early on in previous years, I added my first honey super and went back 10 days later to check how they were getting on. The bees have drawn the comb in the supers and they are about 70% full on each hive although not capped yet I can see the need for the next super in the next few days.

Last year I wrote about losing a colony to isolation starvation and the sadness that it brings to beekeepers to lose a single hive but it also brings great joy when they pull through the winter and you get to open up the hives with the sun on your back and feel the energy of the bees flying around you with the sounds and smells only known to those who spend time in the company of the bees.

During my first visit I removed the mouse guards and chicken wire used as winter protection, I also used this opportunity to replace the brood boxes for fresh ones and clear the floors although I use mesh on all hives and the bees do a good job of keeping these clear (or all the waste falls through) and I have been very busy with the blow torch sterilising everything since.

Lots of pollen being packed away for use in brood rearing

Lots of pollen being packed away for use in brood rearing

I have also been busy getting my spare equipment ready for swarm control as I am sure that the colonies will start making preparations soon and I have three national hives on standby for this purpose. I have also been making up new frames and re-waxing a few old ones. I decided to renew some of the frames that were donated to me when I first started out – these are quite old now and I think it is time to burn them. I am also phasing out the Manleys that I have been using – I made up twenty of these and have used them for the last three years but find that the bees heavily propolise them making it hard to remove them individually from the super for inspection or when extracting – they all get ‘glued’ together as one block so moving back towards the DNS4 frames.

Incidentally I popped into Thornes at Windsor and spoke to Bob, we were discussing bee space around the queen excluders and whether the zinc or plastic flat excluders were a disadvantage to the bees compared to the wired excluders in frames which have bee space.

He gave me a top hint – when making up brood frames clip the top corner of the wax on each side to take out a small triangular bite, not only does this make it easier to make up the frame  quickly as you are not trying to push the wax along the grooves and into the joint between the side bar and top bar but it leaves a small amount of bee space for the queen to pass between the frames. The bees will reduce it down but leave a ‘little doorway’ if you do this then having top space above the frame is not quite so important!

Can you spot the queen in this shot?

Can you spot the queen in this shot?

Anyway as the year starts I am a happy beekeeper, having seen all my queens, the colonies are healthy and strong and the bees are bringing in pollen and nectar and making honey. I have my spare equipment ready for swarm control and empty honey supers stacked up to collect the harvest…. so what could possibly go wrong? Well they say that every beekeeping season is different and I have certainly found that so far so sure I will be writing about something new and exciting very soon!

Hope you are all having a good start to the beekeeping year! @danieljmarsh

Hope you are all having a good start to the beekeeping year! @danieljmarsh

I hope to keep adding to this blog as and when time allows in 2014, 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

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Bee Venom Therapy – BBC Radio Kent interview


I have previously written about the Bee Venom Therapy that I carried out to try and cure my wife’s Rheumatoid Arthritis back in 2011 and 2012, if you didn’t read the two earlier articles I would strongly recommend doing so before listening to the attached radio interview from January 2014.

These articles can be found easily by clicking on the links below:

Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) …. is it a sting too far?

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

Stings applied to joints on both hands

Stings applied to painful knuckle joints on both of my wife’s hands

In January 2014 my wife, Emma, was asked if she would go into the local BBC Radio Kent studio to take part in a live interview with Julia George on her morning show. Having suffered from aches and pains and swollen joints she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010. Having overcome the illness through treatment she was happy, although a little nervous, to go along and chat about the experience of being stung by the bees and the outcome from the bee venom therapy.

Overall Emma had about 130 bee stings over the spring and summer months on each year – so totaling nearly 260 – and as a bee keeper who occasionally gets stung I know how painful it can be and am full of respect for her pursuing the BVT but then as you will hear in the interview the fear of a life controlled by drugs with some quite nasty potential side effects was enough for her to give the bees a  chance.

You can hear the whole radio interview (approximately 10 minutes) by clicking play below, however I should warn you that there is about 20 seconds of Boyzone on the audio before the interview begins!

 

 

I should also point that the BVT wasn’t carried out in isolation and formed part of a strategy to overcome the illness, other parts of this included nutritional changes, drinking Honeygar, acupuncture and increased exercise when her joints allowed.

Ultimately I hope that the earlier articles and this follow up radio interview will give others suffering from the symptoms of  arthritis some hope and help in your personal journey to find a drug free cure.

Bees don't get arthritis

Bees don’t get arthritis

I would love to hear what you think of the interview if you do take the time to listen…. feel free to leave a comment 🙂

I hope to keep adding to this blog as and when time allows in 2014, 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