A group of us went to a local Community Centre and extracted the rest of the Association honey from the frames in the supers. Great team effort and lots of honey but oh my God we had: newspaper all over the floor, carving knives and hot air guns to un-cap the comb, piles of white buckets to be sterilised ready for filling with honey all to the sound of the whizzing large electric extractor held down by two strong men!
In the apiary we have been treating the bees for varroa and counting the drop ie the number of mites that fall on the removable floor ........... zillions! One organic solution that we used encourages the bees to clean themselves and dislodge the mites, but is not an insecticide. The Apirary Manager likes to use a 60% solution of formic acid poured onto a piece of towelling which is laid on the queen excluder. Wow, the bees go wild when they get a whiff of the fumes. I don't think I will be using that method at home.
The other thing we are checking the hives for is that the bees have enough stores food stored for the winter. Putting the 'wet' comb frames back on the hive they came from, with the remnants of the extracted honey, is one way of feeding them. We also left full honey frames and if necessary will have to feed them sugar syrup later in the month but this is not as nutritious as honey.
Hive one is not flourishing. The bees seem quite happy and there are stores but it is a very small colony that seems to keep producing new queens which then disappear. I will have to find the queen and kill her and then amalgamate the bees with another colony. Horrid but necessary to ensure that the colonies survive the winter and have reliable queens.
We had a bit of a shocker last Thursday at the Apiary. We found two hives with large numbers of dead bees inside another hive with numerous 'supercedure' queen cells too late in the year to produce a fertile queen as all the drones have been chased off, a hive that has been robbed by other bees and a queenless colony. What is going on? I fear that the dead bees may be linked to the application of formic acid. I am learning a lot but I do find it quite stressful. Beekeeping is not a 'leisure' pursuit.
Last week I extracted honey from the garden hive. I put a spare crown board with one way ports in below the two top supers full of frames with honey I wanted to extract. The ports are a one way door that allows the bees to leave the super but not to get back in so that the frames of honey can be removed from the hive without being covered with bees. This worked well but I had to do some swapping round of frames between supers above and below the excluder as I had added too many supers and there were some empty and minimally filled frames. This was a bit tricky and I had to brush bees off and then review what I was taking so that I left sufficient stores for the bees. Lots of up and down the garden, putting frames in the closed kitchen, checking and taking some back. It was fine but a bit time consuming. I need to get better at this in the future.
I hired a small(ish) electric honey extractor from the Association. It worked well but was awkward to clean (cold water from the hose on the lawn, as hot water glues and remnants of wax to the inside). With such a small harvest I was keen not to leave the majority of it stuck to the sides of the extractor. I had a good system which included filtering the honey into a plastic container with a tap. Genius! There was, minimal mess and I am now waiting for the honey to settle with the bubbles coming out, any remaining wax floating to the top. The next task will be to bottle the honey in the jars I have already purchased and to apply my labels.
All this was just in time as the Bank Holiday weather was horrendous with continuous rain over two days. I felt like Winnie the Pooh sitting in my tree with my pots of honey as the flood waters rose. When I inspected the hive on Wednesday there was loads of bees (no drones), loads of brood and very little stores in the brood box - the bees must have spent all weekend inside eating honey. Still the weather forecast is good for foraging and hopefully the return of the post-extraction wax cappings and honey will help add to the stores. I have also left them a super which is now about half full.
The next activities will be rendering down the wax to use for candles, treating the garden bees for varroa with MAQs strips I have left from earlier in the year and ensuring that there is sufficient food stored.
Only ten days to the Association Honey Show. I am not madly keen to enter as I find the rules rather 'over the top' but I also realise that it is only a bit of fun and that if nobody enters the event falls a bit flat. I will definitely go with 'culinary delights' and cake but candles, matching jars of honey and wax blocks is another matter.
Bee Trivia No 5
Honeybees maintain a constant temperature of about 93 degrees Farenheit within the hive all year round