Monday, 23 August 2010

Big city honey yields

I was just talking with a fellow beek at the Ealing Association who told me he'd got an unprecedented (for him) 100lb average from each of his 8 productive hives. Yes, that's 800lb of honey! That's not the sort of task I'd like to be attempting with my cheapie, plastic, 2 frame, tangential extractor.

It puts my 25lb average for 2 productive hives to shame. I'll be calling a meeting with my bees to discuss improvements in working practices and productivity in future years. Or maybe I'll just aspire to becoming a better beekeeper....

Monday, 16 August 2010

More extraction

I completed extraction of another (and final) super yesterday/today. In total this year I've got about 50lbs from 2 supers, one each from Hive Amidala and Hive Cleopatra. Hive Boudicca and Nuc Dido are unharvested. It's not a great result, but I suppose is satisfactory considering that I started with 2 colonies and now have 4.

Extraction with the cheapie plastic, manual, tangential extractor I have is slow and inefficient, and I've blown the comb through one several frames, which is wasteful. On advice, I did quickly look at extractors "for men" on eBay but they seemed either quite rusty or quite pricey - perhaps this is not the time of year to look. I'll keep an eye out. Certainly going to a radial extractor seems to make more sense.

I'm still uncapping with an uncapping fork, though many people have told me that a cheap "hot air gun" from any DIY store will do the job in a fraction of the time. That's something to investigate for next year. At least I got my nephew and eldest daughter to help me with uncapping for this batch, and they were genuinely helpful - well done little people.

The straining takes a while. This batch of honey came out clearer that the previous super a couple of days ago. I think being more careful in the uncapping made a difference, and I also let it settle for longer.

I'm now left with a tub full of washed cappings. I'll need to research what the best thing to do with them is. At present I'm not even sure the best way to melt them down (without trashing various pieces of kitchen equipment). I suppose I should investigate building a basic solar extractor.
I dumped the clearer board out in my garden for a short while (there are no hives in the immediate area) - it didn't take the bees and wasps long to find the tiny patches of honey on it.

Oh, it's definitely also worth mentioning that I applied the Apiguard sachet to Hive Cloepatra, so all my colonies are now Apiguarded-up. There colonies were done a "day early" and one a "day late" according to the locally prescribed correct application day, but I'm sure a day or two either way will make no difference. I will apply a second dose in two weeks time, at which point I will remove varroa boards which have been inserted to keep the hives more vapour-tight.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Honey harvest

I put Apiguard on my London hives today (half load on the nuc). I put in entrance reducers and slid in the varroa boards, jamming them tight up to the bottom of the mesh floor to keep all the thymol goodness in as much as possible. In two weeks time I'll apply the second batch.

The excitement of the day came with the honey harvest. One full super yielded about 25lb of honey. My extractor is rubbish. It came as part of a "budget" package with lots of other kit from Thornes. Extracting even one super in the cheap tangential extractor took quite a while with all the faffing with frames and the dodgy handle, though the length of time may have been something to do with the six kids who were "helping" (I like to get mine and their friends involved in this type of thing for their interest). The honey did not come out very clear. I strained it through two different sieves (course and fine) in the same way I did last year, which had previously yielded beautifully clear honey, but this year was not nearly so good. Perhaps it'll clarify over time as the tiny bubbles rise to the top, and maybe I should have left it to settle more before bottling. Anyhow, it tastes beautiful. I'll be popping out to my other hive tomorrow (when the weather clears) to apply varroa and take a super or two off that hive. Between now and then I'll mostly be de-stickying the kitchen!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Preparing for extraction

I popped up to see some of my hives today to prepare for removing supers over the next couple of days. Hive Amidala has a full super, and another with an awful lot of uncapped honey in it. Oh well - the bees can have that one. I installed my porter bee escape equipped clearer board below the full super. These bee escapes failed dismally last year. Fingers crossed.

Hive Boudicca has no honey to take off. After the troubles with (I think) a swarm earlier in the year and broodlessness right into June I am hardly surprised by the lack of harvestable honey. The concern is whether the colony will be strong enough to make it through the winter, but it's stronger now than at this time last year, so I think I'll proceed with preparing it for winter rather than combining it with another colony.

I aim to take the supers off all my hives in the next couple of days, with varroa treatment (Apiguard) starting on Saturday, which has been mandated as "the" treatment day in north-west London: an attempt at coordination so as not to give the blighters anywhere to hide.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

BBKA Basic Assessment: I passed

I just found out that I passed the BBKA Basic Assessment which I took a few weeks ago.
I didn't find it too challenging, but it's good to hear that I got through the assessment nevertheless.

I'm keen to progress onto other formal education. There are two routes to follow, and I intend to follow both, as time allows. It's all described on the BBKA website education page. One route is on the practical side, with a general and then an advanced husbandry assessment. The other route is a set of 8 written exam modules. All the various components take a fair amount of work, have entry requirements, and also require a great deal more knowledge and experience than I currently have. Completion of all the components confers the title "Master Beekeeper" and it's no mean achievement. There's no way of telling whether my life will take me this way, but it's my intention to start with a couple of the exams and with the general husbandry assessment in the next few years.