Getting ready for Winter

Yesterday I went up to visit our Hendon hives. I took some sugar syrup in case their stores needed topping up. I also took some insulated dummy boards to put into the brood boxes if there were any empty frames. This makes keeping the hive warm a little easier for the bees as they don’t need to heat space that isn’t being used.

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I needn’t have bothered though – both hives are still very full and very busy. There is plenty of honey packed into the combs and even some brood. The hives both smelt strongly of ivy nectar, so I can guess that most of the honey has been made from that. I’m really pleased that they didn’t need any molly-coddling, with luck they will come through the winter.

Promise of Spring

Over the weekend I made the most of the fine weather and planted the spring bulbs that I’d bought. I find this time of the year a bit gloomy – with the clocks changing soon and the thought of those dull grey days… I like to think on to the spring. Last year I planted lots of crocus bulbs in our front lawn and in the spring they were so lovely (and really appreciated by the bees). This year I’m planting even more and some miniature irises and daffodils. With luck we will have a good display early next year.

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It took me about 40 minutes to plant 300 bulbs – a relatively quick job for several weeks of spring colour – definitely worth my while I think!

Michaelmas Day

Today is Michaelmas day and I’m happy to report that there are plenty of Michaelmas daisies out around all of our hives! Our home bees have been bringing in bright orange pollen from these flowers.

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I went to have a look at our hives in Hendon today and the hive entrances were very busy – the bees are certainly making the most of the good weather we’ve been having.

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The hives there are surrounded by flowering ivy – the scent is almost overpowering and the plants are buzzing with insects – ivy is such a vital source of nectar for so many insects at this time of the year.

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Finally, here is a sunflower that has self seeded itself in our garden. I’m particularly amused by this because I tried to grow a whole line of them earlier in the year in a completely different area, but they all got munched by snails. Anyway, it has been visited by loads of bees – particularly bumbles. Next year I’ll try again with my row…

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Taking the last honey

The ivy is about to flower around here – which for me means I need to hurry and take off any honey that we’d like from the hives. We have lots of ivy around here and it normally provides enough nectar for my bees to have enough stores to get through the winter.

Taking off a super

The hives we use are made up of a series of boxes stacked up on each other. The bottom box is the deepest and is called the brood box – where the queen lays her eggs to raise more bees. The boxes above are called supers and this is where the bees store the honey. Over the summer we add more supers as they are needed and remove them once they are full. I know without looking when they are full because I can barely lift them.

Bee watching

I really enjoy standing near our hives and watching what is going on at the hive entrances. It is a good way to get an idea about the fortunes of a colony. I have noticed lots of wasps around over the last couple of weeks and I was pleased to see that the bees were quick to dispatch a couple that were trying their luck to try and get into a hive. I’m relieved that we made the decision to combine some colonies earlier in the season, which means that the colonies that we have now are large and can easily defend themselves.

I also noticed that many of the bees were arriving with lots of bright orange pollen – they carry it in pollen baskets on their back legs – I believe that they are collecting it from Asters. I must replace the plants that died in our garden as it is obviously a favourite at the moment.

Orange pollen

There are plenty of sedum plants in our neighbourhood – another late summer bee favourite. You can see in the picture below that the bees are willing them to flower more quickly!

Bees on sedum

Honey harvest and late summer foraging

Another season of beekeeping is starting to wind down. Last night we were busy preparing cut comb and spinning out the last frames from our favourite hive – Hive 2. For some reason the bees in that hive make more honey than any of our others and they forage on different flowers, giving a more flavoursome honey. They are also sweet natured.

Preparing cut comb

Spinning honey  

The bees have been busy in our garden – there aren’t so many nectar giving flowers at this time of the year, but they have managed to seek out these ones…

Honey bees on Echinacea

Honey bees on pumpkin flower

Bargain Dahlias

Everyone loves a bargain don’t they? I picked up some dahlia tubers earlier this year at our local 99p shop – I think that there were 5 or 6 in a bag. I’m so pleased that they have all thrived and turned out to be single dahlias in a variety of colours. The single type are real favorites of pollinators (they can’t get to the pollen or nectar in doubles) and they are being constantly visited by honey and bumble bees.

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July bee plants

This Callistemon shrub that we have in our garden has been flowering for over a month now and everyday it is crowded with bees. It is fun to watch them come out of the hive, and drop straight down from our roof on to the flowers. The children call it The Bottle Brush Tree…

The lavender in our neighbourhood has been really good this year, and there is plenty of it. We stopped to look at the bees on this bush today and spotted 5 different types of bee.

There has been sweet chestnut flowering too, which gives a very dark honey – it’ll be interesting to see if our bees found any to forage on.

Yesterday while I was inspecting our hives in Hendon, I noticed that some of the bees where coming back to the hive with a splash of white on their backs – a sign that they are foraging on Himalayan Balsam.

Honey time!

Last weekend we were so pleased to be able to take the first honey of the year from our hives. We’d been waiting for the honey comb to be capped, which means that it has a low enough water content to prevent fermentation.

The sweet floral smell that filled our kitchen was divine… Once the honey is extracted, we let it filter through a coarse sieve and then let it stand for a few days. We then jar and label it.

We are very happy to offer some of our first honey of the season for sale in our shop – I hope that you enjoy it as much as we do!

Busy bees

This week the bees have been working really hard. The long days mean they are out flying early and I’ve seen them still at work at 9:30 at night! The supers are starting to feel very heavy, but they are still working on capping the honey so it isn’t ready to take any yet.

When I took the roof off one of our home hives today I could see hundreds of bees packing nectar into the comb.

When I pulled out a frame it looked like this…

When honey is “ripe” the bees cap it with white wax, which seals it in and prevents any moisture or contaminates getting into the honey. I was impressed to see how quickly they have been working, it was just a couple of weeks ago that I’d put in this frame – back then it looked like this…

You can see that I have been using just a small strip of wax foundation as a guide for bees. They have built a complete comb, filled it and capped most of it!

All our home hives have several supers on at the moment. When I took the top layer off in one hive a small bit of comb that had been built between the layers of supers was pulled off. The picture below shows the bees springing into action and cleaning up the spilled honey within a few seconds – they don’t waste a drop.