Monday, December 28, 2009

Pressing Honeycomb Video

Small Cell & Crossing the Great Divide.

We were discussing natural comb building on the yahoo warre group and again on the NBN forum. Other beekeepers were saying that after just one season of bees building comb foundationless they were finding cell size in the brood nest at 5.1 to 5.2 and even less. Well I measured as much comb as I could this year from all the deadouts. They built consistently at 5.3mm in the brood areas. I never found anything less than 5.3. Now Stefan in Las Palmas who is a Dee Lusby disciple and therefore small cell advocate maintains that to get small cell the comb spacing must be 32mm. My Kenyans were all 35mm and my warre were the standard 36mm so he may have a point. This may also be part of the reason I saw so much comb curving in the kenyans. Scott from the yahoo warre group has said he puts nine 20mm wide bars in his warre hives instead of eight. I did the maths and realized if I did the same, I would get 32mm spacing. So this batch of 4 warre boxes and all subsequent boxes will have nine bars.

These photos show exactly how I achieve the spacing.

The first photo shows an end spacer of 9mm and the first bar pinned into place, the 12mm spacer with the screw as a handle and the next bar also pushed up and pinned.

This photo shows the 9mm spacer removed and the 12mm spacer put into the next position.

The next photo shows the next top bar being slid along before pinning into place.

All bars now in place and pinned in position. The pins are 'gimp' pins or what the Americans call frame nails.

Four boxes pinned and ready for the top surface of the top bars to be laquered with pure linseed oil.

These and several others will have a couple of months to dry and air before use.

In these next photos, you can see I have waxed small pieces of comb between the middle top bars, set on top so that when it is put under the warre hive it will crush slightly between the combs. This is to act as a bridge which the bees will be able to cross from the comb above. Bees are reluctant to cross a divide and have been known to swarm through lack of space even though there was an empty box below!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Another lost colony

The cutout from my log cabin didn't make it I am sad to say. I thought I had the queen and sufficient bees to keep them going with some feeding but I may have damaged or lost her during the transfer. I noticed the hive I put them in was attracting a lot of attention from robber bees even though they had a very small entrance. When I checked inside, there were just a few bees remaining plus the robbers on the goods candy I had put over the crown board. I laid the crown board with what remained of the candy upside down on the table and just let the bees go for it. Here is a very small video from this morning with most of the candy gone. Goods Candy is just honey mixed with powdered sugar and you can see the bees somehow taking the honey yet leaving clumps of sugar. This shows quite clearly what they prefer to eat!

Over the last few days I have been making up spare warre boxes, quilts, floors, roofs etc. I have been dismantling the now redundant kenyans and utilizing the materials, wood and screws, to make some of the above. I will be giving each of my surviving hives an extra box, possibly in February if the weather is kind.

With my comb collapses and warre blow overs this year here in Spain, I have been thinking of ways to improve the situation. I had considered a large beehouse similar to the one in Sweden until I saw a photo of some WBC hives in an English garden which looked picture perfect. By utilising a larger footprint floor and WBC style lifts and roof around a warre, several objectives are reached at once. Shade, insulation and a more stable floor. The aesthetics of these hives is also to be considered. One of the disadvantages of a WBC hive, namely the extra work involved with removing and refitting the lifts, is not a problem with a warre system as they are rarely disturbed. The main disadvantage as I see it is the extra material and work required to make them. Perhaps the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I will ponder this.....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cross Combing in Kenyan Hives

I have had questions asking do I really need to convert from Kenyan to warre hives. I suppose I could, once a year, butcher thousands of bees to put things right but I cannot do that to the bees or myself. Below are photos of the underside of top bars and a kenyan carcass that I had to butcher to get the combs out of. You can see the cross combing and the wall attachments. The lower part of the kenyan is where the comb had completely collapsed and was anchored to the floor with brace comb.

As with all the photos on this blog, they are clickable to enlarge them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Apiary in Transition

My apiary looks very different now that I have transitioned from Kenyan to warre hives. This first photo shows some of the hives in transition now.

The follwing photo is one of the mini kenyan sat on warre box.

The only hive I have not transitioned into warre is my hybrid hive. This is the one that has half frames with kenyan style lower part to the combs. There was no cross combing or attachments with this hive so the experiment worked. I haven't harvested honey from this hive yet but I may take some in March next.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bees wax collecting

I set my old top bars on top of some empty Layens hives and there were bees collecting wax from them. They were chewing the wax off and packing it on their back legs just like they do with pollen or propolis. This small video does not show it in enough detail but that is what they were doing yesterday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two more kenyan warre transfers today

Today I transferred two more kenyan colonies into my kenyan/warre transfer hives.

This first photo is of the blue kenyan as I am removing top bars.

This next shot is of the kenyan transfer box that is sat upon the warre box. You can clearly see the angle difference of the original comb and the widened angle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Transfer of kenyan to Warre

I transferred bees from a kenyan into my kenyan/warre hive this morning. Beautiful weather at around 23 degrees C. This was a very small cast that I hived in Spring and because its seven combs it had built were not full size and they were unable to fill any with heavy honey, it was the only colony that didn't have any collapsed comb. Lovely calm bees and they didn't mind at all being moved into their new home. I am hoping this one gets going next season.
I have three more kenyans to convert to warre hives and I have started butchering the vacant kenyans to make into mini kenyans that sit on the warre hives. I think I may have enough wood left from each one to make a warre box so nothing is wasted. The next couple of conversions are bigger colonies so I am trying to make the mini kenyan fit ten top bars. We will see how that works out.
I am feeding the bees with honey water that is left over from washing my pressing gear. I have set out on a table four round plastic feeders (leftover gear from previous years) sat on wooden bars so that they can enter from underneath and not drown.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kenyan to Warre Transfer

I mentioned in my last blog entry about a new idea I had to transfer from a kenyan to a warre. The transfer boxes I made in Sweden for this purpose were small kenyans with fillet inserts at the bottom to block the gaps over the warre top bars. This idea is similar but it opens out the kenyan sloping sides to match the width of the warre box at the bottom.

I started though with a new design of floor. I have had a few blow overs on my warre's this year and it is mainly down to the small footprint of just 34cm x 34cm. The floor below is 43cm x 43cm and built of stout timber so it is heavy.

The warre box sits on top as normal.

The modified small kenyan now sits perfectly on top of the warre as the bottom section of the kenyan is exactly the same section as the warre.

If you look at this next photo you will see the original end panel and the original screw holes positions marked in white. The new positions are marked in black. The top screw remained in place and the kenyan side rotated about its axis to its new position to match the warre. When it was in the right position, I marked the kenyan side at the bottom as it now projected below the end and sawn and planed the bottom to get it flush.

And here you can see the whole thing with top bars in place. You may notice the filled original entrance holes on the kenyan part. I just use wood glue mixed with sawdust for a filler.

When I transfer the top bars from my kenyans into these transfer boxes, they will have more space to fill with the extra room given. At this time of year there are but few brood combs and as there is only room for eight bars in this box it is important that I transfer them now before they start to build up again. I think I have about a month to do it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Moving to an all Warre Apiary

After my losses and in hive problems this year in my Kenyan top bar hives, due to me leaving them untouched for 6 months every year, I have decided that the warre hive is best suited to these conditions. I have to leave them with enough space to expand as the season progresses, but the kenyan unless properly monitored, gets badly cross combed. It doesn't matter in a warre if they cross comb as you harvest one box at a time.

My first priority though is to get the bees from my two remaining Layens hives onto warre boxes. Having tried various methods, I have worked out the best way is to simply make a transfer box that will take several Layens frames and set it on top of a warre. I made one that took eight frames and one that took nine. At this time of year there are fewer bees and little brood. Easily enough room for them and some stores in the transfer boxes. Later when they start to expand their numbers again, they will only have one direction to go and that is downward into the warre box. I have put only one box on for now but will add another in early Spring (February).

This layens had some collapsed combs which meant I had to pry two frames out together. Luckily I was able to discard these frames.

Here the transfer box sat on its warre box is complete with the layens frames and all remaining bees shaken into hive. I harvested six frames of honey in the process, so I am now pressing that honey with my pan press.

The next item on the agenda for me is to make some kenyan transfer boxes. I initially thought I might make them in the style of the ones I made in Sweden (see earlier post) but I have come up with a better idea. All will be revealed when I have transfered the picture in my head to one I can upload here..........

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Warre with few varroa

I hefted my warre hives (and my layens) and found one of the warre's to be light. As they were only on two boxes, I decided I would feed them and give them another box. I removed the quilt to find they had all but completely propolised the mosquito mesh I had stapled to the top.

I lifted together both boxes and found they had only built on three of the combs in the bottom box. They didn't need the third box but as I had prepared it, I put it on anyway. In that bottom box I laid on the floor two parcels of a mixture of my own honey and powdered sugar. I mixed in enough sugar until the mix only just flowed. I parceled the mix up in kitchen roll and just laid it on the floor. The bees will tear up the paper and throw it out eventually so no need to open up again to remove anything. This feed is to tide them over. There are flowers out, lavender, rosemary & fennel but the season has been so dry, I don't think they are secreting nectar. When we have some rain that will change.

These bees were quite calm and I give them a 3 out of 10 for temperament.

Whilst adding this extra box, I also changed the floor. I swept all the debris from the old floor and put it into an envelope. I don't normally do mite counts but this was an opportunity to see what 6 months of debris would show. 7 mites is all I found! Yes only 7. I have had more on a 4 day count in the past. I know a lot of mite carcasses would have been turfed out during normal cleaning but in the entrance well, a thick layer of wax flakes and pollen had built up and I had expected to find dozens of mite bodies. Natural methods are working to keep mites at bay I think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cutout from my Log Cabin

The bees were entering a minute gap at the top of one of the porch rafters. I had to remove a lot of siding planks to get access.

There was no way I could remove the OSB board once the siding planks had been removed, It had been nailed on before the porch was built so I had to cut out a hole where I thought the bees were. I banged on the board and listened to the roar which gave me an approximate area to cut.

I smoked the bees up and away from the comb so that I could cut the comb attachments at the top without cutting bees. I removed several combs with few bees.

These combs and bees were put in a warre box on which I had stapled a wire mesh on the base. The combs were simply stacked side by side on top of this mesh. The gauge of the mesh has about 1cm holes so all bees can pass through it. I left the warre box right next to the hole in the wall. I had to leave many bees in the hole and was doubtful that I had got the queen. Next morning, it was cold and the bees had all clustered back in the hole. I took a floppy hat and placed it at the bottom of the hole then with a 2" paint brush sort of scooped the cluster into the hat. I quickly placed the hat and bees on top of the combs in the warre box. Closed it up with a top board and put on an inverted jar of honey over the feed hole. I noted when I removed the combs, there were no stores, nada. They were on the point of starvation. More on this later. I left them another night and was glad to see that the bees were still in the warre box which is 3 feet from the hole so I am now confident the queen is in there. I will be gradually moving this hive to the apiary at 3 ft every 3 days. It'll take a while.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beeswax Utility Candles

When I am in Spain throughout the winter, I live in a log cabin with solar power. In the dead of winter there is often not enough 'juice' in the batteries to last the evening. I sometimes rely on candles and like to make my own. I do not need fancy candles or short duration candles but utility candles, long lasting with a good flame. I also like to re-cycle stuff that is normally thrown away as rubbish. I have devised a way of using the little yoghurt pots and cola cans as candle molds.

The procedure is about the same for both. I start by making a hole in the centre of the base of the pot or can. With the cans, I then cut off the top with a can opener. I thread a wick through the hole in the base and secure and seal it with a little bluetack. I then use a clothes peg to hold the wick at the top central on both types. The yoghurt pot size uses a standard no15 wick but I have tried two methods with the cola can size. First method was to plat the no15 size wick so that effectively it was 3 times thicker. I have also used a piece of oil lamp wick which was cut to length then cut into 4 lengthwise. These wicks were soaked in molten wax before fitting to cans.

After the molten wax has set in the cans and pots, they are just peeled off and thrown away. When peeling off the cans use leather gloves as the peeled metal is extremely sharp and liable to spring against your hand.

Result cheap & easy long lasting candles giving good light.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Little Honey

My first attempt at pressing honeycomb earlier in the Spring was done in a cool kitchen on a cold granite worktop. This time, I put the bucket and the press in a warm room by a large sunny window. Flow rate is important when pressing and a little warmth quickens flow tremendously.

With my filter cloth in place, I filled the pan with cut pieces of comb.

Fold over the cloth and set the circular pressing block and jack seat on top.

Sit the jack in place and wind it up.

Keep winding until honey starts to flow above the circular pressing block.

Checking the water content with a refractometer, perfect at 17.5%.

10Lbs of honey later, I now have to remove the sticky blocks, cloth and wax from the pan. I use a large glass bowl of water to initially rinse them and soak the wax in before feeding honeywater back to the bees. Clearly not the most efficient way to get liquid honey but it is a simple and cheap method for a small amount. Oh and the honey tastes wonderful, mainly lavender I think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Inspection & Harvest

Now the cleanup of the deadouts and the wax rendering has been done and as the weather is still fine I thought I would take a peek in a couple of hives.

The first hive I opened was a normal kenyan by the garage not in the apiary. It was populated by a swarm captured in my hexagonal bait hive earlier in the year. Very few bees and only built 8 combs. I saw some capped honey, open nectar, plenty of pollen and one comb of brood both capped and uncapped. I didn't see the queen or eggs. I think I may put this tiny colony in a kenyan nuc and gradually move it to the apiary. Temper rating about 3

The second hive is a catenary TBH also populated by a cast at the same time as the other. This hive had the same number of combs built but even fewer bees with no eggs nor brood. I didn't see the queen either. Again I will transfer them to a kenyan nuc and if on my next look there is still no brood, I may combine them with the first one. Temper rating about 4

The next hive I checked was the blue kenyan which was populated by a prime swarm in March or April. They had built out every comb in the hive and it had a full set of top bars on a 1m long hive. I harvested some honey from several bars and returned the bars to the hive. Some of the honeycombs had collapsed onto the floor of the hive and I needed to use my wide hacksaw blade to detach it. I got in a sticky mess so about 12 combs in from the end, and as I had a full bucket of honeycomb, I decided to close it up until another time when I was clean again. I never got to the brood combs with this hive so I will have to check it again and probably harvest another bucket of honey from it. Temper rating 3

There seems to be a comb collapse problem in most of the hives. These first two had a little collapsed also. These first two hives had good shade so in their case I can only put it down to an unusually hot summer and too few bees to cool a large hive. So there is the dilemma of giving them enough space to build up with and giving too much space in a hot year for a small colony. Next year, if I hive any swarms, I will judge the size of the hive space given to the size of the swarm.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wax Galore & Boiling Frames & Top Bars

Finally got finished rendering all the wax from the deadouts. I haven't weighed it but a good few kilos I imagine. Used all sorts for wax molds so various shapes and sizes. Not that it matters as this wax will be remelted and made into candles quite soon.

Because of all the mess and moth larvae hidden in the crevices of the frames and top bars. I have for a couple of years now boiled them in a large pan bought for the purpose. The pan is set upon the old gas BBQ and quickly comes to the boil. This does several things at once, cleans away all dirt, wax, propolis and sterilises the wood ready for storage. The grooves in the top bars are cleared of wax ready for new starter strips. I set the woodware out in the sun to dry before putting away. I will blow over them with a blow torch before rewaxing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fifty percent survival, Papercrete Hive & Drones

I was quite surprised today to see yet another hive I thought had died out to have flying bees. I think my initial quick check was a bit late in the day for these Spanish bees! Unlike my Swedish lot who will venture out as soon as it gets above 5 degrees!  This one is in a kenyan which is positioned directly under the canopy of an olive tree. It was probably the smallest swarm I hived so it will be interesting to see how much progress they have made when I decide to take a look inside. So I now have established that my survival rate is 50% which seems somewhat better than a few days ago.

One of the deadouts is my papercrete hive which I had populated for the first time this spring with a large swarm. I haven't had time to open it up yet but I can see quite clearly rodent damage of two quite large holes near the base. These are probably gerbils which are quoite common around here. So I now know that papercrete is no use for a permanent hive. They are though very good as bait hives.

Whilst taking up the kenyan carcass from the apiary to my workshop for cleaning, I did a quick check on one of the layens hives that is still flying. I was surprised to see drones flying! I can only assume that there is a late supercedure going on.

I am spending most of my time, cleaning frames and top bars and rendering the wax from the deadouts into wax blocks. I am not being too particular with it as this wax is destined for candles. I still have so much old foundation stock from my days as an agent for a beekeeping supplier that I doubt I will ever run out of starter strips.

I have been measuring the brood comb cells in these deadouts and they are all between 5.3mm and 5.5mm.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Missing photos from last post

These two photos show the kenyan deadout that had the comb collapse. Most of the comb was on the bottom of the hive. It seems I had not fitted the usual batten under the roof which allows about an inch air gap between the roof board and the top bars. Therefore the roof board was in contact with the top bars. I will not make this mistake again. This loss was clearly my fault and is unfortunate that it probably happened when the heat of summer usually meant drones had already gone and brood rearing had slowed or stopped.  The new combs shows me that the bees tried to rebuild and tried to raise new drones when the queen was lost.

Cleaning the Deadouts

Some good news, there are actually 10 surviving colonies. My brief entrance inspection of a few days ago didn't reveal that my hybrid kenyan which has half frames is still alive. This is indeed good news because the purpose of this particular trial was to see if I can combine the advantages of both types of hive without the disadvantages. Easily inspectable non attached combs which are as natural as possible.

The weather now is still hot getting to high 20's to 30 degrees by midday. Bees are all over the rosemary which is abundant on the hillsides. There is still some citrus in blossom too which I am sure they are taking advantage of.

The first deadout I dealt with was a layens which was previously populated by a swarm earlier this year. It was totally cotton woolled with wax moth damage. If you don't know what I mean and have never seen this here are a couple of photos to show the mess.

It is a truly horrible job and by the time you get the woolly gunk out and on the bonfire, there is precious little wax left to render. I will clean out the box, flame and boil the frames before refitting starter strips for re-use. I leave the box on it's side with the hinged lid open to allow the birds to peck out any moth larvae I have missed. I will then flame the box and steam clean the inside.

The first warre hive deadout is easy to work out why it didn't make it, it was on it's side with the boxes exposed. A simple case of disturbance leaving the hive wide open to attack by robbers and wasps.

The next one I dealt with was a kenyan. The demise of this one was obvious as soon as I lifted the bars off. Comb collapse over several combs. I think maybe the queen was killed in the collapse. They had rebuilt some comb and one was pure drone comb. Doing this in the height of the summer was desperate for them. Even then their new combs they were building were stretching. Here are photos of there new combs showing the stretching and drone comb.

I seem to have lost two photos from this post? I will publish it and see if I can add the missing one's later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spanish Beekeeping Season Begins

My initial walk around the home apiary now I am back in Spain reveals that only nine of the 22 colonies I left in April have survived.  To be fair, most of them were populated by swarms (15) so poor mating and virgins being taken by bee eaters may have contributed to the losses. I am sure though that the majority of the losses were down to the long hot dearth which I am told was particularly fierce this summer.
I am not too downhearted about it as I now have 9 colonies whereas this time last year I had but 7.
Now begins the horrible job of cleaning out the deadouts and rendering any wax that is salvageable. I have brought my kitchen steamer back with me from Sweden so hopefully it will get a good using in the next couple of weeks. Also scorching out the boxes and boiling the top bars and frames in my huge pan that I set on my gas barbecue. Photos to follow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Treatment Free Beekeeping for All.

Thinking about my last post and my long term goal to have healthy surviving bees without treatments on an ongoing basis, and the fact that I have adopted a live and let die policy, I have to have a plan B! The ‘what if’s?’ are forever in my mind! So what other strategy could be adopted to absolutely ensure long term healthy colonies without treatments?
I believe that all the very vulnerable genetics have already died out and the ones we have left have some measure of resistance or should I say tolerance to varroa. I have already demonstrated both in Spain and Sweden that bees can now survive for a period without treatments. I have heard it said though  that these bees may possibly crash in their third year. I am about to enter that phase just about now with my Spanish bees so I will see if that is true or not in my case. But, I am more interested in finding a solution to treatment free beekeeping, and that includes the organic acids, for anyone no matter how many or what style of hives they employ. So here is my plan, and feel free to comment and criticise.

Treatment Free Beekeeping for All (example 10 colonies)


To allow sustainable beekeeping in production colonies without the need for miticides or organic acids being put into the hives by using only locally adapted bees and queens which should steadily improve over time in both varroa tolerance and other characteristics.

1st Season

Stop all treatments and monitor monthly mite drops and keep records.

2nd Season

Replace any colonies that dies out with own swarms or splits from survivor colonies.
Height of swarm season raise 10 queens from two best colonies.
Make up nucs from all ten colonies by removing one frame of brood and one frame of stores from each and introduce virgin queens.
Place each nuc adjacent to each production colony and allow to build up to 5 or 6 frames and overwinter.

3rd Season

Using records, assess the 5 best & 5 worst colonies with criteria mentioned in the notes and in early spring combine overwintered nucs with 5 worst colonies in the following manner:-

Move original colony to one side and set frames from overwintered nuc in centre of new brood box but first thoroughly dusting them with icing sugar.  Make up with frames with either foundation or starter strips. Add super and cover normally.
Place ramp board and Queen excluder on entrance. Shake all bees from original colony onto ramp board and dust with icing sugar. Take any sealed brood frames and add them to the undisturbed 5 strongest colonies but mark the frames first with drawing pins.
Destroy original queen that is left on the ramp board.

Later, at height of swarm season raise another 10 queens from best two colonies and start another 10 nucs in exactly the same manner.

4th and subsequent seasons

Proceed as in 3rd season using the best colonies for breeding queens and combining overwintered nucs with the 5 colonies that are two year old.


The purpose of the first season without treatments is to establish if the genetics you have are still very vulnerable to varroa. A better than 50% survival rate is desired.

10 colonies is used as an example but this should work with any number bearing in mind the lower the number the more difficult it is to prevent inbreeding. Someone with just a few colonies may look to combine with another local beekeeper.

No mention is made of how the queens will be raised as there are so many ways to achieve this, even within the production colonies.

The wax is renewed automatically every two years and with this in mind never use the marked old frames for making up the nucs.

Best colony means lowest mite count as well as other criteria of productiveness, gentleness, non swarming etc. This should be qualitative as well as quantative.

The plan calls for starting 10 nuc’s but utilizing only 5, allowing for duds. Any nuc’s left over can be kept for emergencies, selling/giving away or bolstering a weak hive.

The production colonies are rejuvinated every two years.

The powdered sugar treatment which should remove some of the phoretic mites is to prevent fighting and combining.

The 5 colonies that are not requeened with a nuc have a brood boost and with appropriate honey flow timing may lead to bumper crops.

To circumvent inbreeding, within this example 10 colonies there should always be 4 distinct genetics in the queens. Record keeping of the queen origins in the nuc’s should ensure placement of two distinct lines each year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2009 Swedish beekeeping season ends

With nothing more to do beekeeping wise here in my last couple of weeks before I depart for my winter in Spain, I can reflect on what has been achieved this year and what I want to achieve in forthcoming years.

I started the season finding out one of my two kenyan colonies had died out. It had a mouse take up residence. Well at least one of them survived without any treatments (I did one sugar dusting in 2008). A first year 50% survival rate is OK for my long term goals. The main decision I have made for Sweden is, because of my lifestyle choice of being absent for 6 months, and because I wish to keep bees as naturally as possible, I realized the best option would be to convert to warré hives. My barn, although providing great protection to the hives and peace of mind whilst I am absent, isn’t in good condition, so the warré beehouse took shape in my mind and quickly became a reality. The swarm I captured in my Svea bait hive and subsequently onto warré boxes has become the first occupant of the bee house. The kenyan still in the barn when I return in 2010 will be progressively walked over to the warré bee house (about 50m) and when sat in front of it, will be split into two in my mini kenyan/warré conversion hives. These will be put directly into the beehouse. I am looking forward to testing my lifting equipment in the bee house (it works perfectly in my head). I have left a full box of honey and more for them to overwinter on and with any luck it should still be there to harvest next year.

Thinking about my long term goals as well as short and medium term ones, I suppose the only long term goal is to have healthy surviving bees without treatments on an ongoing basis. I have already demonstrated in Spain that by utilizing swarms and splits, any non surviving colonies can be made up for quite easily. Therefore I am utterly convinced that a no treatment low intervention regime is not only possible but is easily achievable. I have had bad tempered bees and swarmy bees but my first consideration has been surviveabilty. I have put up with these negative factors and will continue to do so as the seasons progress to cull out the genetic lines that don’t have what it takes to survive. I know it is fairly easy to select out these bad traits and I will eventually do so. Now is not yet the time but when I feel I have a good surviving base, I want to start a queen rearing program with not only the survivability factors but my own selection criteria. These would be in this order, gentleness, non swarming and productiveness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cider - Honey press first trial

Pressed 50 litres of apple juice on this home made press. Next year I hope to use it in exactly the same way for honey. I know the flow rate will be much less but it should work in the same fashion.

In this video, the very first trial, I used only 4 'cheeses' later I used 6 and the flow rate was much more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lifting Strop & Minimum IPM

I finally got around to making up my warré lifting strop, a 4 arm string strop which attaches to the bottom warré box where I have screwed 4 eye bolts in each corner. I used a SS boating shackle for the the lifting eye to attach to my hand winch and just tied on 4 one meter lengths of polypropylene string with 'S' hooks tied to the ends. This is the last part of the system I have devised so hopefully next Spring when I will be putting new boxes underneath I will have everything to hand. Seems like a long time to wait until then but hey ho we will have the Spanish season in between! 

At last we are having some good dry and even sunny weather, I was worried I may have to feed my bees in the kenyan again what with the last few weeks of rain. It is amazing how quickly a colony can deplete itself of stores at this time of year with lots of mouths to feed and active bees! As we are forecast good weather now for awhile, I will hold off the feeding because there is plenty of forage still. Clover, heather, golden rod & the last of the fireweed.

Beekeeping in two countries with two different season means I am actively beekeeping all year round! Doing so has quickly focused my mind on my thoughts concerning varroa and other bee problems. The main conclusion I have come to is that left to themselves, in a good enough environment, the less I do the better off the bees will be. Last year I was all for small cell, open mesh floors, drone culling and sugar dusting as a natural integrated pest management system. I have now decided to adopt the 'Live and let Die' policy. Basically for two reasons:-

First I have always felt that beekeepers interfere too much in the lives of the bees and that anything we do in the end is counter productive. The Live and let Die thing really struck a chord with me and I think that perhaps bees have it within themselves to overcome any and all problems they may face if they are just left to get on with it. Look at surviving feral colonies for example. I know that is not very scientific and perhaps people may think that this is a case of hope rather than reality but I do believe it. There are now many reports of bees being kept untreated for several years in various parts of the world. I know I am going to have losses and I am prepared for them but with swarms and splits these can be easily made up for.

The second reason is more mundane and is because of my chosen lifestyle of spending half my time in different parts of Europe. Leaving bees for 6 months at a time in both Spain and Sweden necessitates a different approach. I have to leave a full set of top bars allowing the bees to expand and contract their brood nest as they require without me constricting them with divider boards. My 35mm top bars throughout the hive will be used both for brood and honey storage so allowing them sufficient space means they can move honey stores accordingly.

Will it all work out in the long run? I hope so and so far I am having some success, keeping bees without treatments, not opening the hives but a few times in the year, yet getting some honey and wax. As long as I have bees without buying in new stock and get some kind of return, I think I can call it a success!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rendering old comb in kitchen steamer

I used the old kitchen steamer today to render down this lot of old comb. Not much but it was just to try it out. It worked really well. I put the tray in the bottom compartment, fitted the second compartment over it and laid some netting in the second tray. I squeezed together lumps of the comb and filled the container, folded over the net, put the lid on and switched on. 10 minutes later I had a couple of ounces of rendered beeswax which I poured into a tray to set. The net I used was too coarse and it let through some bits of detritus so I will render this wax again with the next batch through a finer mesh.