Monday, 26 May 2014

Capped Queen Cell

I checked my bees yesterday. There is one capped queen cell in the hive that I removed the queen from.
This queen cell is due to hatch out at about now, I am slightly worried that it might have chilled, due to me moving the location of the hives and therefore reducing the amount of bees in this hive. I guess I will know in the next day or two.
I give them another frame from another. This frame seen below is partially drawn with capped brood and eggs laid around the outside. The wax will be nice and soft for them to draw out more queen cells if needs be.

All hives are eagerly drawing out the foundation-less frames producing a lovely clean comb. I have to learn to be careful with these as I flipped over one and the soft comb fall from the frame. I must learn! Gently does it until they have drawn it fully and attached it to all sides.
The hive that holds the old queen is doing very well and is working a full hive, I will need to add another box soon for them. I might remove this queen next month as the hive builds up to produce more splits.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Comings and goings...

I have two new young horses arriving this weekend. They are very well bred warm-bloods full brothers, a yearling and a two year old.
I sold my aged competition horse and I am working on the children's 128cm jumping pony. I am schooling him myself and will be bringing him to shows shortly to put SJI points on him. He will be ridden by a child at the shows.
The plan is to bring him on for our children to compete him at newcomers next year.

The gardens are awash with beautiful colours. The fruit trees are swelling with fruit and young potato plants push through the soil. The rhubarb needs harvesting and the chickens are still free to scratch out the vegetable beds unfortunately. They just keep escaping!!

The pigs are massive and enjoying the extra space of the cow yard. They have redecorated using the hose pipe and pallets ;-)
They are due to go to the freezer in ten days.

The bees are flying well every day and are bringing back plenty of pollen. I should have a virgin queen around now, from the hive that I removed the queen from. It is great mating flight weather and the other hives had plenty of capped drone cells last week.
Fingers crossed that she mates well and avoids the recently arrived swallows!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Homemade butter

I had a litre of heavy cream in the fridge that was at risk of souring before I would manage to use it.
It was the perfect reason to make butter!
According to Weston A. Price, butter made from the cream of grass feed cows grazing on rapidly growing spring grass had what he called ' activator X '. 
It seemed a shame to waste it, so I went about making butter.

I took the cream out of the fridge in the morning, with the intention of making butter in the evening. Cream breaks into butter and buttermilk quicker when it is at room temperature.
I poured the cream into a bowl and used a handheld electric whisk. It only took a few minutes when I heard the noise of the butter coming. It sounds like a wet splash when the cream collapses in and splits.

I emptied the contents of the bowl into a large sieve, sitting over a small bowl to collect the buttermilk and put them back into the fridge. It is easier to wash the butter when it is chilled and has had the night to drain. So I headed to bed!

In the morning, I put the butter into a pot of painfully cold water. I used my hand to press out the buttermilk. I repeatedly replaced the cold water as it became cloudy. When the water remained clear, the butter was ready to be salted and pressed into ramekins. 
This involves mixing in good quality sea salt to taste and them pressing into moulds or containers ready to be used or in this case, stored in the freezer.

This litre of cream produced 400g of butter.
The buttermilk can be used in cooking, it is especially good in brown soda bread or pancakes. 
I really should be making this amount of butter twice a day, but I never have the time! 
And the pigs love the cream ;-)

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Bees - 24 hrs after removing the queen

The bees are doing really well.Phew!
I am relieved! I am inclined to experiment sometimes a little to freely. 
I checked the bees on Friday, 24 hrs after removing the queen into a nuc box.

This is a frame of stores of capped honey and pollen. There is one queen cell on this frame, up on the right corner.

This hive is very strong. Every frame is thick with bees, taking the nuc doesn't seem to have effected its strength. There are three queen cells up in the left hand corner but they are hard to see with all the bees.

I had put in several foundation-less frames and they had started to draw comb, all within 24 hrs. This will allow them to draw their own cell size and produce cleaner wax that I can harvest whenever comb needs replacing.

This is the nuc that I started from hive 1. They had removed some of the grass at the entrance to make a small bee space. I was worried when I opened the crown board that there seemed to be very few bees in the nuc box. I have lost about half of the bees that I put in, but I put in a lot of bees knowing that many will fly home. When I took out the frames, there was about two frames worth of bees. I was pleased about this, it is plenty, especially as brood is hatching every day. I started to look for the queen when I received a surprised sting in my neck!
One bee had found a gap in my suit and made contact with my skin. It was time to call it a day, in case more bees found a route in. It is very unpleasant having a bee flying around the inside of your veil. I was grateful that she didn't sting my face.

Hive 2 was still very weak, just not enough bees to rear brood or forage in a meaningful way. This was my strongest hive last year.
I decided to swap the location of hive 1 with hive 2. So now all the strong foraging bees of hive 1 are flying into hive 2 and stocking up the larder.
While a small amount of bees from hive 2 fly into the strong hive 1. I hope that this evens out the hives and gives hive 2 a chance to build up early.
Again, this is experimental, the next time I check it might be disastrous!

I wasn't at home today but Hubby tells me that the busiest hive today was the nuc! Who would have thought, I hope she is not being robbed!
I will check them again tomorrow. I don't like to open the hives this much but I am eager to build back up to four strong hives coming into winter. I should be able to start another two nuc boxes using the extra queen cells. I will make these up once the cells are sealed and move them away for several weeks to establish.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

What a difference two week makes to the bees

I did another hive inspection this morning, the second of the season. I knew with the good weather that the hives would build up well.
When I checked the first hives, I was impressed!
I had put on a super with no queen excluder two weeks ago although they didn't need it yet. They were busy drawing and filling the middle frames of the super already. When I took off the box of supers, I could see that they have drawn lots of extra comb. You can see this in the photo above.
They have gone from two frames of capped brood to seven frames. They have built up plenty of stores and would be soon needing another super or brood box added.

This frame has a good brood pattern, capped brood, larvae and eggs in the centre, and pollen and open cells of honey at the edges.

These are frames of honey stores. yum!

I decided that I would make a split from this hive. They are a nice tempered hive and I had wanted to start splits early in the season to allow for a modest honey crop later.
I took two frames of capped brood with the queen on one of these. She was very easy to find as she is marked. I also took two frames of stores and 1 frame of drawn comb. This made up the 5 frame nuc. The hive that I took the nuc from will realise that they have no queen within 24 hrs. They will start building queen cells using eggs that are present within the hive. These eggs need to be aged 1-3 days old to be suitable.

My only worry is that there isn't enough drones for the virgin queens to mate well with. There is small amounts of drone comb in both hives, but it might not be enough. I am doubtful that there are many local honey bees in our area. Although if the weather remains good, this should not be too much of a problem!

This is the entrance to the nuc, I have it positioned in the orchard. I had intended to move the nuc away to my sisters farm until it got established. The foraging bees are very likely to fly back into the old hive and leave the nuc, but it has plenty of stores and house bees until the house bees start to forage. I put grass at the entrance in the hope that foraging bees with reorientate themselves to the nuc.

I want the nuc with the queen near as I will be removing frames of capped brood frequently to help out the second hive. This hive is weak and in trouble.  A few frames of capped brood now should see it build up early to produce a honey crop and establish before winter. Small populations of bees never have a chance to survive winter. It has a good queen from last year but it has an ageing and small population of bees. The queen is very limited is the amount of eggs she can lay as there isn't the bees to feed the larvae or keep the brood warm. I have no doubt that this hive will eventually build up, but two frames of capped brood now that require no feeding, will give them a great start. They have three brood boxes at the moment which is not helping. Bees seem to build up better in small spaces. If I had a spare nuc today I would have moved them into that. I will remove the two extra brood boxes off when I check for queen cells in hive 1 tomorrow evening.