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John the BeeMan's Blog - mid August 2014 - Queen problems, honey and wax harvesting

Holidays have disrupted my blog this time around.   Luckily the bees don’t need much attention at this time of the year.


Around my Apiaries in July/August

I visited the Cemetery apiary on 16th July with the temperature hitting 25 C.   I decided to check the brood for a change (1st time for 6 or 7 weeks).   They all had great quantities of solid sealed brood which must have been sparked off by the June/July nectar flow.   This will hatch in the next week or so, causing quite an expansion of bees, just when the forage will be lacking.   I put clearer boards under full supers on 4 of the colonies, leaving each hive with 1 full & 1 empty super to cater for their needs in the next month.

The only colony that still had it original queen had also been left to its own devices.   I found several opened queen cells and a virgin above the excluder!!   How long might she have been there?   I left the colony for a week and found no sign of eggs, fearing that the queen had passed her mate by date.   I united a spare, queen right, nuc with it and all is OK with the queen laying.   It just shows that if you take your eyes off them, they may get up to no good!

Hatched queen cells!
Uniting complete – paper eaten away
Hatched queen cells!
Uniting complete – paper eaten away

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The Murphy bees are also getting on well and I’ve cleared a super off each.

I briefly checked out the bees on the 5th August, a mini break from my holiday in Norfolk, just to make sure the apiary was OK.

I have just returned (21st August) from having a good look at the colonies at the Cemetery.   The bees are all keeping pace with what I expect them to be doing during August.   Brood tailing off, fewer drones around and orange/yellow pollen coming in.   I checked this on my pollen chart and it is probably from Michaelmas daisy.   I’ve taken a sample and will try to analyse it under a microscope to confirm this.

One colony had no brood and a virgin queen racing about on the brood frames, hopefully she will be mated soon and start laying.   My remaining nuc has failed to produce a viable queen and now has laying workers, so that's the end of that one!!

Pattern of ‘laying worker’ brood from the Nuc
Pattern of 'laying worker' brood from the Nuc

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Honey Harvest

I can now confirm that this year is the best for some time.   There will be at least 450lbs of honey and 50 cut honey comb pieces.   Twice as much as last year.   Finding a market is the next exercise.   120lbs goes to the ice cream shop, that's a good start.   Our local Meat NW5 (butcher & deli) want some, but selling through a shop means correct filling of the jars.   Trading standards normally allow only + or – 3 grams and the labelling needs to be in accordance with regulations.   My labels nearly meet these, except they don't include 'Product of the UK'.


Beeswax Harvest

While this great honey harvest gets plenty of copy, what about the cappings?   Each time I extract honey, a bucket full of cappings + honey is generated.   It is first broken up and put in a large sieve to drain off most of the leftover honey.   The remainder is carted home and rendered down in my solar wax extractor.   I have just been doing the most recent lot which will be added to the 3lbs already cleaned.

Solar Wax Extractor
Beeswax from the extractor, 3lbs
Solar Wax Extractor
Beeswax from the extractor, 3lbs

This wax will have a dirty underside which can be scrapped off when quite warm, afterwards it can be further purified for candles and furniture polish.   Otherwise it can be exchanged for foundation.   Thorne’s call it “Beeswax Conversion”.   See page 17 for details where it tells you how many sheets of different sizes you can get for 1lb of wax.


Plans for next month

I must decide if the remaining honey supers are to stay on the hives for the winter or be extracted.   All told, there are 6 full supers left which would yield another 150lbs.   Do I really want so much honey?   Varroa treatment must be done.   I’m using MAQS (formic acid) again this year.   It’s rather strong and the bees don’t like it, but it is only for a week.   They don’t like thymol either, and Api-Guard stays on for a month.   Short & Sharp! is my policy and formic acid penetrates cappings, so kills mites within brood cells.

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Forage

I’ve had a really thorough search for flowers this July.   The Sweet Chestnut is now over, but there is Buddleia, thistle and ragwort in rough areas that are not managed.   Russian Vine, Privet and clover are also out.

Ragwort & Buddleia in a disused nursery garden
Sweet Chestnut
Ragwort & Buddleia in a disused nursery garden
Sweet Chestnut

Parliament Hill Fields and Hampstead Heath has many wild flowers out that the bees seem to love.   Rosebay Willow Herb, Purple Loosestrife and daisies are all attracting honey bees.   The late Lime trees are coming into flower.   This information applies to late July.

Ox-Eye Daisy and Corn Marigold on Parliament Fields
Purple Loosestrife by the Highgate Ponds
Ox-Eye Daisy and Corn Marigold on Parliament Fields

This August is continuing to provide the bees with forage, judging by the honey being stored.   I’m not sure what there is except the Michaelmas Daisy I mentioned above.

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The Kenwood Apiary

I’ve just visited our apiary and congratulate the Committee on the splendid ‘Composting Loo’.   The whole apiary looks really good with the new storage area for equipment and the matching blue painted shed.


Honey Show

Beware, I’m setting aside my honey, cut comb, frame for extraction, candles, block of wax and photograph, all for the competition.   To make this fun and worthwhile, please will you enter as many classes as possible to make this year’s show the best for many years.


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