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Monday, 31 August 2009

Cretan Hornets

These are Vespa Orientalis. According to the pics on Wikipedia. The diameter of the coin is 27.3 mm. So it's big. And scary. But (I now know) has a sting which is no more dangerous than a wasp (yellowjacket), and they are less aggressive than a wasp.

I caught this one taking a swim in our pool. I helped it on its way, I'm afraid, because I wanted to photograph it. The previous day I had seen one kidnapping a bee from its hive. So I felt its species had it coming.

In photo below is same specimen plus a regular wasp.

In photo below I tracked them down to a wall of a cemetery, behind which they were nesting.

Cretan Hives

I visited Crete on holiday with the family last week, and of course, when I spotted the hives below I screeched the car to a halt and leaped out with the camera.

Of course, the hives are more "rough and ready" than UK and US versions. See below. But I guess the bees don't mind.

I spotted a giant hornet land on this hive and carry off a bee. As I said in a previous post, the hornets treat them as a take-away dinner. Bite the heads off and suck the nectar out of the stomach. Discard the rest. See the next post for more on the hornets.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Two miles makes a difference

My honey maidens and I tasted the honey from the two sites, which are two miles apart. And there is a definite difference in taste. One is slightly sharper, the other is rather more caramel-like.

But they got spun together and blended.

Honey maiden D, owner of one site, was disappointed not to get "single vineyard" honey - but at least she got to taste the honey from the hives at her property.

30lbs of honey

Pounds? Imperial measures?! My loyal readers will both be thinking "Wasn't it kilos last harvest? Editiorial standards are slipping at Pickwick Towers."

But I have bought 128 half-pound (OK, 226g) jars from the Bristol Bottle Company in Keynsham (that's K-E-Y-N .... for older readers) for 21.5p each.

I used 60 of them. Do the arithmetic yourself if you're that pedantic. It's hard enough extracting and bottling and then writing the blog. Get a grip, dear reader!

First photo shows some of the 60 bottles. Actually the one in the foreground looks like the waxy end of the barrel scrapings.

The second photo shows the real deal - clear with a slight green tinge - which might or might not be the green in the glass.

Third photo is of a still-wet frame after being spun. I'll be putting these back in the hives this afternoon for the bees to tidy up.

Final photo is of the inside of my new honey extractor, being cleaned out by the bees, who will take the honey back to their hives. I hope most of these bees are mine.

And the occasional damn wasp.

This beautiful piece of stainless steel equipment was bought on ebay from a very nice man in Amesbury for £168.

So the accounting to date is: equipment bought, about £1000. Time invested, many hours. Payback, 60@£2 = £120. Don't go into beekeeping to get rich.

The local honey show at Lackham is on soon. Shall I enter my best jar into "Best Newcomer" competition?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

New Apiary - No. 4

My friend C has agreed to have some hives on his land. He has created a small oasis - lawns, apple trees, fire pit - at the back of his field.

I bagged a swarm last week, thanks to D, the local pest control operator. It's very late in the year for a swarm to succeed - but it was a big one. It was hanging in an apple tree about 2.5m off the ground. But a pair of steps and a hefty whack deposited it into the skep. First use of the skep, and I'm impressed.
The photo below is the "commercial" hive that I have chosen for this site. It was available - I had bought four complete hives from a friend of an acquaintance a while ago. But I had started off with WBC hives, thanks to my mentors D & M. Commercials and WBCs are different size boxes and frames.

It's not as pretty as a WBC hive, that's for sure. But I can't let them go to waste.

I have put an empty brood box on top of the main brood box to accommodate a feeder.

The palettes make a good level base, don't they?

The feeder is in the next photo. You can see the bees coming up from the brood box through a hole in the top cover, into the feeder, and then over the top until they reach the syrup. They consumed four pints in just a few days - and I gave them some more today. Dunno why the syrup is a bit yellow. It was Fairtrade cane sugar. Maybe I overheated it when I made it.

They seem quite defensive. There is a line of bees across the entrance and any wasp that comes close gets immediate attention - unlike the established hives that are more laissez-faire.

And yes, I have registered it on beebase.

Photos are not as good as usual because: a) I took them, not son T or son J; and b) they were taken on my iphone.

Tune in again in a few days' time. Honey harvest is pending!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Varroa mites counted

First photo is of the floor of the hive that I covered in paper and vaselined a week ago - see previous post.

Most of the detritus is bits of wax, pollen and sundry rubbish. The brown blob in the middle is a varroa mite. In all I counted about 12 on the sheets - not too bad.

Second photo shows the mite in context of One Pound coin. The mite is bottom right.

The third photo is the best focus that son Joe could achieve. We really need a macro lens.

You can just about make out its claws.

The next post will show the varroa count after the first treatment - icing sugar - which I will apply after removing the honey next weekend.

Tout a l'heure, mes braves!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Bees for Development - my sponsored charity

I had been thinking that I should give some of my ill-gotten, no - hard-won - gains to a charity.

So Bees for Development it is, then.

I will buy tamper seals from Thorne's to put on each jar.

That way, I can get buyers to donate 10p a jar.

Monday, 3 August 2009


Perishers! There were several dozen inside the hive. The bees try to kill them, but the wasps are quite nimble.

I will go back tomorrow with wasp traps and I will narrow the hive entrance to make it more defensible (defendable?). The wasps were sneaking in round the edges of the entrance.

Putting in a Varroa screen

I had removed the bottom board of the new hive, leaving the hive with just the Open Mesh Floor between the bees and the open air.

It's a healthy thing to do, because they are then well ventilated, which cuts down disease. I particular, it allows varroa mites to fall through the mesh into the grass below, never to return. With a solid floor (like the other hives), the mite could crawl back up, and onto another bee.

In the photo below you can see that I have put two sheets of A4 white paper onto the bottom board, and I have smeared them both with Vaseline. This will glue the mites in place, when they fall, so that I can count the litle buggers.

The next photo is of the bottom board half pushed in.

My plan is to count the mites that fall off in one week, without treatment, and then treat the bees with icing sugar to make them groom, and repeat the count, to see if it is, indeed, an efficacious treatment.

The other treatments that I will use are Apiguard (a preparation of Thymol, a natural extract of, er, Thyme) and Oxalic acid (again, naturally occurring, in rhubarb).

So I will post again with news of the results.