A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My Girl's

Although I quite often write about my army of ladies, the Bees, every now and again I like to show off my 2 ladies. This photo was taken at a recent WPBKA apiary meeting and was the first time Lauren went to the Bees. She was brilliant for the time she was there but got a Bee in her suit so Steph dealt with that and then took her back to the house.





Friday, 30 May 2014

Malta

Malta is a tiny country in the Mediterranean closest to Sicily. It takes barely an hour to travel from one end of the island to the other (it takes even longer if you keep going the wrong way and having to backtrack). The name Malta is thought to derive from the Greek word μέλι or meli, which means honey and the ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη, pronounced Melite (info taken from good old Wikipedia). This is believed to be due to Malta having its own endemic species of honey bee and being well known for its honey production.

Me, Steph, Lauren and Steph's Aunt have just come back from a 10 day holiday in Malta and in that time got to see a large amount of the tiny Mediterranean island and it's even smaller island, Gozo. Whilst we were there we had various sites we wanted to visit, including some that were used to film the first series of Game of Thrones! One site I really wanted to see was in a town called Xemxija, near the north of the island. In this town there is an area which has  several ancient sites including burial grounds, a Bronze Age village site, Neolithic remains and a Roman apiary site! Not surprising the area I was most interested in was the ancient apiary site. At the end if this post there will be some photos showing the area.

On Sundays there is a major fish market held in a town called Marsaxlokk, to the southeast of the island near to where we were staying. The town is fairly peaceful and quiet during the week but on a Sunday it seems like half the island descends upon this area for the fresh fish that is sold there. By the time we got there the market was well up and running and there were a large variety of fish and shellfish that I recognized and even more that I couldn't. Steph and Lauren weren't too impressed with the smell of the fish although in my opinion it wasn't too bad. Although it is best known as a fish market there was also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables plus toys, clothes and general tourist tat. There was also a stall selling local honey. I bought a sample of 3 varieties of honey from the lady and also talked to her for a short while. Her husband is the Beekeeper and he has over 100 hives spread over Malta and Gozo. I'm a long way off having the time, patience, equipment and sanity to have that many Bees but maybe when I retire it could be an option. Below are lots of pictures of the Bee related parts of the holiday.




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The 3 sample honey's I bought at Marsaxlokk

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Inside one of the apiary caves - The bees would have been kept in these upturned jars.

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More inside the cave.

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The apiary site from outside.

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Yet another inside the caves.

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A different apiary site in same area.

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Below is a small selection of the photos I took of Bees on flowers.

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Bees and a beetle on a flower.
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I think this is my favorite!

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Spring Honey Extracted

Continued on from my last post, which had no photos, here is the process with photos!

Spring honey extraction
Steph tending the smoker


Spring honey extraction
Lots of full frames of honey


Spring honey extraction
All capped and ready to go


Spring honey extraction
Using a sharp knife I sliced the cappings off


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Spring honey extraction
My brand new extractor - the plastic protective layer has since been removed


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More cappings sliced off


Spring honey extraction
The extractor takes 4 frames at a time


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Honey and bits of wax going into a 2 stage strainer


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A part bucket of honey 2 days after extraction, it has set solid!


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The full bucket of honey - again set solid. There's approximately 15 kg in there!

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After vigorously beating and stirring the set part bucket of honey I was able to get it soft enough to put some in jars.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Spring Honey

I have recently come back from a family holiday in Malta (which will be the subject of another post) and all the time I have been away I have had in the back of my mind the honey in the combs. At this time of year there is oil seed rape (OSR) in the surrounding fields to my apiary and OSR honey is well known for it's properties of setting solid in the cells. Before I went on holiday I did conduct an inspection and at that point there were several frames of honey ready for extraction however I didn't have enough time to get hold of an extractor before my holiday.

The first chance I got to go to see the Bees I was especially lucky to have my wife with me to help as once I'd opened the first hive it was clear that we were going to be taking lots of honey from the hives. The first colony I checked had the most and I still didn't take it all. I think I took approximately 12 frames from the first hive. When I moved onto the second hive it was clear there wasn't as much honey to take but there was still about another 8 frames! Between me and Steph we got the job done quite fast; Steph operating the smoker and passing me equipment while I shook the Bees off the frames and took them to the side to be taken away later. I also did a quick inspection while in the hives and couldn't find any queen cells, although there was a huge amount of Bees therefore they could be near to swarming.

After we had finished in the hives we headed off home with 2 supers mostly full of honey. I was unable to lift them together and lifting them 1 at a time was a struggle. The next problem was extracting it. The same day I had a WPBKA committee meeting and there I discussed with another member the use of her extractor however while in the meeting I got a notification on my phone telling me I'd been the highest bidder in an auction for an extractor! The extractor arrived 2 days later and I cracked on with extracting the honey. I will put the extraction process in another post.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Bumble Bees and Bits

Over the last week I have been contacted twice by members of the public who believe they have Bees in their house or garden. The first one wasn't sure what kind of Bees they were but they had made a nest in the eaves of his new property and his builders wouldn't return until they had been removed. As this was fairly close to where my mother in law lives and my daughter was staying with her that night I informed the gent that I would pop round and have a look for myself. I took equipment in case they were honey bees and I could get a new colony from them but wasn't hopeful. It turned out that they were in fact Bumble Bees but the nest had already been damaged when the builders removed the roof tile. All that was left were a few sorry looking Bees in a small huddle of approximately 5-6 Bees. I did my best to remove them but they kept flying back. The only advice I could give to the guy was that as the main nest had been destroyed then the likelyhood was that the small amount of Bees would move on soon with them not having a home or a Queen. A shame really as I knew these few Bees were actually doomed.

The second contact I had was someone who believes he has Bumble Bees in his bird box. The advice I gave him was simply to leave them if they are causing no issue as they are very unlikely to sting anyone unless they are provoked but if they have to be removed I will contact my association and see if anyone has more experience with the matter. If they can be relocated safely with minimal harm to the colony that would be preferable.

It has been quite a learning curve being the secretary of my association but rewarding as the amount I am learning and the people I am getting to meet is great. I have been contacted by a school that want someone to come and give a talk on Bees and as no one from my association has got back to me yet I may have to do this myself. Having no experience at giving a talk of this nature I am a bit unnerved but I imagine I could wing it and still come off as knowing what I'm talking about!

Lastly, I will be heading on holiday to Malta soon and hope to visit an ancient Roman Apiary site they have there. I am quite looking forward to it and hope that some locals can point me in the direction of a Maltese Beekeeper to talk to. There has to be a post about that when I come back I reckon!