The Compost Bin Honey Bees

This story begins with a message asking me to get in contact with them as there are Bees in their friends compost bin.  After an initial chat about what the bees look like, and how many of them there are, it was decided to pay them a visit.

The Compost Bins Honey Bees

On a Monday afternoon around 1515hrs we arrived at their address to see for ourselves who was living inside the Compost bin.  It was in fact a colony of Honey Bees and we decided to ask some further questions, to ascertain exactly what we were dealing with.  The family moved into their home in January 2014 with Bees already inside the compost bin.  In around March / April there was a lot of activity with at some point a swarm leaving the compost bin.  This reduced the amount of Honey bees and gave the residents some piece of mind.

The family had a second child recently and were a little anxious of raising a young child whilst living with Honey Bees in their garden, which is why I was contacted to remove them.

As I looked at the compost bin, the honey bees appeared active and healthy for a warm October day. The lid of the compost bin was shut, I was unable to see how big and what condition the colony was without removing the lid and disturbing them.

With the honey bee retrieval equipment at the ready, I turned the lid and carefully removed it.  Wow was the first word that sprung to mind at the initial sight of the colony.  The colony had made some beautifully shaped comb and they had a placid personality.

I managed to place the lid upside down on the floor so we could begin the removal of this colony.  We started by removing all of the honey comb and placing it inside a container, there was some honey inside the comb, but not enough for them to survive until the following spring.

Once the entire comb was removed, I shook the remainder of the Honey Bees into the container.  It was now time to retrieve the Honey bees from the compost bin, therefore it was time to use the bee vacuum.

I turned to the container which now contains the comb and honey bees.  I placed on a lid that had been adapted to take two vacuum hoses and prepared to remove them.  I turned on the vacuum and began sucking up any honey bees found on the compost bin and us, this process did not take long to complete and we were finished and ready to pack up and return home.

After a 45 minute return drive home, all that was left to do was to rehome this colony into their new home, which is my demonstration Warre, so after a little setting up, the beehive was ready.

I placed a queen excluder between the 1st and 2nd box which would contain the Queen inside the beehive.  Comb with honey stored inside was separated from the empty comb and placed on top of the queen excluder to give the colony their honey back to them.  The bees inside the container were then poured into the beehive before we closed up the hive and walked away.

The Compost bin Honey Bees new home

We just have to wait in anticipation to see how these honey bees take to their new Warre beehive.  As long as we see some new comb being built under the top bars, with Honey bees continuing to live inside, hopefully, just hopefully we will see them in the Spring of 2015 ready for another year.

50 Shades of Honey

I remember visiting a friend’s home when they were bottling honey from their beehives, the different colours of each jar was inspiring to me.

A few years later and it is my turn to harvest some honey.  I have only taken a little bit of honey from my hives in the past but this year was more than I was used to.

There are two hives at my workshop, one National and one Warre beehive.  After checking how much honey was there in September, it was decided to take 2 supers from the National beehive and 1 box from the Warre beehive.

Super frame

National super Warre box with honey comb

When the boxes made it home, it was decided to start on the National supers first.  From following the instructions carefully from various websites, we worked on one frame at a time cutting the honey comb out into a container and slicing it up into many pieces to help release the honey.  We then mashed the comb with a potato masher or a pestle.  Once the container was full of mashed up comb, we inserted muslin into the fruit press followed shortly after by our mashed up honey comb.  We continued this until the fruit press was full.

Slicing honey comb Mashing honey comb Honey Press

Before we even started pressing, honey began to flow through the muslin and was on its way.

We began to use the press and with the honey aided by gravity, it flowed through our 2 sieves before falling into a container.  We used sieves to catch any large bits that were not honey, this could have been wax, parts of bees or anything else, this process was repeated until both supers and Warre box were complete.

Honey Press Sieving honey

To my surprise, we harvested 10kg from super 1, 10kg from super 2 and 10.5kg from the Warre box.  What a fantastic surprise to have 30.5kg of pure honey from the most wonderful Honey bees living in Cwmbran, South Wales.

Now that we had a considerable amount of nature’s sweetener, it was decided to keep some and bottle some.  2 different types of jars were purchased and so began the bottling process, this was a most enjoyable experience on my senses.  The sights, smells and of course the tastes were fantastic, even awe inspiring and many other words that I would only find in a thesaurus, or that I make up like fan-dabbie-dosey.

Honey Jar

It was time to think about labels for these jars, it was quickly decided that we would design them ourselves and not pay for the quite frankly boring designs that are widely available or for the fees of a designer.  So after way too many hours learning about a certain design software, a design was chosen.  This however was not the end of the design story, as the printers who were to print them, needed slight modifications to the design for it to work.

Honey Jars

After many, many hours of work, from spending time with the Honey bees, research, cutting honey comb, using a press, bottling honey, tasting honey, designing labels and sending multiple emails to the printers.  This is something of which I thoroughly enjoyed, learnt so much, tasted so much, had so many headaches but would not change any of it.

Checking on the ladies and Natural Beekeeping…

February 14th has been quite an exciting bee day…

Firstly, we had fine weather for the early part of the day, with the sun shining brightly, much less wind and lack of rain, could only mean one thing, check on the ladies…

So this morning when I ventured up to the workshop, the expectation was high on seeing flying bees.  What I got in actuality was somewhat more.

The ladies were flying, which was a great sight to see and relieved some anxiety.  I thought it best to check on their food stores, so after putting on the beekeeping suit I went to get a closer look. 

First impressions were fantastic, there were dozens of the little darlings flying just outside their hive, hovering around the entrance.  Then I noticed even more good news, they were not just stretching their wings, some were venturing much further afield.  

I started to notice pollen coming in, what a great feeling that is, knowing that they’re helping themselves with any opportunity that the weather gives them.  A light rose colour, a pale yellow and a blend of yellow / mustard coloured pollen was entering the hive stored on the back legs of a few bees.

Then I could see the cleaners were busy at work.  They were bringing out dead bees and dragging them about 1 metre away from the entrance before taking a little break and returning to the hive.  

Such great optimistic, visual signs, from just kneeling down besides them, that a healthy colony is bringing home some food, doing a spot of house cleaning and stretching their wings.

As usual I stayed to watch them for a little while to see if any other colours of pollen would bee brought into the hive.

As for this evening I attending a talk hosted by the Gwent Beekeepers Association on Natural Beekeeping by Dr Nicola Bradbear who is a long standing advocate of beekeeping.  She spoke to inform people about what natural beekeeping is all about.  Lots was talked about, with some questions afterwards.  

A “Warre Hive” otherwise known as “the Peoples Hive” was on display which did get quite a bit of attention from interested people.

It was nice to see some old faces (meaning those people I haven’t seen in a while, not describing the demographic of the group), and the confirmation of the benefits that natural beekeeping could bring to the British bee population.

So all in all, it has been a great day, lets see what tomorrow brings.