Show me the Honey…

A time in the beekeeping calendar has arrived recently for GlastonBees.  It all started when taking 1 super filled with frames of Honey from Gwenyn Mêl 2 (the National hive).  

After taking up the kind offer from a friend, I had the use of his honey extractor for the weekend to speed up the process of collecting honey.  Gwenyn Mêl 2 (the national hive) have a brood chamber and a super to use for their colony development, so the other super filled with honey was considered excess by moi.  
This year I have gone from 1 lovely colony of honey bees to 3 lovely colonies of honey bees.  The 2 newer colonies arrived in June and August, and have yet to produce, what I deem the recommended amount of stores for them to survive through to the spring of 2014.  So without any hesitation, the Honey that was just taken from Gwenyn Mêl will be stored and used to supplement the others as and when required. 

This did baffle the minds of some people who were expecting to get honey from me as soon as some were available.  Well the way I see it is this…  These wonderful ladies have worked their little arses off at every available opportunity to make this Honey and it is the best possible food for them to feed on.  

Why another person would take most of this honey from the lovely honey bees and replace it with a sugar syrup or ambrosia, is something which I struggle with.  I understand that there is a potential financial gain to be made, but I believe that bees should only eat honey, and their own at that.  They should only be provided an alternative such as sugar syrup if it is the last resort, as a matter of survival. The benefits of the bees must be prioritised before the benefit of the beekeeper.

So far there has been only 2 jars of honey taken from the heavily laden container.  This wonderful Cwmbran honey tastes amazing, yes I may be biased but those who have tasted it have also agreed, that it tastes better than shop-bought honey.

For the time being the honey bees living in my hives will be closely watched to check on the amount of food stores that they have, with plenty of food in standby incase they need a help in hand.

Nos da bawb

Resistance is futile Gwenyn Mel 2…

This morning I returned to the workshop to check on the previous days swarm from Gwenyn Mel 2.  I peeked inside the window and was greeted by the sight of a mass of bees… Excellent… I thought, they like their new home…

At this point I decided to phone my Warré beekeeping friend and guru that is David Heaf.  We were have a nice chat about the bees and other bee related lines of conversation when I noticed that the bees in the Warré hive had decided that the Warré was just not quite adequate enough for them.  Hundreds, then thousands of them were pouring out of the hive and getting ready to swarm again.  Thankfully I was speaking with David who gave me short and simple advice to fix this little quandary.

Time to don the suit and gloves again and get the box ready to collect the absconded bees.  Without hesitation they went into the same field as yesterday, probably ready to have a laugh at my expense watching me clamber over that fence again.  This time though they decided to go that little further and thankfully for me settled on some ferns about 3 foot off the ground around 200 metres away in the next field over again. 

I really did not want to lose this prime swarm from Gwenyn Mel 2, they were a large swarm who have worked wonders so far this year, and as it happens, came from the swarm that I collected last August 29th 2012 which thinking back now was quite a memorable day.

Well the bees are now in the box, time to return them immediately to their Warré with one slight modification.  Once again the bees has changed my plans for the day but I intended this to be as swift as it could possibly bee.

After another debacle, climbing over the fence, I headed straight for my workshop to collect a queen excluder.  The bees were placed nearby the hive while I got it ready for their arrival.  Time to remove the roof, quilt, top bar cloth and top bars and place all of it to one side, as I placed a queen excluder between the bottom box and next box up.  It is a somewhat surreal experience transferring bees from cylindrical container to a hive, literally pouring bees from one box into another and using a brush to gently persuade the others to go in also.

I returned the top bars, top bar cloth, quilt and roof as quickly as possible without causing more disruption to them.  The reason for the queen excluder this time it to prevent the queen passing through into the bottom box and absconding again, taking the rest of them for another adventure.  The queen excluder will stay in situ for a couple of days just to ensure that they decide to settle in this home, so they can make it their own.

After allowing them to settle down, the visible signs of the queen inside were becoming apparent, with bees heading into the Warré hive and bee bums raised in the air telling all others to head this way, excellent…

Time for reflection and calm now… 

So as I lay down beside them to watch them regain order from their adventure from the previous hour, I begin making films and taking more photos, not only for my memory, but also so that I can share my experiences with you, as I’m sure you want to have a small insight into our adventures.  

Hopefully my record of photos and films will inspire you or others to get involved with bees or maybe even help you one day if you so happen to bee in a similar situation yourself.  

Anyway, time now for me log off and have some nice happy dreams.


The swarmy ones

On Tuesday 16th July I was sat on the bench just outside my workshop taking in the view and enjoying a well deserved break.  There was beautiful sunlight and an overpowering heat from the sun, freshly picked radishes to munch on, horses to watch, birds to listen to and then there is a noise…

This noise was gradually getting louder as the time flowed on by me.  I looked up and there was the reason for this noise, it was my bees.  There must of been a few dozen of them flying around in patterns around 3 foot above my head, within a few minutes there were hundreds of bees and the noise was dominating more and more… Oh well break time is over…

I stood up and stepped towards the hive to see what was happening, it appeared that the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 were thinking about swarming.  Quickly I went to the workshop to retrieve my bee suit, gloves, a box and most importantly my phone, as I needed to make a quick phone call to cancel some work that I was expected to go to that afternoon and so that I could record this experience.

The sky in front of me was transforming before my very eyes, the previously mentioned hundreds of bees had increased to thousands, then increased to tens of thousands, honey bees were flying in amazing swirling patterns in the sky, the noise of their tiny wings flapping was inspiring, obviously my first thoughts were to record this experience and share it with you.

I was fully kitted out with suit and gloves with a phone recording some of the Honey bee adventures. 

Ever so gradually they were hovering towards the hedge line nearby, so I clambered through the ditch to look into the next field to see the general direction that they were heading in.  Luckily for me they began to settle on a branch nearby, however to get to it was not going to be an easy task.  So after moving along the hedge line I noticed a potential way through into the adjacent field, but it did require climbing through a heavily overgrown ditch with stingy nettles, brambles and a temporary wooden barrier.

They were only 10 metres from their hive, but it must of took me 10 minutes just to get to them.  More filming of the swarm was required, my senses were in overdrive, being in awe of the noise that was being produced by the bees, awe of the sight of tens of thousands of bees flying around me, again in these amazing swirling patterns.  However I was there to collect the majority of the bees, place them into the box and return them to another home made by me.

Whilst waiting for the bees to settle down, I began to struggle with the heat from the sun, it was 1430hrs or 2.30pm on a cloudless, scorcher of a day, sweat was coming from parts of my body I didn’t realise sweated.

After waiting for them to settle down and recording their activities on film, it was time to move them back towards their new home.  After another fence climbing expedition and walking an incredibly long way around I was back on familiar ground.  I decided to settle them down on the lawn under the shade from an apple tree.  The box was turned upside down with an entrance made for them to return, as they all settle back down, then a tarpaulin sheet was placed over the top of the box to exclude as much light as possible.  They finally calmed down around 1715hrs or 5.15pm, just enough time for me to change attire and drive to the reservoir to do a spot of cooling down in a kayak.

The plan was… To leave them inside the box to calm down, return after kayaking around 2100hrs 9pm to transfer them into a new home.  This time my accommodation choice for them had changed, previously they had lived inside one of my National Beehives, now however they were to be moved into my brand new and sparkling Warré Hive.  

After some assistance from a fantastically, patient friend, we managed to move them into their new Warré and left them alone in peace to adjust to their new surroundings.  

All that is left to do tonight is, return my friend home, and for me I must return in the morning to check on the lovely ladies.  TIme for bed I think.

Nos da, cysgu yn dda

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.

The hive is alive… With the sight of flying…

Once I got to the workshop this Wednesday morning, before entering I noticed a honey bee on the floor.   So after a massive grin appeared on my face I headed towards Gwenyn Mel 2 to see what I could see.

What a glorious sight… Dozens of lovely ladies flying around the entrance and heading out into the wilderness of Cwmbran.

I thought that this is an excellent opportunity to check a little further on how the ladies are coping in their home.  And so after heading into the workshop to don my bee suit and grabbing my phone (which takes great photos) I headed back to the ladies to get a closer look…

After 5 minutes of watching their flying habitats I lifted the roof to give a very quick check on how much food they have left. Excellent to see their own food and some of my food which I gave them still there.  I helped them out by removing dead bees from the top and closed the hive up after a few seconds.

My excitement on seeing them meant, that I just HAD to hang around for a little while longer to watch them fly. I have missed seeing them over the winter period, watching them coming into land, the noise they make, even missed them walking over my fingers.

Honey bees bring me great satisfaction and I want to share my enthusiasm with you. One way for me to do this is to take photos so you can also admire them, but I have one problem with this… These photos do not do any justice when compared to getting up close and personal with them around their home.

As wonderful as these photos are… They can not portray the impact they have on my senses such as smell and sound.

So after seeing the ladies doing well today, my thoughts are now aware that it is time, for the temperamental part of year that is… the end of winter into early spring time (quite often the hardest time for our Honey bees).

Snow… On a positive note…

So the Met offices “red alert” of snow has came down upon us here in South East Wales.  The ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 live near the workshop, so this morning I decided to walk the nearly 3 miles, almost all uphill to go and pay them a visit.

I left the house this morning, armed with snow boots, waterproofs, gloves, a very warm hat and a phone.

The streets were quiet from vehicles, instead people were walking, children and adults sledding  on every available slope, snowballs a-flying and everywhere looked so beautiful.


As my walk continued, I stopped and said hello to many people, I got a mixed bag of conversations from people, but quite a lot were negative about the snow.  The reasons for the negativity, were their inability to get to work, children at home when they should be in school, panic buying in shops, and that they must resort to walking.

This got me thinking… Why must there be so much negative thoughts?

On a positive note… everywhere and everything looks so different, so beautiful, it gives time for people to have time together where they would otherwise be in work or school.

The streets were reclaimed by pedestrians walking on the roads looking at their surroundings, some taking photos, smiling, walking their dogs, having fun, lots of people seemed to be more friendly talking to otherwise strangers (aka me).

So my journey continues onward and upwards towards the workshop, it begins snowing the further up the hill I go to where I reached the entrance.

The driveway was in at least 8 inches of fresh, unspoiled snow, and everywhere had a very natural feel.

I ignore and walk past the workshop and head straight to the honey bees. Hmmm, boy am I glad I came up when I did.  Their home is a National beehive (one I built naturally) and sits upon two wooden pallets to keep away from the ground.  Even so a snow drift had formed half the way up the brood chamber, that must be 18 inches to 2 foot off the ground.  So I cleared around the hive of all snow and can now only hope that the ladies are fine inside.

To help me out this week, I spoke to the local resident to ask them to check on the hive once or twice a day to clear the hive of any further snow.   I have faith that I will see the ladies again soon.

My return journey home was much the same as coming up, it was great to see so many people outside, dressed appropriately, making the most of the outdoors.  I popped into my mothers place of work and had a lovely cuppa tea made before heading back home.

All in all, it was a great few hours walk, talk to complete strangers, and time to appreciate the natural beauty that the snow has brought. 

Feeding the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2

It’s time to check on the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 (Honey Bee 2).  So I paid the ladies a visit the other day to see how they’re coping with our mild, yet damp winter so far and to check on their food quantities.

This is a normal requirement for a lot of beekeepers alike to ensure that these hard working ladies have enough food to live on and if not, introduce some food into the hive to ensure they make the spring time ready for the next burst in natures life and reproduction cycle.

Honey bees who are being cared for by a beekeeper have been working in partnership through at least, the previous summer, maybe even spring or longer.  This usually means that they have spent considerable time working together to build up enough storage of food to ensure their survival through to the next spring.  

As for the ladies of Gwenyn Mel 2 and myself, our lives came together in 29th August 2012.  For those that are unaware, what this means is that, this is not a lot of time for them to produce enough honey for themselves in their own preparations for the looming cold and damp months (not much different to the summer of 2012 really). 

Due to the amount of rain that fell on this area from September on-wards to ensure that there are still lovely ladies in the hive come spring, I needed to introduce an emergency drastic feeding regime.  

I have been keeping a close eye on them, more so than I would normally as they live just metres away from my workshop.  Always managing to spend some quality time sitting near their home just watching their activity, for which time just seems to fly by as I get absorbed by their behaviour.

Because they have not had enough time or suitable weather conditions to build up their own supply, I have needed to step in and supplement them.  Some will agree with me for doing this but some others will not, stating that bees would not normally eat manufactured sugar so therefore I should not feed them and just let nature take its course. 

Well personally my plans are to feed them through this winter into spring (if needed) and allow them to build up their own stores next year ready for the winter of 2013, therefore living a more natural life.  I must point out that I’m not spending my time with Gwenyn Mel 2 so that I can take their honey, I will leave more than enough for them to survive on.  So hopefully next summer will bee a great one and they can bee as natural as possible.

So anyway, back to why I came here… to update you…  The food level for the ladies was low, so some fondant was needed.  Time to get onto the internet to learn how to make my very own fondant, which is needed this time of year.  There was a wonderfully explained video found on how to make fondant which meant I needed to put my chef hat on.  

After a few curious looks from onlookers (there’s just no trust when I’m in the kitchen) I proceeded to make a “slight mess” which was fully cleaned up afterwards, there now proudly sits, made by moi, 5 little trays with fondant in readyness to pass onto Gwenyn Mel 2 as and when required.

Yesterday I paid the ladies a visit and placed a small amount (no bigger than a 10 pence piece) of fondant in through the crown board to see their reaction.  Within seconds, 2 of the little darlings were busy with their tongues, within a minute, there were a few dozen over the fondant.

Woo hoo…  Success…

So as quick as my hands would allow me, I lifted the crown board enough to place the contents of 1 of the trays directly on top of them and lower the crown board again.  Staying briefly to watch the ladies and ensure that my home cooking was not a one off, I returned the roof and stepped back.

I think I will check on them quickly later in the week just to gauge how fast they eat this fondant as this is the first time that I have ever needed to do this as previously they were left copious amounts of their own food.

Take care and will speak to you soon   

If you are interested, there are a few photos of Gwenyn Mel 2 in their very own photo album which can be found on my facebook page by clicking HERE