Went down to the bees today, but first I mixed up an autumn sugar syrup feed for them. This has a ratio of 2 pounds of sugar to 1 pint of water. It is important that the sugar is white granulated cane sugar, as brown or beet sugar can give the bees digestive problems. I stirred the sugar in the water over a low heat for a while until the crystals had dissolved, then poured it into an empty coke bottle.
It was cold at the apiary. I poured the syrup into a circular plastic rapid feeder, which is designed in a way that allows the bees to drink the syrup without risk of drowning. I was surprised to see the ladies bringing back large amounts of a bright yellow pollen. Looking at this pollen colour chart it may have been sunflower, which surprisingly I have seen blooming this week – but I suspect it must be something more common than sunflower for the bees to be finding so much pollen from it. Does anyone have any ideas?
Other beekeepers were feeding their bees a product called Ambrosia, which the beekeeping suppliers Thornes sell. It is a clear sugar solution which has substances added to it which are supposed to help keep the bees healthy (if that sounds vague, it’s because I don’t have a clue what these substances are!). You really need a car to get some though – heavy to lug about on the bus, especially as a Thornes shop is not really nearby to me.
We all admired a nucleus hive made by one of the Ealing Association members who is a very skilled carpenter (many local beekeepers seem to be retired engineers, carpenters, mechanics or people with other practical skills which I’m very jealous of). He is selling them for £30-£40, a generous price which doesn’t make much of a profit for him.
Two of our most prolific honey producers, a married couple called Alan and Betty, brought along some of their brace comb honey (from comb which the bees have built up on the walls or ceiling outside the foundation frames) for us to try. It had a beautiful flavour to it which was worth getting my hands all sticky for! I brought some home in a cup for Drew, who was initially very suspicious of this honey in a comb, but seemed to enjoy it once he tried it. The comb is edible but very chewy, so most people just suck the honey out.
The day ended with a look at a jar of honey which a beekeeper wanted to enter in the National Honey Show in October, the UK’s biggest honey show. Everyone agreed that it was a nice clear, dark colour. The judges mark for viscosity, aroma and flavour. There are all sorts of classes to enter your honey in – light, medium, dark, chunk, ling heather, soft set, cut comb to name but a few. The beekeeper was advised to enter her jar in the London class, which is less strict on the jar presentation rules and only requires a single jar with any type of lid. There is even an essay prizewinning challenge, which this year is on the subject “Bees and Darwin”. The 2011 essay subject is “Disastrous Beekeeping Purchases”! There is a honey fruit cake section, which I may enter one year if I ever get any of my own honey.