Yesterday was all about the honey. After three years of trying, I finally have some!
On Friday Emma put a Porter bee escape on our super, which allows the bees to go down but not up so we can come along and nick their honey. Emma also sealed round the super with tape in case any wasps tried to get in while the super was undefended.
The bee escape…
And the super yesterday afternoon, still with a few bees left on. I brushed these off with a bee brush frame-by-frame and handed them to Emma, who had cleverly brought bin bags with her to put each frame in, keeping them protected from wasps and robber bees.
We only got six frames in the end, because the others hadn’t been capped yet. We wouldn’t have harvested so early except that it was decided everyone at the apiary had to start Apiguard treatment this weekend (Apiguard is a thymol-based anti-varroa treatment). If we had left the super on for the bees to finish capping with the Apiguard on there, we would have had thyme flavoured honey. Technically edible, but a wee bit strong.
Inside, Rosemary’s hive was doing very well. Bees spilled out from everywhere and it was tricky picking up the frames without squashing any. They have done very well at sticking the queen excluder down – you can see the pattern all over the frame tops. Next year we will have to get one of the proper wooden framed ones which they can’t stick down in the middle.
I was nervous about opening the other hive up, old Queen Rose’s hive, as we had left it alone for a couple of weeks while the new virgin queen in there was out on mating flights. Would we have a mated queen in there? Or a load of laying workers?
At first it didn’t look good. There weren’t many bees and no sign of brood. But then a little further in I saw rows of neatly laid eggs; and suddenly a sharp-eyed person spotted the new queen! There she is in the centre of the photo below, long and dark like her mum.
I had a queen marking kit with me; Emma did a good job of getting her in the queen marking cage very quickly and then I attempted to mark her. And tried again. And again. The pen was touching her thorax but nothing was happening. It wouldn’t make a mark on the back of my hand either. Bloody Thornes. Eventually Albert managed to get it working and Emma successfully dotted her white.
We wondered what to call the new queen. “Lavender?” Sarah suggested and we liked that. Lavender is appropriate as we were burning sweet-scented lavender in the smoker as we inspected. Long live Queen Lavender.
And finally on with the Apiguard. You can see this colony is much smaller than Queen Rosemary’s colony above, so we only put half the usual treatment portion on. We’ll put the other half on in two weeks time. Rosemary’s hive got a full portion. The treatment works because the worker bees dislike the thymol stink. They start removing the gel to clean the hive and remove the foreign smell, distributing it round the colony and killing off varroa mites in the process. It has a high efficiency rate, killing 90-95% of varroa mites in a hive if the treament is done properly. It has no harmful effects for the bees, just the inconvenience of a stinky hive.
This is getting to be a long post so I think I’ll do another on how the honey extraction went later in the week! To be continued…