Hunny time

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.

Marking Queen Lavender

Marking Queen Lavender

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…

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
This entry was posted in Colony management, Disease prevention, Honey, Queens and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Hunny time

  1. Anthony says:

    Good for you!!! Glad to hear about your honey and can’t wait to read how the extraction went. What are you planning to do with your bounty!! 😉


    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks Anthony! It will be given to friends and family. I ordered 100 mini jars from Thornes which are a tiny taster size, so I can give a bit to lots of people. Will save a bit for me too of course! Mmm honey on toast, honey on yogurt…


  2. Liz C says:

    Yay! Glad you got some honey! Would love to try a little bit if you have enough to go round…


  3. willowbatel says:

    Do you think Lavenders hive is going to have time to build itself up before winter? I got my nuc of bees last year on August first and they didn’t make it through the winter. And I had to feed them a ton. I suppose they’ve still got the stores they worked for all year, but the population expantion is the problem this late in the year. I guess there is still time… We’ll see!
    Glad you got to gather some honey. If everything goes well next year I might be able to get some myself!


    • Emily Heath says:

      I hope so. They’re on about six-seven frames and we’re feeding them. The problem has been this three week gap in egg laying while Lavender hatched and mated. If she’s a good layer that should help them catch up. Hope you do get some honey next year too, it’s a lot of work to get a bit of honey isn’t it?! But luckily I’m in it as much for the love of the bees as anything.


      • willowbatel says:

        Yeah, I suppose your bees will have a better chance of survival since they’ve already got a bunch of stores and aren’t starting completely from scratch.
        I’ve been told it’s the most expensive honey in the world! I’ve paid… over $600 (418 Euros [the value of the euro has gone way down hasn’t?]) for all my gear and the two colonies I’ve had to get already and I haven’t gotten so much as a drop of honey yet. But I agree. I’m more in it for the bees than their honey.
        Wasn’t the Euro worth a little more than half again as much as the dollar not too long ago? Have the riots in England wreaked that much havoc on the economy? I suppose it doesn’t help that the stock market over here dropped 500 points yesterday. I geuss they rebounded up 430 points or something like that today, but it’s still a signficant drop.


        • Emily Heath says:

          I don’t follow the changes to the Euro so not sure sorry. The financial problems in Greece and Spain have probably contributed. The English riots should only have dented the pound I would have thought, but then I don’t know much about the financial markets.

          Keeping bees certainly is a ridiculously expensive and time consuming way of getting honey!


          • willowbatel says:

            Oh, I thought the pound and the Euro were the same thing… The countries are all so close together over there, why don’t they just print the same money? I mean, when you have 4 or 5 countries that could fit into one state in the US, it seems silly for them to all have different currencies. I suppose that’s the only way to keep their markets seperate though isn’t it? Hmm… I’m taking a marketing class next quarter, so hopefully things make more sense after that!
            It is! Which is weird because it really doesn’t require anything when you think about it. All you need is a box and some bees and you’re good to go. The bee’s will handle the rest.


            • Emily Heath says:

              No, pounds and Euros are very different, you can’t use pounds in Europe or Euros in the UK. Some people here are in favour of switching to Euros, but probably more people want to keep things separate. Though technically we’re close to Europe, pyschologically the sea between England and everything else makes me feel very removed. Would make popping to France on the Eurostar even more handy if we all used Euros so I’d be in favour of switching over.


  4. Of course, I forgot we were burning lavender when Sarah suggested christening our new queen! Gosh, I hope she survives my attempts to mark her! I’ll take Queen Lavender’s hive syrup midweek and again at the weekend. Lavender will build up the colony for sure – she comes from a good line! We could always add a frame of capped worker brood from Rosemary’s hive at the end of August to help her along.


  5. middleofmae says:

    Those are some beautiful-looking frames of capped honey! I read your later post, sorry to hear they were such a messy business to extract, but I’m sure the experience and the joy of beekeeping certainly makes it worth it. (:


  6. Pingback: A taste of honey at the Chelsea Physic Garden | Miss Apis Mellifera

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