Winter beekeepers

We are having a cold snap of frosty mornings and even light sprinklings of snow occasionally. Last Saturday some hardy Ealing winter beekeepers gathered round our outside table, sheltered from the elements only by a canopy to keep the rain off and tea to warm the insides. The local robin hopped round inquisitively, doubtlessly hoping for Don’s usual present of meal worms, or perhaps some cake crumbs.

On such a dour day, I felt something special was required to lift the spirits, so I brought along a chocolate cake. This recipe is from the ‘River Cottage Handbook No.8: Cakes‘, which is my favourite cake book and really contains every cake recipe you could ever need. Often I find chocolate cakes can be a bit dry or too sweet, but the ground almonds and buttermilk in this one gave it a lovely texture and taste.

Chocolate cake

There was not much beekeeping to be done, just a quick walk round the apiary to heft hives and check on their weight with the help of Andy Pedley’s scales. He found our hive weight to be 32 kilos, of which he estimated 20 kilos would be honey stores. This he thought sufficient to get the bees through winter. They have already started eating their winter fondant and made two holes in the centre, so we will need to keep an eye on that over the coming months to ensure they don’t run out.

Pat and John honey dipping

Emma went on holiday and brought back some delicious honey for Pat and John!

Pat Turner and John Chapple honey tasting

Bee Blessed honey

I was very lucky too, as she gave me some beeswax candles and lip balm. Thank you Emma!

Tomorrow is the Ealing beekeepers annual AGM and Christmas party. After the business of the AGM, the day descends into a frenzy of eating good food and drinking (those brave enough get to try the hearty homemade beer and mead concoctions brewed up by wise old beekeepers).

Some funny conversations have been going on in Twitter about Ealing cakes.

First I posted a recipe for fried honeybee pupae, to which @dunbarrover replied that he finds raw pupae very tasty.

Emma kindly replied that she would rather eat my cakes, unless forced to eat larvae by the event of a zombie apocalypse.

We were then challenged by @dunbarrover to provide proof that our cakes were proper ones.

Emma took up the challenge.

Success! The cake was accepted as a good old wholesome cake, not “gaudy cupcake strumpetry”.

Happy winter beekeeping everyone  – not long now till the winter solstice, after which the queen’s laying will gradually start to pick up again in response to slowly increasing day lengths. We will be doing oxalic acid soon, as a couple of weeks after the first frosts is the ideal time, when there is least likely to be brood in the hive.

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.
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12 Responses to Winter beekeepers

  1. You are fortunate to have such a delightful group of beekeepers there. The cake looks delicious and “gaudy cupcake strumpetry” cracked me up.


  2. disperser says:

    The honey looks amazing. Beelicious, even.


  3. I agree with Emma that little short of a zombie apocalypse would persuade me to dine on bee pupae (and maybe not even then). “gaudy cupcake strumpetry” made me laugh out loud — thank goodness I had just set down my cup of tea before I read that, or I’d have had a real mess to clean up. Congratulations on producing cakes that passed the granny test!


  4. Mei says:

    a truly welcome post for these dank and dreary days – roll on the winter solstice so we may all look forward to lengthening days soon.

    loved the expression gaudy cupcake strumpetry


    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks Mei! Andrew came up with “gaudy cupcake strumpetry”, he is hilarious and well worth following on Twitter. As Emma said to me the other day, only three months till we start seeing our bees properly again…


  5. I am glad that I arrived in time for that cake! Love the Twitter saga – have you heard, LBKA want a bake off! 🙂


  6. Alex Jones says:

    One thing to try for 2013 is make some homemade mead.


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