Category Archives: Things to do in November

How to unite bees – the Newspaper Method

The most common scenarios when you might want to unite two colonies of bees include:

  • When one of them is queenless;
  • When one of them has a vile queen and you are about to make them queenless;
  • When one or both colonies are too weak in the approach to winter.

Most bee books will tell you to unite the two using the ‘newspaper method’ Continue reading How to unite bees – the Newspaper Method

November Ivy

It’s amazing that the ivy came into bloom in early August this year and it is still flowering and the bees are working it 3 months later!

Admittedly the earliest flowering ivy was a few miles downhill from here and we are on up on the north face of a chilly hill where most things are late, however – it’s still quite a spread you must admit.

Every warm day now, the bees are all over it gathering pollen and whatever nectar there may be. Spot the bee – click on the photo below for a better view.

Honey bee working the ivy (Hedera helix) in November
Honey bee working the ivy (Hedera helix) in November

Some of the flowers in this picture were pollinated some time ago and you can see the berries developing, russet now but black later. Some are still in full bloom and others are only buds. These last will almost certainly not open at all.

How to overwinter an Apidea

At the end of the summer, it is not always possible to find a colony in need of a new queen, especially after a summer as good as this one (2014) when it seems all the queens mated well. Nor is it always possible to find colonies with sufficient sealed brood to make up a nuc without weakening them unduly before winter. So what to do with those last, late queens in your Apideas?

Here is the quandary I found myself in this year: I had several sad little queenless Apideas and two other strong ones, each with five frames (feeder removed) and with good laying queens in them. I can never quite face shaking the poor queenless bees out, nucs weren’t possible and there’s nothing so sad as watching an Apidea dwindle its way into winter with laying workers and a bellyful of slugs.

So here’s the recipe: Continue reading How to overwinter an Apidea

Acetic Acid Fumigation

If you have old brood frames it is always a good idea to fumigate them before using them again to kill Nosema spores and wax moth. However,  be sure they don’t come from a hive where the bees died of AFB. If you aren’t sure, or if frames contain patches of old sealed brood it’s probably best to burn them.

If the wax is old and very black it is best to strip these frames down and add fresh foundation in the spring – you’ll seldom find AFB in nice clean frames. Continue reading Acetic Acid Fumigation

Rendering Beeswax

Beeswax is one of the most recalcitrant substances known to man and rendering beeswax is  not for the faint-hearted, so gird yer loins and don’t use the kitchen.

For the beekeeper, honey is probably his most profitable harvest but it is not the only one. The next most important crop, for most, is beeswax, of which there are three sources:

  • Cappings from your honey extraction;
  • Old combs;
  • Scrapings from hive.

Beeswax has a thousand and one cosmetic and domestic uses but unless a good price can be assured the most fundamental use for the beeswax crop is as new foundation. Continue reading Rendering Beeswax

Easy Beeswax Handcream Recipe

This is a really simple and nourishing handcream recipe – in fact you could probably eat it.

If you’re not planning to eat it you could add fragrance but it’s lovely as it is. Just apply sparingly as possible and try and keep it off your palms because it doesn’t contain those chemicals that make it vanish into your skin.

If you do get greasy palms – rub it on your head. Your hair will be glossy as a colt’s back and even on a very windy day – it’ll hold it all down nicely.

Weigh everything including the water.

Ingredients

  • 50g spotlessly clean beeswax
  • 200g jojoba oil
  • 200g almond oil
  • 200g soft water
  • 10 g borax

Method

  • This will make 9 x 50ml pots so get them ready first;
  • Measure oils into a pyrex bowl;
  • Break up beeswax and add to oils;
  • Set pyrex bowl in pan of hot water and set on low heat to melt wax;
  • When beeswax is melted put water and borax into a jar, mix then warm this mixture so it is the same temperature as the oil etc;
  • Pour oil/beeswax mixture and boraxed water both together at the same time into a bowl and stir;
  • A creamy mixture will form and you need to get it into pots before it sets and it will set quite quickly.

Click here for how to render beeswax

Click here for beeswax facts

Click here for beeswax lipbalm recipe

Click here for beeswax furniture polish recipe

Click here for beeswax soap recipe

Click here for beeswax candlemaking

Copyright © Beespoke.info, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Book Review: ‘Breeding Techniques and Selection for Breeding of the Honeybee’ by Friedrich Ruttner

This is a book for the winter; it is a slim volume – a mere 150 pages – but like a nutritious meal with plenty of fibre it requires time, concentration and a lot of chewing. When you read a book like this you realise just how little you know about bees – it really is packed with information.

He begins with queen rearing. Every aspect of queen rearing, from the selection of a queen rearing method, selection of starter and rearer colonies, queenright versus queenless, selection of eggs and larvae or queens and drones, even selection of the right bees for mini-nucs all is gone over with meticulous attention to detail, logical consideration and backed up with scientific study.

Detailed information on the mechanics of the various queen rearing manipulations is also supplied.

After pointing out the difference between queen rearing and bee breeding he moves on to consider which bee to breed from and points out that only breeding within a pure species will result in traits which are heritable. Good qualities often found in hybrids are not passed on reliably to the next generation so: “The starting point in breeding must therefore be the race, that is to say, a combination of genetic qualities sieved and tested by Nature herself.”

There is variability within each race, the performance of colonies can be evaluated and stocks either included or excluded from the breeding program depending on their characteristics. He gives six factors to be evaluated –

  • Honey production;
  • Spring build up;
  • Urge to draw foundation;
  • Absence of signs of inbreeding – gappy brood;
  • Gentleness;
  • Steadiness on the comb.

The identification of the chosen species is vital of course and much information is given on the methods such as observable characteristics such as colour, size and hairiness and less obvious features which can only be detected by more scientific methods such as wing morphometry.

I’m not going to go into wing morphometry here except to say that it is the study and and measurement of the veins and panels in the wings of the honeybee. From a distance this can look like a bottle of smoke until when you realise that these measurements are calibrated against those of preserved museum samples of bees from as far back as the Vikings – long before the importation of bees was thought of.

A chapter on bee genetics is never going to read like a bodice ripper but there should be a better way of getting this message across. Simply put – inbreeding is to be avoided or you’re going to get sluggish bees with gappy brood that don’t build up, can’t be bothered to go out to work and don’t overwinter with thrift or efficiency. Ring any bells?

This book is no walk in the park, nothing containing this level and amount of detailed information could be, but it is a vital reference-section occupant for the beekeeper’s bookshelf and for anyone serious about conserving their native bee it is essential reading – however difficult.

Good luck!

Copyright © Beespoke.info, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Winter Reading

After a day as cold and windy as today thoughts turn to cosy nights in by the fire with a good book. Here are some recommendations for beekeepers.

The first beekeeping book I ever read was Ted Hooper’s ‘Guide to Bees and Honey’ which is still the best book for beginners in my opinion. It’s so well written I sat down one week in winter and read it from cover to cover like a novel. The following spring I got bees and the fun began.

After a couple of years struggling with swarmy bees, I bought L.E.Snelgrove’s book ‘Swarming – its Control and Prevention’ which summarises the causes of swarming and the traditional means of prevention and also introduces the ingenious and adaptable Snelgrove board – a piece of equipment no beekeeper should be without.  Continue reading Winter Reading