Winter is the quiet period for the beekeeping year and there is generally not much to be done in terms of active beekeeping. I’ve not had much time to update the project page, but finally as the season starts, I’m dedicating all my time to the project now.
Before I get into the current goings on in the apiary, I’ll just update you with what happened over the winter months.
Treating for Varoa – At the end of October I did a varoa check and fortunately the count was very low. None the less I treated the bees for varoa mite using Apiguard - Apiguard is a slow release gel that ensures correct dosage of its active ingredient, thymol. Thymol is a naturally occurring substance derived from the plant thyme.
After the 6 week treatment, I closed up the hives, put the mouse guards on and let the bees settle for the cold months.
You can see the mouse guard on the front of this hive helping us keep the naughty mice out of the warm hives
Feeding Fondant - Bees tend to be fine with the cold, instead it is excess moisture or the lack of stores that often leads to starvation and loss of colonies. Being a weird kind of winter I did have to check up on the bees before Christmas and placed fondant patties as an emergency store for the colonies, just in case they used up their own stored honey
Treating for Varoa again – during the coldest part of the winter, the queen greatly reduces laying eggs and sometimes even stops laying all together. This tends to happen over the New Year period and is a great time to treat for varoa once again using Oxalic acid (an organic acid). Oxalic acid is a short-lived treatment that only kills mites that are living on the bees (ie. those in a phoretic state). It does not kill mites that are in the brood. When there is brood present in a hive, only about 15% of the mite population are normally on the bees (ie. the rest, 85% are in the brood). It follows, therefore, that oxalic acid works best on colonies that are broodless at the time of treatment.
Fondant? -At the time of treating, I found the bees had consumed a fair bit of the fondant and had to lay some more onto the hive frames just to make sure they had enough stores to last till the spring.
In the picture below, you can see the fondant inside the bag and bits of it on top of the frame where the bees had easy access to it.
We’ve had some great weather over the last 2 weeks and when the temperature finally reached 20 degrees, I ventured out to do this year’s first Hive inspections.
As expected, the bees were busy enjoying the sunshine and were out in full force bringing in pollen to the hives. I found both queens alive and well but could not get a picture as I was alone and didn’t want to risk dropping the frames which had our queens. I did get a picture of the worker bees flying into the hives bringing the precious pollen though – see below
Growing Colonies – It was good to see that the colonies have started expanding and in a few weeks’ time the colonies should be in full swing providing the weather continues to be nice to us.
Conveniently the bees decided to line up for a nice little picture between the frames
Additional apiary site - I also have some other great news. I have managed to find another site for our second apiary. It’s fantastic as it’s set over 100 hectares of land and we can have a couple of sites set up around the area. Once we get started on the apiary I will get some more pictures of the Set up. In the meanwhile, here is a picture of part of the site.
Beehives, Nucs and equipment – I waited till after Christmas to make purchases of equipment. This was a good decision as after the Christmas period, there were lots of offers around and I managed to make the crowdfunding money go a little further. I did put as much of my own money in as I could and have also ordered 6 more nucs. This will mean that if the weather sustains itself, we should have between 8-10 colonies up and running by the end of spring.
I will continue to purchase more nucs as and when they become available and as I manage to save up more money – I’ll try to have a picture of the equipment up soon. It’s still all in boxes stored away safely.
Additional aims and objectives – I’m hoping that by the time we have honey ready for harvest I will have found a location where I can establish a little honey house from where the extraction and bottling can take place. Finding a cost effective processing location has been very difficult especially since we are in London. I’m hoping that someone can offer me some space or I can negotiate a cheap little work area in a disused space which I can kit out with the extractor and settling tanks etc .
I will also need to buy all this extraction equipment.
Website and income generation – I have finally set up the website from where I will now be updating the project page in the blog section so everyone can easily keep updated with what’s going on. Further, if I can raise the money, I’m hoping to put in some new hive monitors into some of the hives so at any point you can log in and see how the bees are doing. Since the monitors are more of a cool technological toy rather than a necessity, I will leave this till last so that money can be but to use more effectively.
The website has also been set up with an integrated e-commerce platform so once all the honey is harvested and bottled; it can be retailed directly on the website. In the mean while I have started selling beeswax, hand-made non-toxic beeswax and Carnauba leather and wood polish and bee friendly wildflower seeds. I will continue to introduce new products as I develop them. At the moment I am working on a traditional recipe wood and leather polish as well as an emulsion polish. They will be available soon.
Our beeswax will also be used to produce some natural cosmetic products such as lip balm and body balm etc. I’m currently getting there tested and approved by a cosmetic chemist (it can take a few months before it’s approved and available). The feedback from my Guinea pig friends has been very good so far ;)
Any profits I am making are being re-invested into expanding the project, buying more equipment, hives, tools etc..
The Link to the website is: http://thelondonbeecompany.com/
The link to the blog is: http://thelondonbeecompany.com/blog-2/
I know it’s been a long update, but now everything is up to speed. If you have any comments or feedback please feel free to send me a message
As and when I am able to provide rewards to all the project backers, I will be in touch with each of you to finalise details and get everything sorted
What an interesting update. I was wondering if bees collecting pollen and nectar from thyme plants will reap ant benefits of the naturally occurring thymol or does is have to be extracted and processed for the bees to access it? Would this be a way of allowing the bees to protect themselves from varoa mites? Just curious
I think they would probably, most likely have a boost in their immune system from foraging on Thyme and possibly less prone to varoa attack. However, I'm unaware if anyone has done an empirical study on it.
I introduced the second colony into the apiary today. It was a little cold, so I didnt want to take the lid off for a photo session. Hopefully later this week the weather will be a bit warmer and I will check up on the bees and how well they have stocked up on winter stores.
In anticipation of the looming winter, I decided to start feeding the Bees today.
The weather has not really be on our side this week, so I decided to lend a helping hand
As soon as the feeder went on, the bees were pretty quick to discover the sugary goodness.
I went to check up on how the bees were stocking up on winter stores today, and thought it would be a good opportunity to get some pictures. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the batteries for one of my cameras and as a result, mixing lenses and cameras meant I had to shoot in manual.
If you've ever tried to shoot macro in a bee suit with no autofocus, you wont be surprised to know that 95% of the photos were out of focus :( I did however manage to get 3 ok ish pictures and luckily we can see the bees stocking up on yummy pollen which is a good indication of bee health. Hopefully the weather will be good enough on friday for me to get some better pictures. In the mean while, here are a few from today.