Well another month has flown by! Autumn certainly feels like it has arrived with cold days and the trees starting to change too. It felt especially cold at Market Bosworth Farmers Market where a hat was needed, a sign of things to come!
Most of our hives have been moved back to their wintering site now as well. I personally like to winter my hives in one large area, I can make sure they are safe and secure, check on them all regularly and most importantly I can make sure they have ample food and feed quickly and easily where necessary.
This month has seen Christine (My Mum, many of you will have met her at farmers markets) and I working in the honey room jarring honey! Part of the services we offer for beekeepers is extracting and jarring honey as we have a great 5* food hygiene rated honey processing facility. The particular contract that has been our focus over the past two weeks was for around 1200 jars as a trial for a potentially larger order in the new year!
It is just over a year since we started offering honey extracting and jarring services but the past month has really seen an increase in demand which is great news and a job that gets me out of the cold, for now at least. We offer a number of different services from simply extracting the honey from the comb into buckets through to jarring and labelling, you can find more info – HERE
It is also the time of year I start planning next season, what equipment I will need and what my targets are for 2021. I am planning on a slightly smaller expansion this coming year but one that will hopefully see me with 150 hives by the end of 2021 and probably as many colonies as I can look after on my own! I will need a lot more equipment to manage this number of hives so my winter will be spent in the workshop building hives and frames! Certainly an exciting year ahead!
This month’s Markets, please do come along and support ourselves and fellow market traders!
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 11th October 10am – 2pm
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 17 & 18th October 10am – 4pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 25th October 9am – 1:30pm
Well this month has been unseasonably cold and wet, where usually we would be expecting another few weeks of honey production from the Himalayan Balsam it has either finished or the bees have been unable to take full advantage of it. We are around 3 weeks ahead of this time last year with almost all of the honey now extracted and being stored in our honey shed.
One of the big successes of this month for me is the Heather honey. It’s the first time I have ever taken bees to the Peak District but the bees really did well, better than I had expected them to! Each hive will have yielded about 10kg of surplus Heather honey. While it sounds a lot to most and I’m more than happy with that myself this year some beekeepers with years of experience taking bees to the moors can get a far higher yield.
The honey will mainly be sold as comb honey, I’m expecting to produce around 500 portions of it but that has to last me until this time next year so I’m expecting to sell out! The smaller pieces of comb will go into a jar and topped up with summer honey from our bees locally, that will make chunk honey which will be available on our website, unfortunately the cut comb is too fragile to send in the post so it will only be available for click and collect or for purchase directly at our markets.
Not only are we busy extracting our own honey we also do extracting for other beekeepers that may not have the space or equipment needed, it also saves making a mess of your house because EVERYTHING ends up stick after harvesting honey! If you’re a beekeeper putting off extracting your own honey send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can advise what we can do to help you.
As the honey is removed we must provide sugar syrup as an alternative for some of the honey, now is the time I am busy filling feeders and you can really get a sense of how quickly they work, it’s not uncommon to see a hive consume 2l of syrup in one day.
While we are getting ready for winter we also treat for an invasive mite that came into the UK around 40 years ago. Without treatment the Varroa Distructor can kill off a hive directly from feeding on larvae and causing deformities or through carrying disease from one hive to another. We treat them in the autumn to give them the best possible chance going into winter and then once again right in the middle of winter which should be more effective and last them until the following autumn.
This month we have a packed calendar of weekends, we have a market every weekend so please do come along and support ourselves and fellow market traders!
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 5 & 6th September 10am – 4pm
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 13th September 10am – 2pm
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters At Bretby DE15 0QS – 19 & 20th September 10am – 4pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 27th September 9am – 1:30pm
Last month I spoke about how good the weather had been and how well the bees were doing, unfortunately after the month of below average temperatures the bees have largely stopped producing honey. Many beekeepers around the UK have found the season seeming to end much sooner that last year. Hopefully the weather will turn again though and we will have lots of late season honey!
The big event for this month was moving bees to the heather. I got all of the hives I was moving ready the evening before I moved them and was then up at 4am the next morning to begin the move! All the hives were safely loaded onto the trailer and strapped down. By 4:50am I was heading North to the Peak District.
After an hour and a half driving I reached the site where the bees will be for the next 6 weeks. I unloaded the hives onto their pallets and released the bees by removing the masking tape that had been used to block the entrances while in transit. The bees were soon out and about inspecting their new (windier and colder) home.
A week after the bees were taken to the moors I went to check them, unfortunately due to the cold weather the bees had burned through their stores and were looking quite hungry! Each hive had a frame of honey that I stored from the spring for use at this time of year. I’m hoping that after a few days of warm weather I will see a big improvement and lots of honey coming in!
This month has also been the real start of winter preparations, right at the end of July I took delivery of 1 ton of granulated white sugar. This sugar is mixed to produce a thick sugar syrup that we use to feed the bees to ensure they are in peak physical condition to over winter.
Any beekeeper will tell you that making sugar syrup is a sticky job and one not many enjoy. I’ve tried quite a few ways but have now settled on using a 200l tank over a gas burner. I fill it just over 1/3rd with water and let it get quite hot. I then add 175kg of sugar one 25kg bag at a time stirring regularly. Once it is mixed well I add thymol, a chemical that stops the syrup from going off when it is stored for a long time.
In August I will be at a few markets so please do come down and see us if you can.
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 1 & 2nd August 10am – 4pm
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 9th August 10am – 2pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 23rd August 9am – 1:30pm
Thank you for reading our blog, next month we will be talking about harvesting our honey and walk you through the whole process from hive to jar!
Well what a month of mixed weather it’s been! lots of rain at the start of the month a week of amazing temperatures and sun last week and back to slightly dull this week. The good thing is the rain has really helped to boost a lot of the plants so when it is warm the bees have an abundance of nectar to collect!
Last week when the temperatures were above 25°c (most of the week) clover was yielding really well. One of our hives filled a completely empty super with honey in less than 4 days!! The great news is that box had a special thin wax foundation for the bees to work on, which means we are going to be able to cut it up and sell it as good old fashioned cut comb, something we are regularly asked for! I’m really excited that I have also been able to source ‘veg ware’ these plastic looking pots that will hold our honey comb are actually compostable and made from plant fibres meaning they are much better for the environment than single use plastic.
We have also started selling queens this month, as you will know from my previous blog posts and letters in Bee Craft queen rearing is something that really interests me. As I now have a surplus of queens from my breeding program I am selling them, and I must say how pleased I am that so many people want to try them. It was quite strange going to the post office with bees but the post office staff took it very well though and the bees arrived at their destinations safely 24 hours later.
On the 28th I enjoyed being back at Market Bosworth Farmers Market, which is currently the only regular market that I am attending. There was a really good turn out and everyone was being well behaved (social distancing wise), if you are interested in finding lots of local food producers come along next month on the 26th July. Also we have our first event of the year on the 4th and 5th July at Planters Garden Centre. We will be attending the Open Air Country Fair which promises to be a great event with over 40 producers attending, the fair will be extra spaced out and on a one way flow to make social distancing possible, it certainly looks like it will be a good event to visit!
Today (30th June, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll know I have a bad habit of leaving it to the last minute!) I have been for a drive around the Peak District. The beautiful views weren’t all I was there for however, I have been checking on the heather and meeting the land owners where my bees will be from late July for around a month or until the ‘flow’ has stopped. This does mean that we will hopefully have some heather cut comb for sale, heather honey has recently become more popular as it is said to rival Manuka with many of it’s properties.
Thank you for reading our blog, as ever if you have any questions or would like any topics covering please get in touch to email@example.com
May seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, I can hardly remember when things happened this month as it all seems a blur. The weather has been amazing for everyone sunbathing and of course our bees, it seems strange hoping for rain but we really do need some rain to get the flowers going again as they are starting to slow down now.
Equipment has been one of the biggest issues this month, the bees have done far better than I could have hoped and I have increased the number of hives quite significantly to around 110 although that figure seems to rise everyday at the moment. Building frames is usually a winter job but I’ve needed far more than I had planned so have had to build a lot recently. I built a small jig like one I used in Australia to help me make frames quicker. Unlike the traditional way of making frames with small nails tacked in each side I use glue and a 1 inch staple to hold them firm.
Queen rearing is often a topic I enjoy talking about and this month has been the first month I have produced a signifcant number of queens myself here in the UK. I am producing around 20 queens a week now mainly for my own use but I am looking to eventually sell some. The queens are Carniolan a breed of bees native to south east Europe. They build up in numbers very quickly and are known for large colonies and good honey production. I am trying to move away from a hybrid breed called Buckfasts as selective breeding is hard on a small scale as there is a much greater variation in traits inherited by the daughter queens due to their hybrid nature.
Grafting is the method I use for queen rearing, I move a 1 day old larvae into a cell designed to mimic a queen cell and place it in a hive with no queen, the bees then instinctively produce queen cells which are moved into small hives 10 days later. 3 weeks after that the queens have been on mating flight and are ready to head up their own hives! I apologise that I have no photos of the mating hives or of our finished queen cells but I will post them on our social media and in the blog next month.
I am expecting a tricky next few weeks as the spring flowers end and before the summer flowers begin, this to beekeepers is called the June gap. The colonies are very large and need a lot of food but they are unable to get enough naturally. Last week I made 250kg of sugar syrup ready to feed the hives if needed. To make the syrup I simply fill the barrel with the right amount of sugar and warm water 2:1 ratio roughly and use a gas heater to warm the syrup up so that it dissolves fully. I then tap it off into Jerry cans ready to be used where its needed.
Thank you for reading our blog, as ever if you have any questions or would like any topics covering please get in touch to firstname.lastname@example.org
Well where have the past four weeks gone? It seems like every month goes quicker than the one before it! This month has been a really busy month for us with the beekeeping season now well underway and lots of jobs to be done. Lockdown has had a relatively small impact as we can still go and check our bees and make deliveries. Unfortunately but understandably both of our regular farmers markets have now been cancelled until restrictions are lifted. If you do want a delivery of our honey then either order online or send me an email to email@example.com.
The month started with moving bees to the Oil Seed Rape (OSR), the honey we get from OSR is very light and sweet but has a tendency to granulate very fast. To make it more pleasant to eat we gently control the crystallisation so only small granules of sugar form which is much smoother and perfectly spreadable! This honey we sell as Soft Set and has become increasing popular with our customers over the past month or two.
Moving bees is always an interesting time, the night before I move bees I go around and strap each hive up so it can be moved without the floor and boxes becoming separated (If you want more info on the design of bee hives click here for a previous blog post on that topic). Early the next morning before the bees have had chance to go out foraging I go around closing the entrances before stacking them on the trailer. After checking the straps holding the bee hives on the trailer about 20 times (I always worry!!) I set off to the new location.
When I arrive I place wooden pallets down first and get them reasonably level with bricks under the corners if needed. Then the hives are set down on the pallet and the straps are taken off. Finally the entrance block is removed and the bees can then get out and fly, if everything has gone well then all of this should be done by about 8am and the bees haven’t been too disturbed.
The next job for the month was siting a container. Due to the expansion of Holt Hall Apiary there was no longer enough ‘bee proof’ storage, something that is very necessary in the autumn when bees are looking for food anywhere and unused frames covered in honey are irresistible but ‘robbing’ as its called isn’t something we want to encourage as it can help spread disease and incite bees to rob other hives which can actually kill weaker colonies.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the month has without a doubt been getting 60 households and schools from around the local area to decorate a bee hive for us. You will have seen from previous posts our hives are generally brown, well for the first time since I started beekeeping I painted them all white, they were then distributed to people who had volunteered their creative services via a Facebook post to some local pages. The results have been absolutely fantastic, there are still a few boxes to collect but once they are all in they will be varnished so the designs can live outside year round and then I will be taking photos of every side of every box and will share on our Facebook, Instagram, and of course here next month. In the mean time here is a sample of what I’ve had back so far!
Thank you for reading our blog, and supporting our local business. Any shares on social media or through word of mouth would be massively appreciated as we are looking to increase our local deliveries to offset the closure of farmers markets.
Matthew Ingram Holt Hall Apiary
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I’ve been straight back to work, all the hives have been checked and although they are a couple of weeks behind where they were at at this time last year they have wintered well. My next job is to move 20 hives out to a site of Oil Seed Rape which seems to be extremely early this year. As the hives are slightly behind and the Oil Seed Rape is ahead I’m not expecting a bumper crop of honey but it will provide great stimulation for the bees which will mean strong hives for the summer honey flows.
Well I’ve been back at home for about two weeks now, although with everything that’s been going on that feels more like 2 months! I have been especially busy making local deliveries of honey to lots of new customers around Kingsbury, Wood End and Tamworth. The weather has been quite changeable too going from quite warm low teens back down to 5 or 6 degrees, I am however looking forward to this coming week as temperatures are set to increase again.
Last week I also took delivery of 100 deep Langstroth boxes to extract from a bee farmer who hadn’t got around to doing it. After a few days warming them up to make extracting easier I have managed to get about half done. Hopefully I will have finished the extracting by Wednesday which will leave me a few days to get the wax rendered down and everything ready to be collected. It’s been a big job but it’s been a good test of my extractor and my new heated uncapping tank (An uncapping tank allows me to warm the wax cut off to expose the honey before extracting, the wax and honey is separated which means less honey is lost during processing)
Next week in the warmer weather I plan to go through and combine a few of the smaller hives, doing this means they can produce more brood together than they could on their own. Once they have built up well they will be split back into their own hives hopefully in just over a months time. The queens from the hives I am combining will be ‘banked’ that means to put them in a cage and keep several in one hive. It will mean that when the time comes to make the splits again I can reintroduce the queens and they will carry on with very little interruption.
Regarding beekeeping experiences, I have had several emails about if vouchers will be valid for longer if courses are postponed due to Covid-19. As we run courses to September I am hoping that we will be able to run some courses even if we miss the first month or two of courses. Of course this will mean the amount of available spaces during the season is reduced and so we will extend the vouchers expiry date by 12 months to ensure everyone gets a chance to redeem their voucher!
Honey Deliveries, we will be continuing to make honey deliveries to local areas. As the website may not calculate postage correctly please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make your order for local delivery, If you are not in the Tamworth area please go ahead and make your order as per usual via our website. In order to minimise the journeys we are making you may have to wait a couple of days as we will look to combine several deliveries into one trip.
Thank you for reading our blog, next month I hope to be able to share with you lots of bright images of the Oil Seed Rape in flower and our bees busy at work. Until then stay safe.
Well it’s the end of February and that means this will be my last article from Australia! I can’t believe how fast my time has gone here and how much I’ve learnt about all aspects of commercial beekeeping. It’s given me lot’s to think about this season with my own bees.
This month as last month has been very much about queen rearing and requeening hives. We are coming towards the end of the season here and we are starting to push hives down to two boxes high ready for them to go through winter. This means we have also been busy extracting honey and sorting comb honey for our customers.
We also had an issue with rain, yes rain! After months of worrying about hives being damaged by fire it was actually water that caused the damage. One of our sites with Nucs became flooded and some nucs were as much as half submerged, amazingly despite being so water logged not a single one died!
Thinking back to my bees at home, I’m starting to plan where my bees will be going this season. I will be looking for sites after June around the midlands so if you have room for 20 hives and think you have a suitable location then please get in touch. I will be also looking for sites on heather moors so again if you have any contacts then please email me at – email@example.com
One of my first jobs will be going to see what’s left of the Oil Seed Rape crops I was due to be moving bees onto and then moving as may hives as I can to those locations. Many of my overwintered nucs are almost full already so many will be moved into full hives. Queen rearing will also start as soon as I see drones in the hive, Hopefully around early to mid April as it’s been quite mild.
I’m also excited to say I have a few talks coming up, one to a gardening club talking about bees and planting for bees. The other is to a local beekeepers association where I am talking about my time in Australia and honey extracting.
Next month I’m looking forward to being able to update you on my bees and then I hope to pick one topic of focus each month and write a more in depth blog which will be suitable for people interested in bees as well as actual beekeepers.
Well another month has flown by! I can’t believe that I only have one full month left in Australia, but I’m looking forward to coming home and getting my own bees sorted. One of the first jobs when I return will be taking them to the Oil Seed Rape, which on a side note this year is looking very poor due to the wet weather and increased flea beetle damage.
I’ve decided that I’ll talk about increasing hive numbers as this is something we are busy doing here in Australia and something that is very high on my agenda for my own bees at home.
There’s a number of ways to make an increase, the easiest of which is split a hive that’s planning to swarm, usually called the nuc method. This is one of the simplest forms of swarm control and one I would recommend you use when you find a hive with queen cells. When you see more than 1 or 2 queen cells it is likely the hive is preparing to swarm and you need to do something or you might lose the swarm! The nuc method requires you to simply move the old queen a frame of capped brood and a good few shakes of bees onto foundation. The old queen feels like she’s swarmed because she is now in a small colony with only a small amount of brood and flying bees. You then need to go through the old hive and knock down the queen cells so there is only one healthy cell left. When I do this I put a queen excluder on the bottom so the queen cannot leave and remove it a week later once the queen is laying.
If you are not able to move the nuc to a new location over 3 miles away then the best solution is to move the main hive a metre or so to one side and put the nuc in its place, all of the foraging bees will return to the nuc and make it very strong. If you are going to move the hive to one side then you can leave the frame of brood in the main hive, just be sure to remember the queen excluder because bees on just foundation may decide to try and leave.
The problem with this method is it requires you already have a hive that wants to swarm. There is also no guarantee that the queen in the Nuc won’t still want to swarm.
My personal preference and the method we use here is to make a new hive using brood from either one or a few hives, plus shaking a few frames of bees. We then have a full hive or Nuc to which we add an already mated queen. All of the colonies will have a mated queen rather than leaving queen cells which means they can expand much faster.
We start by going through strong hives that have previously been checked for disease and finding the queen, this is really important when we want to move frames around. Just checking for the queen on the frame you are moving isn’t good enough because they are so easy to miss! Have a practice with the picture below, feel free to comment with the square you think the queen is in. I will post the answer in the comments in a week so you can check if you were right!
We then select a frame of brood, most of which needs to be capped, and put that frame into a nuc box. If it’s a strong hive you can pull more than one frame of brood but remember that this will knock back the original colony. I suggest you make the nucs with 2 full frames of capped brood, 1 or 2 frames of honey and foundation for the remaining frames. The brood should be moved with the bees on it which is why it’s important to know the queen isn’t on that frame. The nuc can be made from one hive or a combination of multiple hives. While the text books say bees from different hives will fight in these circumstances its unlikely to be an issue because there pheromones from more than 2 hives. I would then close the nuc up and move it to a new location.
If you can’t move the nuc to a new location then make it with slightly less bees, for example move one or two frames without any bees on them and place the nuc in the spot of a full hive, they will then get bees from that hive. You can then either add a queen cell that is ready to hatch, or my personal preference is to introduce a mated queen in a cage plugged with candy that they will release after a couple of days.
This method sounds more complicated but it allows you to make an increase without knocking any one hive back, it can also be used to make sure no single hive gets too busy and wanting to swarm.
For both methods I would also recommend adding a feeder of 1:1 sugar syrup to help boost the nuc. The added feed will stimulate the queen to lay and the bees to draw out foundation. Once the bees have filled the nuc box it can then be moved into a full hive. Making sure the bees have good access to pollen is also important to help with their development
Queen rearing is an important part of the method I use and something which I will talk about next month and something I think all beekeepers should have a go at. While there is almost no end to the number of ways to split hives the methods which I have briefly mentioned are in my opinion the best. This has only been very brief and I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments below!
If you’re a member of a club and would be interested in me coming and doing a talk feel free to get in touch – Here. I am happy to talk about any aspect of beekeeping for groups with any level of beekeeping experience. So long as the group is interested in bees or beekeeping I will be happy to come and talk.
Our beekeeping experience dates have also been released so please book in as soon as possible as we are expecting quite a high demand although we have plenty of dates available at the moment. You can find the dates – Here
Thank you for reading this short blog about how I expand the number of hives I have got and please feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like in the comments below.
Happy New Year, I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years celebrations! I had a warm Christmas and new year which was a first for me, certainly not the same as being at home but it was nice anyway. New Years Eve I spent in Sydney which was amazing, and it was nice to have a few days holiday!
Firstly I’d like to say a massive thank you to all our customers and readers, I really appreciate the support that you’ve shown to us over the past year. Our beekeeping experiences have gone from strength to strength and we will be running even more courses this year, keep an eye out over the coming weeks for the dates to be published for this summer.
I’d also like to ask everybody reading if there is anything they want explaining, It can be any aspect of beekeeping, I’ll answer any questions and I’m happy to share the way I manage my bees if anyone wants to know about a specific area of beekeeping. Just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer your questions in this blog.
My bees at home are going well, a lot now have fondant on, It seems that many people throughout the UK are finding their bees going through food a lot quicker that expected, If you’ve got bees and not checked them recently It may be worth hefting your hive. Hefting is simply lifting one end of the hive off the ground to gauge the weight. If you’re not sure or they feel light then I would add fondant as a precaution. Next year I’m hoping to be able to share with you the weights of our hives as they progress through the winter as I know hefting is something that requires a lot of practice.
Back in Australia it’s been another busy month, this month we have spent a lot of time working with queens. We have started to requeen all of our hives to ensure they are in the best possible shape for next year. We are producing around 100 queens a week at the moment. The queen cells we produce are moved into mating nucs, these are small colonies that allow queens to mate before we collect them and move them into the queen banks.
The mated queens once ready to be introduced into a hive are kept in a queen bank until needed. The queen bank can hold 100s of queens, queens can be ‘banked’ for up to a month so we can decide when we use them.
The drought continues and we have had to move a few loads to more suitable locations. The lack of water is really starting to cause an issue with the trees flowering, they are no longer producing much nectar and so honey production is very limited. On some of our sites we’ve even had to start providing water, It’s really amazing just how much water 120 hives can consume in a day.
The good thing this week is that the smoke haze has moved from a lot of our area. Unfortunately for the people of New South Wales the fires are still just as bad, just luckily for us they are no longer as close. The haze lifting has revealed some amazing views from Dorrigo, one of the areas we have a few loads of bees.