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A great year (2019) for my teaching hive in IBM Campus

Since the beginning of the year, my work place, IBM in Damastown, started a “Bee Green” project by volunteers, to reduce waste, create green space, better environment for the employees and everything in nature. Bees are an important part given in the IBM logo there is a bee. So I set up an apiary and brought a nuc there in May. There were so many interests among the co-workers and now we have a group of people who have bought their own bee suits and learning the beekeeping craft from me. Now this hive serves as a teaching hive.

Today we had a last look into the hive, they have a new queen, who is laying and have built up some store. But they haven’t made much progress on building combs on the empty frames. While my bees in my back garden have done much better. It is another evidence that urban areas suit the honey bees better. Look forward to next year to see them expanding.

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How did Meadow Bees over winter in 2015?

I have been thinking of updating my blog to tell you how my bees overwintered and how they are doing now. But since the end of April that I opened the hives first time this year, I have been feeling guilty all the time that I have not got time to write about my bees. They do get the time they deserve from me to look after them, just I haven’t got time to write down their progress.

There were 3 full hives went into winter in 2015. We had a very mild winter. In fact I remember the bees were flying during the Christmas holidays. It was followed by the cold and late spring, but I hefted the hives, also put some fondant on the feeding hole, just in case they were starved. They never took the fondant though. I knew the verroa would be a problem since they probably never had a brood break due to the warm winter. So I was checking the verroa drops. Both Hive Judith(140/6) and Jen(240/6) had very high drops. And Hive Judith had very visible deformed wings. While Hive Yang had literally NO verroa drops. I didn’t quite understand: Hive Jen had a verroa drop of 40 a day and it was only early spring with a small bee population, there was no reason that it could be as strong as it was, with no visible deformed wings on the workers. I also don’t understand why Hive Yang had no verroa!

The first warm weekend at the end of April, I opened the hives in eager!

Hive Judith: badly infested by verroa, brood pattern was spotty and visible deformed wings on the combs. Only 4 frames of brood with lots of empty cells. Last 2 frames had no bees on them at all. They did not build up. This was the parent hive of all my other hives from in the last year and it was the strongest of all. I felt pitiful on them. They would not survive this winter…

Hive Jen: this was the one with 40 verroa drops a day. But it was strong, all the frames were covered by bees, lots of drone broods, they needed super immediately! So I added a super and the next week had to add another one because they filled a super in a week! Let me tell you why they were doing so well. I sampled the drone brood, they weren’t bad, a lot were free of verroa, quite a few had verroa, but really just one per drone larvae. I also saw the workers taking out infested drones. This must be the hygienic bees that groom themselves and can sense the infestation. They must be killing the verroa selectively. This explains the high drop but strong hive. I was very excited over this discovery. I had been looking forward to having bees with this trait! I’d better rear queens from this hive and replace the queens in the other hives. So excited!

Hive Yang: very few brood, very few eggs which were laid on the side of the cells. The queen was gone and it had laying workers! I didn’t want to give up on them, so gave them a frame of open brood from Hive Jen. And kept on doing so for the next 3 weeks. The laying workers were stubborn, they made no queen cells. At the end, I brushed all the bees in front of Hive Jen and took fresh frames from the other 2 hives. At the end of the week, they made 1 queen cell! See the photo of the bees balling in front of their new hive. they must thought the laying workers were their queens and balled up to protect them. They stayed like this for over a day, finally gave up, disappeared into their new hive and there were a few dead bees on the ground. Were they the laying workers?
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Looks like only Hive Jen will produce honey for this year. The new plan is to have modest honey crop but rear queens from Hive Jen and I need to have more than 3 hives to go into the winter. I look forward to the bees starting to make their queen cells. Said that, Hive Jen is a great hive, it is in June now at the time of writing, it has not made any queen cells yet. The meadow bees have their heads down and work hard to make honey.

Harvesting Time – 2015!

It has been a long time guess on how much honey I will have for this year. Not that I need a lot of honey, it is more a measurement of how good a second year beekeeper, as me, has treated the Meadow Bees. Only happy workers that produce! Now it is time to face the truth. And I can not wait for it.

Last Friday, I took a day off to extract honey. It started in the early morning to clear the bees off the super boxes, that is the box where bees store honey and the queen is blocked from getting in by the queen excluder, so that there is no brood in the super, only honey. In the previous night, I put in a clearing board between the brood box and the supers, the clearing board only allows the bees to go down to the brood, but not going back easily. What is supposed to happen is, during the night, the bees go down to the brood box to warm the babies and in the morning, they find it difficult to go back to their honey stores. While that is the theory, surprisingly, I found a number of bees in the super on Friday morning and had to carefully brush them off frame by frame. They were really clever and discovered the super that was put aside and free of bees very soon and my dad had to run back to the house with each super as soon as they were cleared. I was enjoying it, the smell of honey and pollen around the open hives was just lovely.

Finally at 11:30am, cleared all the bees and all the supers are in the kitchen, all together four supers! Starting the extraction.
frame display

Step 1, was to de-cap the honeycomb. When each cell in the honeycomb is filled with honey, the bees put wax to cap it. Really each cell has to be de-capped, otherwise the honey won’t come out. I used a bread knife at the start, then found the de-capping fork actually worked better. The extractor I rented from my beekeepers’ association took eight frames, and it took me good part of an hour to de-cap all the eight frames, remember, no cells left uncapped :-)
decap with knife

Step 2, extraction, that was easy. The frames were loaded into the electric extractor. It was switched on and started from low speed and then moved to higher speed. Honey just splashed out! I must have done a good job in balancing the frames, the extractor was steady on the floor. It was funny that someone actually managed to let it dancing across the floor 😉

Step 3, straining. There are bits of wax in the honey, most people like clear honey without it. So we have to strain it. I used double sieves to strain the honey. I tell you it is slow, probably because the consistency of the honey at room temperature. It is quite thick. I heard the commercial producers heat the honey to speed up the process. Some even use ultra fine sieve to filter out the pollen, so the origin of the honey can not be traced. I don’t agree with that, local honey should be just as it is with all the goodness from the bees. I also don’t understand why all the commercial honey are blended – you see “blended from EU and non EU honey” in the label of Boyne Vally honey – I’ll need to do research on that. But my honey is straight from Meadow bees and I only did an extraction and I am happy with it.

Finally finished with the extraction, left the clean up to the next day since it was 6pm.

Now it is time to reveal my honey harvest. It is nearly 40 Kilo grams! This is just from 1 production hive, with the other 2 hives join force next year, my goodness, I’ll have too much honey! Not something I should complain. I have done the right things for my bees and my Meadow bees have got a very good year!

Honey in jars and buckets ready for friends and family!
Clontarf Honey in jars 2015 with label

Clontarf local honey in jars

My Journey with my Meadow Bees

I started beekeeping in year 2013 after watching documentaries about honeybee’s plea on netflix. I thought that I had a nice big garden along the Dart line in Clontarf, where flowers are abundant and no pesticides and fungicides, why I can’t do something to help the poor honeybees?

Year 2013 was the year to learn the trick. I went to each of the Fingal Beekeepers’ Association meetings, joined the beginners’ course in early 2014. Then got my first hive from my lovely mentor Judith in June. My hive survived the winter and now in 2015, it’s spawned off 2 hives and looks like they will give me more than 20kg of honey, marvelous hardworking girls!

In the short 2 years with my honeybees, I have developed deep relationship with them. Everyday after work, I go and check on them before calling out for my son. And the relationship with them has been extended to be more in harmony with nature and completely changed our life style. I feel so much in debt and appreciation to my honeybees and they deserve the blog to record my journey with them.

Have to mention my Dad, who is an indispensable helper to my beekeeping tasks. He is the smoker master, assembles the bee boxes and frames and lifts the heavy bee boxes with me. No mention the endless time that he is a such patient listener to my bee topics. Dad is a man of few words, since Mum passed away, the way to talk to him is the traditional shoulder to shoulder talk that men do when they talk about work. My bees have given me this opportunity that every Saturday afternoon is the time to inspect the bees, also the time that is just me and my Dad.

Here are the link to the documentaries about the honeybees on Netflix

Vanishing of the Bees
Queen of the Sun
Killer Bees of Africa