PLATF9RM HIvE: BEE UpDATES
Did you know that PLATF9RM has bees? Well, not on-site but we do sponsor them where they live on South West Honey Farms. By sponsoring a beehive, we actively contribute to sustainable agriculture practices. Healthy bee populations foster the growth of fruits, vegetables, and other crops, creating a ripple effect that strengthens local communities and promotes eco-friendly farming. See below for updates from beekeeper Stuart.
Your bees are doing great! They have had their treatments and are tucked up for the winter.
Varroa treatment using oxalic acid and Apivar strips
When I treat honeybees for varroa mites using oxalic acid vaporization, I always start by ensuring my safety as this can cause lasting damage if inhaled. I put on my respirator with acid gas cartridges. Then, I prepare the hive by closing up any upper entrances and cracks with tape to prevent the vapor from escaping. I also give the bees a puff of smoke through the lower hive entrance to encourage them to move up into the hive. Some forget to do this and can be a waste of treatment as the cluster of bees need to break to ensure all are covered.
Next, I prepare the oxalic acid. I place a small measured amount of oxalic acid crystals in a copper bowl, which usually requires an external power source like a battery to vaporize. However my device uses a blowtorch to heat the copper bowl. I insert the nozzle into the hive and heat it to vaporize the crystals. The oxalic acid “sublimates” turning directly from its solid form into a gas without passing through a liquid stage. I use oxalic acid vaporization during the broodless period and can be done in outside air temperatures as low as 3 degrees C, but the best range is 7 to 10 degrees C.
As an extra measure I use a treatment strip called Apivar. This is a strip that goes in after the summer honey has been removed and left in place for 6 weeks then removed. These strips are placed where the emerging brood will be and are spaced apart on either side of the hive. I have added photos of the Apivar process however as I use heat gloves I could not take images of the oxalic acid process.
PLATF9RM Honey Extraction
At the end of June the spring honey extraction started. To see if the honey is ready to be removed I first needed to know the water content was right otherwise the honey can ferment. One easy sign to see if it is ready is when the bees cap over the honey with beeswax. The bees draw all the water out of the honey by fanning their wings and then place a wax capping over the honey to ensure nothing can contaminate it. Then when the honey boxes are ready to be removed I place something called a clearer board on. This is a one way board that allows the bees to exit the honey boxes but not return. These are left on for 48 hours to ensure all bees have left the boxes, removed from the hive and loaded onto the truck. They are then transported back to the extraction room and are ready to be extracted. For the frames to be ready for extraction the wax cappings need to be removed. To do this I use a serrated uncapping knife that allows me to quickly cut through the cappings which fall into my uncapping box. These cappings are then melted down into beeswax blocks at the end of the season. A picture attached shows a fully capped frame of honey!
Once the frames are uncapped they are placed into the extractor. This is a centrifuge that spins at high speeds to pull the honey from the cells without damaging the comb. There is usually a balancing act with this because sometimes there is pollen stored in the combs. The pollen isn’t removed with the extractor but the honey is and this can lead to the extractor jumping around with the misplaced weight (I’ve had to sit on top of the extractor before to stop it from jumping around!) Once the honey has been spun out the frames go back into the original boxes and the honey is poured from the extractor into a standing tank. This is then left for an hour or so to allow all the air bubbles to go to the top. Then the honey is poured into buckets and labelled with the year, weight, season and hive number the honey came from. Another picture attached shows honey flowing out of the extractor to then be poured into the standing tank. This is then ready to be gently warmed and put into jars. This is how the honey went from your hive to the very jars you received!
As we are now at the end of May the bees are currently expanding at a fast rate. The reason for this is to make sure there is enough workforce in place for the summer honey crop. At this stage they are starting to bring in the spring honey crop and after looking at the pollens coming into the hive I can see it will be a very flavourful spring honey this year. There is an abundance of horse chestnut honey around the apiary which has a very dark red pollen. They are also placed on a crop of field bean which is a light brown colour. I didn’t think any oil seed was around for them to forage on this year but they are bringing in bright golden coloured pollen so somewhere within a three mile radius of where your hive is situated is a crop of oil seed rape!
Your hive currently has 2 honey boxes on them and will probably need more before the spring flow has ended! I’ve attached an image of your hives queen! She is a very prolific layer and is currently laying around 2000 eggs per day! These will all hatch and become fully working bees in the coming weeks and will pollinate thousands of flowers!
Hive meets are now starting from the 19th of June. Please let me know which date is best for you and we can select a time closer to the date. A suit will be provided and all you will need to bring with you are a pair of wellies or a pair of boots to ensure your suit is bee proof.
Your next update will be a look into the extraction process and queen rearing has now started so you will also see how I do this to expand my colony numbers.
Whilst checking the hives the main focus is to check the weight to see if they have enough stores and to check that the entrance is clear for the bees to be able to leave the hive and collect the resources they need. There are two resources they need this time of year – water to be able to digest the food stores they have. The reason for this is because the honey stores they have is ivy honey which has a very tight crystal structure and the water loosens the honey and makes it easier to eat.
The other resource is pollen. One of the images attached is of a bee collecting pollen from a crocus flower that I took on Wednesday. If you zoom into the image you can see there is pollen on the bees hind legs and the bee itself if covered in pollen! The pollen is used to feed young bees as it is mixed with honey and is their food source at the larval stage.
I was very happy with the activity from the hive and it won’t be long until I will be taking a peek into them to see their size and see what they need to get them up to full strength for the spring honey flow.