The saddest sight a beekeeper can see is a huddle of dead bees, heads thrust deep inside empty wax cells, with the queen dead in the middle. And the wretched thing is that they had starved just an inch away from a broad, golden arc of honey. This phenomenon is called “Isolation Starvation“.
With the temperature relentlessly around zero, the word “scorching” is clearly unrelated to today’s weather forecast.
Well, it is and it isn’t. This frosty time of year is ideal for a belt and braces cleansing of empty beehives. This can be accomplished by immersing the hive parts in a lye (sodium hydroxide) solution, or for smaller scale beekeepers, by using a blow-torch to singe the interior crevices and wide surfaces of brood and super boxes. That’s where the scorching comes in. Here I am, spring-cleaning a hive which I have just started to manage.
We’re lucky that we are neighbours to a Jamie Oliver Teaching Kitchen in Orford Primary School. During late August, with the summer holidays coming to an end, we move our extraction and filtering equipment, together with honeybuckets and jars, into this pristine food-quality environment, we spin out and then cold-filter the honey harvest, prior to ripening the honey and then pouring it into jars.
At this time of year, our attention switches from bees to people. Briefly.
So we were delighted to welcome Carolina Spurlino onto our Bermondsey Street rooftop.
In the last week of November, with the bees all safely tucked up for winter, I had two speaking engagements. One was in rural Suffolk and the other in gritty Hackney. Each addressed a very different topic. The first was to an audience of fellow beekeepers, the second to a bevy of young food and drink entrepreneurs. The theme of the initial talk was a genteel one: “Preparing Honey For Show”, while the next was the fire-branding: “Bees Can’t Eat Kind Words”.
The competition for bubble-wrap becomes intense in our household at this time of year. And it’s not just Sarah’s extraordinarily gregarious Christmas present list which drives the local demand for that commodity.
I have a beekeeping confession to make. It is strange, but true. I wrap my Bermondsey rooftop hives with bubble-wrap in December and January each year. There, I’ve said it.
We crossed the Atlantic to visit Artie Rollins at his New York City Parks Department’s 30,000 square foot rooftop on Randall’s Island.
An unusual assignment. And an unglamorous location. Even the taxi driver we flagged down in Harlem after the M35 bus we were on broke down had no idea where it was. Or did, but didn’t like the idea of going there. But we were on a mission.
At the Moulin d’Olivery, the Brenez-Candille family have built up an impressive honey business over 30 years. Patrick and Isabelle Candille currently run 1200 hives, producing between 25,000-30,000 tonnes of honey annually, most of which is sold to bulk buyers. But that still leaves some 30,000 jars to be hand-labelled every year for sale to retail customers. Brava Isabelle!
We’re off to the Bee Garden Party at Marlborough House, London from 6pm on 1st July 2015.
My Apis Bee Consultancy will be auctioning a full apiary site survey – a new and unique service, aimed at hotels and restaurants – in aid of Bees For Development.
Martha Kearney will host the event and Bill Turnbull will run the Auction. Take a look at the goodies going under the hammer.
Please come along and support this extremely worthy cause.