Preparing for Winter

Yes its that time of year again, the bees rushing around trying to to fill every cell with honey, beekeepers rushing around removing any “surplus” honey, assessing the strength of colonies, and stores. The bees are on the Balsam, the Ivy is already flowering in some parts of the County, some colonies are becoming more defensive, wasps are active and the nights are drawing in!

So here are a few things for your beekeeping ToDo list.

  • Remove any surplus supers
  • Compress super frames into one super if possible
  • Consider if a super of food will be left on over winter
    • Consider if the super will be “under” or “over” supered.
  • Prepare to apply Varroa treatments
  • Prepare for feeding if required
    • Check and clean feeders
    • Prepare heavy syrup or order proprietary feeds such as Ambrosia
    • Make sure appropriate crowns boards, ekes etc. are available on all hives
  • Consider weather proofing hives
  • Consider if additional insulation is required
  • Assess colonies and consider uniting, throwing out, or downsizing to nucs for any smaller colonies
  • Plan when to remove queen excluders
  • Check out BBKA website in the Resources Section, a number of new publications available including: BBKA News – Natural Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees – NEW, BBKA News – Integrated Pest Management – NEW.

An Inspector Calls

We sell our honey to a local retail outlet, at craft and food fairs as well as to local people who want to buy honey direct from the producer.

To process and then sell or give away honey, beekeepers like us should be registered with and inspected by the local authority Environmental Health & Trading Standards department to ensure that we comply with the Food Hygiene Regulations.
We are registered with our local authority and are included on the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Last week we had our inspection visit from an environmental health officer. Although the regulations cover anyone who prepares, cooks, handles, or sells food, she told us that as we just process a single food item, our inspection would be very straightforward which indeed it was.

She looked at the steps we take to extract and process our honey; as an aide memoire we had prepared a summary of the steps we take when extracting our honey, a copy of which she took away for her records.

She understood that we work in a domestic setting so looked at the room where we primarily work, in our case, our kitchen; she looked at our extractor, and where and how this is stored as well as our honey buckets.

Her focus was that these steps were hygienic, legally compliant and avoided any possibility of cross contamination.

She looked at the PPE we wear when working with honey, and our hygiene practices.
She saw our honey jar labels and kept a sample for her records. All in all, it was a simple, easy process and for us an interesting, educative, and successful visit. Since meeting with her, we have received a report of her visit. We asked if she would send us information we could pass onto other beekeepers, and she has kindly sent us the following links.

Some of this information beekeepers should already be aware of but other ones are of more general interest.

Running a food business
Starting a food business
Food business registration
Honey Authenticity
Honey Labelling Guide
Honey Labelling
The Honey (England) Regulations 2015

A word of warning

Although the system of inspection itself is simple, leave yourself plenty of time to get this completed. Covid has introduced a further time delay, and so the visit may take time to get done.

However, be aware that the consequences of not registering is that legally a beekeeper shouldn’t regularly sell or give away honey and that if you breach this you could face a financial penalty or in extremis, a 2 year prison sentence.

Penny & Paul Twibill

Member Apiaries – Paul & Penny Twibill

The following are images of our Dippons lane apiary which is situated in the badlands between Wolverhampton and Perton which is in South Staffordshire. It is several acres of fields mostly down to pasture for horses but some newly under cultivation, with ponds, woodlands and a tributary of the river Penk running through. On either side are housing estates and beyond Perton there are fields frequently planted with Rape and field beans.

As you may work out from the marram grass which inhabits this site, the ground tends to be on the damp side! Wellies are definitely required. It looks loke a rural idle, pasture with a public footpath which leads to the Staffordshire way in the distance, and surrounded by buckthorne.

So far there have been no issues with Green Woodpeckers, though we frequently hear them when visiting. This is quite a productive site and our bees generally do well here. It is the closest site we have to our home, handy for dropping of collected swarms.

All the hives here are currently poly hives of one type or another, as many of you will know we favour poly hives, and we have three different brands, four if you include the new design Abelo/Lyson have introduced this year.

The astute poly hive officianados amongst you wil no doubt be able to spot the two types of poly hive we have on the site. (There are no prizes for the correct answers sorry!). These images were taken on the 27th of September 2020. The sun was shining and the bees were busy in all the hives. Most hives have Jumbo feeders in place but you will notice some have a second or third super in place and at least one has a second brood box. They are all undersupered and we have been removing empty frames and moving full frames to the under super. However some of these colonies are relucant to move the food to the brrod box, it does mean we have not had to feed them.

One of the problems with the Paynes hive is that it does not allow the use of Paynes supers to be placed under the super without adjusting the floor with a knife, standard sized wood or poly supers do fit as can be seen from the pics.

Paul Twibill

Shugborough Apiary – East wing under construction 2016

In 2016 the East Wing, formerly know as the “improvers end” was given a makeover. The area was leveled, there had been a slight hump planted with willows, weeded and dug over by hand. Initially a path was laid out down the centre of the area which was marked out with boards and then covered with weed control fabric and chippings. Later the area to the right of the path was similarly covered with fabric and chippings. The hive stands were set out with beautifully leveled slabs, guess who!

The nucleus stands were created and the area cleared. As you can see it looked wonderful. With regular maintenance it was kept in good order for about a year and a half, then the work in the walled garden was begun and maintenance became a problem.