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Friday, July 31, 2009

Episode 012 - Brewing Mead With Your Honey

In this episode, I discuss one of the best things a beekeeper can do with their honey, brew a delicious batch of mead. Mead is an adult beverage somewhere between beer and wine and dates back thousands of years. With just a few ingredients, a few pieces of basic brewing equipment, and some time, you too can brew a five gallon batch of mead.

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Finally, here is my recipe, adapted from Papazian's Antipodal Mead recipe.

(This will make roughly 5 gallons or 30 750ml bottles)

15lbs Light Honey
Filtered Water
1 Package of Dry Champagne Yeast
Yeast Nutrient

Optional, but recommended:
Gypsym - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Irish Moss - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Yeast Nutrient - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Acid Blend - Amount as recommended by manufacturer

Combine honey and water to equal 5 gallons in stainless steel pot. Add Irish Moss directly to pot. Boil for 15 minutes, removing scum and any other undesirable foam. Remove from heat, cover immediately, and allow to cool to room temperature (this may take several hours). Transfer to carboy. Hydrate yeast using one cup warm water, heated in microwave. Warm, not hot! Pitch into carboy. Add gypsum, acid blend, and yeast nutrient. Immediately seal carboy with airlock. Allow to ferment completely at room temperature for about 6 weeks or until airlock completely stops bubbling, and only after taking a hydrometer reading. Transfer to new container and allow to clarify for 6 months or more. Transfer as needed to clarify. Bottle, enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Episode 011 - Starting With Two Hives?

In this episode, I share reasons why starting with two hives is important for beginners. I also give an update on my hives and talk about my extraction and getting ready for the fair.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Honey Harvest

Today was honey harvest day. Perhaps the best day of a beekeeper's season. A close second would be the first spring inspection where live bees are found inside a hive. But, I digress.

Since the local county fair is next week and I made it one of my 2009 beekeeping season goals to show honey this year, I went out and harvested what the bees have produced since April 9th.

Early this morning I dropped by the county extension office and picked up the extractor. Both hives had honey in the supers, but Exodus had nearly 6 of 10 frames complete. Genesis had barely a combined 3 of 10. I was really suprised because I had thought this year would be even better than last years 36 lbs.

We decided to make it a family event and everyone was assigned tasks. I use the method recommended to me by my beekeeping mentor and simply scratch the cappings open and then spin the honey out. After filtering the honey through a simple colander we bottled it up. We ended the day with 23.5 lbs and one full frame to show at the fair.

I was a little disappointed with the quantity thus far, but my wife (The Queen Bee) reminded me that we aren't trying to make a living selling honey. Thank goodness for that! She so wisely explained that the kids loved working in 'the honey factory' and it offered them something very special and unique to do with their dad. So true...indeed today was the best day of this beekeeper's season.

Here are some pictures.

Thriving vs. Failing Hive

Today I went out to harvest the honey from Genesis and Exodus so I would have some honey to show at the local fair next week. More about the harvest in the next post, but a quick hive update.

Exodus: Of course, this hive continues to thrive. Lots of bees and activity and lots of honey stored up for the winter. Could this be a sign of a cold winter to come? I don't know. I need to find a good frame of eggs in this hive as well. There is so much honey that I don't want it to become honey-bound. I have seen minimal eggs in my latest inspections.

Genesis: If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think this comparison tells it all. This is a failing hive. Not a single egg, minimal brood, and no queen cells from the frame I transfered last week into this hive. Honey levels remain low and unless I get a new queen in this hive, I believe it will fail very quickly. Another concerning thing that I saw were hundreds of dead bees on the screened bottom board (after tearing into this hive). The bees are just too depressed to do any housecleaning, or my making the hive entrance too small has limited their ability to clean out the hive. Anyone have any ideas on this? I also believe that this hive is being visited by a skunk or raccoon. I also did a powdered sugar shake on this hive to knock down some of the Varroa.

I think this is why it is important for new beekeepers to always have more than one hive. One can compare and contrast the health and well-being of one hive with another.

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Exodus to Genesis - Transfer of Brood and Eggs

Today I went back to the hives to check on Genesis.

Genesis: Again, there was very little activity outside. The queen cells remained uncapped, no eggs in sight, and no sign of a queen. I decided to transfer a brood frame from Exodus to Genesis. Needless to say, both hives were a little unhappy with my taking them down to the brood chamber. No stings, but plenty of buzzing around and bumping me. I also reduced the entrance to the bare minimum in order to help them defend the hive. Minor honey stores.

Oddly, I saw some mud on the front entrance which could indicate skunks visiting Genesis. The next time I go, I'll have to place some rolled up wire fence in front of the hive.

Exodus: Plenty of bees, activity, and massive amounts of honey in this hive. Way to go girls!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hive Check - Good News and Bad News

Today I took advantage of the nice weather and went out and checked the hives. Here's the report:

Genesis: My concerns about this hive and its well being have been confirmed. First, there was very little activity coming or going. On my last visit, I had put the second super on this hive. Sadly, the bees had not even touched it. The bottom super was still at about 70% complete with no frames looking completely full. Plenty of honey, but no eggs in the top brood chamber. I did see swarm and supercedure cells, but no evidence of a queen. I did see emerging bees so that mean
s that I had a queen at least 22 days ago. If counting by the few larve I saw, then I could safely say that I had a queen 10 days ago. That being said, I believe that this hive either swarmed or has superceded the original queen. My concern is not for honey stores at this time, but rather the population. I'll do another inspection in a week to ensure that a queen does exist and is laying. If not, I'll transfer a frame of brood from Exodus into Genesis and let them raise a queen themselves. I did see a wax moth larve, but only one. This hive will take some monitoring to ensure it survives the winter. (in the photo above, notice the classic honey arch. The interior of the frame should be filled with capped brood and/or baby bees, instead, it's empty. Classic sign of a loss of a queen)

Exodus: Surprisingly, this hive is doing great. The bees were 'boiling' out of the hive. They had completed one super and are onto the second. The top brood chamber is full of honey, massive amounts. No signs of trouble, but I did only see a few cells with eggs. That's good enough. I'll defiantly be taking some honey off of this hive.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Changes Coming...

After getting some constructive feedback from a friend of mine who is a professional media expert, I am going through the process of changing things around a little with regards to this blog and The Beekeeping Podcast. I'm working to polish up the website and make things a little easier to navigate.

I'm also working on the format of The Beekeeping Podcast. Stay tuned...

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please send me an e-mail.

For starters, here's the new iTunes icon: