Fresher’s Fair

We will have a stand at the LSE SU Fresher’s Fair tomorrow and Friday (2nd and 3rd October), so come by and say hello! You can join the society for only £1.50 (you can join online here if you can’t make the fair) and we’re really keen to have some new students on board to get involved with our honey festival as well as other ideas such as some film screenings over the winter months when it’s too cold to visit the hives frequently.

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We’re particularly keen to get more PhD students involved as a lot of the fun stuff to do with beekeeping like the honey harvest happens in summer time when most of the other students are away.

So come and see us, taste some of our 2014 honey, and get involved!

 

2014 honey!

The 2014 batch of honey is ready!

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We’ve got a limited edition of 200 jars and it’s already selling fast. Initial reactions are: “amazing!!!” and “I can vouch for how yum this tastes!” so we know we’re onto a winner. (And, if I do say so myself, I think the labels look pretty good as well!)

There are still a few jars left, so if you’re interested in buying one, just email us at lsebees [at] gmail [dot] com.

Hives under attack!

We’ve been concerned about one of our hives on Connaught House for a few weeks now – the bees just seemed a bit lethargic, there were quite a few dead ones in the sugar water, and they weren’t drinking the sugar water or building up above the brood box at all. We also noticed quite a few wasps outside the hive (and even one inside).

Luke came up to check on the hives today and our suspicions were confirmed – the hive is under attack on not one, but two fronts.

First, we’ve got to deal with the wasps. We killed as many as we could get, although the guard bees (essentially acting as bouncers to the entrance of the hive – close up picture below) were doing a pretty good job on their own. I’m also going to make some wasp traps tonight and bring them up to the hives tomorrow.

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Second, Luke is worried that the hive might also be suffering from deformed wing virus. This is an RNA virus and is pretty serious, particularly given that we basically can’t do anything about it (other than treat for varroa, who is the carrier). At the moment the bees don’t look massively affected, but some of their wings are definitely smaller than we would like, so we’re going to keep an eye on them and do everything we can to keep them healthy.

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In other, more exciting news, we jarred up the honey on Tuesday – more about that in the next post!

Lights, camera, action!

We’re famous! Well, kind of… We were filmed today to be part of an LSE Estates short film about sustainability. As the weather’s getting colder the bees weren’t so active, but it was still interesting to be filmed and to make sure all the angles and light etc. were okay.

Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

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You spin me round (honey edition!)

Tuesday saw the culmination of another year’s hard work – spinning our honey! This is the first time we’ve extracted honey from the Connaught House hives so it’s pretty exciting and we were dying to know what it would taste like.

Dan, Laura and I went to the Bee Collective where the wonderful Caroline helped us through the process. She first explained how we needed to scrape off the wax from the cappings the bees put on each cell once it’s filled with honey. We did this using a little metal scraper, holding the frames upright so the honey didn’t ooze out and putting the scrapings into the bucket (more on that later).

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While Laura and I played it safe with some relatively normal looking frames, Dan went for the extreme one! It was actually surprisingly relaxing in an odd, monotonous way and didn’t take too long at all.

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And this is what a finished frame looks like, with all the wax scraped off and ready to go into the centrifuge:

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Here they are in the centrifuge, where they’re spun at high speed so all the honey is extracted and falls down to the bottom.

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While we were waiting for the centrifuge to do its magic, it was back to the wax scrapings. These are kept and then used to make candles or cosmetics (like lipstick) so we needed to clean all the honey off them so they were ready to go. We rinsed them out twice, then the little piles of wax (each pile is from about three frames) are left to dry.

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And then it was the moment we’d all been waiting for – actually tasting our new honey! Here it is being poured out of the centrifuge – you can see that there are still some little flecks of wax (and other things, like little bits of bee and pollen etc.) in the honey. The double layered sieve takes care of all that!

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I don’t think any honey has ever been so attentively documented!

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And here it is! The finished product! It tasted absolutely delicious and actually somewhat different to the Passfield Hall honey so it will be really interesting to taste them side by side. That honey has already been processed for us by other volunteers, so we’ll be able to offer ‘single blend’ honey this year – very fancy!

What happens now is that the honey needs a few days to rest before we put it into the normal sized jars (to let all the air bubbles come to the surface etc.). We’ll be heading back down to the Bee Collective in September to do that (same process as last year).

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We also had the chance to taste some of the other honey that the Bee Collective has helped to process, including some honey (top right of the picture) which comes from royal beehives (I believe at Buckingham Palace) and is a creamed honey. Creamed honey is just regular runny honey that is whipped using a large paddle (and when made commercially is also pasteurised).

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So a big thank you to Caroline at the Bee Collective for making our honey processing so enjoyable this year – we’re looking forward to putting it into jars and then being able to get it out to you all to eat! And then obviously massive thanks to Luke, Maddie and everyone at Urban and Community Beekeeping who has helped us this year to keep our bees happy and healthy. We couldn’t have done it without you.

 

Quick note from the Bee Collective

Below is a quick note from the Bee Collective for those who are thinking about coming along to their volunteering sessions:

“Our volunteer sessions are getting more and more popular, which is fantastic and thanks to you all for spreading the news!  We’ve realised that in order to make sure you have a good time, and enough space in the honey house to move (!) then we need to keep numbers to 6 volunteers per session.  So if you know you want to come along then please email volunteer [@] bee-collective.co.uk to check and book your slot.”

So make sure you let the team at the Bee Collective know you’re planning to come down!

Volunteer at the Bee Collective

unnamedAre you looking for a one-off volunteering opportunity in London? The wonderful folks at the Bee Collective (just behind Victoria Coach Station) are looking for people to come down and help to extract and bottle honey from hives all over London.

Their ‘micro’ volunteering nights are now on every Tuesday night from 6.30-8pm and are at The Bee Collective, The Annexe, 25 Eccleston Place, London SW1W 9NF. If the big black gates are closed, wait and someone will come and open them and let you in.

It’s a lot of fun, so head down there and get involved! To find out more visit their page at Project Dirt.

 

What can colony collapse tell us about our civilisation?

(c) Katie Scott

(c) Katie Scott

A great article by biologist Mark Winston was recently published in the NY Times that draws parallels between colony collapse and human civilisation. He suggests that we should pay greater attention to the impact of the build-up of minute amounts of pesticides in beehives and think about not only what that means for bee populations, but also ourselves.

He also shares some quite surprising statistics:

“A variety of wild plants means a healthier, more diverse bee population, which will then move to the planted fields next door in larger and more active numbers. Indeed, farmers who planted their entire field would earn about $27,000 in profit per farm, whereas those who left a third unplanted for bees to nest and forage in would earn $65,000 on a farm of similar size.”

It’s quite a short opinion piece so won’t take too much time to read – go here to read it.

Pre-orders for 2014 LSE Honey now open!

We’re now taking prHoneye-orders for the 2014 batch of LSE Honey!

Given that we’re unsure of total production quantity, we’re limiting it to 35 jars at this stage so, email us (lsebees [at] gmail [dot] com) and let us know who you are and how many jars you want.  The jars will most likely stay at £6 each but that will be confirmed soon.

You can have a look at the 2013 honey production here and don’t forget that you can go down to the Bee Collective (where our honey is prepared) on the 22nd of July to find out more about them and what they do.

Seagull saga

Just as summer is a busy time for our bees, it’s also a busy time for other rooftop creatures, including the seagulls who we’ve long suspected had a nest on an adjacent roof. Today, we were in no doubt of their presence as, when we ventured out onto the Connaught House rooftop, we were attacked by dive-bombing seagulls! (About four or five, circling the roof and swooping down on us at speed).

Why? At first we thought they were trying to protect their two babies who were up on the roof and wandering around, looking quite disoriented.

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We didn’t want any of them to get too upset, so after a few minutes of checking what was going on, we headed back down. Elena, LSE Sustainability Officer extraordinaire, however decided to do some more investigating as she noticed that the babies were focusing in particular on the internal shaft down between Connaught House and the surrounding buildings.

And what did she find? Bobby the baby seagull who had somehow fallen down about seven stories and was trapped on the mezzanine roof between levels 1 and 2! Allan Blair, Director of Facilities Management, went completely above and beyond the call of duty and went out on the roof, getting little Bobby and putting him in a box to transport back up onto the roof.

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Once on the roof, in Elena’s words, “after a few minutes of shock he started yelling for his mama and waddling about happy as ever” – what a happy ending! Massive thanks to both Elena and Allan for saving Bobby – now he just needs to avoid getting stung by our bees! (Unlikely to happen I imagine).

So, here’s hoping all three babies are big enough to fly (properly) by next week!

 

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