Come to the Honey Festival today!

Today the 2014 Honey Festival is on! Despite the rain, we’re really excited about the day and would love to see you there! It’s from 2-4pm outside the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre and we’ve got all sorts of great things planned.

At 2.15pm Luke Dixon, our resident expert beekeeper will be giving a talk on the basics of beekeeping and at 2.45pm we’re having a honey quiz where you can win some great prizes! We’ve also got a honey bake sale, with chocolate honey cake, honey cupcakes and more, as well as sales of the LSE Honey (stocks are running very low so get some before it sells out!), honey tastings, and beekeeping dress-up.

Honey Festival 2014

So, ignore the rain, bring a pound or two for a delicious cake, and come down and say hello!

Welcome to our new beekeepers!

During a very welcome break from the wet and windy weather on Wednesday (that’s a lot of w’s!), our new crop of beekeepers for the 2014/15 year had their first hive visit at Connaught House.

Luke explained the basics of a hive check, as well as what we will be getting up to between now and the busy Spring season (basically, hive visits reduce to about once per month to make sure the bees don’t get too cold with us opening the hive too often).

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Happily, the hive we were worried might have deformed wing virus is looking really healthy which is great, and there were no more wasps flying around and bothering our bees (although lots in the wasp traps!).

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Our newest beekeepers looked great all suited up:

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Luke also showed those who couldn’t suit up the base board where we see what type of pollen the bees are collecting and also check for varroa mites:

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Following the hive visit we had our first AGM where we discussed plans for our ‘honey money’, organisation for the upcoming honey festival (more details on that soon!) and activities we can plan over the quieter winter season.

So welcome to our new beekeepers-in-training! We’re really excited to have you on board.

Come to our AGM!

We’ve got our first hive visit for the new academic year tomorrow, Wednesday 8th October, at 2.30pm. Come up to the Connaught House rooftop (take the lift to the 8th floor and then one flight of stairs after that) and cross your fingers it’s not raining too heavily!

Immediately following the hive visit we’ve got our AGM at 3pm in OLD 3.21. We need to elect a Secretary, so if you’re interested, come along and put your hand up!

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.

 

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