Free beekeeping course

LSE Beekeepers get hands-on experience on our weekly hive visits. But if you’re interested in building up your theoretical knowledge, Ohio State University has created a new, free online beekeeping course and is looking for beta testers. The course has 138 (!) segments covering topics such as swarming, queen rearing and Varroa mites. Go check it out and… bee educated!

Two Recent Outreach Events

Introducing people to the amazing world of beekeeping is almost as much fun as beekeeping itself, so we’re always grateful for an opportunity to tell people more about what we do.

Grosvenor House, one of the LSE halls of residence, gave us such an opportunity recently. But at last month’s LSE Celebration of Sustainability 2016, we even had our beekeeping paraphernalia on display! (For more photos from the event, check out Sustainable LSE’s Facebook album.)

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And yesterday we set up shop at the LSE Library’s Speed Updating event. The event is loosely based on the concept of speed dating: library staff went round the room in groups, spending 10 minutes at each table learning about different projects such as Green Impact, recycling, and of course, beekeeping!

We tried to make the 10-minute sessions interactive and fun. Here is Dan in full beekeeping regalia, asking unwary staff members to guess what different items (like the smoker or the fondant pack) are used for.

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How to Decrystallise your LSE Honey

The weather’s getting warmer, so if your LSE Honey crystallised during winter (like ours did), now is a good time to decrystallise it.

If you’re one of those people who don’t have the patience to read long blogposts, here are the short answers to the two main things you might want to know:

Q1: How can I decrystallise my LSE Honey?
A: Immerse the jar in hot water for 30 minutes.
Q2: Will this ruin the nice label on the jar?
A: No.

If you want to know more (and see photos), read on…

What is crystallisation?

Crystallisation is a natural phenomenon whereby honey turns from a liquid, runny state to a semi-solid, granulated state. Crystallised honey looks cloudy, not clear and golden like uncrystallised honey.

That’s what’s happened to my honey! Can I still eat it?

Yes! Properly stored, honey has an almost infinite shelf life. Honey found in ancient Egyptian tombs is believed to still be edible. Crystallised honey is totally safe to eat. But if you prefer, you can decrystallise it in a few simple steps (described below) and it will be as good as new.

Why did it crystallise in the first place? Is LSE Honey of inferior quality?

Quite the opposite! Honey is a supersaturated solution, which means the water in honey contains way more sugar than it can naturally dissolve. That’s why most pure raw or unheated honey has a natural tendency to crystallise over time. In fact, if it didn’t crystallise, that might suggest it’s adulterated or diluted.

Honey has two main types of sugar: fructose and glucose. Their ratio determines how quickly the honey crystallises. Glucose is less soluble than fructose, so honey which has a high glucose-fructose ratio (like brassica honey) crystallises almost immediately after harvesting. On the other hand, chestnut or acacia honey have a low glucose percentage, so they crystallise very slowly or not at all.

Er, that’s enough chemistry, just tell me how to decrystallise it!

  1. Boil some water in a pan (enough to cover the jar up to the neck).
  2. When it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat and immerse your honey jar in the hot water.
  3. After 15 minutes, take out the jar, stir the honey to ensure even heating and put it back in the hot water.
  4. After another 15 minutes, the honey should be decrystallised and runny once again.

How do I know it will work? And won’t putting the jar in hot water ruin the nice LSE Honey label?

To set your doubts at rest (and because we have too much time on our hands) we tried it out and documented the process!

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Crystallised, cloudy-looking honey

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Crystallised honey on a teaspoon

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Immersed in hot water for decrystallisation

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30 minutes later… voilà! As you can see, the label is intact.

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Delicious, golden, flowing honey

Nice. But will it crystallise again?

The optimum temperature for storing honey is 21–27°C. Crystal formation increases at lower temperatures, so your honey may recrystallise when the weather gets colder later in the year. But you can always decrystallise it again in the same way. It may not be a good idea to do this more than four or five times though, because honey which has been decrystallised too often starts to lose some of its aroma.

LSE Bees at Grosvenor House

We were at LSE Grosvenor House last week, at their wonderful Sustainable Food event. We got a chance to talk about LSE Bees and beekeeping in general, and share some of our delicious LSE honey. The best part was when a student from Romania remarked that LSE honey reminded her of childhood trips to the mountains with her family, where they would buy wild honey from roadside vendors.

A big thank you to the Grosvenor House students and staff for inviting us, and we hope to see many of you at our weekly hive visits!

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Hive visits in 2016: Ramping up for Spring!

The first hive visit of 2016 was on 13 January, when a few intrepid beekeepers braved the cold, windy conditions on the Connaught House roof for one of our rare winter visits.

Bees don’t like being inspected in winter. They keep the hive interior at a toasty 27° C, and every time we open a hive, it brings the temperature down. Still we do need to inspect them occasionally for their own good, to make sure they are not falling prey to varroa mites or any of the umpteen other evils which await the unwary beekeeper.

The second visit (scheduled for 27 January) was cancelled due to rain, which the bees probably knew about beforehand. Instead, we rescheduled it for 3 February – here are some photos from that visit.

Using a bee smoker to calm the bees before inspection

Using a bee smoker to calm the bees before inspection

The painted hive is currently the most active

The painted hive is currently the most active

Scraping the 'bottom board' to clean it (and check for the evil varroa mites)

Scraping the ‘bottom board’ to clean it (and check for the evil varroa mites)

From March, we’ve been having weekly hive visits (Wednesdays at 2:30 pm). The first March visit was in glorious sunshine; the second day was cold and rainy, so not the most memorable visit ever!

A photo from the 2 March visit

A photo from the 2 March visit

Our next visit is scheduled for 16 March. Hope to see you there!

Winter hive visit

We had one of our rare (and therefore much-awaited) winter hive visits on 2 December. Luke Dixon (LSE Bees’ professional beekeeper) was on hand to personally inspect the hives, answer our questions and explain to us about what bees do in the wintertime. We also had the rare privilege of poking a finger into one of the hive frames and tasting the freshest honey you can possibly get.

We will leave the bees alone over Christmas, but we can’t wait to see them again at the next hive visit in January!

Photos courtesy LSE Beekeeper Regina Weigl:

Winter hive visit

Beekeepers under wintry skies

Luke Dixon

Our professional beekeeper, Luke Dixon