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Products of the Hive (other than honey)

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Pollen

Pollen can be collected at the hive entrance using a pollen trap; some of the pollen in the pollen baskets will brush off when the worker bees pass through the trap. The pollen will collect as pellets. Traps should not be left in permanently, as this could deplete reserves.

 

Pollen can also be extracted from comb cells using a small vacuum plunger. A large amount may be collected from a strong colony during a flow.

 

Collected pollen should be dried to prevent mold and can be stored for several months, or for longer by freezing.

 

Collected pollen can be returned to the bees in spring as a food supplement – make into a patty using 30% pollen and 70% baker’s yeast and place on the top bars.

 

Pollen can also be sold to health food outlets and must be fresh to be effective. Health benefits include relief from allergies.​

Royal Jelly

Royal jelly can be collected in small quantities from emerging queen cells. Its production can be achieved by inducing a temporary state of queen-less-ness and then harvesting royal jelly from the queen cells produced, avoiding a situation in which the hive may swarm by inspections and collections at no more than 3 day intervals. Royal jelly can be stored in a domestic freezer and is a valuable commodity. It can be used by beekeepers involved in queen cell grafting to charge queen cups, and is said to help calm colonies during queen introduction. Royal jelly is also available to the public in the hope of health benefits.

 

Venom

The collection of venom is a specialist area. It involves inducing stinging behaviour in bees by placing an electrified grid at the hive entrance. A fine gauze cloth is placed beyond the grid and when bees sting through this gauze, they deposit venom on a glass slide underneath. The venom is then collected and processed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who can provide venom for human inoculation for those with hypersensitivity reactions. There are a number of chemical constituents which cause inflammatory reactions including histamine hydroxy-tryptamine: however desensitisation requires dilute quantities of all of the constituents and therefore requires venom of known strength and dilution. This process does not harm the bees.

 

Propolis

Propolis is collected and manufactured by the colony from tree and bud sap. It is a disinfectant which is insoluble in water and with a characteristic smell. Bees use propolis to glue together their hive, to make it air and watertight, and to seal gaps of less than 8mm. They will also wrap intruders in propolis (e.g. bumblebees, mice etc)

 

Propolis has antiseptic and antibiotic properties. Collection requires dissolution in alcohol, and extraction, and the resultant tincture can be applied to wounds, septic spots & cold sores and sprayed onto inflamed sore throats.

 

Wax

Cappings can be collected from a de-capping tray (e.g. the Pratley) following the de-capping process. At this point they will have a significant amount of honey adhering, which can be collected from the cappings over a gauze tray. The moist cappings can then be returned to the hive they came from (avoiding any potential for infection spread) in the evening, in a Ashcroft or Miller feeder, to avoid robbing. The bees will remove remaining honey. The cappings may need to be turned to permit bees to remove all traces of honey, and after a day or two the cappings will be dry and resembling rice particles.

 

An alternative is to rinse the cappings in water (preferably rain water), and retain the washings as the basis of Meade production. The cappings will need to be washed several times and can then be air dried, or leave the cappings to be washed naturally in the rain. The washed and dried cappings and those taken back from the Ashcroft feeder, can be melted down for reuse using a double saucepan (used in the kitchen for melting chocolate and for making custards). The lower chamber contains water which is boiled. The upper chamber contains the wax. Its temperature cannot be raised above the boiling point of water (100 degrees) using this method. It should be noted that wax is flammable and that it should not be directly heated otherwise it may vapourise and ignite. Liquified wax can be run into moulds . As cappings wax is of high quality, it makes a good product for sale or show. It will require filtering using muslin cloth, and this process may be repeated several times to ensure a clean product. If the wax is to be poured into a mould for show, it should be cooled slowly to prevent shrinkage, and it should be free of bloom and of debris which floats to the surface.

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Solar Wax Melter

Old comb can be rendered by placing it in a chamber inside a Solar Wax Melter. This device uses a pane of glass to retain heat from the sun. Molten wax collects in a container.

An oven thermometer can be attached.

Thick gloves should be worn when handling the melter after it has been in the sun.

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Ingredients

  • 750g of honey of your choice (more flavoursome the better)

  • Sachet of brewer’s or wine yeast

  • Extra honey to back-sweeten

  • 25g of no rinse sanitiser powder e.g. SureSan (Sodium Percarbonate)

  • Acid regulator e.g. citric acid at 1g/ltr (so 5g for a 5L batch)

  • Yeast nutrients 2g/litre (so 10g for a 5L batch)

  • 2 Campden tablets (sanitizer)

Mead

Mead is made by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with fruits, spices, grains, hops etc. The words 'mead' and 'honey-wine' are often used interchangeably, but some cultures differentiate between the two. The defining characteristic of mead is that the main source of its fermentable sugar comes from honey.

Basic mead recipe

Step 1: Sterilising

As with all fermentation, it is important to have a clean, sterile environment so the yeast grows, but nothing else does.

So, before you start, wash down your work space with warm soapy water. It is also a good idea to wash all your equipment in warm soapy water if you have not used it in a while. 

  1. In a bucket, mix the sanitiser powder as per the instructions on the packet with 5 litres of water to create a sanitising solution.

  2. Pour a portion of this solution into the demijohn and swirl around for a few moments to sanitize the fermenter. Empty this back into the bucket, making sure there is none left in the fermenter.

  3. Sanitize the funnel, the bung, spoon, and airlock by placing them in the solution in the bucket.

  4. Remove the equipment from the bucket and place it on your clean work surface. The funnel can sit on top of the demijohn to keep it from touching the surface. Pour away the sanitisatiser solution away.

Your bucket, demijohn and lid, and other equipment should now be sanitized and ready use.

Step 2: Making the mead

These instructions produce a light session mead at around 4%, this means we are going to start with 150g of honey per litre (so for 5 litres that is 750g).

  1. Add 5 litres of boiled water to the sterilised and rinsed bucket.

  2. Add the yeast nutrient and acid regulator, and stir to dissolve using the spoon.

  3. Now, add the honey to the boiled water and stir again until all the honey has dissolved.

  4. Leave the liquid to cool for a while so it does not damage or crack your demijohn, then transfer using the funnel.

  5. Leave your liquid to cool down to room temperature before 'pitching' the yeast as follows.

  6. Rehydrate your yeast according to the packet, and leave for 5 minutes. Add to your demijohn and shake gently to mix.

  7. Add the airlock to the demijohn, fill the airlock with water and leave in a cool dark place where it will not be disturbed for 2-3 weeks.

FAQs

How do I know if it worked?

CO2 gas will bubble from airlock around the 6 hour mark and a layer of sediment will start to build (dead and dormant yeast).

When is it ready?

When bubbling in airlock has slowed down - yeast has converted all sugar to alcohol. Put fermenter in fridge for 24-48 hours so that yeast drops out of the solution.

Racking and back-sweetening

Always remember to sanitise all the equipment that has any contact with your mead.

Next, using a piece of tube or hose, syphon the top clear layer of your mead into your sanitised bucket. Make sure you leave the sediments at the bottom of your fermenter. Little trick – get your hose about 2cm from your dormant yeast, and when syphoning, keep as still as possible and let gravity do the work.

 

As your ferment is complete, all of the honey in it should have been converted to alcohol. While this is great, it will also mean that your mead will currently be quite dry and you may want to add some more honey back in to sweeten it, (this is known as back-sweetening).

 

This extra addition of honey may cause your mead to begin fermenting again - to prevent this add 2 Campden tablets in the honey. Campden tablets are made of sodium metabisulphite, an additive that kills yeast and bacteria. Sulphites are commonly used in wine and cider production. Simply dissolve your honey and tablets in a small volume of hot water, and pour as much as you like into your mead. You should now have a 4-5 litre semi-sweet non-carbonated mead at 4% ABV. Clean and sterilise your demijohn and transfer your mead back into it.

 

To condition, leave the container at room temperature away from direct sunlight for 2-6 weeks to condition. Conditioning allows the flavours to meld. When it's ready, transfer to sterilised bottles for longer-term storage.

Alistair Moorcroft: Checking starting gravity of the 'must' is 1,080 and temperature is 20 C, before 'pitching' the yeast. 'Must' made from washing wax cappings after honey extraction.

Olf fridge converted into a warming cabinet - Mead fermenting at 20 C.
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