We are just back from Bill Quay Community Farm in Gateshead where we help look after the bees. The purpose of the visit today was to carry out the varroa treatment on the hives. This is the mite that has spread throughout the UK's beehives over the past 20 years. Varroa will probably never be eradicated. Instead, we have to manage it. To treat it, we inject oxalic acid in a sugar syrup into the hives where the bees are clustered. This is the time of year to do it, before the hive fills with brood in the spring.
There are three hives at Bill Quay Farm but we found that one of them has died out. This bad news at least meant we were able to take off the honey crop the dead hive left behind. We have brought it home to put through our honey press and will put it into jars before returning it to the farm where it will be sold in the cafe. We will also process the squeezed honeycomb in our wax extractor - indeed, we need to to process the large bucket of honeycomb from our own hives from last year as well. The extracted wax will go back to Bill Quay though I'm not sure what they plan to do with it yet. We are going to use ours to make candles but may also have a go at making table wax.
Bill Quay are keen to sell the honey. They are no longer financed by Gateshead Council and are now self-supporting. The honey will be a useful addition to the cafe.