I am really not sure how many more bad puns I can get out of warré hives.
Moving on I am fed up with my jam thermometer. Yes, I know you probably haven’t opened up my blog to hear about that, but I have to get it off of my chest then I will give you a top tip I promise. Every year we make what is in my clearly unbiased assessment the best blackcurrant jam that has ever been made…ever.. Every year we struggle with the jam thermometer and then just outright ignore it. Thinking about it, I am not entirely sure why I decided to use it to make fondant given its previous crimes. When making fondant you must take care not to over heat the sugar or indeed heat it for too long. The thermometer ensured I was safe. If you underdo things instead of a fondant you end up with an…eh…gel I suppose or very thick syrup.
4kg sugar (cane source)
1 litre water
2 teaspoons white wine OR cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
Heat stirring constantly to dissolve and bring to boil. Maintain a boil til “soft ball” is reached at ~240 oF (115 oC). ON YOUR JAM THERMOMETER. Allow the mixture to cool to 200 oF (~95oC) before pouring.
The process inverts the sugar i.e. it converts it from your normal table sucrose into glucose and fructose, which bees can much more easily digest. The vinegar also slightly acidifies the mixture bringing it closer to the pH of honey. As you may have guessed on this occasion I got a gel not a fondant. But there is a backup plane! If this happens add some icing sugar. I use old takeout boxes for fondant which hold 75omL liquid volume. If it hasn’t set I add two tablespoons of icing sugar and stir in vigorously. This slightly increases the sugar concentration but it also provides a large number of small crystals throughout the mixture which catalyse the formation of more and more crystals making fondant! Yes, I know this will mean a small amount of the sugar isn’t inverted but it is a small amount and at least you have fondant and not gel. See… a top tip and you only had to read a few lines of complaining to get it. Now for the Warré bit.
I taught my first ever beekeeping course yesterday at Peat Rigg Outdoor education centre and I think it went quite well. At least no one fell asleep or demanded their money back which I am taking as a success. Although the course was predominantly based around kenyan top bar hives there was a lot of interest in warré hives so we talked about the pro and cons and compared types. I was asked how I would go about feeding a warré over winter. Although warré hives are traditionally low to no invention they are being used more and more by people who wish to undertake some bee-keeping rather than just bee-having. As I have said before I don’t normally recommend warré hives for the beginner as too much has to happen on faith. Experience of bees and knowing what is happening inside the box whilst remaining on the outside is an essential warré skill. The other issue for a beginner is the bees. It is all very well when you have 6 colonies saying “I will not intervene in the warré hive or feed and allow them to fail or succeed on their own” but if you have just started out beekeeping you really do want to KEEP THE BEES. As such I came up with this converted warré quilt.
I cut the cap and screw thread from a large plastic container and screw the lid onto the thread from the outside of the quilt. This allows me to cut a hole through the quilt and the cap (1 inch or 25mm) through which the bees can feed. I box around the whole large enough to take my fondant takeout containers. The box is secured to the sides but has gaps to allow the movement of sawdust and moisture. I used a small piece of corex to cover the box. This allows saw dust to be placed over and around the box.
When not in use for fondant the box can have foam so that fondant can be readily added if you need to. If you prefer a small bag of sawdust could be used. I would point out that you would only have this on a colony that showed signs that they “needed” feeding. If the weight of the hive was poor or the colony was a late swarm and had only filled one warré box you could switch this quilt on in september (when it is still warm enough) to allow you to support them through their first winter. I will post another time about my philosophies on feeding and leave with a picture of some of our new arrivals.
I am the one on the left 🙂