Two brood boxes and a super given over to the queen makes an awful lot of bees to release in a small space and when I checked yesterday they’d expanded to sixteen frames of brood – which means in a little under two weeks there will be a hell of a lot more of them, I might have to consider upgrading my bee suit.
With a hive of this size I’m having trouble – I can’t find the queen – beekeepers usually mark their queen with a paint spot to make her easier to locate. Being a sensible chap I did this, but with the sheer number of bees on the wing in the workshop; and more to the point, the number of bees not so actually on the wing but roosting right in the middle of my face, I haven’t seen the queen for five weeks. I know she’s there – the eggs are a dead giveaway – but I really would like to catch up with her at some point and a have a natter.
This colorful stuff is made by the bees, they don’t just collect nectar, they collect and store pollen to feed their brood. Just like honey, pollen has to be processed. It’s mixed with nectar and saliva and packed into cells where it ferments and is known as bee bread.
There’s a lot of bunkum on the web about bee bread. It’s a great food for bees but the idea that it’s some sort of age reducing magical human food stuff is a load of fetid dingoes kidneys, leave it for the bees. It does however have one property I’m interested in making use of – it’s fermented.
Bee bread is fermented by lactic acid bacteria, humans use lactic acid bacteria too – in yoghurts, cheeses, sauerkraut and more interestingly ( for me ) bread – specifically sourdough – and I fancy making some with the help of my bees.
I robbed the bees of a couple of cells of bee bread and added it to a little honey in water. After a few days I had something that smelt a little sharp and looked a bit fizzy. This I stirred into some flour, water and a little more honey. It took a week to get going but eventually small bubbles began to rise from the flour.
Sour doughs aren’t something to make in a hurry – they take their time to perform. The initial dough took a couple of days and to get good and frothy, once it was looking lively I added a little salt, a drizzle of honey and enough flour to to get the right texture.