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-   -   Red hibiscus mead... bee swarm almost stopped me. (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/red-hibiscus-mead-bee-swarm-almost-stopped-me-426330/)

Arpolis 08-12-2013 02:29 AM

Red hibiscus mead... bee swarm almost stopped me.
1 Attachment(s)
Hello all!

It is high time I got my next serious 5 gallon batch started. I was in the mood for a nice red melomel so here is what I came up with:

5 gallons

10lb orange blossom honey
1lb red and purple hibiscus flowers (Rose of Sharon hibiscus to be more exact from my own trees)
3.3lb raspberry purée
3tsp pectic enzyme
5tsp yeast nutrient
2.5tsp yeast energizer
5 camden tablets
Yeast (Lalvin RC-212)

I mixed up the honey cold with the water and mixed/aerated well. Added the raspberry and other powdered ingredients and mixed/aerated well again. All the flowers I have been picking myself. Ok now side story:

So the last two nights I have been going out to my trees and picking all the flowers that have closed up after freshly blooming that day. I made sure to pluck the flower and remove the green bulb at the ends so I just have the petals and the stamen with all the pollen. I placed them in ziplock bags and froze them. Today I came home from work needing to get one more batch of flowers before I made up the must and just out of curiosity I looked at my Rose of Sharon trees and they were SWARMED with bees. OMG Bees EVERYWHERE! So after some slow and careful inspecting I found a small swarm has set up shop right in the middle deep in between the trees. There was just this mass of bees all huddles around there queen I assume and tons of bees in the air. Here is a pic:

Attachment 141285

Now at the time I thought I was doomed to wait till the swarm went away. But as the Sun started to set they all calmed down and that is when I took this pic. Then a bright idea hit me. I was going to start bee keeping this year but due to a number of things I was not able to get everything ready in time to allow the local apiary to install a bee colony in my hive. So since I had a spare hive I thought what they hell lets see what happens. I posted my hive on some saw horses right in front of the swarm. They may not take it and even if they do it is so late in the season I don't know if the colony can get big enough to survive the winter. Worst case scenario I hope the queen takes to the hive and I will just tape it all up and relocate the bees out of the city on some of my families Indian land. So needles to say since the bees calmed down I was able to carefully pick the remaining flowers I needed and get to brewing. Now back to the brew!

The flowers went into a fine nylon straining bag and in they went into the must. I have the yeast in a small starter going and will pitch that tomorrow. Before pitching the yeast i will remove the flowers and squeeze the juices out also topping up with additional water if needed. Till then the flowers will just cold steep in the must and the crushed Camden should keep any wild yeasts and bacteria from taking hold. Only other thing I am holding off on is the pectic enzyme to pitch tomorrow morning and 1.5tsp of energizer which I will pitch a couple days after pitching yeast. The original gravity is at 1.074. I also plan to back sweeten with another couple pounds of orange blossom honey after fermentation ends and I stabilize the mead.

Thoughts? Concerns? Think I will have a hive of bees this year? ...

Kdog22 08-12-2013 07:28 PM

Sounds like it'll be awesome. Keep us posted!

00radio 08-12-2013 07:31 PM

When I was a kid, we had a swarm like that stop across the street for a few days. Not exactly a fun time.

The mead sound pretty good though. Interested to see how it turns out.

wildozarkwine 08-12-2013 11:41 PM

I would go out at night, cut the branch off and shake the bees into the hive. They may not stay but I would sure try.

WVMJ 08-12-2013 11:52 PM

Aropolis, you are a mead maker who has called bees to his house. Get out there and shake them all off into you hive, they wont sting when they are swarming, they have nothing to protect honeywise. If you feed them 1:1 syrup and get some pollen patties you might build them up enough to survive, probably not but what could it hurt to try and you can say you hived a swarm on your own, on your found on your own. WVMJ

Arpolis 08-13-2013 12:15 AM

Haha cool. I may just try and shake them into my hive then guys. If the queen plants her but in there then they should stay. I have friends at work that keep bees and as long as they can build up some comb they just suggested to keep a small plastic dish with sugar water in the hive all winter and if I can keep that topped up then they should be fine all winter. A boon to me is that rose of Sharon trees bloom well into fall and they bloom a lot so my bees will have a close source of polen to help them build well into the year as long as they can till first frost. Ill let you know how it goes both on the mead and bee front.

Arpolis 08-13-2013 01:28 AM

Hahaha that was fun!...

But I'll talk about the mead first. Note to self... Get a brew bucket! I did all this in a standard 5 gallon carboy like normal. Most meads and wines I have done in the past I leave all the ingredients in the primary and rack off them once primary is finished. To my understanding you do not want Rose of Sharon flowers or leaves left too long because the have thickening agents in them that jelly up liquid kind of like gravy. I saw this first hand while removing the nylon sack. It still only took 3-4 min but just took some man handling to get the bag out. The flowers had this sweet thickened goop all over it from those thickening agents and that pretty much made a nice lube to get this all out. I boiled the remaining flowers in a little water and used that to top up the carboy. I siphoned off about a liter of the must into a two liter I squeezed most of the air out of and stuck that in the fridge. I pitched my yeast starter I had going since yesterday and now we are off! Once fermentation dies down ill top up with the must from the fridge.

Now to the bees. I was surprised at how calm they all are. I was a little trepidacious because These are "wild bees". I don't know if these are a calmer Italian bee type or another that is more aggressive. It depends if these are a native Oklahoma swarm or if there is someone nearby with imported hive(s) of bees and these swarmed from that. But hell this was easy. I first removed a couple of frames from the hive. I used a small handsaw and cut the branch they where on and moved them over the hive and shook them right in. I was in the middle of getting the hive top back on and I looke at the rose of Sharon tree and I notice a new ball of bees huddled on a smaller branch now. I thought damn I must have missed the queen!! So I removed the top and just one frame this time and I was able to get right up close to the swarm of bees clumped together and carefully broke the small twig of a branch they were in and shook that into the hive. About a half hour later I see no swarms in the tree now :) here is to hoping I can keep them fed, happy and winter them up and with some luck I may have enough fresh backyard honey for a 5 gallon at the end of next summer!

Confession time! Man there were one or two times I just had to shut my eyes and stay still and just remind myself these bees are my friends. I did keep my cool and did not twice jerk or curse but man that instinctual urge to run screaming was all in me. Afterwards it was really fun.

Hope you enjoy the read. Comment if you have any tips, comments, or criticism.

neo71665 08-13-2013 01:37 AM

If you keep hives that's a prime example why you should always be prepped to collect a free hive hive. Tons of beekeepers would kill to have the swarm come to them.

Arpolis 08-13-2013 02:00 AM

Yea as is I have two hive boxes prepped right now. I want to do a fancier hive top and make a little shingled roof to match the house but that is a project to come. I have no honey supers built right now but expect they will not be needed till next year. I think from here forward ill have a hive body and bottom built on hand for if I can catch a swarm. I can't keep more than one hive ..."legally" I think in my back yard in town but I have family that also want to bee keep and plenty of land I can move them to if I catch future swarms. Fun fun.

Arpolis 09-02-2013 08:12 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Small update here. Man this mead cleared quickly. I have taken no gravity readings yet but I imagin the gravity must be in the 1.000 range. You can see right through the bad boy. Ill rack off the lees and pulp soon. I picked up some raspberry Bacardi while on vacation recently. Think that will be good to top up after racking lol?!?

Oh and that small swarm you see in post one. Here is a pic of just one frame they are working on.

Attachment 145942

Looks promising on all accounts.

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