A single hive harvest.
I have been amazed this month by one honey harvest in particular; this started as a large colony in March and I added extra boxes to accommodate the expansion.
I took 20lb early in the year from the spring harvest, mainly Oil Seed honey which is spreadable, just as good as later season runny honey.
Then in June I used the colony for queen rearing, got 6 good queens.
Mid July I was surprised to lift 2 and a half shallow boxes full of capped stores some 60lb.
Then the colony swarmed early August, I retrieved the swarm from a tree in the garden and this is now in a hive and doing very well.
I went to reduce the number of boxes this week to find they were all stuffed with capped stores, I brought back 3 and a half shallow boxes, some 70lb of honey, so around 150lb in total from one hive, making up for the small yield from the other few hives.
But it’s not all milk and honey! The late swarm was preceded by the creation of swarm cells, the old queen flew with the swarm and a new queen was due to inherit the colony but my fear is that the new queen is drone laying. In this situation she has failed to mate properly, not uncommon nowadays with the prevalence of Varroa which can reduce the virility of drones particularly later in the season. I will watch this carefully and may try to use my last mated queen which is currently in a small nuc box.
Preparing for winter.
We must make sure bees are in goodshape for winter, this means feeding sugar syrup to replace the honey we take and to do so early enough for the bees to store the “bakers honey” while the weather is warm enough for them to reduce the water content and to cap the honey with wax and while the colonies are strong enough todo so before reducing size for winter.
We feed for winter not just to get the bees over Christmas but to see they have stores to last well into March when the start of 2020 natural forage kicks in. the queen will start to lay new brood in the new year so this can hatch ready to forage in spring, raising brood requires colonies to elevate temperature by consuming stores and shivering wing muscles to create heat; this draws down more stores, so plenty needs to be available – hence feeding now.
I bought some special entrance guards to help the bees defend against wasps and in conjunction with wasp traps they look to have worked. Having bees on allotments ticks lots of boxes; it’s good for the beekeeper, plot holders and wider community. In addition to beekeeping helping with the suppression of wasps, the bees pollinate crops and flowers and they extend this service into adjacent residential areas where bees would not be kept as a rule.
All plot holders are interested in bees and engage with the topic, they recognise the importance. The beekeeper can make allotment honey available and plot holders see bees in action. There are times in the year when bees can get feisty so apiary location at the allotment extremities is important with hive entrances facing out.
Brace Comb – See the note and photos on brace comb.