Bee Watch – June Starts and It’s Here


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Several events have occurred in the interval since our last item;

1. Bees continue to forage on a diverse and changing range of plant flowers.

2. We have taken an interim honey harvest.

3. I am trying to raise some queens.

4. Conwy Beekeepers Apiary meetings.

1. Bees continue to forage on a diverse and changing range of plant flowers.

As the seasons progress so the early sources of forage for all bees and pollinating insects are successively replaced. The early fruit trees, crocus, Ceanothus, cotoneaster, sycamore and many other seasonal plants give way to the currently flowering sources of forage including hardy geranium, iris, initial blackberry, Fuscia,  etc and the bees need water to cool the colony and dilute stored honey.

I focus on the hardy geranium and Iris in particular; all bees are attracted to these flowers, for the period of their flowing and being a source of nectar and pollen. They can be untidy plants, the geranium going leggy after flowering and the tall iris displaying unattractive pods after flowering but they do contribute to floral display and they are useful forage during June a month often referred to by beekeepers as the June dearth. If caught in time a 2nd flush of geraniums can be stimulated by a pruning.

An interesting observation of bees foraging on Iris is how most bees “sup” nectar from outside the stem at the petal margin, with just occasional strong bees prising their way between the petals as the photos show.

(Please click on the image to enlarge)

2. We have taken an interim honey harvest.

Since this season started early and bees have built sufficient reserves it is nice and prudent for beekeepers to harvest some of the bounty. Bees store honey around the brood in the area of nest in a hive. Honey bees continue to gather honey as long as there is available forage, favourable weather and room in the hive, filling the hive above the nest area applies further pressure on the bees swarming instinct so harvesting some of the excess honey creates space and reduces the swarm urge.

Conwy beekeepers sell local honey in Conwy High Street under Royal charter going back some 700 yrs. I am always amazed at the flavour of my honey; I can experience the floral scent and taste and know it is also so good for us. Honey bees add enzymes and minerals to the bio-divers sources of forage to create nature’s miracle of anti-sceptic, anti-fungal, anti-biotic, wonder food. We spin honey from the frames and filter out any bits but not so fine, we keep pollen and wax traces as well as propolis so our honey is raw, not pasteurised; absolutely loaded with goodness.

This year we added some clean white comb to some of our breakfast honey, great on the porridge. Honey bees wax is a product of their forage; it is a nectar product, bees produce minute platelets of wax from glands on their abdomen and shape this into honey comb. Beeswax is not paraffin wax; beeswax candles burn with an alcohol flame and fumes of natural ingredients – wonderful.   

3. I am trying to raise some queens.

Beekeepers need to maintain queenright colonies with healthy queens and this often means raising queens for succession and colony survival. Most times bees with raise their own queens, if a queen dies or more likely accidentally damaged by the beekeeper then bees may raise an emergency queen by adopting a recent egg laid by the recently departed queen and feeding this on Royal jelly to promote the larger size growth needed by a queen in order to carry eggs. 

Maybe the queen is simply faltering in egg laying; they need to lay 1,000 per day at this time of year, so under some circumstances the workers will follow a procedure similar to emergency queening to raise a new queen in a process of supersedure. 

Colonies also raise a new queen when they want to swarm. Beekeepers attempt to promote new queen rearing by grafting or transferring 4 day old lava to plastic queen cells and in the process stimulate the queen rearing behaviour.  Looking at a brood frame we see eggs like small grains of rice, these lay down after 3 days to form lava so the earliest lava, just visible in some of the cells, may be found close to recent eggs.

4. Conwy Beekeepers Apiary meetings.

We meet at our training apiary in the Conwy Valley; if anyone is interested contact me through the Conwy Beekeepers website, we have suits and gloves – you just bring wellies and enjoy a close up experience like the photo’s I took on Saturday.

Bees outside this hive show different pollen from diverse forage, probably visiting nearby Bodnant Gardens. Some bees have tails lifted to fan air across the nasanov gland to attract colony members flying home.

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Barry Griffiths

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