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Bee Blog - August 2021

This month's update from local beekeeper Gerald Bushby

August already, where has the year gone? In August I usually take the last of the honey from the hives and start preparing the hives for winter. This year the seasons, and the way the bees have related to the seasons, have been some 3 - 4 weeks later than normal so perhaps there is still a bit of summer left to enjoy.

Earlier on in the year I had been concerned that this was going to be a bad year for honey production. Spring was late, I lost two hives and the two remaining hives seemed to be very slow in putting down nectar. You can never tell with bees however and within a few weeks of there apparently being very little nectar collecting activity, the weather improved and the bees became very active. It is said that given the right conditions of good weather and an abundant “nectar flow” from flowering plants a colony can fill a 10 frame super in a week. I can quite believe that observation now. Within a few weeks of there being nothing much in the supers Hive 1 had four full supers and Hive 1 three.

In late June, four weeks later than normal, I harvested in the region of 115 lbs of honey, as much as the whole of last years production. As I have doubtless said in previous years, I enjoy “honey day” - the day of the honey harvest. It is a hard days work, but a very rewarding day. This year some of the supers were full to overflowing.

After extracting the honey I placed the empty but sticky super frames back onto the hives for the bees to clean. Within a day not only where they clean and the damaged cells repaired but the bees had started to fill the cells with nectar again. Since that time the weather has been excellent for plants. We have had considerable rain and many hot sunny days. I don’t want to count my “supers” before they are hatched but I am hopeful of collecting more honey before the end of the season.

I am pleased to report that my attempt at encouraging the bees to make an emergency queen, my plan B of last months blog, has been successful. I failed to see the new queen in person but during a recent inspection there was a good amount of new and capped worker brood. There is definitely a new queen present and she was laying so well that I decided to move the 6 frame nucleus colony into a full size 10 frame hive so that she can build up the new colony as much as possible to go through the next winter.

The first “split” was so successful that I decided to do two further splits, one from each of the remaining colonies. I carried out the splits at different times. The second one has also been successful. Yet again I failed to actually see the new queen but worker brood is being produced so she must be there. With luck I will be able to go through winter with two strong full colonies and three nucleus colonies. Given the problems I had this spring, loosing two colonies, I can see that it is better to have too many colonies in spring than not enough. Colonies can always be merged but not having enough queens in spring is a big problem.

My photograph this month shows the apiary on a lovely sunny day in mid July. The sun is shining, the bees were all very active. The outer hives are the full colonies each with three supers added. The hive second in from the right is the first split now housed in a full sized hive and the two smaller nucleus boxes are holding the second and third splits, the middle nucleus has already formed a new queen. I will have to wait until mid August before I know if I have been successful raising a third queen.