I am Gerald Bushby (pronounced bush bee!) a beekeeper in Weston on the Green, a small village in Oxfordshire. I am going to be writing a monthly blog about the bees in my apiary. I hope you will find it interesting. I should start by saying that I am not an expert, having only kept bees for three years. Anything I say is my own personal opinion; I accept that there may often be other views and opinions.
July has been another busy month in the apiary. There have been lots of bees working hard bringing in summer supplies to all three hives. The original white queen hive is now the most active, a complete opposite to the spring season when it looked as if the original hive was very weak.
I had suspected last month that the bees from two new hives had found the field of oil seed rape flowers about a mile away. Having now harvested the spring honey I think my suspicions were correct. After leaving the liquid honey in a storage bucket for several weeks it set solid as honey that contains nectar from oil seed rape does. It sets too hard to spread the honey easily to eat so I have to turn it into “creamed honey”. To do this I place the plastic honey bucket containing the solid honey in a warming cabinet. This is just an insulated wooden box with a light bulb producing heat and a thermostat so that over a period of 24 hours the temperature of the honey is raised to 35degs C. This softens the honey and enables me to stir the honey with a large metal paddle on a powerful electric motor breaking up the bond between the honey crystals. When the temperature of the honey drops to an ambient temperature the bond does not form again and “creamed honey” is the result that spreads easily. This process cannot be rushed (even if my local shop is pressing for supplies of this years honey). If the process of creaming is started before the honey has fully solidified the bond between the crystals forms again and the honey sets solid.
I removed the spring honey on the 4th June. Since then there seems to have been several periods of good nectar flow. I have two supers on each of the three hives and they seem to be filling up reasonable well. Bee numbers in the two new hives have been down as I am sure that both of these hives swarmed. I keep checking these hives to make sure that a queen is present. Both have lots of new brood which will hatch out in the next week or so. This indicates that both hives must have queens but so far I have not been able to see them visually. If and when I do I will catch and mark them to make finding them easier in the future. Being 2019 the standard marking color this year is green.
August will be another busy month. I will have to make a judgment on when to collect the summer honey. I will want to wait as long as possible so that the honey is ripe but not too long so as to leave enough time, after I have removed the honey in the supers, for the bees to build up stores in the brood box to keep them over the winter. The weather has been nice an warm recently with lots of plants flowering. Lavender has flowered particularly well in our village and honey bees love lavender. Unlike last years summer, we have had some rain but nothing for the last week or so. A good rain now could set off a new nectar flow from the local plants turning a good year so far into a very good year.
I usually think of August at the month of wasps. Up until now I had seen very few but the numbers flying in my garden are now beginning to build. At the beginning of the season I did see a large number of queen wasps emerging from their winter resting places so numerous nests may be forming ready to explode when the summer fruits start to ripen. I usually place wasp traps near the hives to reduce the number of wasps trying to enter the hives. Many people think that this is more to make the beekeeper feel that they are helping that actually making a difference to the hives. Hopefully all of my hives will be strong going into autumn so that the bees will be able to protect themselves from the wasps. I suspect however that I will feel the need to dig out my usual wasp traps to make me feel I am helping.
So far this year I have heard no reports of the Asian Hornet, long may it continue. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
I am a proud supporter of the ‘Bees for development’ charity, my love of the bee drew me to this wonderful UK based charity and the great work they do around the world with Bees and the impact they can have on people’s lives. Please help me support this wonderful organisation, as 2BScientific will be doing with donations to this hard-working charity.