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.
Coming after a very warm spring, the beginning of June was more like the beginning of autumn than the beginning of summer. The bees have responded accordingly. They have been reluctant to leave the hive in the numbers seen in May. Who could blame them.
Fortunately I managed to harvest some honey at the beginning of the month on a warm sunny day, which helps the honey to flow. Honey needs to have a moisture content of about 18% or less to be harvested. If the water content is too high the honey will ferment. The bees don’t want their honey to ferment so they do not cap the cells where they store their honey until it has reached that level. How do they know? They are clever. The only way I know, is either that it has been capped by the bees, or I have to test the honey with a refractometer to measure the % water content. I am not as clever as the bees. When the bees have reduced the water content of the honey they are storing to the correct level they proceed to cap each cell with a coat of wax to seal it. This wax, and bees produce different types of wax for different functions, is almost white in colour.
The first photograph shows a frame resting on top of the hive where the bees have started to cap the cells at the top of the frame. The other cells lower down contain nectar which is being turned into honey but has not yet passed bee quality control.
The second photograph shows one side of an (almost) fully capped frame. This frame has honey with a moisture content of about 18% or less. The bees have told me, so I don’t need to test it. To harvest the honey I take off the wax cappings from the end of the cells and extract the honey. The result is an empty frame as shown in the third photograph. It looks a bit of a mess, still covered in sticky honey and with damaged individual wax cells. What a waste you may think. Not so. I simply give this empty frame back to the bees. Within a day of putting the frame back into the hive the bees will have licked the honey out of the cells and have rebuilt and restored any damaged cells with wax ready to store honey again. Bee recycling.
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.
Next time : Summertime and the living is easy, or is it?