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Bee Blog July

July 2019

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.

The Bees for Development Garden Party at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, on the 12th June could not have been held on a worse day.  It rained for most of the day, not a good day for a garden party. Regardless of the weather the party went ahead and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves with plenty of tents in which to take shelter. I felt very sorry for the people distributing the free champagne on the Fortnum and Masons counter.  They had opted for a slatted bamboo designed shelter including the roof to the stand, great if the sun was shining but in the rain !!! A lot of money was raised for the Charity and it was an opportunity to see how disadvantaged people throughout the world are helped to become beekeepers. It was also an opportunity to taste the many different types of honey from various countries. My particular favorite was a thick variety of honey packed with flavor from Ethiopia. Many thanks to 2BScientific for supporting the Charity.

At the Garden Party I was able to have a long conversation with Martha Kearney the journalist and broadcaster, currently the Radio 4 Today presenter and Trustee of Bees for Development. Martha has been a beekeeper for many years but some time ago she was stung and hospitalised with anaphylactic shock. She had to give up keeping bees but has now been successfully treated by immunotherapy treatment which she informed me had been a great success. Some time ago Martha produced a series of four half hour documentaries on bees, still available on youtube, , filmed in and around her Sufolk home. I thoroughly recommend their viewing. Also at the Garden Party was the Duchess of Cornwall, yet another bee keeper!

Its been a busy time in my apiary since my last Blog. The oil seed rape plants finished flowering in my area towards the end of May, beginning of June so it was time to remove the spring crop. As I mentioned last month, the two new colonies had been collecting lots of nectar but the original hive had not. My guess was that the two new colonies had found the oil seed rape flowers, nearly a mile away, and that the original colony had not been able to locate it.

On opening up the original colony, the white queens colony, there was almost no stored honey in the super so I closed up the colony and left it. The two new colonies, originally with the red queens, were full of honey with almost two and a half full supers of ripe honey. I tested the honey just to make sure that the few frames of honey that the bees had not capped was ripe and found it to have a water content of 16% well within the 20% limit.

I do enjoy honey harvesting day, its hard and often hot work but just the smell of the honey as it is extracted from the supers is worth all of the effort. From each hive I extracted about 40lbs of honey. This honey, as you may recall from last year, solidifies. I therefore have to keep it in a bucket until it turns solid. I then heat it to 35degC until it softens and then use a large blender to agitate the honey breaking down the bonds between the honey crystals turning it into creamed honey. It will then be poured into jars and off to the local shop.

As soon as I, and probably a lot of other beekeepers, had removed the honey the weather turned cold and wet, so much so that in some parts of the country, local bee inspectors have been warning of colony starvation and advising feeding of colonies to help them over the gap between honey removal and the start of the summer nectar flows.

Adverse weather has been a big influence this last month not only to Bees for Development but also for our colonies in this country as well. As I am writing this it is raining again. Lets hope July’s weather is better for the bees.

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.