01 September 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.
Regular readers will probably think I have an overwhelming fascination with the weather. I probably do have but being a beekeeper it is a key factor in trying to manage the bees and optomise the best conditions for them. If I just left them alone I wouldn’t have to worry about the weather but I harvest their honey which is their winter store of food so I try to make sure that I give them sufficient time after I harvest the summer honey so that they can build up supplies in the brood box to last them through the winter months.
Last month I said that I would have to make a judgment on when to collect the summer honey, wanting to wait as long as possible so that the honey was ripe but not too long so as to leave enough time for the bees to build up stores in the brood box before the end of the year. The day I finally chose was the 10th August. This was just about 9 weeks after removing the spring honey. This year I extracted 55lbs of summer honey which goes to show how quickly the bees can collect the nectar and convert it into honey if the conditions are right. This is even more surprising as this honey was mostly from two hives, the other one, which had swarmed earlier, produced virtually nothing.
I chose the 10th August as the day to remove the summer honey as most of the frames in the supers were capped and as importantly the weather had turned inclement. We were having some cold and wet days with some overnight temperatures in single figures. On many days I noticed that few bees were leaving the hives at all preferring to stay warm and cosy at home. I was beginning to think that autumn was on its way early this year just like spring and summer.
The weather did not improve after I had removed the honey and I was starting to consider if I should start supplementary feeding of sugar solution to give the bees a helping hand in replacing stores. August bank holiday was looming and surely this late bank holiday would turn out like so many other bank holidays, cold wet and windy. But no unexpectedly summer returned with temperatures in excess of 30degs, calm weather, flowers blooming and bees flying. It may be too hot for me but the bees loved it. I am hopeful that the nectar will be flowing and I will have nothing to do to ensure that honey stores in the hive are adequate for winter.
When the weather does cool down, as I am sure it will soon I will need to open up the hives and have a bit of a clean up before I leave the brood boxes to over winter. I still havn’t marked the two new queens. As autumn approaches bee numbers will reduce and hopefully make it easier to see the queens and mark them with a dot of paint for future occasions when they need to be found.
I was concerned last month about the threat posed to the hives from wasps. So far however this has not materialised. There are wasps but not as many as I had expected having seen so many flying queens in spring. I did dig out my wasp traps and place them near the hives and they have caught many wasps but there are not large numbers around the hives. I have seen a few wasps in the hives when I have opened them up but all of those were being dealt with by the bees themselves. Not a pretty sight but natures way.
I am hopeful that when I eventually open up the brood boxes I will find three strong colonies with good supplies of stores to take them through into next year. We still have a lot of time left before winter with many opportunities for the bees to forage the late flowering autumn plants such as ivy which they are very fond of.
I have harvested more honey this year than any other year. All in all not a bad year so far.
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.