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Bee Blog - September 2021

This month's update from local beekeeper Gerald Bushby

Last month I was explaining how after the spring removal of the honey supers, I put the empty frames back in the supers and back on the bee hives for the bees to clean. Each hive had three supers to clean. I had intended to remove them in a day or so but when I looked a day later the bees had already started filling them with nectar. I was too late. My intention was to leave just one super on each hive and not add another until the first one was full again. My plans had to change, I had to leave all three supers on each hive. I thought this would probably give me problems for the summer honey collection as the bees would not be able to fill all three supers in the time available.

Reading through various books and articles it seem as though I had probably not stacked the supers on the hives in the best way for the bees to clean them. I had just put the supers on the top of the queen excluder screen which is on top of the brood box. The literature suggested that I should have placed a crown board on top of the queen excluder and underneath the empty supers. The crown board is a solid sheet of plywood with two small holes. It indicates to the bees that this is the top of the hive and that anything up above is just bonus space not an area where nectar should be stored. Had I used this configuration it was suggested that the bees would have cleaned the frames and taken any excess honey down into the brood box and not started filling them with nectar again. There is always something to learn with bees.

As July progressed there appeared to be a long nectar flow with substantial bee activity from each hive on most days. The weather had been warm with some rain, ideal honey producing conditions. My inspections revealed that, contrary to my expectations, all six supers were filling up nicely and I need not have worried about the bees not being able to utilise three supers each.

Each year I have to make a judgement when to remove the summer honey. Too soon and the honey will not be capped and ripe, too late and I leave the bees too little time to build up stores of honey in the brood box for winter. Furthermore as I experienced last year the later in August I harvest the honey the bigger the problem of wasps.

This year I decided conditions were right on the 3rd of August. This was much earlier than I had thought possible earlier in the season when plants and bee activity appeared to be some three to four weeks later than last year. Nature had caught up. Six weeks after taking off the spring honey the summer honey was ready and all six supers were fairly full, not as full as the spring honey but not far off.

I extracted in excess of 80 lbs of honey. With the 115 lbs of the spring honey this means this year the bees from only two hives had produced almost 200 lbs of honey, my best year ever. My photograph this month shows an almost perfect full super of honey.

Whilst the news on the honey production is good the news on my attempts at making splits  to form new colonies is not so good. Perhaps I was counting my bees before they had “hatched”. The first split that I made and had moved into a full sized hive is still doing well but I have had problems with the other two.

The second one I produced, where I knew there was a queen as I had seen brood, was building nicely with lots of bee activity at the colony entrance until I noticed no activity for three continuous days. I opened the colony to have a look inside and found that it was empty. No bees at all. For some reason, which I do not know, they must have decided just to leave. As I said earlier, there is always something to learn with bees.

There had been little activity at the colony entrance of the third split for some time. On inspecting this colony I found that there was no brood that they had failed to produce a queen. Perhaps I had just left it too late in the season. From my three splits I am down to one. Hopefully I will be able to take my three remaining colonies through the winter to next spring.