Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bad weather and no honey!

I manages to get a quick look at my bees last sunday between the frequent rain showers. Not one single drop of honey in any of the 3 supers I had place on 2 weeks before.
The problem is we have had plenty of rain but the temperatures are still around or below  14 degrees making any appreciable forraging difficult. I have 3 fields of rape seed oil in full flower around my bees but the bees just cant get there and if they can, the temperature is so low the pollen in not ripe and the nectar flow is also low.  When we do have a lull in the wind and the sun comes out  there is for a few minutes a mad dash to the the nearest flowers. This results in huge clouds of bees suddenly appearing and the returning just before the next shower comes. Its actually a really interesting site to watch.

On the plus side the colonies are doing very well. They have all started  drawing up the 1st and 10th frame that I swapped in the spring . This  shows that the colonies need more space and are edging to the etremities of the hives to find it.
There is a large amount of brood in each hive . I think that my queens have been laying continously for the last 3 weeks. Its obvious therefore that there is plenty of food / pollen to supply the needs of the hive but there is not excess to start storing in the supers above.

I have decided I am going to remove my honey supers, allow my bees to become cramped and this will then enduce swarming. This time last year some of my hives had swarmed and then I artificially swarmed the others. Due to the amount of rain we have recieved its looking much more likely we will have a good nectar flow during the fowering of the chestnut trees,  So I am hoping to artificially swarm all my colonies in the next week , create some bees and then leave the bees build back in numbers before the best quality honey comes along.

Artificial swarming.

For those of you who dont know  very briefly, Artificial swarming is a technique employed by beekeepers during the spring and summer. It basically allows a beekeeper to create a new colony of bees for free and stop your bees from swarming at the wrong time..

Personally I dont usually collect spring honey and instead I let my bees build up in numbers in the spring and when they swarm or are about to swarm I go through my hives and artificially swarm them, making the bees think the queen has gone. The bees then, in their noble effort to save their colony take an egg less than 3 days old and feed it royal jelly exclusively and then produce a new queen. She then hatches out in 21 days and after she has run the gauntlett of mating flights she returns to the colony and starts laying eggs as the new queen This takes usually just over 3 weeks.
I will be doing a "how to perform an artificial swarm in my next blog." As usual you need to know all the nuts and bolts of the technique to get it right. I have done it fro the last 4 years and only started getting it right last year.
I will also be monitoring my bee traps around my colonies closely as a guide to how far advanced the preparations for swarming are, but this is really a guide and a lot depends on other factors.

Well its still howling and lashing with rain here. The promise of warmer weather for this week has changed to possibly next week and certainly nothing in the next 2 or 3 days but we must not forget this is normal weather for brittany, we have just been spoilt for the last 2 springs!


  1. Have you got any honey this year? We have just taken about 20 kilos off two hives. Not great but a really strange (and wet/cold!) OSR season. So all in all we're pleased.

  2. Hi Jean, I had a look at my bees last friday. The 2 supers on the two hives were full so I have added another super on each hive. I will be harvesting next saturday and artificial swarming the two hivea afterwards.
    I agree very strange weather this year, but on the plus side there is now plenty of moisture in the soilso hopefully we are heading towards a good nectar flow for the summer honey.