I am not sorry for not blogging over the last two months plus, the only excuse is thats its been the busiest period of beekeeping I can remember.
So when i last spoke, I was dreaming of a good spring flow and indeed we had it!! For nearly 3 weeks we had excellent weather, high numbers of bees and a superb early spring flow. It was spring flowers to include Blackthorn, Rape seed that were were the main players that kicked in after the start of the goat willow bonanza. Tons of pollen for brood rearing, brought in by healthy populations that weren't lost over a warm winter, instead a cooler period between December and mid February proved very beneficial to all colonies. This keeps the worker bees from literally working, so they stay quiet. When the weather did warm up, it ws a perfect combination.
So the good weather ended right at the start of the hawthorn and apple flowers, but this wasn't a problem because we needed to harvest then, otherwise oil seed honey starts to crystallise in the frames. If that happens its basically a disaster.
The troubler with the stuff is that on minute its like water, the next its too thick to extract. Getting somewhere in the middle is where the skill in involved.
Capped honey ready for extraction.
So from there what next? Well traditionally theres a bit of a dearth for the bees until the bramble and chestnut starts. For me I chose to make some of my first batches of queens and then when they were ready, on day 10, I harvested them and put them in to nucleus colonies I had made, just after the end of the flow. Their was so many bees in the hives, I would have been stupid not to use a little of the hives resources.
How many bees to take out?
So basically if you artificially swarm your hives, then you are removing all the flying bees and really hitting the colony hard. This in turn will lead to reduced foragers and the colonie won't build itself up really well, in time for the summer flow, so for me this year, I wanted honey and bees.
I will try and do a video on how we make up nucs. Basically taking bees and brood, that will hatch out in time , then give them a queen.
They make a colonie quickly, as your not waiting 16 days for a queen cell to be hatched out, and you can give them a good queen you have grafted!!
You can also make up mating nucs. Anything is possible if you have queens. The method I use to make Queens is the Michael Palmer 10 + 10 Method, he bases his method on the brother Adams method, of adding 10 frames for brood to an already strong colony, then just as they think about swarming, you make them queen less and give them a load of grafted eggs (combining the emergency procedure with the swarming impulse) . This is what I get!
Beautiful drawn out closed queen cells, ready for harvest.
So I am away next week on a trip of a lifetime to America, Vermont to do a weeks beekeeping at a most excellent Apiary, can't wait. I have been planning this trip for over a year. Will report back with pics of the trip when I get back at the end of the month.
So to Summarise, good all round, honey, queens and lovely weather. Were just coming to the end of our chestnut flow, but again its hot and humid, quite a special period of weather over the last two weeks. A friend has a set of electronic scales on his hives. Every night a readout is sent to a master controller and he is able to monitor the weight, humidity, temperature and gain over the previous day, making a visit perfectly timed if needed. All last week the hives went up by on average about a kilo per day. If you think of that over all your hives thats a lot of honey to harvest!
Harvest for me will be in about 3 weeks when I get back from North America!! Bring it on!!
Will be making more nucs up this Saturday too, after that its the end of the season, Really?, well yes theres nothing to do now but prepare for winter!! but quietly i am looking forward to a quieter period, been out many evenings moving bees, moving swarms from traps and just trying to keep on top of things!! and be a gardner !! its certainly been a very busy time.
Enjoy the great weather!!