Thursday, November 19, 2020

Second year as a professional beekeeper, Where did that go!?

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly" Robert F Kenedy.

 We're already preparing for next year in a year that I haven't written a post since march!! Shall I give the usual bloggers excuses? "oh, I was so busy," well ain't that the truth.

My colleague who's my mentor and also my close friend said " say goodbye to your family in Mid March and you may get to see them again in September! how right he is!

I love my job more than ever and it's grown so much this year, grown in so many ways. Personally, I feel I've overcome so many hurdles mental and physical.

The Beekeeping year started off pretty badly for me. Reality came crashing in, after my amazing trip to Hawaii over Christmas and the new year, coming back to the realisation of huge winter losses. 

So why did I have so many losses?

How could this have happened?? The losses were indeed huge! around 40 to 45%,  totally mind-blowing how someone could lose so much stock so quickly.

So why and how did that happen? in the video I give my reasons why I think this happened.

Huge winter Losses!

Believe it or not, this was one of the reasons and I never saw it! doh!!!

The previous spring of 2019 was amazing, Mimosa and Gorse pollen pouring into the hives in the third week of February will surely now be my "be aware" marker for future years. We had a great spring crop last spring (2019) and it was this that was the start of my winter losses to come. 

Mimosa and Gorse Pollen by the bucketload!

As I say in my latest video, "winter losses are mostly lost in late autumn before." This was the case for last year. Lots of strong spring swarming and poor mating afterwards. Many hives were a long time getting mated or were poorly mated. Add to this scenario my unexpected workload coupled with the inexperience to know I should have concentrated more on getting those colonies queenright quicker.

However, the spring quickly turned in to the summer and I did have a good summer honey crop.

I am grateful for the harvest I had but this would be the lesson learned, never sit back just because the honey is in the barrel there was a huge amount of work to be done. All colonies to inspect, treat against Varroa, asses and feed, get them winterised fully insulated and winterised.

This is also where I fell down.  My Varroa treatments were  in on time but the Varroa were not completely 

treated and some colonies still had large populations of those bloodsucking pests!

The weather really does matter in the autumn

The weather then turned right at the end of a long summer dearth with no appreciable rain from 18 degrees to around 10 degrees max and rain, lots of rain.

Bees need pollen to make winter bees, lots of pollen and the usual autumn Ivy in most years suffices admirably, but not in the autumn of 2019, the rain kept the bees in most of the autumn while I was unaware, sunning myself on the first of my two trips out to Hawaii!

So to summarize, lots of the previous swarming, many colonies not looked after properly, poor or little nutrition coming in through the door (going unnoticed) winter bees being raised too late with too higher varroa infection rate: a veritable recipe for disaster. 

I have no regrets, it was what it was! Entering the spring was hard. Both my colleague and I had lots of losses, was there anything we could say we did recoup!


Beeswax is at a premium every year and we had lots of frames to melt down. Remember these are brood frames, that had no brood diseases,(they died of varroa and no bees) we could melt as many down as we wanted!

Before the melt and after

Some of our spoils of all the toils!

Our main beekeeping supplier offers a service where they take your wax and either buy it, exchange it or melt it down for you and give your wax back as beautiful foundation!

We still pay a little for the pressing but to have your own wax, mostly from your own cappings and melted down frames

Here is the wax, they did a beautiful and quality job!

Covid 19 Lockdown was upon us, so we had plenty of time to wax up frames.  It was a big worry that we wouldn't be able to collect our wax but after a few calls, we had the authority to go and collect the material we needed, wax included. Now we had the wax to fill all the frames we needed!

Frames, Frames Frames.

Here I am at the start of the rewaxing work, I was able to bring a load of frames home to work in the relative quiet of the veranda, beavering away, getting things prepared for the forthcoming season

Well that's all for now  I will show you my journey continuing in the next chapter! Spring bees, small spring harvest and how I  start rebuilding my apiaries.
Wishing you all well😊

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Beekeeping in Hawaii! whilst the others pause!!

January: a month of calm in Northern climes!

In the month of reflection and regeneration, we're all looking forward to great times ahead.

I love the forced pause in beekeeping activities that beekeeping away from the equator gives you. Whether you are North or South of the line, were plunged into the annual cycle of the changing seasons.
If you lucky enough to live around the equatorial regions of the world,  you can harvest honey all year round, depending on local flowers, but there is never a break.  I've recently experienced this first hand in my incredible trips to Hawaii!

Some of the spectacular views from the North coast of Big Island.

Hawaii is just such an amazing place. Did you know that when you on Hawaii you are actually on the tallest mountain in the world!
I first visited in in October 2018 and was completely blown away by its beauty and diversity!

The bees are so Prolific and so gentle!!

A wonderful example of the prolificness of Honey bees and nectar flow on Big island! Any violated bee space left is built in to very quickly if you are not on your toes. It can take as little as one week to be built out!!
This is the back of an AZ Hive, any space is quickly filled. The honey and combs are gorgeous!!

Honey bees proliferate because there are flowers all year round. There is a pause in the intensity of the nectar flows between November and January but after that, the Macadamia nut trees start to flower, and it all goes crazy.

There are many beekeepers in Big Island as well as the other smaller islands. Some big commercial operations like big island queens, Big Island Bees and the Hawaiian Islands Honey Company, who is one of the main exporters of honey to the mainland USA. Queens are exported all over the world from Hawaii because they can be ready in time for beekeepers elsewhere where their season is not as advanced.
There is also the smaller artisan producers who specialise in specific nectar flows. These you discover at the local shops, where the diversity of flowers is reflected in the overwhelming selection of beautiful jars of honey. I wanted to buy and taste them all.

Some areas on Big island are much drier than others. Hilo generally receives huge amounts of rain on a regular, when it rains boy does it rain! The annual rainfall is around the 120-inch mark, which is quite incredible. The soils are fertile, dark and drain well, indeed they need to! There are numerous valleys where streams quickly become rivers after heavy showers. These are called Gaulches and are spectacular.  The diversity of plants and flowers is quite incredible!

Alicia Wills has a beautiful Apiary at her home in Hilo, on the east coast, which is said to be one of the best places to keep bees. She raises open mated queens and also Instrumentally Inseminated queens that are gently and productive, making delicious honey!

Nice strong nucleus colonies.

Alicia with some of her Apimaye 7 framed Nucleus Boxes. Highly practical for Hawaii!
These boxes are perfect for Raising queens and Nucleus colonies for sale.

The amazing  Slovenian style AZ Hive House.

Alicia has several small apiaries on the Hamakua coastline. The three areas are divided up to suit the different hives she has, making the management more effortless.  There are two distinctive hive types. Already shown is the Apimaye hive above,  (which do also come in the standard 10 frames hive)
The second type of hive is the wonderful Slovenian AZ hive. This hive was the design of Anton Znidersic who came up with the concept of having a hive and configuration, which enables you to be able to remove individual frames for inspection, as well as collect honey from individual frames. removing the need to lift heavy supers.
A single person avoids the backbreaking work and can manage frames individually as if opening pages in a book and taking them out to read.
Typically most AZ hives are situated in a beehouse, with the hives cupboard like in appearance. Very practical.

Where Hawian Style meets Slovenian.  An amazing Beehouse.

 Alicia with the hive open at the rear to inspect the frames. Just look at that lovely brood!! You can see all the hives are perfectly accessible with minimal movement from within the bee house. When a frame of honey is capped and ready for extraction, it can be lifted out, spun directly in the bee house if one wishes, then returned to the colony. Keeping adequate space for the queen to lay and space for honey gathering. Hive configuration is usually 10 or 20 frames, growing to a staggering 30 frames in a well-developed colony.

Heres one of the videos I filmed that gives you an idea of how it all works and some of the fantastic scenery of Hawaii.

I also filmed a video showing how useful the Apimaye hives are.

Being inside the bee house is truly a wonderful experience. When you have bees humming all around you, the energy they emit is quite mesmerising.  What an experience to have seen for me how bees perform under really ideal conditions.

Instrumental Insemination.

Alicia is also a trained Queen bee Inseminator. She spends a lot of her time selecting good colonies through rigorous selection criteria. The most important being high mite resistance.
Varroa mites pose the biggest challenges to all Honey bees in Europe and the USA and finding strains that have hygienic behaviour is of the utmost importance. This is where they can detect a foundress reproducing female adult varroa underneath the capping of the brood and butcher the developing larvae, dragging out the infected larvae with the foundress mite and her young,  removing it from the colony.

One of the prolific queens with an amazing laying pattern!!

It is so important that we find and breed from these highly desirable hygienic traits. It's not just the mites that suck blood from our bees: The biggest issue is when the mites are feeding transmit Viruses. It's these viruses that cause so much mortality of honey bee populations. There are some 10 different viruses that can cause significant problems to bees, rendering them immobile,  wingless or hugely less active and efficient.

Carefully positioning a 4/5 day old queen to receive selective drone semen via the insemination process. This is highly skilled!

 They have a lab in Hawaii big Island and in conjunction with Project Apis, The USDA and beekeeper David Thomas of the Hawaiian Island honey company, have made enormous progress producing bees that are 100% resistant to mites.

The insemination process: approximately 10 micro-litres is instrumentally inseminated in to the queen's oviduct. They use SDI (single drone Insemination) or Multi drone insemination (MDI) depending on the selection criteria.

Arista bee Research is going Global!

Alicia will be shortly heading the exciting launch of Arista USA. This is a massive development and will consist of a board of directors that will work with a team of Apiarists, lab technicians and Inseminators that will start new lines in of super hygienic bees in their new base which will be in Texas.

 This is just excellent news. I will keep you posted with all developments and how you can support the project even where you are!!

Arista Bee Research needs all support possible, we all need to defeat the mite issue!!

In the meantime, I will sign out and wish you all well in your continuing winter work or early spring prep! I will hopefully be visiting Hawaii again soon as well as Texas in the near future.
Remember: Anything can be achieved if you want it to happen!

Until the next time, Aloha!!❤️

Alicia Wills is on Email:
Instagram @heartybees.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Its all in your planning and time management!!

Winter is very short.

As this season is now finished its time to be planning ahead.  The days of rushing around until late at night, queen rearing, harvesting honey, putting on supers and hive inspections are now only a distant memory but take no rest, winter is very short!!
I have learnt in the last couple of years that you must never take for granted the apparent lack of urgency in things because there is a list, well should I say a scroll, that unwinds around the workshop, of jobs to be done.
Here is a list of just a few for when I get back to France.
Cleaning old frames, scraping them and rewaxing. (over 1500 to do!)
Mini plus frames, clean scrape and rewax (1500 to do!)
cleaning queen excluders,
cleaning wooden feeders hive top feeders with a scraper and blow torch.
cleaning nucs, mating nucs
stocktake of what materials we have left to use.
Ordering materials.

The list goes on and on. If you don't make lists and decide what you're going to do for this next year, you going to fall at the first hurdle ending up doing winter work in the summer. A complete nightmare.

Waxing in new foundation to our Mini-Plus frames in a huge job but it must be done while we have time. timely winter work pays off in the long term always! it takes us about 10 days to get through enough for the season, so it's a big labour burner, but its essential to have frames ready for the spring growth.

So where do you start?

Be honest and realistic with yourself and also never underestimate how long things take. The labour involved in many aspects of beekeeping is huge, but we do it because we love our job, occupation or hobby (whatever you call it) it is a labour of love, that with beekeeping you have to forget making money and just enjoy your bees. If at the end of that you have found yourself with some money that pays the bills, then the experience is real and sustainable.
There is a joke that goes something like this:

Q: How do you become a millionaire beekeeper
A: Start off as billionaire😂.

The truth is, no one makes millions keeping bees but its an occupation and hugely rewarding thing to do everything yourself,  put in your heart and soul and end up with good bees in your hives, (not in the trees) and honey in the barrel to sustain you throughout the long winter.  You are certainly a farmer and the rewards are enormous.
I have to say I've found being a professional beekeeper strangely more rewarding than I felt like an amateur beekeeper. Probably because when you become a professional you're putting most of your eggs in one basket but at the same time your completely in control of what you do and when you do it! when you get the rewards it's so uplifting!!
Having that second job to rely on when things potentially may get tough is purely psychological support. In reality, once you get 200 hives, there is really no reason that with hard work you won't make enough on selling Nucs, queens and honey. If you don't, then really, you are doing something wrong.

In my mind, two jobs actually become a thorn in your side.

You're trying desperately to keep up with your swarm controls in mid-spring but your other job means your not free on the two good days of that week in that a typical early May period when you should have been in your apiaries.! You turn up at your apiary 5 days later than you scheduled to be (because of one thing and another) and you find 40% of your colonies have swarmed or are about too. You're then immediately in to cutting out queen cells, trying to stop the others from swarming,  as well as trying to get the swarmed colony "queenright" as soon as possible. Basically, you have lost valuable time, money and precious resources that if managed correctly, would have been much more useful to you!

Swarms are completely normal but in most cases completely avoidable.

Once you've been down the road of post swarm management,  you soon realise that the second job has to go, or you need to change it in a way that permits you to have the time you need!  This is where reality bites.
I experienced this problem this year. May is a busy month. If you survive it with the majority of your bees in your hives and not hanging in the trees you've done well!
To watch your carefully overwintered stock just fly away is heartbreaking and downright demoralising.

There then comes the labour decisions!!
How much time should you spend on managing one colony? How much time do you want to spend on each Apiary?
I learnt this and learnt that its a variable but there is obviously patterns and seasons that give us leaders into what we should expect during hive inspections.

Swarm Catching

How long should you spend catching a swarm in your apiary😤 , believe it or not, this sounds like a simple question? I used to always catch swarms but in May and June, you just don't have time.
Firstly, those genetics are the ones you don't want. The propensity to swarm is a very undesirable trait to most beekeepers. I certainly don't want swarming bees and by collecting that swarm and allowing that queen to survive and produce drones for next year! that's one reason,. The second reason is, in reality, collecting a swarm can take a long time, 30. minutes lost when you could have checked another 5 hives is a complete waste of time.
If the swarm is low enough, ok, have a box on the truck, shake it in and move on. Reality bites again.
I learnt the hard way and lost lots of time in Apiaries, thanks to my colleague and mentor, I have changed my ways! but it's s a dilemma.

The dilemma of catching swarms in your apiary.

Time management is crucial to a successful operation. Plan your time, Plan your week. Stick to the schedule wherever possible.  It will pay you dividends in the future.

Right now I  am back out in sunny Hawaii for nearly a month, I am enjoying some fantastic scenery, Beekeeping with Alicia and helping out with the chores on her busy Apiary.  Were cleaning up some hives and frames, making up all boxes so there ready for use with new frames etc.
I never dreamt in my life I would ever be fortunate enough to visit Hawaii

The stunning morning view of Mauna Kea in the background is always breathtaking!

             Look what bees did for me!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The excuse for my absence -Bees and Life.

 Bees and life!

Photoshoot by Chris Campbell of Hiveshare

Well, I am back blogging. I am determined to share more what I have learned in my beekeeping.  According to my last post, it was March last year! where has the time gone? I can tell you it's just been awesome!

Those who have been following my YouTube channel (all about bees in Brittany.).  I can say how much I am enjoying sharing my experiences with bees, it's just amazing to be able to share what I do. The comments and feedback are wonderful and I thank you all!

So here we are,  were now early December, the first frost on the ground this morning and boy was it a cold one. Seeing and hearing all the social media from around the world, makes me feel kind of humbled as to our privileged position in the climate zones. Were never really too hot, never really too cold. were lucky here in Corseul Brittany, La belle France!

What I would like to do over the next few weeks is write about my experiences over the last two years and bring you up to the date with where I am now. I have treated myself to a gorgeous MacBook Pro which is beautiful. Perfect for when your travelling as well as enabling me to write at home. As my children have grown up, my desktop Mac has bee hijacked and filled up with each of my children various projects.

I am going to be upgrading this blog site too. Time for some better pictures and a fresh look, so bear with me as this all takes place.

Big changes

A huge amount has happened to me over the last two years. 
I feel I have fallen on my feet,  Fallen in love,  Tasted success with beekeeping and learnt a whole lot about life! 
My children are also finally growing up, which means I don't have to be home when they are. I am getting a life again! ( yes a life so I can work harder lol)
Finding a formula that works for you but also pushing yourself is a difficult balance. I've always had at least two jobs and last year I was finally able to reduce my gardening activities to just one client. This is always a difficult thing for anyone to do if you're depending on both jobs for the source of income, but I knew that because of my successes it was now time that I relied on less one my old job and finally was able to take that step and make that leap.
The other issue is it's so physically difficult to juggle two jobs in the spring. Clients want the grass cut on a regular basis, bees like to swarm on a regular basis in spring,  What do you do? 
I hate not being able to do the things I say I will do.. but my bees had to come first if they didn't, I would never be able to get ahead! 
I needed 200 + colonies for production, as well as brood factories and Finishers so I can make nucs with my own queens that I raise form my resources. This I have achieved and at this moment I am going into winter with a various assortment of colonies, nucs and mini nucs to give me the financial support into next spring and plenty of bees and queens for next year.

Next year is going to be really interesting. I have given notice to my one existing gardening job, my last month of work will be March, from then on its just bees that will give me my income. I have nucs to sell this spring ( I hope) and some honey to give me some turnover until then until hopefully, we have another good spring harvest. 
The circle of beekeeping is a fascinating one, each year its the same but each year is completely unique. 
Being able to understand each year's uniqueness is the key to good time management. The is what I am only Just learning and what a learning curve it is.

Here I am talking about the spring harvest this year. I was amazing to have 6 barrels of honey from one flow  but I suppose I can say I did earn it. I worked really hard and the results are there. 
As I say in the video, if there isn't honey in the barrel, you might just as well go back to your old job! because it's that which pays the bills.

Speak soon and think positive! you can achieve whatever you want to manifest! I dreamt of one day seeing this, well here  I am, honey is in the barrel!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Winter marches on!

Spring prep well under way.

Well as usual its a fair while since i posted. Winter has been very long, wet and damp and only the last week its been really cold. I cant remember a winter when we've had so much continuous rain, wind and just damp., either drizzle or fog and just downright miserable. Sunshine has been just about unheard of!

However the last 10 days have been considerably different. Wall to wall sunshine but the wind flow from the East has taken over and temperatures last were below freezing for most of the week. A pleasant change but it was going out of the frying pan, in to the fire. If you worked outside, it was almost unworkable. Bitter winds from the east really made things difficult.

Ive just completed another video, reflecting the very positive feedback from the video i did called the cell builder explained. This one has the same title but its questions and answers to the comments on my you tube video.

I wa also very privileged and humbled to be asked by the Jersey beekeepers Association to come and talk about my queen rearing methods.
It was an extremely cold and windy night where i presented to about 40 beekeepers from the JBKA. they were a fantastic bunch, keen to find out how they could raise good queens.

They did a film about my presentation. The sound quality is a little poor but you will get the idea. It was a bit nerve wracking at the beginning because this was my first presentation to a group of people, fortunately they were very forgiving! 

I think they were happy with the presentation. I received some good feedback and some good questions. Also some nice gifts, which i was pretty chuffed with.
 I drink a lot of tea and coffee,  so perfect  gift and a great experience for me to have to present. keeps you on your toes and furthers your development.

Winter prep coming along well, but as usual ts always difficult to find time to fit everything in. the next 100 hives are all but finished painting. However being away for a week and the cold weather hasn't helped. I will soon be assembling the hives together, putting on handles, that bases, frame covers etc. Lots and lots to do.

They get to cure and dry out well before the bees go in around mid to late April.

So next thing will hopefully be a first very brief inspection for feed levels etc in mid march if the weather permits. This is critical to hopefully detect and disease that went unnoticed before the winter, If there was some disease, i want to find it before the bees really start to fly, so they dont rob out a diseased colony and potentially spread any nasties. I am confident i am clean, but checking all as soon as you can is a sure way to prevent spread if there was anything sinister going on.

Ive been feeding candy to a few of my colonies and i am using a thick insulated EKE that means i can keep the same roof top on the bees but also keep an easy eye on whats happening with the candy levels. This also means i can replace the candy with a circular rapid feeder when the bees start to fly regularly in about 3 weeks and i switch to liquid feed.


I am currently doing another last video before  the pressures of the season start. It will be a run down of my production cycle and how it  fits in with the main nectar groups. 

Wishing you all "alive" hives when you get to do your first inspections.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

When you think its the end of the season!!

Just when you thought its the end of the season!!

Beekeeping never ever really finishes, its a transition from one phase to the next as each season progresses.

Just when you think things are starting to get less busy your reminded that these are animals and they need care and careful management right up until they really are not flying.
I started treating all my bees with vaporised Oxalic Acid a little later this year than planned, but also discovered  that the growth of my Apiary numbers and individual colonies add further dimensions to their subsequent management. 
To be honest Vaporised Oxyalic Acid (VOA) is still my choice weapon against Varrao Mites but the logistics of treating some now 160 production colonies and some 120 Nuc for next years  sales and replacements wherever needed are something else i failed to estimate the work in time and logistics.

However i did make a good time saving by investing in a better and very efficient Vaporiser called a "Sublimox"

To be brief, this machine relies on dropping a measured amount of  Oxyalic Acid crystals on to an already very hot vaporiser plate or dish. The existing machine i used ( A Varrox) and still have, relies on you starting from cold, putting it in to position, then turning it on, waiting for it to heat up, then removing after about 3 minutes, cooling and repeating the process for the next colony.

You will see from the video below just how quick the new machine is. It dosent cool down between each treatment and also it extremely quick. time saving devices is something i am looking to use! i must be as  efficient in my overall management.

Mite management is probably the most important issue i have to deal with during the beekeeping year. I am lucky in the fact that many beekeepers around me all treat regularly in different ways and i dont have mites jumping ship from the dead or dying colonies from non treating beekeepers.
I respect their decision not to treat however i dont welcome extra mites. Its a big issue among the beekeeping community and sparks regular heated debate.

With the final treatments (of 3 x treatments over 15 days) finished for this year. I am now having a count up. Moving nucs to new apiaries for next year and doing final autumn prep checks before it really is time to start the winter beekeeping duties.

Any colonies that are not up to sufficient weight are noted and i will give the candy before the end off January. There is not many but never the less they will need the extra feed.

Apiaries  are all in line for a good cutting back and clearance where necessary  but the volume of work ahead is enormous.

Theres is lots of new hives to paint up and assemble, as well as still lots of feeders and queen excluders to clean up! After that there is lots of spring prep. on Honey supers etc etc etc. the list is enormous. I am going to be very busy. Like all things you get out of beekeeping only what you put in. Organisation is key!!

 One of my apiaries full of overwintering nucleus colonies, all in polystyrene boxes this year.

Asian hornet pictures, a sequence of three pics, just to highlight the issue of summer detection. Very difficult indeed, a classic example.

 Taken in my local Village. this nest although dormant now will be there for all to see over the winter! we cant complain here though, all communes have grouped together to form the "Dinan Aglomation" and there was some 5,000 traps put out over the spring. we hardly had any presence of asian hornets this year. A terrific result! spring trapping does work.

The close up of the nest. not a huge one, but queens almost certainly would have dispersed to found next years colonies.

Winter planning commences! A bientôt .

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A very big Hello to you all!!
Hi all, posting on my mobile mobile,  whilst away in the U.K. for a few days so excuse typing errors!!
 A little time to reflect and mentally catch up on things!!(and rest)

So we’re end of October and I have not posted since March , well no excuses! Other than it’s been pretty crazy!

In Summary is perhaps easier:

So, didn’t sell any Nucs this spring(for those of you who don't now Nucs are Nucleus Colonies usually made the previous summer, then overwintered on 5 to 6 frames for use the following soring summer.)
All (about 80) were used up in various ways.
To requeen colonies lost over winter, ( about 8% losses ) and obviously the rest went in to new hives to expand my stock, which has always been my main aim this year.
With out good stocks you can’t get honey ! You can’t make splits  and so on, you have to
Investvand sacrifice in order to get up your numbers. You can’t make bees, honey and colonies from fresh air !!

Spring was good but not a good spring for honey. Cold nights in April meant a slow start to the nectar flow. In addition To this, nectar in hives more than 4 weeks started to crystallise even earlier due to cold nights and lack of bees to heat thé whole box. Classic signs of this were the edges of the frames crystallising first ! Although crystallisation is pretty common in spring, cold nights accelerated this problem!

So the solution was early selected harvesting and extraction before any
more crystalised. Crystallised honey in’the supers” is still better than having your Bees hanging  from “the trees” due to no room in the colony, however it’s a lot of work!
As well as cold night, spring was also pretty dry and heavy spring showers  didn’t  materialise until nearly the end of the spring flow, which only complicated issues, in the fact that more very wet nectar arrved n the supers at a time when we were nearly ready to harvest, but half of many super frames were dripping with uncured nectar. If that got in to the rest of the honey , then this may have just have pushed up the moisture contents to above 17 percent and initiated rapid fermentation, so we had to
Be really careful!!

However I did have a spring harvest, not great but some valuable income!

Spring Splits
So after the honey was harvested  I made as many spring splits as I could. It was mid May by this time and with finally better night time temperatures I was able to make up a load of early queens.
Cell building is an Interesting process.
The trick of it all is timing and strong cell builders! Strong Cdll builders means strong queens, in large cells, fed to the max during their growth period!! I am
Not a specialist breeder, but anyone can
Make some good queen cells, as
Long as you have the good starting materials!
Here’s the link to my cell builder video.

Early mating was good this year! Plenty of nice drones around. So good results were achieved! In total I produced about 60 nucs. They went out in End of June to new apiary sites and I also sold 10 to generate some much needed turn over.

The Next Stage: Prep for the Summer Flow:

This consists mainly of checking each stock 2 or 3 times over the next 3 to 5 weeks before the start of the chestnut and bramble. Emergency re queening of colonies that either swarmed already and hadn't re queened on their own and replacing the odd few poorly performing queens. 

Feeding most colonies was really a necessity. When we make spring splits you potentially weaken a colony. Subsequently you need to help that colony as usually we may have taken about a quarter or its bees and two of its brood frames. So for us here in Brittany after the second week of May, its vital that we get that colony up and running in time for the summer flow only a few weeks away.

After the spring flow subsides, the swarming stops too ( for a while). Supers are put back on colonies immediately after harvesting if they haven't been used for splits. Or if their still really strong.  Its very important you manage your colony populations well. Too much space too early, can result in slow build up due to cold in the hive. Too little space and your bees are hanging from the trees before you know it, then its also likely you will loose most of your summer crop too.
Heres a little video of how I do my summer splits. In the summer splits, I replace the 3 frames removed, with 2 partitions and one foundation. this is our overwintering configuration, 7 frames n the brood nest and one for ivy flow expansion of honey (if it materialises) and also early spring foundation, before the bees
Spring splits is usually two frames from the brood nest replaced with two frames of foundation.

Obviously for all these splits you need queens.  Managing the production of Nucs twice a year, with two honey crops and post harvest Mite Treatments is a complete Juggling act! but I got there in the end. It was a big learning curve for me this year.

The summer Flow

Well it wasn't good this year but and its a big But....  still had a honey crop and I still made lots of Nucs. It was Incredibly hard work trying to Juggle me existing job to maintain income for my family as well as give my bees the maximum time needed to look after the now 160 hives and ever growing nucs to overwinter.
The Flow came and went  In  about 10 days, usually it lasts a month. We had sinking hot weather and no existing ground water . Plenty of pollen so colonies had made lots of young bees, so summer splits were good with plenty of brood and bees to use! another year for the record books.

Admitting your mistakes and learning from them is a very Big part of beekeeping. I like many have made serious mistakes and this year. I learnt that you must feed more in the summer dearth. Some of my spring nucs were so light from a  late summer of no nectar at all. I did loose two colonies. School boy error and no excuses.  If your colonies are strong and well fed. or at least to a point where they haven't lower numbers because of lack of food. Then their always ready to make use of a flow, whenever it materialises No matter how big or small it is!!

So going in to this winter, I purchased another 100 hives and all the equipment to put them together, but next spring I will sell 60 of the 120 nucs I have produced late summer (subject to them overwintering  well). This will create much needed income to fund more syrop I will need for next year.

Ivy flow was excellent in the end the first two weeks of October we had good temperatures and the ivy dripped nectar. Hives stinking of the stuff Thank goodness!!  Any colonies that hadn't made good weight usually means their were not queen right at the critical time. ts candy for them now, but the vast majority did well. heavy hives going in to the winter, free of charge. a real Bonus that we didn't have last year!!

Ive included a few photos below . ( will upload these shortly)

Most are also on Instagram as "Plenty_Of_Honey"