Beekeeping tips July 2016
The weather in Britain is infinitely variable and affects beekeeping as much as it does gardening. As so many forage sources are late this year, the June Gap really meant something for a change, especially here in the south. Many beekeepers were caught out, and some colonies were lost to starvation as a result.
It hasn’t been a great season for new queens either, with many failing to mate well and a good few getting lost in the process. It is at about this time of year that I realise just how short the season is, and it is very easy to run out of time. The raising of new queens should be carried out in May, for the process to be really successful. A larva selected to become a queen now, will not be in full swing for another four weeks, and that is getting dangerously close to the end of the season. You can’t expect to create a productive colony for this year, but you could make a colony that will over winter as a nucleus and give you a head start in the spring.
Now is the time to prepare colonies that you might want to take to heather in August, for that glorious crop of heady honey. You must have a burgeoning colony, which has stores from wall to wall in the brood box, so that any forage is taken straight upstairs into the supers. It is all a bit of a gamble though, as to be successful, the only forage available must be heather. If the heather nectar is unavailable to the bees, because of bad weather, as happened last year, they will eat their stores, and when, or if the heather comes back online, it will go into the brood box first.
If you want to enter your honey in your local honey show, especially a frame for extraction, you need to ensure that you have good clean frames in the second, or third super. Frames in the bottom super can often contain pollen, and that will not win you the prize. Neither will a frame that has been around the block a few times. There is no need to worry about any other aspects of showing yet, and I will get involved with them next month.
During the main nectar flow, which should be upon us soon, you may need to do some housework. Bees will tend to store honey in the easiest place possible, and that is straight up the middle of the hive, only when this option expires, will they start to move sideways and they are very often shy of going to the outside of the end frames. Moving frames in the brood chamber is tricky, because you don’t want to break up the brood, but no such rules apply in the supers. You can do yourselves and the bees a favour, by turning the end frames around, so that a full side is placed against the hive wall, and the empty side exposed for easy filling. You can also move filled frames from the centre of the box to the outside, and place part filled frames, like the one in the picture, in the centre. If this is done, the bees seem more likely to seal the cells too.