What a summer – I hope your bees, if you have them, reap the benefit of the great weather.
At last we have got some rain which the plants need to go on yielding – plants need sun, carbon dioxide and water if they are to make nectar. It is hard to get all three together! Normally there is plenty of water but not enough sunshine! Blackberry and clover have yielded well and Rosebay Willow Herb is showing pink in many areas.
It is always important to make sure there is an accessible water supply for your bees. Thorne’s I see sell a very cheap water feeder one you can simply insert into the hive entrance. It gives an immediate water source. The feeder fits most disposable water bottles.
I have not inspected my colonies all summer and I am looking forward to seeing how they have done without my interference. I expect them to be quiet and easy to handle.
As I am sure there will be a bumper honey crop this year, try and avoid ending up with half filled combs – you can check supers and remove empty combs and replace with partially filled combs and try to get as much of the honey ripened and sealed as possible by the end of the flow.
Flower honey keeps best if its moisture content is in the range of 17-19%. If it is not ripened properly then it will ferment – it is best to extract only honey which has been sealed.
If you have unsealed combs, take a frame and hold it over the hive and give it a good shake. If no honey splashes out it is ripe and could be extracted, but beware that its moisture content could be near to the critical limit.
Great care is needed when removing supers as they quickly attract other bees and can start robbing. Ideally, honey supers are extracted immediately or kept in a warm room and extracted that night or the following day. Warm honey is extracted easily and does not incorporate as much air during the extraction and straining process as it does when it is cold and thick.
There is another crop available from heather. Ling heather has started to bloom early this year – it is a great source of nectar. Normally it yields around the middle of the month and if the weather is right it yields more nectar in the first half of its blooming period.
Heather honey is very viscous and the bees don’t like working it in my experience and can be very angry when you inspect them. But it does produce a delicious dark, rich, thick honey. It can’t be extracted hence the honey must be pressed out of the combs or else used as cut comb.
In a normal year, you would select your strongest colonies and move these to the bog. . It is important that the queen keeps laying while at the heather to produce ‘winter bees’. Therefore a young queen is preferable.
About the tenth of August the hives are moved to the heather. In the evening prior to moving, close up the hives by placing a piece of foam rubber in the hive entrance. Don’t forget to close the feed hole on the crown board as well. The hives can be moved during the night or first thing in the morning.
Rape Honey also Ivy honey.
Oil Seed Rape like Ivy produces honey that granulates quickly Once these kinds of honey are in your comb any residual trace tends to “seed” subsequent nectar and cause it to granulate. The combs of set honey can be fed back to the original bees by uncapping the frame and soaking it in fresh rain water. The bees will take it down but it will contaminate other frames and simply defer the problem.
Someone sent me an article on, ‘Plan Bee – Oxford’s bee hotels’
The University has launched an exciting conservation initiative to provide accommodation for Oxford’s solitary bees. Bees are vital pollinators but numbers of are dwindling, and one of the main reasons is loss of suitable habitat.
The project aims to create a network of new homes for solitary bees around Oxford. This involves distributing specially-made ‘bee hotels’ around the buildings of the University estate and also to local schools. The hotels provide bamboo tubes of various sizes for the bees to nest in.
More than 30 of them have now been installed at colleges, departments and other buildings around Oxford, and more are going up.
The boxes don’t just provide good homes for the bees; they also provide a research platform for both scientists and ‘citizen scientists’ – members of the public who want to get involved with science by recording their observations of nature and submitting them to professional scientists for analysis. At the moment the scientists are focusing on the relationship between the diversity of bee species in an area, the location of particular nests and the habitat surrounding them, and how successful the bees are in their efforts to breed. Over the long term, the nest boxes will also help shed light on the relationship between climate change and the diversity of solitary bee species living here.