This is the month when we really discover whether our colony management is going to bear fruit. Given good weather the bees have plenty to forage on with plants such as white clover, bramble, lime and willow herb all in flower. The weather has been mixed so I am not expecting a bumper crop and several of my colonies have swarmed.
The flow started about two weeks early this year and I detected no noticeable June Gap. I had never thought of a June Gap with other wild life – but it makes sense that if you have a gap in plant food you will have a gap in plant feeders too. There is an explosion of flowers and insects in Spring and then a lull or June Gap – followed by the emergence of the summer generation. Lepidopterists notice this among butterflies – there are the spring species such as the Peacock butterfly and then a gap before those of high summer emerge such as the Meadow Brown.
I did very little by way of checking my colonies to see if they were attempting to swarm this year. Every time I open a hive and see the pollen dropped and the deep level of upset I cause, I hesitate to do it again. I am more and more inclined to give them plenty of room and let them do what comes naturally and take the consequences.
The splits I did in early May did not work – the halves with queens built up well but the queenless halves failed to raise queens. I left them for five weeks and then reunited them. I have been away so I am not sure how they have settled since. I doubt I will try this again and will take more seriously the advice not to split a colony until the bees are ready to do so themselves. I like the idea that only when queen cells appear do you have the ‘bees permission’ to split the colony – until then add supers to give them more room …it is much wiser to wait until the bees themselves are ready to split!
I read of an extraordinary finding showing that bees bring an added benefit to the plants they visit. It was found, I don’t know how, that the faeces of a ‘typical colony of 20,000 bees increased the nitrogen content of soil and significantly improved the growth of plants. Who would have thought it.
I am not sure if you have seen or heard of the ‘Flow Hive’ which was created in Australia. It is a standard hive that has special Flow frames in the honey or flow super. This super has special Flow Frames where the bees store honey – to harvest the honey you turn a handle which causes the plastic hexagons on the frame to split allowing the ripe honey to flow down tubes through the collecting trough into a jar. There is clear glass at one end and so you can see when the honey cells are capped and when the honey is ready for harvest. When I first read about it, I was sceptical but the following review by John Gates is very positive….
“At first I was reluctant to test the invention because I thought the concept of sticking a tube into a hive and turning a value to get honey was ridiculous. I was pleased with the results using the system. My Flow-frame-equipped hives produced just as much honey as the regular hives. The equipment worked as advertised and the honey quality was excellent. I loved being able to judge the progress of the nectar flow by seeing there frame end cells filling with honey”!
A reminder about building that SOLAR WAX EXTRACTOR!
A solar wax extractor is a must for all those bits of waste comb. They are simple to make and easy to use! They consist of a simple box with a hinged lid that is double glazed. There is a collector for the melted wax and a metal tray that has an “8” mesh filter at the bottom end. I am regularly asked for fresh wax and it is nice to be able to provide it…
There are many plans available on the internet.
A useful tip and a novel use for women’s tights or panty hose, is to put the rough quality wax and old comb into the legs and then tied off. The sausages formed are put in the extractor and the fine mesh retains a good deal of the debris whilst the molten wax runs easily out.
Jobs for July:
- Continue to add supers ahead of the bees’ requirements.
- Watch the size of the hive entrances – reduce to avoid robbing by bees and wasps.
- Fill up that solar wax extractor with those bits of wax you have gathered.
- Remove surplus honey when ready for extraction.
- Assemble equipment required to extract and bottle honey.
- Reserve the extractor if you are borrowing it from your local association.