It seems so long since I wrote my last post but I literally have just had no time to write an update! Between working, beekeeping and other activities I feel like I need more hours in the day at the moment. On the beekeeping side, all of my hives are doing pretty well. I have lost a couple of swarms and one hive seems to have swarmed / re-queened without me even noticing! The fantastic sunny, hot weather certainly has had a lot to do with it. After the initial (Autumn sown) Oil Seed Rape (OSR) had finished I thought things would settle down and the bees would collect nectar and fill supers at a slower pace but then I saw more Yellow!
A closer look revealed that the field just over the road from one of my apiaries is Spring sown OSR that had just come into flower!
So rather than the bees slowing down in filling supers they were yet again filling supers at lightning speed. So the hives began to grow in height / size again. The two nucleus hives that I started during the my first round of demaree manipulations had a 50:50 success rate.
One has a great queen that was laying a lovely brood pattern and expanded fast so was transferred to a full size hive.
Since the above photo was taken they have expanded and brought in enough stores so that I have already had to add a super! The other nucleus turned out to have an unmated queen laying drone brood only and was shaken out in the field in front of the other hives so that the worker bees would join one of the existing hives. In the hives that haven’t swarmed and have been demareed at least twice, the colonies have become very big!
Large colonies, if you can prevent them swarming, require large amounts of space and when there is a decent nectar flow they can fill supers really fast as I have found out!
As the supers fill it is essential that new supers are added to give the bees space to store and process incoming nectar. I have taken the decision on most of my large colonies to goto double brood in an attempt to give the queens enough space to lay and allow the bees more room to store some nectar before it is, hopefully, moved into the supers. It has become a waiting game as the bees filled more and more supers but none of the honey was capped and frames, when tested with the shake test, dripped too much nectar to consider extracting!
The shelves full of supers in my store room, that I considered at the start of the year to be more than enough, were emptying fast! Yet more of the yellow fields had appeared between two of my apiaries!
One good point is that I currently have an apprentice. A colleague who is thinking about becoming a bee keeper himself and finds time to accompany me on some of the inspections and it really helps when lifting the heavy supers!
Just for reference Ian is 5’9″ tall and we have reversed the supers with the full ones on top ready for clearing and extraction so the top 3 supers weight 15-20kgs each! I will not say I was starting to panic but I was starting to consider plan B or even C,D,E in terms of how I would manage if I ran out of equipment! Then I decided to check a few supers on a couple of hives after work just a few nights ago and found that finally the bees were busy capping the full supers!
What a beautiful sight it was and with relief I have started to plan a long weekend of clearing supers / extracting and replacing them back on the hives. Also, probably due to the extremely good and hot weather we have had, the Spring sown OSR has already gone over.
As for the hives that lost a swarm all now have laying queens and fingers crossed they are properly mated. In at least one case the Queen was mated within just a few days of emergence and is already laying before the sealed brood from the previous queen has hatched!
Besides all of the normal inspections and adding supers I have also collected one swarm after receiving a call from a public house. The swarm was hanging under the end of a table in a children’s play area. Unfortunately they could not get hold of a local (Doncaster) beekeeper willing to collect it and in the end I drove a 70mile round trip!
I hope Doncaster BKA can sort out some swarm collectors as I have had more than one phone call from that area now! The swarm is now resident in my isolation apiray (otherwise known as my back garden) and will stay there until I can inspect it and be sure it is clear of disease. On the subject of my back garden (not a very large one) I have yet again found a great excuse for not cutting the lawn and providing a mini-meadow of flowering plants for pollinators! Following on from the success of last year, we have seen a succession of flowering plants including dandelion, white clover, daisies, buttercups and meadow vetch become alive with lots of bumblebees and butterflies.
You can just about see the poly nuc hidden by the tall grasses. I have also become a Bumblebee keeper! I often get calls from members of the public that have found my number from my own website regarding bees swarming round the gable end of houses or bird nest boxes. After asking a few questions I can usually determine that they are bumblebees and I am usually able to convince the people just to leave them where they are as they will be gone by the end of Autumn. In one case of bumbles in a bird nesting box the couple were concerned by the numbers they had seen and their young daughter and asked if there was any way for them to be removed as they did not want to get a pest controller to kill them. In the end for the cost of some petrol money I carefully removed the nesting box from their wall at night and it now resides on the back fence on my garden! Now a few photos of bees foraging on plants that I have noticed recently.
There are two bushes of Cat Mint in my mothers garden that are at present alive with all kinds of bees every time I walk past.
Not sure what the next plant is but the bees seem to like it!
Finally to finish my post, I ask the question “How far has your honey travelled?” By special request I have recently sent a jar with a work colleague to Japan for his wife!
Does this qualify me as an international exporter???