Since the end of March, the weather has been warm and very dry, and summer seems to have arrived early. The trees planted earlier this year at the new apiary site are all settling in and establishing themselves and will provide a lovely backdrop to the site once they mature. The combination of colour and spread of the flowering season will also provide essential support for the bees during the early spring when the bees need it most.
The bees have all been steadily increasing in number, with some colonies performing better than others, but all will soon have sufficient bees to gather and store the vital honey they need for winter survival. Colony numbers at the Botanic Garden have also been boosted by the arrival of a few swarms that have taken residence in some of the empty bait hives that have been placed in our new apiary, Cae Gwenyn. This has compensated in a small way, for some of the over-winter losses.
The wild raspberries have been in flower around the bee garden for several weeks, and with some luck, the recent rain will stop the fruits from shrivelling, as they did last summer. Bramble flowers have just started showing here, and in a week or so will be in full swing. This is a very important opportunity for the bees to collect huge amounts of nectar over the next 3-4 weeks and can be a busy time for us beekeepers. Each bee colony can collect 15-25kg of honey each week during this time and it can be difficult to keep up with the requirement of providing them space to store it all. The honey produced from brambles is always popular due to its light colour and sweet taste.
Rosebay Willow Herb, another favourite of the bees, which is also in abundance in the wilder parts of the Gardens, and compliments the bramble in making a lovely sweet and fragrant honey, will shortly follow the Brambles. This flowers for several weeks and is another important source of summer forage.
There have been two Practical Beekeeping classes provided since the spring, and participants have enjoyed the combination of theory and practical interaction with the bees it provides. Thankfully, the bees behaved well and weren’t offended by the regular intrusions the class performed on their normal activities.
The next couple of months will be a busy time for us and the bees, as we prepare to harvest some of their hard-earned crop of honey at the end of August, provided there is enough left to see them through the winter. Then we will have fun extracting the honey and jarring it ready for sale in the Gardens outlets. There is still al limited quantity of last year’s crop left and hopefully, there will be just enough left to satisfy demand until the new crop is available at the end of September.
The late summer will also see additions to our beekeeping activities, with the opportunity for visitors to participate in Taster sessions. These will be approximately ½ day training courses where participants will be provided with some of the basic theory involved in beekeeping and also obtain some practical experience in inspecting and handling bees in a colony.
Early autumn will see the return of our popular laboratory classes of Products of the Hive, making soap and cosmetics, and Candle Making, using beeswax from our own bees. Watch the website for further details once finalised.
Have a lovely summer and I hope to see some of you around the bee garden.
Martin & The Beekeeping Team
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