Garden blogs

Bramble gamble is key to bridging the June gap

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May 2020 is the sunniest month on record but what a change as we go into June. The temperature has certainly fallen but the little drop of rain that we have had, I fear, will not be enough.

When you become a beekeeper, you always have one eye on the weather, watch the seasons closely and check the surroundings to see what forage is about for your bees.

I have been keeping a close eye on the brambles and, this week, have seen my first honeybee foraging on the bramble flowers that are just opening in the Botanic Garden.

This week, we are still looking out for swarming and using hive management techniques to control splits so that we keep our bees. But, sometimes, the bees have their own ideas and take off anyway.

I am lucky that here at the Garden the team keep a look out for ones that get away and let me know so that I can spring into action and collect them before they go too far.

Our curator noticed a small swarm on the estate in a small beech tree. Fortunately, they were at head height so were easily accessible for collection.

I use a straw skep and an old curtain to collect and transport them back to the apiary. The bees were shaken from the branch into the skep and placed onto the curtain on the floor for a little while to enable any flying bees to gather in the basket. Then I fold the curtain around the skep, bunch it up at the top so that no bees can escape and walk them into the apiary.

Once at the apiary, where I have already set up a hive in readiness, the skep is placed on top of the brood box and the bees tapped down into the hive. We leave the swarm to settle for a day or two them give them a feed to help them draw out new comb for the colony. I will be checking the new brood carefully to make sure they are healthy in a couple of weeks.

In the main apiary this week we were checking for any unexpected queen cells and making sure each colony had plenty of stores. Stores are still a little low but hopefully now that the brambles are coming out we won’t have that dreaded ‘June Gap’. We all enjoy the sunny weather, including the bees, but I will be looking to the skies for a bit more rain to help that nectar flow.

One hive has had the queen removed as they were becoming rather defensive and I have donated a frame of young larvae from a docile colony to encourage them to produce a new queen and bees with calmer temperament.

Now we have to wait and see if we are successful . . .

Lynda Christie
June 5th, 2020