We have found ourselves in the position many times this season checking stores in the hives to ensure the bee have enough food to see them through to the next inspection, let alone excess to take as honey harvest. At the main apiary the stores have been very low, although there has potentially been lots of forage around, the changeable weather with storm after storm this summer has kept the bees inside. When this happens they forage like mad on good days but then eat it all when confined. I think on average we will have around 5 kilos per hive which are very poor!
Even so, it is a culmination of all the hard work to enjoy the process of extracting the honey and the first time when the honey tap is opened to see the golden liquid pour from the extractor is a most pleasurable activity. We extract and bottle each honey box separately to keep the unique flavours from the individual hives and apiaries.
Beekeeping at the end of summer is the time to think about winter preparations. Colonies need to be disease free and pest free. We have been doing regular disease inspections throughout the season and have given a treatment to reduce the varroa mites to help the bees. They need to be queen right, preferably with a young new queen to see them through to the spring. Most of our colonies have been re-queened. We have a couple of older queens that have been very strong this season, so I have left them to see if they come through the winter and I may re-queen them next year. Hives need to be strong going into winter with plenty of bees and stores of pollen and Honey.
We have united a couple of hives that are deemed too weak to get through the winter with stronger colonies to make good use of these bees.
During the next few weeks, we will continue to check the amount of stores and top up with a feed if required. Each hive needs around 30 – 40lbs of stores to see them through to next spring. We usually leave a super of honey and the stores in the brood chamber for each hive. In some respects, if we have a cold winter that would be best for the bees. When this is the case they slow down and stay in a tight cluster, conserving their energy and food. If we have a mild wet winter year the bees do not cluster, the queen keeps on laying and they use up their stores very quickly!
Let’s hope for a mild Autumn and plenty of late forage (should be plenty of Ivy around the Garden) for the bees to top up and feed to help make strong young bees to take them through the winter months.
September 1, 2020