Beekeeping Year

 


July to August



Inside the Hive - In the British Isles July is traditionally the month when the bees produce their summer honey crop. Whether a colony is a swarm, has swarmed or is an established hive it must now collect enough surplus honey to survive the long winter ahead.


The tens of thousands of worker bees that have hatched are now mature foragers. They must fly from dawn to dusk, from flower to flower in the quest for pollen and nectar.


The sweet nectar is stored inside the bee in a special honey stomach and is brought back to the colony. The bee adds enzymes to the nectar to convert it into honey. Next the honey is put into the open cells of the honey comb above the brood area. The bees then “fan” their wings to evaporate off the surplus moisture from the nectar to reduce it to approximately 15% water content. Now each cell has a wax lid (cappings) placed over it to seal in the fresh honey. An average colony will need 25Kg. of surplus honey to survive to the following spring.


By the end of July the colony will have lost thousands of its work force as a summer worker bee only lives for 6 weeks. They will have worked themselves to death for the good of the colony.


If the remaining colony has an old queen (approx. 3yrs) they may raise a new queen who will get mated and supersede her mother. This is the only time you will see two queens working side by side in the same hive. Eventually the old queen is removed when the bees are sure that her replacement is secure. Now the new queen must lay more eggs so that replacement offspring can be raised to ensure the colony has enough young bees to survive the winter.


On the Honey Farm - If our hives are strong and the weather has been good then there should be a crop of golden honey for us to harvest. The honey boxes (supers) that were stacked on top of the hives earlier in the season are removed and brought back to the farm to be extracted.


The individual frames in each “super” contain sealed honey combs. We remove the wax cappings either by using a hot knife or machine to reveal the liquid honey underneath. We put the uncapped frames into an extractor and spin them to remove the honey. This way the honey can be removed without damaging the precious honey combs that can be reused the following year.( See Honey Extraction Video)


With the honey removed we can now treat our hives against the Varroa Mites that are the scourge of modern bee keeping.


The Varroa mites will have been increasing during the brood rearing season. Now they will be at critical levels. Left untreated the mites would attack the newly produced larvae and no new bees would hatch so with the old bees dwindling and no replacements the colony would collapse. A thymol treatment is given to each hive this will ensure that the new bees raised are free of disease and will survive the winter.

 

Jul-Aug Gallery

Click on a picture to see a larger version

Hives in our wildflower meadow

 

Wildflower meadow

 

Worker bees making honey

 

Bees making honey

 

Worker with pollen bags

 

Pollen collection

 

Varroa mite

 

A varroa mite

 

Deformed wings on a bee caused by the varroa mite

 

Deformed bee caused by varroa

 

Thymol treatment to help prevent the varroa mite

 

Thymol treatment