Our British weather has again not disappointed with a mini-heatwave in July that sent the bees out in full force to gather nectar from the limes, sweet chestnut, bramble and rosebay willowherb, all excellent sources of mid-season nectar.
Colonies, which are near their peak numbers in July, had a golden opportunity to make up for the dreadful Spring flow; keeping up with them by adding supers to accommodate their incomings was quite a challenge.
Honeybees date back many millions of years and part of their success has been due to the genetic diversity which results from the honey bee queen mating with between 12 and 20 drones. Apparently if a virgin queen mates with fewer than this number she is more likely to become a drone layer. It appears that this year with the long wet and cold Spring, early mating of queens resulted in many drone layers. But, as soon as the weather improved, members were being offered a plethora of virgin queens, many of whom seem to have mated successfully.
Another trait which enables honeybees to survive the vagaries of weather and other impediments to their success, is that they make sure they collect and store food in excess to ensure that they get through any lean times in Autumn, Winter and Spring. This enables us as beekeepers to take some of that excess, presuming that the bees will not need all they have collected, and being there as a back-up should they need extra feed in the late Winter or Spring. It is important therefore not to completely asset strip the bees of their honey crop at this time of year, as now the amount of forage available will drop, until the ivy comes into flower in September/ October, only taking what is excess.
While the queen will now be encouraged by the bees to reduce her lay, there are still a lot of bees to be fed. You will notice that the poor old drones start to be kicked out of the hive towards the end of the month. (a few will remain, as supersedure queens produced late in the season need mates).
I always think that this period in the beekeeping year is one of the most difficult to manage, particularly as a new beekeeper. You are removing supers, but there are still a lot of bees in the hive, what will happen if you constrict them too much? How much honey should you leave on for the bees' own consumption? How can you do this while at the same time removing supers so that you can apply varroacides which need the supers to be off? It is a juggling act and requires you to use your judgement. If you are going to overwinter the bees with a super, and therefore apply the varroacide through the super, make sure you mark this super and don’t extract honey from it as this will contaminate your honey crop.
Hopefully some of you are participating in the Coventry University research project into the effect of particulates on pollinators, particularly honeybees. In August we will be submitting our samples and hopefully next year we will get the results of the study.
The Wolston Walkabout in July enabled the association to promote beekeeping and inform the public about bees and proved to be a successful and enjoyable event for a large number of people. This event is held every two years and if you enjoy looking round gardens and village fetes, this is one not to miss. Two new members, Liz Davies and Craig Hobson volunteered to help and their assistance was much appreciated.
Please think about helping at these events. You will be surprised at the public interest and how much information you can share about bees and beekeeping.