August 2012: Our busy bees have produced a wonderful 1st harvest despite the adverse weather conditions and we now have sufficient comb honey and liquid honey to sell. Jars of GF honey are available for purchase at Reception - all produced, harvested (hand pressed) and packaged at Great Fosters! This latest crop of honey turned out to be beautifully light and floral. As we move into August I expect the next pressing to be darker in colour with a fuller flavour. Hopefully our bees will give us some of the heather-rich honey that we enjoyed last year but of course where they forage is entirely beyond our control!!! Next month, September, in sight and thinking about winter preparations - the year has flown by!
July 2012: Our bees have been doing well considering June has been the wettest on record. At last we have some honey! .....not masses, but it has been slowly building in our bigger colonies. I am careful only to take what is surplus to their requirements.
I notice that the bees are quick to react to warm spells between inclement weather and are out foraging at the smallest window of opportunity. When they leave the hives on foraging "missions" they fly out with impetus and purpose - it's a joy to watch. They seem to know when it's about to rain, certainly before we do, and appear out of the sky in droves and back into their hives before the rain arrives.
June 2012: After feeding the bees heavily during April and early May, the sunshine finally arrived and they were able to forage for their own food. in that respect we are now, at last, beginning to see honey in the "supers", which are the honey collection boxes in our hives.
Beekeeeping is highly weather dependant. For honey production we are looking for a good mix of rain and sunshine, not too much of one or the other. When the weather turned for the better most if not all the colonies wanted to swarm. This is a natural inclination of a healthy colony. however, this is not desirable for a beekeeper as he loses half the colony and, of course, the honey production for the year. We "artifically swarmed" * these colonies. These are manipulations which should sate that inclination and involve splitting and recombining where desirable. In those manipulations it is necessary to find the queen who is sometimes elusive. The phrase "needle in a haystack" springs to mind.
* If you want more information on this, please ask us, as this is a very interesting manoeuvre, but too detailed to go into here.
May 2012: Spring has sprung. Well in a fashion! Following an incredibly mild March was the wettest April on record. As a result of the high temperatures in March the number of bees in our hives has increased (hurrah) but on a negative note there are now many more mouths to feed and, due to the wet weather in April, the bees have not been able to go out foraging for nectar. As a result we are now feeding them with sugar syrup and fondant to help them on their way. I am always amazed how much feed a hungry colony can take - 5 litres of syrup in 24 hours is not unusual! Let’s hope for better weather - soon I hope.
March/April 2012: Our bees have come through the winter well and even before our first formal inspection I could see they were collecting plenty of pollen in the sacs on their back legs – a good indication that the queen has survived the winter and is laying. The pollen provides protein for the new brood and it is important to check that there are enough honey stores until the nectar comes in and that the queen has plenty of space to lay. This is a vital time of year for the colony having spent the winter in a cluster keeping the temperature of the hive constant at about 20C. In early March they will have increased the temperature substantially to about 32C bringing the queen into lay and raising the new generation of bees for the spring.
Once the new hives (11 of them) arrive they will all need to be assembled and painted along with all the internal frames (around 250 in total) ensuring all paint odours have dissipated before we take delivery of our new starter colonies which arrive at the end of April.