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We had some rape honey this year albeit only a small amount but rape honey never-the-less. With judicious blending and seeding this could give a year’s supply of creamed honey.

Seeding? You warm and clear a tub of honey and then when it’s cool you add 10% of a creamed honey which has a nice smooth consistency. Provided the cleared honey would have eventually crystalised this will now do so at a much faster rate and with the same consistency as the seeding material.

All bar two of my 2018 queened colonies needed artificial swarming due probably to the weather. These were successfully completed but it did mean several under-strength colonies and a lot of hives. Combine this with the swarms I’d had to take and I was approaching my hive-insurance limit.

At least four virgin queens failed to return from mating flights. I don’t know why I should be so prone to this problem. Any ideas? Inserting test frames and allowing them to develop emergency queens did allow a temporary solution. Not the best, admittedly, but a later supersedure would then correct the problem.

The June gap was much more noticeable this year and spanned the entire month. I can measure it by the amount of bee activity at the pond. In the absence of nectar to evaporate down, the colonies need water as a substitute liquid for their air conditioning.

It is now the end of the month and the swarm colonies are being united down to a sensible number before an end of season unite with my selected queen colonies. Two of them had somehow rendered themselves queenless so a quick test frame and they were united with the colony alongside. This was done with the newspaper method to mask the colony odour as they nibbled through.

Uniting two colonies using the newspaper method

Hive number 6 is without doubt the best producing this year. No artificial swarm was needed the the queen continued with copious laying. As I write, I have already extracted 5½ supers and there is still much to come

Hive 6 with six supers

Apple weekend at Audley End House was once again a terrific two days. Unfortunately the Sunday weather was appalling and by lunchtime the footfall had reached the staggering total of 150; Saturday’s total was 1500. We had an excellent team of helpers on both days and as usual the observation hive proved a great attraction.

Sally explains foundation and drawing of comb to an enthralled audience

Back in the apiary the number of hives has been united down to the usual over-wintering eight. The last three were each 5-frame nucs, one of which was the observation hived used at Audley End.

Amongst the 15 frames were several with yellow spacers, indicating old frames to be rendered, so these were removed. All the others with bees were given a spray unite. This was probably not necessary as I was uniting three colonies but I thought it best to be cautious. Colony smell must be smothered to unite two colonies but with three colonies they can’t sort out who the intruders are and peacefully accept their new foster sisters.  The spray was a very dilute sugar solution and a drop of oil of lavendre.

One barren queen was removed and the other two left to fight it out as I couldn’t choose which was the better. They are all now in hive 6 and the feeder is fitted.

  1. All hives now have an Ashforth feeder and all the feed is ready. Most of it this winter is recycled honey with just a small amount of sugar solution to help prevent crystallising.Inspections have been reduced in the last part of the season as little could be done. All I needed to do was monitor the varroa drops. This has stayed sufficiently low for treatment to wait until the mid-winter oxalic acid.

This month sees the start of foraging in earnest and also the start of swarming.

Although the oil seed rape was only just down the road the bees only worked it for pollen. The bees foraging for nectar went in the opposite direction. I am now beginning to wonder if modern varieties of rape have significantly reduced amounts of nectar.

Whatever it was they preferred, half the hives worked it vigorously. One hive got up to four supers and the others to two or three.

The colonies which only just made it through the winter have struggled to reach supering size but as two of these have 2016 queens and will be requeened this season.

The first swarm I was called to remove was a poor little bedraggled specimen hanging from a tree near Thaxted Fire Station. It had been there several days and was trying to set up home out in the open.

Thaxted swarm

It was nearly dark when I arrived so it had to wait until the next morning; a night of torrential rain and it was still raining next day. Half of them had been washed down in the night and were comatose mixed in with the recent lawn mowings. It was a ladder job to reach the little swarm and I then swept up as many as I could from the ground hoping that once they were returned to the bosom of their family they would become resuscitated. This did in fact work and most of them recovered. They were a pathetic little bunch when they were eventually hived; just over one frame of 14 x12 in a nucleus hive.

The rape finished flowering two weeks ago and any resulting honey would normally have started crystallizing by now. It’s all still clear which again leads me to conclude that the nectar came from elsewhere. The eventual analysis will be interesting.

I’ve had to perform three Pagden artificial swarms so far with another one to do this week. At the same time as creating the artificial swarm I also take a two-frame nucleus with a queen cell so I have a second string to my bow in the event of a loss on mating flight. The apiary is getting rather crowded now with sixteen hives.