The Beekeeping year


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As August takes over, we see the first sign of the bees preparing for Winter. As the flowering period for the Summer plants draws to a close, so the need for a large population of foraging bees is diminishing. Soon there will be little for them to collect, and even if there was, the weather would be unsuitable for flight.

So the queen, prompted by the food fed to her by the workers, reduces the rate of laying, and the brood nest begins to contract. There are still some useful bee plants around. Blackberry will continue to provide nectar well into September.

For beekeepers looking for an extension to the honey season, this can be found on the heather. For most beekeepers, this means moving the bees. For Somerset beekeepers, the best heather sites are usually found on Exmoor. The strongest hives are selected, the roof removed, the crown board replaced by a travelling screen (a mesh screen which fits over the top of the hive to provide adequate ventilation and temperature control), then in the evening, when all flying bees have returned to the hive, the entrances can be sealed, and the hives loaded up and moved to their new home. When the site is reached the hives are put in place, and the entrances opened. When flying begins the following day, the bees quickly relocate to their new home, where they will stay until the heather finishes flowering (after 4-6 weeks).

Meanwhile, back at the home apiary, as we reach the end of August it is time to remove the honey harvest. This consists of the surplus honey, which is stored in the supers.

That which the bees have stored in their brood chamber, is not touched. That belongs to the bees.

In order to take the surplus honey, the bees must be cleared from the supers. To do this, a clearer board is placed between the supers and the brood chamber, which allows the bees to pass downwards through it, but will not allow their re-entry. In this way, the supers of honey can be taken away for extraction, and the bees will remain with the hive.

When you have removed the honey, feed the bees with 10 litres of 50/50 water/sugar solution placed on the hive just before it gets dark, or late afternoon; so reducing robbing.

Wasps can be a danger to beehives robbing any that are not well defended. Help the bees by reducing the hive entrance to 8 mm by 75 mm. Wasps can be captured in a glass jar( with a 6 mm hole in the screw on lid) one third filled with a weak jam/preserve in water. The solution may need to be changed weekly to remove dead wasps. Leave the jar on top of one of the hives.