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Beekeeping in June

June used to be notorious amongst beekeepers when “the June gap” was a real and present danger.  The early spring crops and flowers had finished and there was traditionally a few weeks when forage was sparse.   The beekeeper would have to keep an eye on colonies to make sure they didn’t starve and would need to feed if necessary.  This year it looks like there will be no June gap.  No sooner had the oilseed rape finished when the hawthorn came into abundance and that has been swiftly followed by field beans, clover and even the brambles are now starting to flower.  The long cold spring has been followed by perfect conditions so far.  Warm, humid days and showers that have just been frequent enough to keep the nectar flowing.  If this continues over the next few weeks then we can only hope that the lime trees will do their thing.  If it is too hot and dry then lime, which only flowers for a few short weeks, doesn’t have a nectar flow.  However, if it does, the honey is pale and delicious.

By this time last year we had been inundated with calls from the public reporting bee swarms.  This year, again in huge contrast, the phones have been silent.  Perhaps the swarms will all be delayed due to the poor spring.  We know that many colonies were lost last winter.  In a “normal” year (whatever normal is these days) the swarming instinct runs from April to July.  It has been known for bees to swarm later than that but on the whole by the time the main nectar flow happens in July the bees are settled into making the most of it and preparing for the autumn and winter.  It will be interesting to see what happens this year.  The old saying goes “A swarm in May is worth a bale of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.”  However, if there are late swarms we will endeavour to catch them, house them and try to build them up sufficiently to be able to live through winter and who knows, we might even get a honey crop from them next year.

2017 Compost Bin Swarm

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