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Beekeeping in July: Honey production

Jan-Doyle-bee-hives

Beekeeping in July.  On a warm summer’s day there is nothing more relaxing than sitting and watching the bees coming and going from the hive.  By July the brood nest will have reached its peak and the queen will begin to reduce the amount of eggs she lays.  Some beekeepers say that when the Rosebay Willowherb starts to flower it heralds the end of the main nectar flow.  Luckily it flowers for quite a few weeks and the bees love it.  Clover, bramble and lime trees are amongst the other favourite sources of nectar at this time of year.  The bees invert the nectar that they have collected, reducing the moisture content, until it becomes honey.

When the viscosity is correct they will seal the cells containing the honey with wax.  The beekeeper’s job is to ensure that the bees have enough space to store their honey. We do this by adding boxes called “supers” above the brood box.  The queen is kept in the brood box by the use of a queen excluder which is essentially a grid that allows the smaller worker bees through but not the Queen.  We don’t want brood in the honey supers. As each super becomes full of bees working each seam another super is added.   Typically a full super can contain between 20 to 30 lbs of honey.  Did I mention that you need a strong back or a willing partner for beekeeping!

Please help hungry bees

There is a very common phrase in beekeeping called the June Gap.  This is when there is a shortage of forage available for bees and they can risk starvation, especially in the countryside after the oil seed rape has finished flowering and there is little else available.  Lack of forage can also occur when the weather is bad.  Plants need warmth and sunshine to secrete nectar.  We have all seen the listless bee sitting on a window ledge or on the floor. You can sometimes revive the bee with a drop of sugar water.  It is wonderful to see a large bumble bee regain her strength after drinking the syrup.  Please don’t be tempted to feed them honey and please wash out your honey jars before putting them out for recycling.  Much of our supermarket honey is imported and can contain diseases which are easily passed on to bee colonies.  American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood are notifiable diseases and the result is colonies having to be destroyed.

 

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