Beekeeping in June has been decidedly warm over the past week. I’m not complaining about the lovely weather but a full bee suit and rubber wellington boots are not the coolest of outfits. The bees however seem to be thriving.
There has been a good nectar flow lately and the blackberries are already in flower in our hedgerows. Fingers are crossed for a little rain now to complement the warmth and humidity and that would ensure a fabulous flow from the lime trees which can be quite fickle. They only flower for a short period but when the conditions are right the honey is delicious.
The great thing about beekeeping as a hobby is that there are so many facets to it. Honey production, beeswax crafts, microscopy, genetics, anatomy, queen rearing, study of forage and habitat to name but a few. The bees always keep us on our toes, you never know what you are going to find when you inspect a colony so there is always a level of excitement. This is even better when you find something you are desperate to see, i.e. your newly mated queen has come into lay ensuring the survival of the colony.
A virgin queen faces many hazards to achieve the status of laying queen. Once she has emerged from her queen cell she spends a few days familiarising herself with her colony before going on her first mating flight. There is a short window when the virgin queens can get mated and they may take several flights to do so. If the weather is bad for a prolonged period she won’t leave the hive so the colony can end up queenless, she needs to avoid being eaten by birds, she needs to get mated properly usually with 15 to 20 drones which ensures genetic diversity and then she has to find her way back to her hive. We leave the hive undisturbed for at least 3 weeks whilst a new queen is in the making and it can take up to 4 or 5 weeks to see the results. So it is always a thrill for the beekeeper to see newly laid eggs and young brood from their new queen.
Queen Rearing – Frame of Queen Cells