Beekeeping in June is one of the most enjoyable times of the beekeeping calendar as the bees are at their busiest. In each hive the queen has been laying up to 2,000 eggs each day and the rest of the colony are going about their daily tasks. When a worker bee is born her first job is to do a bit of housework. She cleans out the cell from which she has just emerged and generally helps to keep the hive tidy, removing any unwanted paraphernalia. A few days into her life she will become a nurse bee, helping to feed the developing larvae with a mixture of royal jelly, honey and pollen. She will then graduate to guard duty, defending the hive against unwanted intruders and finally she will become a forager collecting nectar, water, pollen and propolis (a sticky resin secreted by trees and plants). The bees use this propolis as a glue to fill any unwanted gaps and also make great use of its antibacterial properties.
June also sees the first honey harvest of the year. The rape crop has now gone over and it is time to remove the supers from the hives and extract the honey. A super is a shallow box that is placed above the brood chamber. The usual rule of thumb is to take the honey when the bees have capped it. This means that they have extracted the excess moisture from the honey and it will not ferment. However, rape honey crystalizes very quickly so the beekeeper will do a “shake test” to see if they honey is ripe. If nectar doesn’t splash out of the frame when shaken it means that it is ready. We can also use a refractometer to test the moisture content. The first process in removing honey is to clear the bees from the supers. There are several ways to achieve this but the simplest is to use a clearer board which is placed under the supers that you want to remove. The clearer board will have a one way device in it which allows the bees through but not back up. After a few days the supers should be almost clear of bees and any remaining bees can be gently swept off each frame before the honey is taken away.
Newbury Beekeepers enjoyed a wonderful day at The Watermill Summer Fair last weekend. It is lovely to meet the public and talk about bees.
We will be at the Yew Tree Garden Centre, Hatt Common, East Woodhay on Saturday 11th June so do pop along and see us.
Swarm season is still upon us. If you do see a swarm please contact us. Details can be found on our website http://www.newburybeekeepers.org.uk/swarms/