The Honey Harvest has begun.
To be honest, we haven’t got much again this year, especially compared to some other local beekeepers – a friend of ours managed to extract 300lb of honey from her hives in just one valley and left every hive with 2 full supers as she got fed up of extracting and didn’t know what she would do with all the honey! We on the other hand only managed to get one super full of honey from one of our hives. We’re not sure how much that is yet, but we’ll be lucky if it is 10lb.
We have our excuses though.
- We were trying to ‘make increase‘ this year rather than make honey.
- Ynyslas still isn’t the best place for keeping bees, there’s no forage, 2/3 of the surrounding land is actually sea and its far too windy.
- We’re still new to this beekeeping malarky.
- The bees were particularly uncooperative this year, swarming at every opportunity, refusing to re-queen and generally playing hard to manage.
In the Hives
So, now that we have extracted as much honey as we can, it’s time to prepare the hives and the colonies in them for winter. Ideally we want nice strong, healthy colonies with plenty of stores in the hive to see them through the colder months. Our main problem this year has been getting our colonies queenright, so we now have to merge and re-unite them so that each has a queen and plenty of bees.
It’s difficult to say whats been going on in our home apiary without giving a blow by blow account of each hive. I’ll spare you the details though as I’ve probably mentioned them in earlier blog posts anyway.
Morgan’s colony seems to be doing OK It was queenright last time we looked, although I don’t think we’ve actually seen the queen yet. She’s a new queen that hatched out from a queen cell in July after we culled the queen to prevent swarming back in May. The last few inspections have shown that the hive contains, eggs, brood in all stages and a small amount of stores. We’ve now started feeding this colony with Invertbee Syrup. This is a balanced formula of sucrose, fructose and glucose made especially for honey bee feeding. It is a little more expensive than making your own sugar syrup as we have done in the past, but it doesn’t crystallise or ferment, so is easy to store. Also, the high concentration and formula mean it requires little processing by the bees so it is easily and quickly stored by the colony. That’s what the manufacturers say anyway and other beekeepers in the area seem to rave about it as well. Let’s hope our bees like it. It does make life a little easier for us too.
We also had 3 queen-less colonies at home. One in a nuc box from a caught swarm, which did have a queen but she went AWOL. And two with queen cells (yep, queen cells in September). During August these were two smallish queenright colonies, but one of them seemed to have lost it’s queen so we merged them, only for the merged colony to become queenless as well. We then re-split them to see if any of them could manage to re-queen this late in the year. We could have left them as one colony, but by splitting them we have two chances at re-queening, albeit slim chances at this time of year.
Rather than waste the bees in the queenless nuc box we have merged them with one half of the split in order to boost the number of flying bees in this hive. Both of these queenless hives are in a precarious position though as it’s really far too late in the year for raising a new queen. We can try, but we aren’t expecting much from them, if anything at all.
Llandre Out Apiary.
This is the single apiary, and single hive that we got our single super of honey from! Although it produced some honey, it has been queenless virtually all summer. After swarming in June it never managed to re-queen properly. We ended up leaving it quite a while because each time we inspected there was one or two (and literally only one or two) eggs. Something must have been laying them so we thought that maybe the queen was just taking a while to get going. This is still the case now though. We haven’t seen a queen in here, the colony is dwindling fast but we don’t want to reunite it with a queenright colony just in case there is a ‘duff’ queen in there and she kills the productive queen. We don’t want to waste the bees either so we have given them a frame of eggs. If they build queen cells on it we can be certain that there isn’t a queen in the colony and it will be safe to destroy the queen cells and unite it with a queenright colony. If they don’t build queen cells we’ll have to either leave them to it or make sure we find and kill the ‘duff’ queen before merging it with another colony.
We also have a hive that houses a small but queenright colony here. We are feeding it and hoping for the best with this one.
Argoed Out Apiary
All is looking good(ish) here. The colony that we have up in the hills has been packed full of bees all summer. They’ve never had much in the way of stores though. On the plus side, despite looking as though they should swarm at any time they haven’t so they have been queenright all summer having raised a new queen in June. Anna said they were looking a little dopey when she checked them the other day though, but hopefully all is OK. We now have them on a brood and a half and will be feeding them as much as we can.
How have we done?
So, we started with 2 colonies in a single apiary in the Spring with the plan of making increase.
We have have caught swarms, performed artificial swarms, bought a nuc and been donated a nuc, we’ve had countless queens come and go, and have re-united and split various colonies. We’ve been up to eight colonies in 3 apiaries at points during the summer. Now, as the summer comes to an end we have a small amount of honey, 3 queen-right colonies (1 in each of our apiaries) and three queenless colonies. We don’t hold out much hope for the queenless colonies, but if we can get the queenright ones through the winter I guess we will have achieved something. If any of the others become queenright and make it through the winter then we could even call it a success.
One step at a time though and the priority now is to get the three queenright colonies through to next Spring, and of course to have a nice slice of toast smothered in delicious, lovingly reared honey!