Honey Stores Replenished
The good news is that our honey stores have been replenished. Jars and jars of gorgeous golden honey from the bottom of our garden. All stacked up to keep us going. The bad news is that we didn’t get any honey last year, there wasn’t huge amounts this year and there is no guarantee that we’ll get any next year. All of which means that there isn’t actually a massive store of honey in our larder, especially as it has to last for a year at the least and might have to last for a couple of years or more until we get another harvest.
The Trouble with Bees
The trouble with keeping bees here on the fringes of West Wales is that they just don’t do what they are ‘supposed’ to do. It doesn’t matter how vigilant we are. It doesn’t matter if we spot potential swarming at exactly the right time. It doesn’t matter if we perform artificial swarms and other manipulations perfectly, it doesn’t even matter what the weather does. Whatever we do, the bees just don’t seem to co-operate.
Following an artificial swarm, the queen will still swarm anyway. Virgin queens won’t mate and if they do they might decide to swarm again anyway. Caught swarms will sit quite happily in a new hive for several weeks before suddenly, without any warning, just disappearing. Whatever we do, and however well we do it, it rarely seems to have the desired effect.
Now, bees are in essence wild animals so I wouldn’t expect them to co-operate all the time. If they did then there would be little challenge and therefore little satisfaction (other than masses of honey) from keeping them and trying to bend them to our will to some extent. I wouldn’t mind if sometimes they did their own thing and didn’t do what we wanted them to. I wouldn’t mind if they struggled to produce enough honey for us to have some – I do realise after all that conditions here aren’t ideal for them. But, when they rarely do what they should it can be quite frustrating. Even if they only co-operated 50% of the time that would be fine, but the fact that they rarely do makes it hard work. I sometimes wonder if we would be better off doing nothing at all for them, although if we did that then we would end up with nothing at all. No bees, no honey and no stories to tell.
The State of our Hives
I guess the fact that we have got some honey this year makes it a success. We have had other successes too. We have even managed to raise a virgin queen and she has successfully mated and has raised quite a large colony. We haven’t had any honey from this colony though. The brood box has been packed full of bees all summer but for some reason they have just completely refused to go up into the Super. I don’t think I’ve seen a single bee in the Super all summer long. There isn’t a drop of honey up there. The brood box on the other hand has always been absolutely choc-a-block. So full in fact that it is quite difficult to inspect them. The do have some honey stores in the brood box as well, but I think now that autumn is on its way I shall remove the queen excluder and put them onto a brood and half configuration ready for the winter. Hopefully with a little more room to expand they can go into the winter well stocked up and with a good chance of pulling through,
The other two hives that we have aren’t doing so well. It swarmed in July. I managed to catch the swarm as I saw it leave the hive and I re-homed it in a different hive. However, the virgin queen never managed to mate and the caught swarm swarmed again so we lost the original queen. The honey we have came from the hive with the unmated queen but now that there isn’t a laying queen in either of them they are destined to fail.
Our only chance for next year is to get the hive with the 2019 queen in it through the winter and to start again. Time to start feeding them and preparing them for the long cold winter.