Not in my wildest dreams of becoming a beekeeper in May this year did I expect to be extracting so much honey from queen bee Lizzie and her girls. Having read books written by new beekeepers in their first year and other beekeepers at the local apiary branch that they have had very little harvest in their first year, here I am with nearly 30lbs of honey all decanted into jars and labelled - and there are still two supers on the hive filling with more honey.
New lesson learnt this week... don't leave any empty spaces in the super when the girls are out on a honey flow (or most probably any other time) as this photo shows just what happens when you take the cover board off and turn it upside down. Yes, the girls start making their own comb naturally and this was only after two days!
After the June gap the month of July has been a very busy time for the girls as they gather as much as their little bodies can carry back to the hive from the rich pickings. They went absolutely crazy when the lime trees and privet came into blossom and now it's the turn of the brambles. Love it or hate it, we also have Himalyan balsam growing in abundance along the River Otter which is also a good source of food for honey bees and other insects - apparently it makes very good honey.
Note to self... there's a reason why beekeepers put their hives on taller stands... and I've learnt the hard way! Yes, when it comes to lifting (or hefting as it's called in the beekeeping fraternity) heavy boxes full of honey (which can weigh around 30lb plus the weight of the box), it's a lot easier to lift them off a beehive standing firmly upright than bend over and lift upwards. Even worse, kneeling down so you're level with the brood box and trying to inspect!
We're into July and the girls are working flat out on a nectar flow. Just watching the entrance to their beehive at times like this is absolutely amazing. They dart out as fast as their little wings can carry them all in one direction as they make their way to a source of food that they have found. Once gathered, they are on their way back to drop off their loads to the bees waiting inside the hive before turning round and heading straight back out again. Bees are incredible in the way they all work together for the good of the colony.
Saturday - a day to lie in and take it easy after a busy week at work. Except this morning's alarm was set extra early to get me up and out of the door by 7 o'clock for a drive across the Devon border into Somerset to attend the County Disease and Husbandry Day organised by the Somerset Beekeepers' Association.
Seven days ago I added a varroa board below the floor of my beehive as it's time to do a count of how many varroa mites are in the colony. These litter critters are not easily spotted with the naked eye yet for the bees themselves, it's like flying with a dinner plate on your back. They don't call this particular mite the varroa destructor for nothing as it can have a devastating affect on colonies of bees if left to get out of control and can collapse colonies and wipe them out.
Reading this month's British Beekeepers' Association newsletter (No: 223 - July 2016) I noticed that an initiative to introduce an annual World Bee Day has been gathering support to raise awareness of the important of bees around the world and to remind people how dependant we all are on bees and other pollinators.
Finishing work on a Friday normally signals the start of the weekend but this Friday was different - I had a colony of bees to go and collect. Not for myself but for The Donkey Sanctuary where I work which I mentioned in What's all the buzz about? back in January this year. I already have bees at the bottom of the garden and now I have a great opportunity to resurrect a pair of beehives at The Donkey Sanctuary after the bee colony collapsed a couple of years ago.
The month of June so far hasn't been too kind to my bees as we've had more than our fair share of rain here in Devon. In fact, we've had torrential rain which means the girls can't get out to forage for their food and no doubt relying on the stores they've gathered over the months... as the saying goes "saved for a rainy day"!
Looking out the window in the mornings before I go to work, there are a few brave little bees at the hive entrance and as soon as the rain stops the girls are flying off on their mission to gather pollen, nectar and water to replenish their stores.