Letter from the HIVE : August 2013
The hive is slowing down as we move through August. The queen’s rate of laying diminishes and most of the major nectar flows have all but finished, as the bees start their preparation for the long winter ahead. Honey will need to be brought close into the brood chamber and capped with wax to preserve it (the bees raise the temperature in the hive to reduce the water content of the honey to 18%, this eliminates the risk of fermentation and gives the honey extended life). The bees also become quite defensive to protect their honey stores from robbing wasps, other bees and hornets being the main threat.
Throughout the growing season the bees have helped to pollinate most of the hard and soft fruits and vegetables such as beans, peas, courgettes,onions, cucumbers and tomatoes which have all benefited. Pollination is only the starting point for our crops to be successful. The right amount of water and sunshine are needed and this is always a topic of much debate, too much of one and not enough of the other is the usual starting point. From my own allotment I have had the best crop of strawberries,raspberries and gooseberries for many years.
The bees at the moment are still struggling to build enough brood to make a viable colony for the winter. We will give them until the end of August if things have not picked up they will be reunited with a stronger colony to make sure of survival.
A few more bee facts:
- Only the queen bee and the female worker bees go through the winter. In the next couple of months all the drones (male bees) will be kicked out of the hive and they will sadly die as the colony has no use for them.
- During September /October the queen will start to lay eggs again. this brood will form the colony of winter bees. They will be fed on a high protein diet which comes from their pollen store, they will grow larger and must be able to survive for 3-4 cold winter months. On the durability of these bees rests the future success of the colony. Only strong colonies will survive, especially if we have another long and cold winter.
Kind regards from the HIVE
The Blackthorn failed to flower until the first week of May this year, indicating the impact of a late winter and this continued to effect the timings of many other blossoms, including Hawthorn, that eventually came out in June.
Swifts arrived a day or two later than previous years over the reservoir on the 8th May, but the weather continued to be wet and cold for another week or two afterwards. A pair of oystercatchers spent an evening flying around the reservoir on the 7th May, but were not seen again. I have not heard any cuckoos calling around the allotment this spring, even at dawn, but it may be as much to do with poor weather as anything else. Continue reading
Bee friendly on your allotment and get better crops is the title of a family friendly talk and discussion to be held on site on Sunday August 18th at 11am.
It will be led by Pauline Pears an acknowledged expert on organic gardening and long associated with Ryton Organic Gardens. Pauline is editor of The Encyclopedia of Organic gardening as well as The Organic Way magazine.
All welcome. The event is free and will be held in our new Meeting Place. Come along and get some ideas about improving our shared environment.
Letter from the HIVE : July 2013
The hive suffered a set back in mid June when the Queen failed and the colony had to make an emergency Queen cell. This will set them back two to three weeks.
July is traditionally the main month for honey making. The bees will be working extra hard foraging from early morning until late evening. If they are to survive next winter this is the time they must make provisions plus we hope a little extra for us!
Trees such as the lime that usually flower in late June/early July are a good source of nectar. These trees however are very much weather dependant and sometimes only produce nectar for a couple of hours a day. On the allotment we should see lots of activity around the sunflowers and poppies, the bees will also be visiting courgettes, squashes and the odd onion that has decided to flower early.
The bees will sometimes work the climbing beans however this task is usually performed by the bumble bee as she has a much longer tongue to get inside these deep flowers.
A couple more bee facts:
- The honey bee does not hibernate during the winter and the colony will need around 30kg of honey to survive.
- To maintain the correct temperature the bees cluster around the queen and brood (core temperature is 35 degrees C).
Kind regards from the HIVE
Letter from the HIVE : June 2013
The bees are working at full speed trying to gather the last of May’s nectar flow from apples, hawthorne and strawberries on the allotment. June can be a rather poor month for nectar, many colonies will try to swarm during this month, this is the bees way of expanding their colony and their territory. The old queen lays eggs that are then fed on a much richer, high protein diet, these develop into fertile queens. The first queen to hatch kills off the other cells, then mates with a few drones and a new colony is established.
The swarming of bees can be daunting to onlookers, several thousand bees suddenly cluster in a tree or bush and form a ‘ rugby shaped’ ball. If left alone however it is quite rare for any one to get stung during this natural process, as the bees have gorged themselves on honey before leaving the hive and have nothing to defend. A quick call to a local bee keeper and they will soon be in a box, taken to a safe place and given a new home.
A few more bee facts:
- A worker bee’s life cycle in the summer months – egg to emerging bee takes 22 days – next 10 days the bee performs various jobs in the hive to build up strength for foraging – 21 days of hard toil gathering nectar and pollen and then the bee sadly dies – 6 to 8 short weeks of life and a total of 5g of honey accumulated!
- The spring build up is at its maximum during the next couple of weeks and a really good colony should build to between 40 and 60 thousand bees.
Kind regards, from the HIVE