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
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 : 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
Letter from the HIVE : May 2013
Almost into May and finally the trees and bushes have some colour.
Inside the hive progress is being made as the colony starts to grow, the eggs and brood are now spread over five frames and there is plenty of pollen and enough stores to support the young, emerging bees. Hopefully these will be strong enough to start working the ever increasing cherry, pear and currant blossom. The bees are still predominantly working the hazel and willow for pollen, and the dandelion and gooseberry for nectar.
May is a busy month for the bees; they need to produce a strong colony of flying bees to take full advantage of the first significant nectar flow, storing provisions for the less productive month of June.
A few marigolds planted between the carrots not only help to stop carrot fly but also provide a useful source of food for our pollinating insects. The planting of a few sweet peas and some lovely scented poppies give a wonderful bouquet to a floral honey.
A few bee facts:
- A colony is made up of one queen, lots worker bees (female)and a few drones (male)
- Brood comes in three stages: eggs, larvae and capped
- The bees are living in a type of hive known as ‘British National’, a popular choice in Warwickshire – see picture below
Kind Regards, from the HIVE
Letter from the Hive : April 2013
With what felt like the first warm day in 2013 it was a welcoming sight to see the allotment under a sky full of sunshine, buzzing with activity. It was encouraging to see plots being dug ready for the planting of various seeds, catching up on the late winter chill, fingers crossed that they will start to prosper hopefully under ever increasing spring like warmth!
The same was evident in the HIVE. With over wintered honey bee numbers reaching a critically low point with barely sufficient bees surviving to maintain the 35 degrees temperature required to develop brood. Bees can only effectively forage when the outside air temperature is 10 degrees or above. The first signs that the queen has survived this long, hard winter is pollen from the crocuses, willow and hazel being flown in. The colony mixes this pollen with honey to make bee bread. This is essential for the queen to lay eggs and raise her new brood.
Over the next few weeks the colony should grow steadily in preparation for the pollination of our apple, pear and plum trees. A grateful thanks to those who planted snowdrops and crocuses as these are two very important early plants that our pollinating insects need to start their new families.
Kind Regards, from the HIVE
PS – Bees also love comfrey, poppies and lavender.