Bees – 1-7-2021

It’s a pivotal moment in the beekeeping year. Our colonies have used the spring and early summer to build up their size, with the aim of maximising the number of foragers ready to bring in a summer flower nectar for our honey harvest. Fingers crossed that swarming is now finished for this year and that our colonies are full of bees and sealed brood, that’s ready to hatch and join the nectar collecting frenzy.  Bramble is just now in full flower, a major ingredient in the nectar mix. Hopefully the weather is set fair.
It’s honey flow time! So how do ther BHG colonies stack up?
We have six colonies.
Three (numbers 4, 5 and 6) are in good shape, brood boxes full of bees, with supers on top which are already beginning to be filled with honey. Happy news.
Colonies 1 and 2, which  were weak after overwintering, have built up numbers to fill about two thirds of their brood boxes but probably only have enough foraging strength to collect sufficient honey to satisfy their own needs. No honey surplus is likely from these ladies. After thinking that the swarming season has finished for this year colony 2 inexplicably swarmed last Wednesday. The swarm was spotted in an adjacent garden but before it could be captured, it absconded and went its own way. We found sealed queen cells in the brood box and still a good many bees. A queen will hatch and the colony survives.
Colony number 3 was doing very well early on, our top colony at the time, but became queenless in early June. The bees went through a procedure called supercedure to replace the queen which worked. We can see the cell she hatched from but the resulting queen has vanished and no new eggs have been laid. Who knows what happened? There are still plenty of bees who can gather nectar but without a laying queen the colony will die out. But we have used the turn of events from colony 2 to our advantage. Number 2 has a surplus of queen cells. We took a frame, minus its bees but with a queen cell, and replaced a frame in number 3. We are hoping that this procedure will replace our missing queen and that the colony will survive and maybe still give a small honey surplus for us to harvest. If not we can go to plan Z and merge the remaining bees into colonies 1 and 2. That does have the advantage of strengthening these colonies.
How much honey will we be able to harvest? That now depends largely on the weather. Watch this space.