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A Year in the Apiary - June

Well, what a difference! June has delivered with hot and dry weather. Perfect for honeybees. The girls have been out gathering pollen and nectar and the colonies are swelling in numbers ready for the main honey flow in July. The frames ae full of brood and stores and the bee numbers are about to explode once again after swarm season in May.

This is a typical brood frame. The Queen lays in the centre and works in a circular pattern towards the outside of the frame. Surrounding this, the bees will store pollen and honey, keeping both handy to feed the young larvae as they grow. After about 9 days, the larvae are sealed in the cell with a wax capping. The wax capping is mixed with some pollen to make it porous, so that Oxygen can penetrate into the cell. You can see that the sealed cells look a bit like digestive biscuits. The dark holes are where new bees have emerged. You can also see in the picture the orangey red pollen that has been packed down in the outer cells.

Of course, it is still possible that the colony can swarm. If they expand so much that they run out of room, then they will create yet another Queen and swarm again. So, I need to visit about every 5-6 days to make sure they are not planning to do so.

This month, there was time to do a little more training. I did this with my local association. About 6 of us got together with 4 instructors over a weekend to learn a little bit more about colony manipulation and Queen rearing. Queens can cost between £40-£70 each if you need one quickly, so being able to rear your own is definitely a worthwhile exercise. It is very easy to lose a Queen or for her to become non-effective. I plan to rear my own Queens from next season.

During this training weekend, I also discovered a new technique for uniting colonies. We do this when we want to make strong colonies out of weaker ones. However, each colony can only have one Queen. The new technique I learned was when you can't find one of the Queens to remove them prior to the uniting process. Take a look at the next picture and you will see what is done.

One colony was just dumped in front of the second. The second Queen is in amongst that cluster of bees but, she is so small she just looks like all the other workers. What happens is, the colony that has been dumped, marches into the hive box, and the Queen does not go in because the guard bees at the entrance know they already have a Queen. So, the last bee standing at the entrance is the second Queen. Brilliant! In this case the second Queen needed to be excluded because she was a drone-laying Queen. She could only lay unfertilised eggs, so all the young were males. This was because the Spring was so cold and damp that new Queens could not successfully mate outdoors. This has been a national problem. Thank goodness for a hot and dry month of June.

Next month is July, the main honey flow...........fingers crossed for some nice weather.

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