Difficult Conditions for foraging Honey Bees
What a year we are having here in the UK – the wettest April. May and June for 50+ years and July at the moment is no better. Last year I extracted honey immediately after Oil Seed Rape had flowered, then did two further extractions in July and August. However, inspecting the hives on Monday, the bees have cleaned up the wet supers I returned to the hives after the first extraction, but since then they have hardly filled any of the comb with honey. So no July extraction this year, hopefully over the next month they might be able to fill the comb and I can get some honey off in August, before I start my winter preparations.
The lime tree avenue leading down to the farm is buzzing with bees when we do get periods of sunshine, but this is seldom at the moment. Helen my wife, sowed a variety of wild flowers in the garden last year and these are all nicely flowering and covered in a great variety of bumblebee species. I think I must have seen at least 10 varieties of bumblebees.
With this rotten weather and especially if you extracted spring honey, you will need to keep an eye on food stocks for your bees. As reported in earlier blogs, all my colonies are on one and 1/2 brood boxes, so they have plenty of stocks. But if your colonies are only in one brood box they may be getting short. Unfortunately if you have to feed your bees, any sugar syrup will get mixed with the honey and will ruin any honey you may wish to take off. But it is better to keep your bees alive and not perishing due to starvation. If this is the case, you will have to look to next year and discount this year.
For many a novice beekeeper who started this year, you have started beekeeping in possibly the worst year we have had for many years. Do not dispair, its a learning proceess, better to write off this years honey production, make certain your bees have plenty of stocks for winter and treat for varroa from mid August to mid September. With a good late summer as we often get, you may find your bees will need very little winter feed fed by you, as they can forage on late blossom and as I find fill the storage spaces with ivy pollen and nectar. But only your hive management can ascertain this.