The Beekeeping Year at Bee Happy Products
January to February - This is the time to get all of our outstanding jobs done, from repairing the used equipment to making up new brood boxes. Frames are assembled but the wax foundation is not placed into them until we need them. This makes sure that the wax is as fresh as possible for the bees. Bees are fed fondant if they appear to be light on stores.
March to April – This is the start of the season for us and we make our first inspections about now depending on the weather. The first inspections are quite quick, with just a look to make sure that the bees have enough stores and that they are healthy and queen right. This is one of the best times to mark the queen as later on in the year it can be difficult to find her. A dab of quick drying paint is all that is needed, with the colour changing every year. This allows us to see how old the queen is. Some of the hives may be given fondant or syrup as necessary. Towards the end of March and depending on the weather, the colonies are shook swarmed on to fresh frames and foundation. This is part of our control on the varroa mite and to get rid of any pathogens that may be on the old comb.
May to June – It now starts to get busy as not only are the colonies getting larger but we start to rear our own queens at this time. A queen excluder to prevent the queen from entering the honey supers is added and honey supers are given as and when necessary. In a good year a box can be added every couple of weeks or so. The bees will be thinking about swarming and with careful management we aim to avoid this. Swarms are collected and hived into new brood boxes to further expand our production.
During this time of the year it is rare for us to have a day off as there is so much to do. Most of this is organised over the winter time to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Only the weather can alter our plans.
July to August – Hopefully we will have had a spring crop of honey to take off in the last few months and these months are a time for us to harvest the main crop. The supers are collected and the frames are extracted to release the liquid gold inside them. Once the honey has been extracted from the combs, they are taken back to the hive for the bees to lick the last of the honey and leave us with clean dry combs ready for storage.
After all the supers are safely stored away, it is time for the varroa treatment. This takes about four to six weeks to go around and administer two doses of a thymol treatment. Although we cannot eradicate the mites we need to reduce them down to a manageable level so the bees have a good chance of surviving the winter.
September to October – The season is still not over as there is a lot to do. Any colony that is light on stores will be given sugar syrup to help boost them for the winter months. Most of our old queens are replaced now to ensure we have strong vigorous colonies next season. We do not keep queens for more than two years unless they have produced something special in the way of a large honey crop. These will be noted for probable queen rearing next season. Hive entrances are reduced dramatically to prevent wasps trying to steal any stores or young larvae from the nest and a mouse guard is put on to stop them finding a warm nest to overwinter. A lot of damage can be caused by mice in a bee hive.
Netting is placed around the hives to stop any green woodpeckers from gaining a free meal and us a repair job.
November to December – Not much happens as far as the bees are concerned but honey needs bottling and labelling and candles etc need making for the forth coming Christmas events that we attend. Equipment needs to be checked and any shortages made up with an order or two to the suppliers.