Topical Tips – “Now it is all about the honey” – by Malcolm Wilkie

Finally, the weather has settled. The majority of my colonies have had the queen taken out on a nucleus. The parent hives have requeened themselves and as some of the colonies are very populous, nectar is pouring into the colonies.

Some have only one super, others two and yet others three. Lesley has two colonies with four supers on. Nothing like the Honey Queen who has had eight supers on a hive in the past, but I am quite happy with what I have.

Here in St. Leonards and at the out apiary at Kent Street the flow is tremendous. If you shake bees off a frame nectar wets everything including the bees.

So now it becomes a management issue. Bees need space to put all that ingress of nectar somewhere and so one needs to check they still have room to put it somewhere or otherwise they will chuck that excess nectar into the brood nest and stop the queen laying. And worst-case scenario, that could trigger swarming for a second time. They need warmth (good that there are high temperatures at the moment), and they need good air flow around the super frames so that they can more easily ripen the nectar into honey.

So, make sure there is no vegetation under the hive, that the entrance block is on a larger setting and look carefully at your super frames.

Helen advises one to remove the two outside frames to allow a good airflow. I also separate the frames a little to help this process as well. If I have two or more supers on a hive I am thinking about the contents of each frame. If I want the honey capped, I place it right above the brood ( the warmest place). Then once it is capped, I may move those frames up into a top super and move others that I want to be capped down just above the brood nest.

Adding another super or not is a fine judgement call. Too many supers and they chimney the honey and you don’t get the outer frames filled. But you always have the option of course of removing a super with only three frames of nectar and exchanging those frames for empty ones in the super below.

In many areas in the High Weald the summer flow goes on until the end of July and then that’s it! So, decisions made in the next two weeks are crucial. We need to help the bees to cap that honey ASAP so that it can then be extracted, enabling us all to then get on those summer treatments : thereby ensuring we get healthy winter bees with minimal levels of varroa.

So, my final tip is to order your treatments NOW. A lot of you use thymol products and these are brilliant if used when the temperatures are high. But using them in September when night temperatures start to drop is much less effective. So, if at all possible, get those treatments on in August ( supers removed of course). By doing so you will have strong colonies that will overwinter better and will romp away in the Spring.

What an odd season this has been. One or two of Lesley’s colonies have wanted to swarm twice. Boxes of bees are mushrooming all over the place in her garden and in the out apiary. We have had to contend with rape honey (but at least I was on the ball, and we did two early extractions using the refractometer on uncapped honey).The honey set in the jars overnight but it is absolutely delicious and naturally soft set.

We are now getting really high temperatures and colonies could overheat so do shade roofs. But for the moment it’s all about the honey ….

Malcolm Wilkie – 19th July 2021

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