Here we are in late August and the beekeeping year is almost complete. How's it been for our girls?
We took three hives to Falkenham Marshes after Easter with very mixed results. One colony decided to swarm, so we had lots of faffing about and no honey from them. The other two were right next to a field of Oilseed Rape which should have resulted in lots of lovely delicate honey, but in practice we harvested very little. Maybe the farmer was growing one of the new new varieties which give high crop yield but low nectar?
Back home things went much better. Our colonies on the smallholding produced a huge crop of summer honey. There are big bramble thickets nearby so bramble nectar is very likely to be a big constituent in the mix, boosted no doubt by lavender, rosemary, borage and even a field strip of Phacelia which Bidwells obligingly grew near Searsons Farm. It was certainly the source of the dark purple pollen which we and other nearby beekeepers saw in our hives.
So our white "Honey for Sale" signs are out in the front garden and the neighbours are ringing our doorbell. We don't aim to make a profit but it's good to know that we should cover the costs of our beekeeping this year despite the inevitable rise in the price of everything. As an example, the Formic Pro strips that we use to treat our colonies for the nasty Varroa mite now cost well over a fiver each. They were under £4 a year or two ago.
Now we just have to make sure our colonies are well fed and healthy as they prepare for winter. Have they got young vigorous queens? Yep. Now that we've taken the honey, have they got enough stores to see them through to spring? Too early to judge, but we've stocked up on sugar syrup and will feed them during the autumn if they are short. Are their hives in good condition with no holes or gaps for the wasps to get in and steal the honey? I reckon so.
Before we know it, the autumn season of Association meetings will be upon us. Beekeepers are a very sociable bunch and we all look forward to getting together in a village hall, sharing stories of the year's ups & downs over a cuppa. Meanwhile the bees carry on with their preparations, rearing the new generation that will see them through the harshest of winters. Perhaps they will welcome the lack of botheration by those pesky humans!