A June Gap

As far as the beekeeping season is concerned, we’ve had the starter and we’re now waiting for the main course. 

Like restaurants, the size of the ‘starter’ depends upon your location. If you live in an area with lots of oil seed rape (OSR) and other early nectar, the spring honey crop might account for the majority of your annual honey.

If you are in the west, or take your hives to the hills, you might have skipped the starter altogether hoping the heather is the all-you-can-eat buffet of the season.

Lockdown honey

In Fife they appear to be growing less OSR as the farmers have had problems with flea beetle since the neonicotinoid ban was introduced.

Nevertheless, my bees are in range of a couple of fields and – if the weather behaves – usually get a reasonable crop from it. My earlier plans to move hives directly onto the fields, saving the bees a few hundred yards of flying to and fro, was thwarted (like so much else this year) by the pandemic.

The timing of the spring honey harvest is variable, and quite important. You want it to be late enough that the bees have collected what they can and had a chance to ripen it properly so that the water content is below 20% 1.

However, you can’t leave it too late. Fast-granulating OSR honey sets hard in the frames and then cannot be extracted without melting. In addition, there’s often a dearth of nectar in the weeks after the OSR finishes and the bees can end up eating their stores, leaving the beekeeper with nothing 🙁

Judging all that from 150 miles away on the west coast where I’m currently based was a bit tricky. I had to timetable a return visit to also check on queen mating and the build up of all the colonies I’d used the nucleus method of swarm control on.

Ideally all in the same visit.

Blowin’ in the wind

I’d made up the nucs, added supers and last checked my colonies around the 17-19th of May. I finally returned on the 10th of June.

In the intervening period I’d been worried about one of my more exposed apiaries. I’d run out of ratchet straps to hold the hives together and was aware there had been some gales in late May.

Sure enough, when I got to the apiary, there was ample evidence of the gales …

How the mighty fall

The only unsecured hive was completely untouched and the bees were happily working away. However, one of the strapped hives had been toppled and was laying face (i.e. entrance) down. You can see the dent in the fence where it collided on its descent.

If she hadn’t already (and I expect she hadn’t based upon the date of the gales) I suspect the queen struggled to get out and mate from this hive 🙁

Nuked nucs

Two adjacent 8-frame nucs were also sitting lidless in the gentle rain. The lids and the large piece of timber they’d been held down with were on the ground. The perspex crownboards were shattered into dozens of pieces.

These bees were fine.

Both queens were laying and the bees were using the new top entrance (!) for entering and leaving the hive. They were a little subdued and the colonies were less well developed than the other nucs (see below). However, their survival for the best part of three weeks uncovered is a tribute to their resilience.

They were thoroughly confused how to get back into the hive after I replaced the lids 🙂

Slow queen mating

Other than extracting, the primary purpose of this visit was to check the queenright nucs from my swarm control weren’t running out of space, and to check on the progress of queen mating in the original colonies.

Queen mating always takes longer than you expect.

Or than I expect at least.

Poor weather hampered my inspection of all re-queening colonies but, of those I looked at, 50% had new laying queens and the others looked as though they would very soon.

By which I mean the colonies were calm and ‘behaved’ queenright, they were foraging well and the centre of the ‘broodnest’ (or what would be the centre if there was any brood) was being kept clear of nectar and had large patches of polished cells.

Overall it was a bit too soon to be sure everything was OK, but I expect it is.

However, it wasn’t too soon to check the nucs.

Overflowing nucs

In fact, it was almost too late …

With one exception the nucs were near to overflowing with bees and brood.

I favour the Thorne’s Everynuc which has an integral feeder at one end of the box. Once the bees start drawing comb in the feeder they’re running desperately short of space.

Most had started …

Here's one I prepared earlier

Here’s one I prepared earlier

I didn’t photograph any of the nucs, but the photo above (of an overly-full overwintered nuc) shows what I mean; the feeder is on the right.

The nucs had been made up with one frame of predominantly emerging brood, a few more nurse bees, two foundationless frames, a frame of drawn comb and a frame of stores.

They were now all packed with 5 frames of brood and would have started making swarm preparations within a few days if I hadn’t dealt with them.

Good laying pattern from queen in 5 frame nucleus

And the queens had laid beautiful solid sheets of brood (always reasonably easy if the comb is brand new).

Housekeeping and more swarm prevention

The beauty of the nucleus method of swarm control is that you have the older queen ‘in reserve’ should the new queen not get mated, or be of poor quality.

The problem I was faced with was that the new queens weren’t all yet laying (and for those that were it was too soon to determine their quality), but the older queen was in a box they were rapidly outgrowing.

I therefore removed at least three frames of brood 2 from each nuc and used it to boost the re-queening colonies, replacing the brood-filled frames with fresh foundation 3.

The nucs will build up again strongly and the full colonies will benefit from a brood boost to make up for some of the bees lost during requeening. Some of the transferred frames had open brood. These produce pheromones that should hold back the development of laying workers.

Finally, if the requeening colonies actually lack a queen (the weather was poor and I didn’t search very hard in any of them) there should be a few larvae young enough on the transferred frames for them to draw a new queen cell if needed.

I marked the introduced frames so I can check them quickly on my next visit to the apiary.

This frame needs to be replaced … but could be used in a bait hive next year

The additional benefit of moving brood from the nucs to the full colonies is that it gave me an opportunity to remove some old, dark frames from the latter.

Shown above is one of the removed frames. As the colony is broodless 4 and there’s the usual reduction in available nectar in early/mid June, many of the frames in the brood box were largely empty and can easily be replaced with better quality comb.

Everyone’s a winner 😉

Drone laying queen

One of the nucs made in mid/late May had failed. The queen had developed into a drone layer.

Drone laying queen

The laying pattern was focused around the middle of frame indicating it had been laid by a queen. If it had been laying workers the drone brood would be scattered all over the frames.

There was no reasonable or efficient way to save this colony. The queen was removed and I then shook the bees out in front of a row of strong hives.

I was surprised I’d not seen problems with this queen when making up the nucs in May 5. I do know that all the colonies had worker brood because the nucs were all made containing one frame of emerging (worker) brood.

Perhaps the shock of being dumped into a new box stopped her laying fertilised eggs. Probably it was just a coincidence. We’ll ever know …

Extraction

And, in between righting toppled hives, checking for queens, stopping nucs from swarming, moving a dozen hives/nucs, boosting requeening hives and replacing comb … I extracted a very good crop of spring honey.

Luvverrrly

Although I had fewer ‘production’ hives this season than previous years (to reduce my workload during the lockdown) I still managed to get a more than respectable spring harvest. In fact, it was my best spring since moving back to Scotland in 2015.

The crop wasn’t as large as I’d managed previously in Warwickshire, but the season here starts almost a month later.

A fat frame of spring honey

I start my supers with 10 or 11 frames, but once they are drawn I reduce to 9 frames. With a good nectar flow the bees draw out the comb very nicely.

The bees use less wax (many of my frames are also drawn on drone foundation, so even less wax than worker comb 6), it’s easier to uncap and I have fewer frames to extract.

Again … everyone’s a winner 😉

Not the June gap

Quite a few frames contained fresh nectar, so there was clearly a flow of something (other than rain, which seemed to predominate during my visit) going on. These frames are easy to identify as they drip nectar over the floor as you lift them out to uncap 🙁

In some years you find frames with a big central capped region – enough to usefully extract – but containing lots of drippy fresh nectar in the uncapped cells at the edges and shoulders. I’ve heard that some beekeepers do a low speed spin in the extractor to remove the nectar, then uncap and extract the ripe honey.

I generally don’t bother and instead just stick these back in the hive.

If there’s one task more tiresome than extracting it’s cleaning the extractor afterwards. To have to also clean the extractor during extracting (to avoid the high water content nectar from spoiling the honey) is asking too much!

Colonies can starve during a prolonged nectar dearth in June. All of mine were left with some stores in the brood box and with the returned wet supers. That, plus the clear evidence for some nectar being collected, means they should be OK.

National Honey monitoring Scheme

I have apiaries in different parts of Fife. The bees therefore forage in distinct areas and have access to a variety of different nectar sources.

It’s sometimes relatively easy to determine what they’ve been collecting nectar from – if the back of the thorax has a white(ish) stripe on it and it’s late summer they’re hammering the balsam, if they’ve got bags of yellow pollen and the bees are yellow and the fields all around are yellow it’s probably rape.

Mid-April in the apiary ...

Mid-April in a Warwickshire apiary …

But it might not be.

To be certain you need to analyse the pollen.

The old skool way of doing this is by microscopy. Honey – at least the top quality honey produced by local amateur beekeepers 7 – contains lots of pollen. Broadly speaking, the relative proportions of the different pollens – which can usually be distinguished microscopically – tells you the plants the nectar was collected from.

The cutting edge way to achieve the same thing in a fraction of the time (albeit at great expense) is to use so-called next generation sequencing to catalogue all the pollen present in the sample.

Pollen contains nucleic acid and the sequence of the nucleotides in the nucleic acid are uniquely characteristics of particular plant species. You can easily get both qualitative and quantitative data.

And this is exactly what the National Honey Monitoring Scheme is doing.

They use the data to monitor long-term changes in the condition and health of the countryside” but they provide the beekeeper’s involved with the information of pollen types and proportions in their honey.

National Honey Monitoring Scheme samples

Samples must be taken directly from capped comb. It’s a messy business. Fortunately the labelling on the sample bottles is waterproof so everything can be thoroughly rinsed before popping them into the post for future analysis.

I have samples analysed already from last year and will have spring and summer samples from a different apiary this season. I’ll write in the future about what the results look like, together with a more in-depth explanation of the technology used.

When I last checked you could still register to take part and have your own honey analysed.


Notes

Under (re)construction

Lockdown means there have been more visitors than ever to this site, with numbers up at least 75% over this time last year.

This, coupled with the need to upgrade some of the underlying software that keeps this site together, means I’m in the middle of moving to a bigger, faster, better (more expensive 🙁 ) server. I’m beginning to regret the bloat of wordpress over the lean and mean Hugo or Jekyll-type templating systems (and if this means nothing to you then I’m in good company) and may yet switch.

In the meantime, bear with me … there may be some broken links littering a few pages. If it looks and works really badly, clear your browser cache, re-check things and please send me an email using the link at the bottom of the right hand column.

Thank you

 

Footnotes

  1. Or there’s a risk it will ferment … aside from the small matter that you can’t sell anything but heather honey if the water content is above 20%.
  2. Just the brood frames, not the adhering bees.
  3. For once, not foundationless … the nucs are on a variety of stands, some of which are far from level. Bees draw comb vertical. If there are flanking frames they maintain the correct beespace, but since I was replacing 3/5ths (and in a couple of cases 4/5ths) this wasn’t possible, so I used up some of my foundation mountain leftover from shifting to predominantly foundationless frames.
  4. Or was until I added some back.
  5. … clearly I hadn’t looked carefully enough.
  6. About 25% less by my calculations.
  7. The same cannot be said of the bulk, blended, commercial, ultra-filtered rubbish sold by the ton at £1/lb in a supermarket near you.

42 thoughts on “A June Gap

  1. Janet Wilson

    Great post David, packed with good info that I will use to modify my own practice, thanks!

    Have you tried the Paradise EPS nuc setups? I would be interesting in your thoughts on how they compare to the Everynucs.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Janet

      I’ve got half a dozen of those but rarely use them these days. When I bought them they only did Langstroth (it looks like they still only do) and I ended up building internal dividers with integral feeders to make two parallel 3-frame nucs. These worked pretty well for queen mating. The entrances face in opposite directions and it helps to the entrances in distinctive colours. The poly is dense and good quality and the moulding is good. However, they’re overly ‘fussy’ on the outside and a pain to paint other than with a spray gun.

      Amazed to find that I originally wrote about those nucs in April 2014 …

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  2. Elaine Robinson

    Thanks David for your usual, insightful weekly blog. Glad most of your hives survived the gales.

    I was particularly interested in your pics of the drone laying queen. One of my queens emerging from swarm control, unfortunately hasn’t mated well and like the picture of your first frame, seems to have some worker brood in between mainly drone brood. The pattern was similar to yours I mainly central to the frame and on my first inspection on egg per cell. On my second inspection when I could see the brood was sealed and realised something was wrong, one frame had developed a large queen cell, full of royal jelly and with a larvae floating. I couldn’t find the queen & I moved the hive to shed flying bees to make that easier to no avail. The colony was also very grumpy.

    Wondering if the queen cell will produce a viable queen and whether it’s likely the colony will have dispatched the poorly mated queen (hence why I couldn’t find her)? In the next few days I need to decide whether to let the (now sealed) queen cell emerge or whether to shake out the colony.

    Appreciate your thoughts re viability of the cell and whether the bees are likely to have already dispatched the poorly mated queen.
    Best wishes
    Elaine

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Elaine

      I’d be a bit dubious about a queen reared from a failing queen. Colonies do get rid of failing queens but can’t be guaranteed to have a suitable replacement “lined up and ready to go”. Sometimes they make poor choices. If the queen cell is ‘normal’ in appearance it might be worth risking, but I’d make sure I had a Plan B ready should it not turn out well. If the cell is overly large, malformed or clearly drawn from surrounding drone comb I’d move directly to Plan B!

      If it looks like this …

      Bride (or possibly Groom) of Frankenstein

      … go straight to Plan B, do not pass Go and do not collect £100 😉

      Best Wishes
      David

      Reply
      1. Elaine Robinson

        Thanks David. Following your advice I removed all the sealed cells today, no more eggs in the hive and after 3 look throughs no sign of the drone laying queen, so assume bees have dispatched her. Added a frame of sealed brood with a sealed queen cell from another hive with good traits, I’d inspected earlier to thin queen cells, so plan B has kicked in!
        Best wishes
        Elaine

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Good luck … give her time to mate and thing should be fine. I’m of to check mine in a few days. If they’re not mated by now I’ll be uniting colonies back with the nucs containing the original queens.

          Best Wishes
          David

          Reply
          1. Elaine Robinson

            Hi David
            I’m planning uniting a few Nucs soon to hives ready for the balsam / heather glow in August, here in Yorkshire. Can I ask a question re the Nuc method of swarm control, which I’ve tried for the first time this year and on the face of it seems v easy and good insurance. However in both cases, a single queen cell has developed to sealed stage after the swarm control, with the original queen still in the Nuc. I’m now assuming this is supercedure as the original clipped queens are still there? Also this is the second time I’ve had to put one of the queens into a Nuc (I swarm controlled her into the Nuc early in the season too) then I spotted a couple of cells with eggs after she’d built up to 5 frames of brood in a hive, did the swarm control again and put her back in the Nuc. This followed a week later with a single cell which is now sealed. In both cases I gave 2 frames of brood and a shake of nurse bees to the Nuc along with the queen. Both were fed and one was taken to an out apiary and one was left in the same apiary. Any thoughts on this, had high hopes of moving to the Nuc method but hasn’t turned out that straight forward!? Now waiting for the new queens to emerge and get mated.
            Best wishes
            Elaine

          2. David Post author

            Hi Elaine

            I have a nuc that did exactly the same thing in the last couple of days. They produced a single sealed cell and the queen was still present. Once the virgin emerged she did away with the old queen within 24 hours. Sine they’ve not swarmed I consider the nuc has served its purpose. If I wanted to unite them now I’d remove the virgin Q and do so. Alternatively – and it’s what I did – I shifted the nuc to a full hive.

            All of my other colonies were managed using the nucleus method and all worked flawlessly. Some have been united back as the new queens in the original colony either failed to mate or whatever. So far – touch wood – I’ve lost no swarms this season and the colonies are all going to the main summer nectar flow in good shape.

            My nucs were all made with just one frame of emerging brood. All were subsequently used as a source of another 2-3 frames of brood to boost production colonies.

            It’s not unheard of to have to repeat swarm control more than once in a season. Well, here in Scotland it is 😉 I get the impression this season is turning out to be a good one in terms of brood rearing – both starting early and with a relatively short June gap. My colonies were all low on stores a fortnight ago, but the nectar is now piling in and I’ve been adding supers to every hive.

            Perhaps give the nuc method another chance next year. It’s been pretty reliable for me. Of course, one of the beauties of beekeeping is that there are always alternatives you can try.

            Regards
            David

  3. vince poulin

    David – what is the best way to measure water content? I have been extracting honey frequently for several reasons – but, primarily to create space within the hive as a mitigation for swarming. I don’t machine extract. I place capped or mostly capped frames over a plastic drain tank then carefully cut through the cappings to release the honey which is allowed to drain by gravity. I return the frames to their hives soon after draining giving back any uncapped areas on the frames. Bees very quickly restore the frames and commence honey storage. I do try to avoid introducing uncapped nectar-honey into what is drained but some gets in. Spring honey in my local is light in colour and less viscus than later season. For example honey now is much darker than just a few weeks ago. This last extraction is noticeably more viscus. That said, it may be my earlier extractions were not sufficiently mature and possibly over the 20% threshold. If the case, to correct that what testing equipment is available to check moisture content? Alternatively is religiously taking honey from only capped cells sufficient practice? Am I too concerned about hive space? Better to simply leave the honey in place longer? Removing it as soon as it is capped looks to boost production considerably. Our bees waste no time in rebuilding storage cells and refilling them. We’ve pulled 75 pounds of honey off of only two hives this spring and we are just now going into a major flow period with supers ready to take the new flow.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Vince

      You need a refractometer correctly calibrated to determine the water content of honey (you can get them for wine and other stuff which has a different sugar content, so are not applicable). Essentially you shine a light through the honey and you can read off the water content in %. They’re somewhere between £10 and £180 over here. Mine cost near the bottom of this range and works perfectly well. The expensive ones are digital. The link has an inbuilt light, but I just point mine at a bulb in the ceiling.

      Capped honey will have a low moisture content and should not ferment. Uncapped may be OK. As I’ve said elsewhere, I tend to leave the unripe (too watery) stuff for the bees. However, last year the water content was very low and many frames were only partially capped – I extracted it and it’s been perfectly OK (water content of these uncapped frames was 16-17%).

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
      1. vince poulin

        Thanks David – will do. I see now a number of choices on Amazon. I will check all of this year’s extractions for moisture content and set aside any not sufficiently cured. I’m likely to be OK based on some of your comments. I never got close to anything “watery” nor took frames that had anything dripping when turned upside down. Be interesting to see the outcome of the tests. I’ll refrigerate everything harvested that doesn’t make the grade. Thanks again. V

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Hi Vince

          You can feed the honey back to the colony in due course. They won’t mind. Just make sure it hasn’t fermented in the meantime. Honey freezes well.

          Cheers
          David

          Reply
          1. vince poulin

            David – Refractometer arrived from Amazon.ca. i calibrated it using olive oil then tested 6 samples: July 1 – 17.25, June 30 – 18, May 28 – 17.4, May 25 – 17.6, July 1 (just being drained today) – 17.25. Lastly a small bit of fresh non-capped comb gave a reading of 21.25. It came from a standing piece of burr comb the bees built in an empty space below a top-bar. Just a small piece 4″X5″ but the bees were wasting no time and had begun to fill the pure white cells. It was clear with lovely hints of lemon. It gave a reading of 21.25. More nectar-like. I have several more weekly extractions I need to check but I think everything harvested this spring is fine. My range is 17.25 – 18 % moisture. Today’s bit raises an interesting topic – taste. This small sample is very citrus-like. I’d love to know the source of the nectar and how is it enough bees can target the exact spot in order to collect sufficient nectar to retain such a unique taste. Living in the city of Vancouver, BC, Canada our bees are urban critters. They do not have access to open fields of single species plantings such outside the city where farmers have planted vast fields of blueberries . Inside the city it is quite different – we have a huge diversity in flowering plants – that does show up in the taste. Our honey has an strongly “floral” taste that remains somewhat similar through the summer – but citrus – that’s new.

          2. David Post author

            Hello Vince

            The citrus-like nectar may well be lime (Tilia sp. ) which is usually/often terms basswoood in the USA. It’s a very popular urban tree. In good years (for nectar) you can hear the bees working it from 50 metres away. For some reason it doesn’t appear to give good amounts of nectar every season and I suspect it needs rain at some point to encourage a good nectar flow. Here on the east coast of Scotland, I have a few limes in reach of one of my apiaries. Last year was a reasonable year for lime and the summer honey had a real “zest” to it.

            Lime

            Bees often store honey from distinct sources in different parts of the comb. They do the same thing with pollen. If you look at some supers you will often find an arc of honey of a different colour in one part of the frame.

            In my experience lime honey sells at a premium 🙂

            Cheers
            David

    2. Janet Wilson

      To Vince: Just a note that in your area, where I also keep bees, we had a very unusually heavy spring flow, which is mostly from the Oregon/Big Leaf Maples. Normally that flow is just enough for the bees to build on, but this year there was a river of spring honey. Our major flow is usually the June blackberry, but as you know, cloudy, cool and rainy weather during the initial bloom this year is wreaking havoc with the yield. Good luck…hoping those summer supers fill up for you!

      Reply
      1. David Post author

        Thanks Janet … very interesting. I had to look up your Oregon/Big Leaf Maple. It’s Acer macrophyllum. Here, the related sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) provides good levels of pollen and nectar in some seasons, usually in early to mid-May. It was pretty good this year.

        Blackberry is flowering well at the moment and the bell heather is starting 🙂

        Regards
        David

        Reply
        1. Janet Wilson

          The Oregon Maples are glorious…huge trees with lovely lines at maturity. For pollen, the Red Alder is our spring heavy hitter, and I am told have an excellent nutritional profile for honey bees.

          Reply
        2. vince poulin

          David – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pollen_sources – gives a listing of summer – trees and shrubs. The list has “Lime” or “Basswood – Tilia americana” blooming over June-July. You may well be on to something with that suggestion. I’ll look for the pollen colours they give for Lime – a yellow to light orange. Clovers are also in that hue range but not a lot of clover in the city. Also some of the vegetables but again – not far enough in the season. I do recall earlier a good amount of yellow pollen coming in. Next year I’ll be far more observant.

          Reply
          1. David Post author

            “Next year I’ll be far more observant.”

            Neatly sums up my feelings after every beekeeping season 😉

            Cheers
            David

      2. vince poulin

        Janet – so true on our spring honey flow this year. Simply incredible – close to 85 pounds from two hives harvested so far with likely 40 pounds sitting on top but needs just a few more days to be sufficiently cured. Our yield may well also be attributed to possibly less competition from other hives. I have one other hive that came out of winter well, good population build-up but no honey! – just bees. Near that hive is a bee farm with over 100 hives which may explain the difference. Big-leaf maple is a BC native tree and lots growing in places like Pacific Spirit Park (not far away). Nearer we have many urban street maples – Norway out our immediate front along with a few Sycamore maples – David’s – Acer pseudoplatanus. The name “Lime” stumped me while visiting England last summer – I’m more used to Thai-Limes (มะนาว-ma-naao) than anything but I learned the British “Lime” was our North American “Basswood”. I wonder if any one or more Tilia sp. could be blooming this late? We likely have quite a few in the city. Next year I’m threatening a pollen-study – a bit of applied “science”. Stuff David likes to do. Track pollen sources over spring and summer to see what contributes most to what is collected by our bees. Our blackberry bloom is just about over – mostly green berries now. Hate to see it go. You know what happens after blackberries pass.

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Hi Vince

          Pollen is something I leave to the experts … I’m colourblind and so readily mix things up.

          We have the National Honey Monitoring scheme here that uses next generation sequencing to ‘fingerprint’ all the pollen in honey samples. I’m just waiting on the analysis of my spring honey and will post something about it after that.

          Cheers
          David

          Reply
  4. Fred

    across the water (Irish Sea) we are also waiting on the main flow starting….though, thanks to a promise i made after reading an earlier Spring time post of yours, i am using the time in ruthlessly breaking up colonies that have under performed so far into nucs to rear new queens, its like next season has begun already.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Fred

      I think some of the best advice of dealing with underperforming colonies and overwintering nucs is from Michael Palmer. His Sustainable Apiary, despite being US-based, is very relevant to beekeepers this side of the Atlantic. There’s a YouTube video of his presentation on this topic from the National Honey Show a few years ago.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  5. Alec Thomson

    This spring despite little OSR in my region of Notts I have had a good honey harvest but compared to previous years quite a few pollen clogged supers. Two questions –
    a) how can this be prevented,
    b) how can pollen be remove?

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      They fill the supers with pollen if there’s not space in the brood box. Moving to double brood might help. Alternatively, you can use drone foundation in the first super (the one in the bottom of the stack) as they won’t usually fill that with pollen. Just make sure the queen doesn’t get above the QE …been there, done that, bought the T shirt.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  6. Dot Coe

    Hi David. Thanks for keeping the weekly blog up all through Covid. I think it’s excellent and post it onto out association WhatsApp group each week. This week it’s a testament to the resilience of both bees and beekeeper.
    Best wishes.
    Dot.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Dot

      Pleased you enjoy it … which association? It’s always good to know the reach of the readership.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  7. Julia

    David,
    I just love your posts! Informative, often self-effacing and amusing . I selfishly wish you lived in Australia to guide us through our seasonal challenges.
    Thak you!

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Thanks Julia

      Delighted you enjoy the posts … all you need to do is read them 6 months or so after they’re posted 😉

      Best Wishes
      David

      PS If I lived in Australia I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this view from my office window …

      Loch Sunart, Ardnamurchan

      Reply
  8. Jeremy Quinlan

    Dear David

    Just as a matter of interest, do you remove all your queens to nucs early in the season as a matter of course? Or did you do that this year because of the Corvid lockdown?

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Jeremy

      That was a Covid-special … even then, I didn’t pre-emptively use the nucleus swarm control on a handful of colonies as I judged they weren’t going to be strong enough to swarm. Fortunately, so far, my judgement has been correct 😉

      Usually I’ll keep colonies as strong as possible during the two major nectar flows we get to maximise honey production. However, this year, I knew colony inspections were likely to be few and far between … and when I was making my plans it wasn’t clear whether any access would be allowed. The BBKA/SBA had not obtained a clear steer from government on the ‘status’ of beekeeping as an allowed activity.

      Corvid is the crow family 😉 The virus – or, more correctly I believe, the disease it causes is Covid. The virus is SARS-CoV-2.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  9. Robert

    I have been given a hive of bees but found that the person who owned before me used two super frames in the broad box and the bees have built there own wax to the bottom of the broad box and have got capped broad in it how can I change the frames to the correct frames without killing any of the broad

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Robert

      Just move the frames to the outside (edges of the brood nest) as the brood emerges. In due course they’ll be empty and you can then remove them. No need to do anything more. The only thing to be careful about is taking care when you inspect the colony … if you turn a frame like that at 90 degrees the weight of the comb can break it off the underside of the frame.

      At this time of year it’s likely that the brood is drone …

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
      1. vince poulin

        David – your posts and questions from all those contributing to the blog are incredibly valuable to both experienced and less experienced bee keepers. Roberts question is such a good example. He’s not the only person who either for lack of enough frames or simply mistakenly slipping a shallow frame into a brood box ended up with a chunk of drone comb at the bottom of the frame. I’ve done it enough times to and well know the consequences of its fragility. An upside to the mistake can be a nice taste of some very fresh honey. I’ve run into the house several times this year to grab a bowl for catching it as I clean-up the problem – other times I do just as you said – place it off to the side and let the bees do their thing. Drone comb stores a lot more honey than worker comb so not always a bad thing.

        Reply
        1. David Post author

          Hello again Vince

          If you’re careful and the day isn’t too hot (remember I live in Scotland … one of these two is easy to achieve) you turn the frame over without risking losing the comb. It’s the way all beekeepers are taught to examine a frame … and the way most of them singularly ignore 😉

          Holding the frame by the lugs, turn through 90 degree so the frame is vertical facing you, rotate long the axis of the topbar by 180 degrees, rotate the frame again by 90 degrees in the same direction it was first rotated.

          You’re now holding the frame upside down by the lugs but, importantly, all the comb stuck on the bottom of the shallow frame is still stuck on the bottom of the frame.

          Cheers
          David

          Reply
  10. David Snelling

    Amazing that the lidless nuc colonies survived? Makes me wonder if chilling brood is a real issue.
    Excellent site David thank you and a big help to me.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello David

      It’s too early to see if they thrive. I had to check them in the rain. I made sure that the queen was present and laying, and that they had sufficient stores. Considering what they’d been through to spend longer prodding and probing would have been rude! I’ll check them again soon.

      Chilled brood is an issue, but perhaps not in June. Interestingly, if you chill developing pupae at just the right time of development they emerge with symptoms very similar to those caused by deformed wing virus.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  11. Jonathan Court

    Hi David,
    I have used foundationless frames with bamboo sticks as per an earlier post of yours for the first time this year.
    All has gone well so far, however there are large sections of drone comb. Once the usual drone brood period is over what in your experience can I expect to happen with it?
    Used for stores, rebuilt into worker comb, or will the queen end up laying stones longer than normal?
    Many thanks
    Jonathan

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Jonathan

      They’re unlikely to remodel it to worker brood. I’ve only once seen that happen and it was a swarm moving into a stack of supers filled with drawn drone foundation. They will fill it with stores. I usually try and rotate it out of the hive later in the season so that the hive isn’t overly full of drone comb at the start of the following year. Some – the well drawn frames – I’ll keep and reuse, the rest go into the steam extractor.

      Alternatively, you can chop it out in the hope they then draw worker comb … they sometimes do, but not always. There has to be a flow on for the to draw comb effectively.

      Hives with foundationless frames will always have a higher level of drones than those without. It’s not generally a problem.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply

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