This month we're welcoming apprentice beekeeper and guest blogger, Lara Manton! Bee Good sponsors apprentice beekeepers to help support the future of British beekeeping and Lara is our latest recruit, working in Northamptonshire in her family's apiary. We asked Lara to share what her typical summer months involve, so here's a little more about what's happening.
Over to Lara...
The end of the busy season is in sight, and the possibility that we might start getting weekends off again means everyone is in high spirits in the bee shed. The sun's been shining and the bees are out producing all the lovely ingredients needed for ‘Bee Good’ skincare products.
Lara's bees on a field of Borage near Epping in EssexJuly
After a break in forage in June it is now when the summer flowers are starting to blossom, things like bramble and white clover are beginning to bloom. Once again there is a surge in nectar production and my girls are ready and raring to go collect it.
A full frame of busy Bee Good bees
It is important at this time that we beekeepers visit our hives every 10 days checking for signs of swarming and ensuring the bees are happy and healthy. The season for swarming is considered to be over by the end of July, but bees don’t read books and will happily prove me wrong (on more than one occasion).
The other day in July that we of course celebrate is 'Don't Step on a Bee Day' on 10th July! To help our little buzzy friends, here are my top tips...
- Fill your garden with bee-friendly plants. Filling your garden with plants that will produce nectar and pollen for the bees all year round really helps your local bees flourish. Bees love fruit so cherry trees, strawberries and raspberries are brilliant for them ( and for you to have a nibble of as well)
- Do not use pesticides. A real no-no if you want bees to thrive in your garden.
- Think about dedicating a certain area of your garden to make a mini wildflower meadow. It will not only look gorgeous but will attract bees because of the diversity of different pollen and nectar they can get from the flowers.
- Pop some rocks in your bird bath. Bees can get really thirsty especially if the weather has been really dry like this year. Help the bees get water but without getting too wet so they can’t get out or fly.
As the days become shorter and the nectar flow slows the bees start to make their final attempts to make sure they have enough food for the winter. As the flowering period for the summer plants draws to a close the need for the population of foraging bees is diminishing. There are still some useful bee plants around like blackberry, that produces nectar into September.
These hives are absolutely full of honey
The queen will still be laying but not at the levels we see earlier in the year. This enables more space in the bee’s brood box (their home) for honey stores. It is now where we start to remove any surplus honey that the bees have produced in the supers, ensuring we leave enough in the brood box and feed the bees so that they can survive winter and come back a strong colony in spring. This means that a lot of my days will be spent in the very warm muggy extracting room, covered in honey and surrounded by my bee friends that will happily sit on me for hours on end just eating the honey that I have accidently placed on my forehead.
Because us beekeepers always feel like we never want to miss a honey crop it is at this time when we move some bees to the heather ( like a vacation for the bees). It involves a very late finish waiting for the bees to return home from harvesting so we can shut them in for the journey and an early start strapping bee hives carefully onto the back of a van and driving it for a road trip up to Wales.
Lara driving her bees to the Heather in Wales
When the site is reaches the hives are put into place. Bees quickly adapt and know the location of their new home, where they will stay until the heather finishes flowering (after 4-6 weeks).
Sitting on a hillside full of HeatherSeptember
Time to book all the exotic holiday... Well I should be so lucky.
The bees continue to prepare for winter. The brood nest continues to contract and soon it will be half the size it was. At this time of year there won’t be a lot that’s still in flower, a fantastic end of summer crop for bees is Ivy producing much needed pollen and nectar.
It is important that we beekeepers continue to check on the welfare of our bees, even as the season slows. We want to check out bees have enough food and are happy and healthy for the colder season ahead. We continue to feed hives that need extra food with a sugar solution and reduce the entrances at the front of the hive so that the guard bees can protect it sufficiently over winter, especially from mice that will happily set up camp in a hive that’s warm and full of lovely honey.
Lara & her father visiting the bees in the heather
So that’s it for the summer, everyone can take a big breath and a bit like Santa start putting on our winter weight.