May seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, I can hardly remember when things happened this month as it all seems a blur. The weather has been amazing for everyone sunbathing and of course our bees, it seems strange hoping for rain but we really do need some rain to get the flowers going again as they are starting to slow down now.
Equipment has been one of the biggest issues this month, the bees have done far better than I could have hoped and I have increased the number of hives quite significantly to around 110 although that figure seems to rise everyday at the moment. Building frames is usually a winter job but I’ve needed far more than I had planned so have had to build a lot recently. I built a small jig like one I used in Australia to help me make frames quicker. Unlike the traditional way of making frames with small nails tacked in each side I use glue and a 1 inch staple to hold them firm.
Queen rearing is often a topic I enjoy talking about and this month has been the first month I have produced a signifcant number of queens myself here in the UK. I am producing around 20 queens a week now mainly for my own use but I am looking to eventually sell some. The queens are Carniolan a breed of bees native to south east Europe. They build up in numbers very quickly and are known for large colonies and good honey production. I am trying to move away from a hybrid breed called Buckfasts as selective breeding is hard on a small scale as there is a much greater variation in traits inherited by the daughter queens due to their hybrid nature.
Grafting is the method I use for queen rearing, I move a 1 day old larvae into a cell designed to mimic a queen cell and place it in a hive with no queen, the bees then instinctively produce queen cells which are moved into small hives 10 days later. 3 weeks after that the queens have been on mating flight and are ready to head up their own hives! I apologise that I have no photos of the mating hives or of our finished queen cells but I will post them on our social media and in the blog next month.
I am expecting a tricky next few weeks as the spring flowers end and before the summer flowers begin, this to beekeepers is called the June gap. The colonies are very large and need a lot of food but they are unable to get enough naturally. Last week I made 250kg of sugar syrup ready to feed the hives if needed. To make the syrup I simply fill the barrel with the right amount of sugar and warm water 2:1 ratio roughly and use a gas heater to warm the syrup up so that it dissolves fully. I then tap it off into Jerry cans ready to be used where its needed.
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Holt Hall Apiary