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Bees On The Move

Last month I spoke about how good the weather had been and how well the bees were doing, unfortunately after the month of below average temperatures the bees have largely stopped producing honey. Many beekeepers around the UK have found the season seeming to end much sooner that last year. Hopefully the weather will turn again though and we will have lots of late season honey!

The big event for this month was moving bees to the heather. I got all of the hives I was moving ready the evening before I moved them and was then up at 4am the next morning to begin the move! All the hives were safely loaded onto the trailer and strapped down. By 4:50am I was heading North to the Peak District.

After an hour and a half driving I reached the site where the bees will be for the next 6 weeks. I unloaded the hives onto their pallets and released the bees by removing the masking tape that had been used to block the entrances while in transit. The bees were soon out and about inspecting their new (windier and colder) home.

A week after the bees were taken to the moors I went to check them, unfortunately due to the cold weather the bees had burned through their stores and were looking quite hungry! Each hive had a frame of honey that I stored from the spring for use at this time of year. I’m hoping that after a few days of warm weather I will see a big improvement and lots of honey coming in!

This month has also been the real start of winter preparations, right at the end of July I took delivery of 1 ton of granulated white sugar. This sugar is mixed to produce a thick sugar syrup that we use to feed the bees to ensure they are in peak physical condition to over winter.

Any beekeeper will tell you that making sugar syrup is a sticky job and one not many enjoy. I’ve tried quite a few ways but have now settled on using a 200l tank over a gas burner. I fill it just over 1/3rd with water and let it get quite hot. I then add 175kg of sugar one 25kg bag at a time stirring regularly. Once it is mixed well I add thymol, a chemical that stops the syrup from going off when it is stored for a long time.

In August I will be at a few markets so please do come down and see us if you can.

  • The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 1 & 2nd August 10am – 4pm
  • Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 9th August 10am – 2pm
  • Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 23rd August 9am – 1:30pm

Thank you for reading our blog, next month we will be talking about harvesting our honey and walk you through the whole process from hive to jar!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Rain Rain Go Away!

I’m sat writing this on the driest morning we have had for a week or so now. I feel like I should start by saying I think we needed the rain, everything was so dry which eventually would have impacted the growth and flowering of summer plants which obviously wouldn’t have been good for bees. So part of me is glad we got a good soaking… However I just wish it could have come with a few breaks rather than a week of solid rain.

This post is going to give you a look at how we feed the bees when they need it! This week with the natural lack of June flowering plants and the rain means the bees couldn’t really go out foraging and has meant the hives have burned through food at an alarming rate. Some strong hives with plenty of food at the start of the week had almost entirely eaten what they had.

There’s a few different types of feeder available some are better suited to certain hives and management practices. I’ll go into the ones I use later on, but first the food. In the same way you will have seen articles on the internet telling you to save an exhausted bee with a teaspoon of sugar water that is essentially what we do but on a bigger scale. I just want to note that some articles suggest leaving a bowl or saucer of sugar water out all the time, please don’t do this! Bees don’t need feeding that often and each hive is different, bees will bring sugar water back and process it into honey meaning the beekeepers honey crop is now adulterated and not true honey.

We make our own syrup (sugar water) up during the season but we are considering buying our winter syrup in as there’s a lot to make! Basically speaking we 3/4 fill a plastic Jerry Can with sugar and then add water until the Can is full. Sometimes it can be difficult to get all the sugar to dissolve but by using warm water and shaking it for quite some time most of it does. So far this week we have fed about 25kg of sugar with more to go today.

You can see we haven’t quite finished mixing the sugar in yet!

The most common feeder I use is called a rapid feeder, these are plastic bowls with a central hole that stick up to the top of the trough. Basically the bees crawl up through a hole in the crown board to access the syrup. The plastic cover stops the bees being able to get completely into the syrup and drowning, these are my favorite feeders. The type I am using is 2.5L which is a little small for winter feeding and means you do have to refill them quite a few times.

The second type of feeder we are using at the moment is a miller feeder. These come as standard on this particular type of hive. The bees crawl up inside the feeder like with the rapid feeder but the two wells on either side can be filled up which goes under a small gap into an area where the bees can get access to it.

There are loads of different types of feeder out there but I don’t think for non-beekeepers it’s the most interesting of topics but I do think its really important that people understand the full picture of beekeeping in the UK and issues we can come across. Next week I will as I think I promised two weeks ago write a blog about extracting and jarring honey!

Thank you for reading and supporting this blog

Matthew Ingram