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Beekeeper’s Notes: It’s Been A funny Old Year

Published on: 1 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 31 Oct, 2021

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

Every year around this time I find myself reflecting on the beekeeping year that’s gone.

There isn’t much to do as the bees are less active with the weather cooling. They are all stocked up with honey for the winter. They still forage when the weather is warm enough, above 8 degrees C, and if it’s not raining. But otherwise, the queen has reduced laying and it’s all quiet.

So time to look back.

Bees have an amazing sense of smell. I put this honey covered sieve out in the garden at 3pm, about 30m from the hives …… (Click on the photos to enlarge them).

Positives are the wonderful light summer honey this year. Normally, my spring homey is light coloured and runny and my summer honey is darker and quick to set. Why it has reversed, I don’t know; presumably a different forage. But I like it.

15 minutes later, the bees were there in force and …..

I’ve decided I’m going to cut down on the number of hives I manage. It’s a lot of work and the decision has been coming for some time.

Up to now, I’ve been working with around eight colonies. Three or four at home and four or five on the allotment. We are going down to three at home and it will be a lot easier. We will have enough honey for us and the family but we probably won’t be selling it anymore or certainly not as much.

And an hour later, it had been cleaned.

A big negative over the past year was the long wet and cold spell in the spring. It played havoc with foraging. I lost hives to starvation when they couldn’t get out to feed. It was horrible to see the results.

I kick myself for not recognising it early enough to feed them through the tough patch. But it happened.

Less important but as direct result of that was we had less honey than usual.

Another thing, I was called out to fewer swarms this year. It is an aspect of beekeeping I really enjoy. Its always a bit of a challenge to get it right. Every swarm is different, some up trees, another on a drainpipe, one gathered around the head of a statue. You get to chat with people about bees. It’s great.

I suspect there were fewer swarms around and probably, it was the weather again.

As always, I hope to do better next year. Fingers crossed.

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