Honey flow

By | May 28, 2012

If you recall a few months ago, there was some great weather.
Colonies quickly grew in size in the warm weather at the start of the season. But all of a sudden the weather vane dropped, and the large colonies were kept indoors due to cold, and rain.
Good news as in the last week, the weather has been superb and these large colonies full of mature foraging bees have been out collecting pollen and nectar. Its important that honey bees collect from natural sources, as they require pollen, as well as nectar.
If you recall we had been artificially feeding the colony with sugar syrup.
During the poor weather the bees however were not receiving any pollen.. (artificially feeding pollen is possible, but expensive)

Nectar = Sugar, or carbohydrates
Pollen  = Protein for growing bees

The Rua Tekau hive was filling up the hive with collected nectar and pollen last week, which was a fantastic sight.

The only “problem” we had (for the beekeeper) is that the nectar was being stored in same area as the developing brood. Thats undesirable as its not easy to extract honey and separate from baby bees. Spreading a little larvae on your toast doesn’t sound too pleasant, and Im sure the bees would be put out by the whole experience too.

We get around this mixture of bee larvae and stored honey through modern hive design.
In the olden days, it was necessary to destroy the hive, when harvesting honey or wax. Wax (not honey) used to be the primary product for pleasant smelling candles, rather than animal fat candles. Monks were big on bee keeping, to keep their churches lit, with pleasant bees wax candles.
But to get access to both honey or wax, beekeepers would destroy the hive, putting the colony at risk. And thoroughly impolite.

A modern hive generally consists of two sections.
A lower chamber is called the brood box, where developing brood (eggs, larvae, pupae) is stored within the hexagonal cells.
A separate upper chamber is called a Super. It contains the same kind of hexagonal wax comb, but only nectar and honey is stored in the upper chamber.
How are the contents kept separate?
The queen is prevented from accessing the upper chamber, or Super by a wire grill or Queen Excluder. This is a kind of bee “cattle stop” that she cant fit through – so she doesnt lay eggs in the Super and remains in the brood box, therefore no brood is kept in the honey cells. Bees also naturally like to store honey at the top of a hive, which is one of the reasons why we put the Supers at the top, and not the bottom of the hive.
A productive hive can require many Supers depending on the nectar flow, in order to store lots of honey. In fact, a productive colony can also require many brood boxes if they are laying lots of baby bees.

The Rua Tekau hive got its first Super on Thursday.
The West Ealing hive got its first Super last Saturday, and have already almost filled it with nectar! The future is looking bright!

Having said that, we did see a scuttering Varroa mite on the Rua Tekau hive, which we need to deal with. More on Varroa in future posts.

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