Well what a year so far for the honeybees! The winter was long and there was a cold spell towards the end; the poor bees didn’t know what to make of it – they thought it should be spring by now (just like us!). Luckily for them we weren’t greedy and hadn’t taken any honey last year; we had been building them up last summer and autumn and letting them stock themselves for the winter – and it was just as well we did for they needed last summer/autumn’s food stores to get them through that long winter!
However, since the spring came – it went with a ‘bang’ – the bees have really taken off! The Queens have been laying lots of new honeybees called ‘workers’ (especially Willow Queen, although Heather Queen is not far behind!) Unsurprisingly, workers get their name from the fact that they work their socks off! (well actually, bees don’t have socks!) Due to their hard-working nature, these workers have a very short lifespan at this time of year, about 6-7 weeks, so the Queen (who lives up to 5 years) has a busy job continuously laying new bees so that there are always plenty of workers to collect new pollen and nectar! And yes, they have been collecting lots of fresh pollen, which is high in protein, to feed the young bees and collecting nectar from flowers which is processed into honey. We have been very lucky to have harvested surplus honey this summer!
A beekeeper’s job is particularly busy in the spring and summer because they are ensuring that the colony is healthy, giving the hive fresh comb and space. It is also a very difficult balance to ensure that the colony of bees is strong and healthy but that it doesn’t swarm. Regular checks are needed to see if they are building new queen cells – in which case they want to swarm. This would mean we would lose our ‘old’ queen and a lot of the bees. We would be left with a new queen and some bees, but the colony would be significantly weaker. Beekeepers can also intervene if they are lucky enough to catch them at the right time and manipulate them to make them think they have swarmed but still keeping all the bees! Sneaky beekeepers! So far so good – we have managed to avoid swarming.
We hope those of you lucky enough to have visited the hives this summer learnt lots about our wonderful bees. The beekeeping sessions are so popular that we have organised for some more weekend visits throughout September, before we tuck them in for the winter.
To book onto a session please visit www.bookwhen.com/activities
Silver Bay Honey can be purchased from Reception and the Spa & Leisure Complex.