In The Apiary : Late June : Introducing The Green Queens.

Queen Jade of Square Hive
Queen Jade of Square Hive

Well, the frazzle was worth it. All the hives are queenright, although a couple of my breeding nucs have failed to deliver a new Queen.

2014’s Queen marking colour is Green. So the three new green-themed Queens in the Bermondsey Street Apiary are Queen Jade of Square Hive, Queen Grunhilde of Thames Hive and Queen Esmeralda of Shard Hive.

Queen Grunhilde of Thames Hive
Queen Grunhilde of Thames Hive

With the precocious appearance of our Lime tree nectar flow now over, these new Queens’ offspring will be joining the flying force of foragers a little late in the season – but are coming into play as tactical substitutions for the starting forager line-up, which has have worked its socks off to bring that Lime harvest home.

Queen Anne of Iken Hive
Queen Esmeralda of Shard Hive

My main concern is to ensure that the “early” 2014 forage does not run out and leave the bees with an empty larder, as discussed with John Chapple last month.

There’s nothing for me to do about the honey crop now. The bees are where they need to be, healthy and prolific, and it’s up to the weather from now to the end of July to dictate the Bermondsey Street Bees’ honey harvest.

My job is to look to the future. The end of the bee-year is September and I am now preparing the way for a successful overwintering of four full hives on the roof. My highest priority is to look out for supercedure cells in Abbey Hive (where the stately Queen Amber currently presides), as this veteran monarch completes her third year.

I value her calm, non-swarmy genes and look forward to their orderly replacement by the bees by supercedure – anticipating that her heir presumptive will share her excellent characteristics – I am anticipating that could happen around August, but it could be sooner, if the spermathecas of this grand dame runs dry before then. At  that stage, their queenly pheromones will fade and the bees will soon know that the time has come to arrange for a replacement. And I plan to have a spare 2014 Queen in reserve in a breeding nuc, just in case.

So it’s time for health checks: varroa, in particular. And preparation for a winter break for the hard-working Bermondsey Bees.

The Caribbean, do you think, or Ibiza ?

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap
“Mind The Gap”

Each year, the baton-change from fresh Spring flowerings to bountiful summer blooms is interrupted by “The Gap“.

This dearth of nectar-yielding plants and flowers normally occurs each June in the U.K, but this year, things are different, as I discussed with John Chapple recently.

With the horsechestnuts and the fruit blossoms now a distant memory, the Bermondsey Street Bees are usually patiently awaiting the flow of nectar from Lime trees in July, tided over by bushy plants like cotoneaster and pyracantha providing a ration of sweetness.

But right now the nectar from the lime trees and the snowberry flowers is in full flow. Even the brambles are out – and the summer equinox is still over a week away! The supers are filling up with sunshine-sweet honey and you can hear the hum of bees fanning hard in the hive to reduce the moisture content of their honey stores to below 20%, before capping it over with fresh white wax. Perfection!

But once the lime, snowberries and brambles are gone – by July – my bees will be relying on scraps from exotic plantings in private gardens, thoughfully staggered municipal plantings like those by Ian, the gardener at Potters Fields and some late wildflowers, until the autumnal ivy is available. So it’s quite possible that we could see a July-August forage gap in some less well-provisioned areas of London.

Beekeepers need to “Mind The Gap“, especially if it comes at an unexpected time of year. 2014 will prove to be a tricky year for beekeepers – just like 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 20…………….


NZ Bee Stamps
New Zealand’s 2013 Honey Bee Stamps

Loving the industrial-strength irony of an e-mail from cousin Nick with: “Looking for a stamp collector” in the subject box.

Nick’s generous intention is to donate his childhood stamp collection – but wow – I’ve been racking my brains, I just don’t know any stamp collectors. Even the name of the Strand-based stamp dealer, Stanley Gibbons, harks back to a bygone era. Like conkers. Or Caramac. Funny how times change, but it certainly bears out my long-held opinion that “Philately will get you nowhere”.

And why is there no collective noun for stamp collectors ? A “frank”, perhaps? A “lick”? Or a “serration” or a “sheet” ? But I digress.

For any stamp collectors out there, let me recommend New Zealand’s 2013 issue of stamps – “Honey Bees”. If you purchase a set of these mint condition lovelies, they will be sent to you – presumably using yet more stamps. Result!

And yes, while we’re on the topic of collections, the Bermondsey Street Honey is coming in nicely – via bee-mail, of course !

Orford Castle

2014-01-12 11.44.09 HDR
Orford Castle

I hope that your bee-hives are stacked with supers full of honey and are looking quite like Orford Castle. Happy beekeeping !

He’s Behind You!

That’s funny, Dale. Why do you stand behind your hive when you’re working it?” Penny Robertson asked.

Good question. It had never occurred to me to think about where I stand in relation to the hive I am inspecting. I paused and thought about it.

The first rule of beekeeping is, unsurprisingly, don’t stand in front of a beehive (take your time, if you can’t immediately figure out why this might be a bad idea). Penny continued: “Because it has to be easier to pick up both ends of the frames standing sideways on to the hive.” It certainly is, if you arrange your brood box the “cold way” (with the frames end-on to the hive entrance), as I do. Your arms simply reach out the same distance to pick up each frame-lug.

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