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…………….

5 Replies to “Mind The Gap”

  1. I’m worried about this too, the brambles are almost over in Ealing. The bees were very busy on the limes last week, but walking around I’m not seeing much out for them. Except by St Paul’s Cathedral today, where there’s a magnificent display of cornflowers, poppies and ox-eye daisies in the ‘back garden’.

    1. Hi Emily, Congratulations on your recent Wedding ! Back on topic, the only consolation I can find is that there seem to be some small patches of shadier forage which are running to a more traditional timetable – but who knows if it will be sufficient to tide large colonies over a long, hard summer ?

        1. I have to admit to a guilty secret – “bruising” a few brood frame honey stores during the lime flow, to encourage the bees to take honey up to the supers. But only in hives where the stores are deep. With the Queens reducing their rate of laying, food requirements will diminish and even more stores can come in (as long as the weather pattern stays warm for extended periods, refreshed by bouts of rain), but careful monitoring of stores is top of the weekly inspection check-list. The best news of 2014 for me, though, are some great-looking, brood-frame-filling, green-backed Queens !

  2. It is a worry, but have you noticed how heavy with blossom the limes are this year? One of my experienced beekeeping friends says he cannot remember anything like this honey flow!
    Perhaps extraction might be in next few weeks and then feeding? Would seem very strange
    I do wonder if/whether the bees recognise seasonal fluctuations

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