Late spring and early summer are spent replenishing the winter losses. As the years have past winter losses have increased. When Paddy was a young man (many years ago) 5-10% losses were the norm. These days Paddy’s son Ian expects about 20%. The reason for this is the introduction to the UK of a parasitic mite called varroa.
Colonies losses are replenished by making small hives from the strong ones. Splits are made by dividing large colonies into two smaller ones and allowing the queenless half to rear a new queen from the eggs laid by the original queen (who is in the other half). Nucs (nucleus hives) are made by taking frames of bees and brood from a number of hives and placing them in a new hive. A specially reared queen is added to the nuc to complete it.
July is the most important honey production month for us in North Devon. Our bees forage on the wild flowers of the endless hedgerows and grazing fields. Our most important summer flowers are white clover and brambles. Other significant contributions come from rosebay willow herb, thistles and buddleia.
At the end of July is our first honey harvest. This job is particularly gruelling but the harder it is the more honey we have so we can’t complain about it!
Click here to learn a bit about the Hive Migration to Exmoor.