19 Jul Season update 2015
I have had the busiest and most challenging season so far – and learnt a huge amount.
The year started full of promise with strong colonies and lovely weather…until the end of April.
Then the jet stream decided to play games and moved South to straddle the UK.
The temperatures sank to below normal and this smashed the nectar flow and the occasional late frosts killed off many tree blossoms which honey bees so depend upon to give an early boost to their honey stores. The un-seasonally low temperatures have continued and are likely to stay with us until the start of August. I am now glad I planted out so many plugs and bulbs last Autumn – it might be just psychological, but it makes me feel better watching the bees working the extra snowdrops, crocuses, alliums, poppies, scilla and fritillaries that populate our wild lawn these days. A large bank of lavender and mallow are also popular. The real “buzz” though, has come from the fifteen Manuka trees I planted last year. Three years old now – from seed – they had their first flowering season. Although this year it was only 6-8 weeks, I hope this will extend next year to 3 months. Curiously it seem the nectar flow on these little white flowers is almost continuous – each departing bee is immediately replaced by another.
However what little nectar is flowing has been augmented by the huge flowering of the bramble and clover. Fortunately due to my bait hives working a treat and catching a few swarms I have been able to add to the apiary. The numbers of bees in the colonies has rocketed also – maybe the bees sense the need to throw more bodies at the task of foraging?
I took my first crop off the hives 2 weeks ago and sold it all as soon as it was jarred. The second crop was jarred yesterday and is also going quickly. I think a lot of people are short of honey not only in Wales, but around the UK. I am optimistic however that nature always pays back its debt and that we may have a strong end to the season by close of August.
I have an out- apiary this year, high in the prehistoric heights of the Preseli mountains. A friend has an old crofter’s farm he has restored and approached me last year about siting a hive up there – near Castellblythe. Well I now have three hives there and a nucleus (start of a new colony) and it has been an interesting experiment to say the least!
The flora up there seems to be 3-4 weeks behind the flora here at Goodwood so it will be interesting to compare the yields. Also next month should see the mountain heather come into flower. Heather honey is regarded as the “king of honey” – the only problem is that to extract it one needs yet more equipment! The honey is thixotropic and sets to a jelly in the comb. This makes it impossible to spin out using a centrifuge and so the comb has to be scraped off and compressed through muslin using a honey press. Expensive in two ways – more kit to buy and loss of honey combs! I intend to take the crop of traditional mixed flora honey off in the second week of August and then see just how much honey gets laid down after the heather flowers. If it is considerable then I just might have a go at producing some pure heather honey…I will post some pics up soon.
Meanwhile here are a few pics from the season so far – which have all been posted on the Goodwood Honey Facebook page already.
Images showing the lawn becoming “wild”, young Manuka tree showing first flowers, swarm arriving at one of my bait hives on Dudwell Moor, and fist jarred crop of the year – with new 8 oz jar.