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Honey

The Beekeeping Year

The season really begins for bees in late February or early March. Crocus flowers appear followed by blackthorn and willow catkins, the air warms slightly and bees leave their hives to forage. The queen responds to the onset of spring by beginning to lay eggs in some number. By April and May Oil Seed Rape flowers are opening and if the weather is reasonable we might get some honey. Hive populations are increasing rapidly now.

In May honeybees begin to think about swarming and this is when a lot of our work begins.For more information on keeping bees in the East Riding area visit the Beverley Beekeepers Association site. This contains useful information as well as links to many other beekeeping websites throughout the world.

By July colonies have reached their maximum population of around 50,000 and hopefully if the weather is good they will be hard at work collecting a honey crop.This is when we move the hives to the blue Borage fields. See the section on Borage Honey for more information.

After a month we harvest the Borage Honey and give the hives empty comb ready for their next move.

In early August we move the hives to the moors and by the time they come home in mid September their populations are falling.The last tasks for the year are to make sure the hives have plenty of food for the winter (although hives on the moors usually get enough for us as well as for themselves), treat them with medicine to ward off the dreaded varroa mite, fit mouseguards across the entrances to stop mice creeping in and leave them for the winter.

By mid winter there are around 10,000 bees tightly clustered in each hive waiting for spring.Bees sit on the comb clustered to keep warm. The bees on the outer edge slowly move to the middle of the cluster whilst the warm ones in the centre move outwards. They warm the cluster by vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat.

Winter is a quiet season for us and the bees but we still have honey to bottle and empty hives to repair. We also have time to think about the next season and how it is going to be better than the last!