8 July 2015

Honey Flow

Most places have a number of nectar flows, which beekeepers tend to call honey flows, through the year and these vary with location, habitat and weather.

Bees in the roof of the hive.  Photo M.Malcher
Right now, the bees are gathering nectar, tumbling in and out of the hive entrances in their haste... they know that Winter is coming!  Honeybee colonies that have not swarmed are at their largest now here in SE England and these will hopefully in the next week or two, bring in plenty of stores for the cold Winter months, and a surplus which we may share. The colony in the picture below, is doing well, they have filled their hive with honey and now need an extra box added. Even now, it is not yet certain there will be enough for honey in jars!

Late June/July is the principal Summer nectar flow for my bees. The early Spring flows bring honey solely for the bees, to cover them through the "hungry gap" or "June gap" when there are limited nectar resources. After the main flow in July, the next significant flows will be from Himalayan Balsam along the river banks and Rocket (Willow-herb). Some of my colonies will, with luck, have a flow from the heather, about once in every five years or so. The last flow of the year is in the Autumn from the Ivy. This is hugely important as a final top-up before the weather turns.

Today I noticed that although the sweet chestnuts are flowering, I can not, at least not yet, smell the distinctive soapy scent of their nectar. Just because a plant is flowering, doesn't mean that nectar is being secreted. In a dry year nectar flows will be less - or just not happen at all.  When the water table is low, even trees secrete less nectar. A wet year, like 2012, can wash nectar out of the flowers whilst making it hard for the bees to fly.

Every year is different, with different challenges for bees and beekeepers.

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