Thankfully, it is perfectly possible to continue to care for honey bees while still respecting the social distancing/essential travel restrictions, and this hot weather and abundance of flowering trees has meant all the bees have been extremely busy. I have combined all my contractual visits in to one ‘Bee Tour’, hence the sudden crop of blogposts!
The insulation of the Thermasolar hive is of huge benefit to the honey bee colony. Most off-the-shelf hives have really thin walls compared to the hollow tree trunk the bees would naturally choose, and this means much of the bees’ energy is spent simply keeping warm. The solar panel on the front of this hive transmits a large quantity of effortless heat to the bees, in addition to the chunky wood and thermal lining of the boxes themselves, meaning they can focus on keeping themselves healthy and productive – as evidenced by the large quantity of bees, tiny number of Varroa mites, and a packed super of honey.
The bees were really active:
I am taking the super of honey off the bees, as they are definitely in expansion mode, and although the weather is cool again this week, there is masses of forage around for them and there is a large quantity of stored pollen and honey on the outer frames in the brood box below. I will also be feeding them back the cappings after I have crushed the honeycomb, so they will not be short of food – something to consider when taking honey at this time of year as the bees need to eat a great deal to both build wax and keep the colony ticking over.
The bees build “brace comb” between the boxes, which needs to be gently removed so the box above can be safely taken and the lid replaced without crushing any bees. This surplus comb is left for the bees to lick clean:
I then put a new box with empty frames underneath the full one, to allow the bees to travel down and evacuate the super, so it can be harvested without affecting them.
I brought the super home to process it:
The honey will now drain overnight. I took the wet frames and random bits of comb back to the hive for the bees to lick clean. There are always lots of male bees – drones – around the honey stores at this time of year as they don’t forage, so have to help themselves to the larder or ask their worker sisters to feed them. They are much bigger than workers and have a boxy, stocky shape: