September is a great time to be a beekeeper,
“This is a wonderful time of year to be a beekeeper! The work of examining the bees to make sure that they are queenright, have enough space for brood and nectar, are not preparing for swarming and have no disease problems, which occupied us weekly since the middle of April, is over. We have harvested our honey crop which is not as large as had been hoped due to the cooler weather since the end of July. The bees have been treated to control the varroa numbers in the hives, they have been fed enough sugar syrup to replace the honey which we beekeepers stole from them so that they have enough food to last until next spring and we have ensured that their hives are weather proof and secure against mice, slugs and any other creature which might find a comfortable, if somewhat dangerous, home with them during the winter,” she said.
“During this past spell of good weather, the bees have been working with vigour. Queens are laying at almost full capacity again after the natural brood break in August and this has stimulated the bees to collect nectar and, especially, the pollen which is so essential for the feeding of larvae. These larvae, which are free of the varroa mites which feed on the haemolymph, will in about two and one half weeks hatch into the healthy adult bees which will see the colony safely through to next March. Their role will be to keep the colony temperature high enough for the colony to survive cold spells by forming a cluster which gets tighter as the weather gets colder. They shiver their huge wing muscles to generate heat, changing places from the outside of the cluster to the inside so that as few bees as possible become immobilised by the cold. They take good care of the queen, making sure that she is fed and kept warm. They look after the little patch of brood which the queen will continue to lay all winter. They will emerge during sunny spells for cleansing flights and to gather any nectar and pollen available from winter flowering plants.
“At the moment it is a pleasure to approach the apiary and, from about 10m away, be able to smell the ivy nectar which the bees are collecting at the moment. Then, on watching the hive entrances, we can see the yellow pollen from the ivy, the grey from fuchsia, fawnish from any heather in bloom, dull yellow from dahlias and, most surprising of all the ‘ghost’ bees covered with white pollen from the (despised by many but not by beekeepers) Himalayan balsam, all being carried in the pollen baskets on the hind legs of the bees.