Following the AGM on 5 February, Graham Rowden kindly hosted an open forum session where members were given the opportunity to ask questions and share any learning points from last season. He also provided an overview of plans for the apiary in 2017.
Overview of 2016
Generally, the unusual weather conditions last year had resulted in a slow start to the season with late swarms seriously affecting honey production in some instances. Significant swarming had been seen in July, going into August. The emergence of new queens coincided with a period of bad weather, resulting in a number of losses. Going into winter, queens may not have been as strong as they should be.
Sources of pollen and nectar were also affected by the weather. Sweet chestnut did not produce as much forage as expected in the first two weeks of July but bramble provided a good source, flowering earlier and lasting longer. Heather resulted in a good yield. A July crop of coarse grain honey, possibly Horse Chestnut, had been seen. Eucalyptus may have yielded nectar off leaves, similar to Cherry Laurel.
Advice was given on management of colonies foraging on Oil Seed Rape. Trickle-feeding with medium syrup around 6 weeks before flowering will trigger the Queen into lay, resulting in a higher number of bees. It is important to keep a steady flow of feed and ensure the Queen has sufficient room to lay, i.e. by adding supers even if not needed for honey. Extraction needs to take place as soon as the OSR flowers start to fade, otherwise crystallisation will occur. Stores must be capped.
Plans for the Apiary in 2017
The apiary will start to raise its own Queens. Existing colonies will be developed as double broods and split to make nucs after the Queens have developed. New beekeepers will be given the opportunity to bring their own hive parts/frames to the apiary and build them with the assistance of the custodians, using apiary equipment if required. Nucs will be installed in the new hives and new beekeepers will be able to to develop their first colonies. These will be kept at the apiary for the season, with assistance provided by custodians and experienced beekeepers. At the end of the season, the hives will be taken home as established colonies.
The number of new colonies will be limited to 10 and all hive parts and any equipment brought on site must be brand new, to avoid the risk of disease. More than one person will be able to manage each new colony, so a buddying approach can be encouraged. To be consistent with existing colonies, hives must be Nationals or WBCs. The custodians will consider reinstating the Top-Bar hive, although this had been weak during the 2016 season.
Different Queen-rearing and artificial swarm methods will be demonstrated. No swarms will be instated on site and existing colonies will be strengthened.
Weekday meetings will be considered in addition to Sunday afternoons, with hives split between visits. All dates will be advised in the newsletter and on the website.
The plans will allow new beekeepers to build confidence and offer improvers the chance to learn new skills. We all look forward to seeing as many new and existing members as possible at the apiary – and fingers crossed that the season will be kind!