Bee Keeping at Compton Verney – 27.8.18

There are many times in each year when we reach a milestone, and the honey harvest is certainly one of our favourites. As such, and knowing how many honey bee supporters there are out there, Rod Oates has prepared a short report about the year he’s experienced as volunteer bee keeper at Compton Verney:

The long hard winter was a real challenge for bees generally but we were fortunate that against the odds all three colonies survived, though it was not until early April that the bees became active. However the weather in late April and May was quite reasonable and all three colonies expanded their population and produced a decent amount of honey.

Rod Oates, bee keeper at Compton Verney
Rod Oates, volunteer bee keeper at Compton Verney

Early June I extracted and bottled 63lbs of honey all coming from the two long established colonies. The weather then became exceptional once more with weeks of hot dry days. Initially this suited the bees very well and all three colonies expanded to some 60,000 bees per hive and all foraging strongly, building up their food supplies – honey!

Mid June I was called to take a swarm of bees from a nearby garden and this was used to populate the empty (fourth) hive. The bees are good natured and have settled in nicely, growing in numbers so it should be a sufficiently strong colony to get through the coming winter.

Bee hives at Compton Verney
Hive packed with honeycomb – there’s hardly room for the bees to move!

The three existing colonies continued to bring in a lot of honey until mid July. The summer nectar flow would normally last until mid August but it seems the hot dry weather adversely affected flowers such that they were producing very little nectar. The consequence has been that from late July the bees have been consuming more honey than they have produced.

However around 30lbs of honey was taken off one of the hives at the beginning of August, bottled and handed to the shop. Over the next week or two the remaining surplus honey off the hives will be removed for extraction and I estimate this will yield something in the area of 80lbs.

Ots of honey at Compton Verney
Some of the 2018 honey produced at Compton Verney

Once that honey has been taken from the hives preparation for the winter will commence, applying treatment for the varroa mite, checking the condition of hives, cleaning as necessary, followed by feeding the bees with syrup which they will store for winter food supplies.

So what a season it has been. The very challenging cold spring weather. The very hot dry summer. But all the colonies in a good healthy condition and record yields of honey. Who knows what the coming winter will through at us!

Rod Oates

Should you wish to try some of the premium honey produced at Compton Verney, the shelves are currently fully stocked!

2 thoughts on “Bee Keeping at Compton Verney – 27.8.18

  1. Have you considered leaving a full super on each colony for winter stores, rather than extracting everything and feeding with syrup in the autumn? Honey is the bees’ natural food and must be more nutritious than sugar syrup.

    1. Many thanks for the question, which I forwarded to our beekeeper for a more informed answer. I hope the text below explains the approach he uses. Many thanks, Gary

      “As we move into the autumn and the rate at which the queen is laying falls away; more space becomes available in the brood box. The bees instinctively move honey down from supers to utilise this space for food supplies during the coming winter. However, as is quite common practice, in the late autumn I feed the bees with Ambrosia syrup (not sugar syrup) which the bees use to fully stock the brood box with food supplies. Ambrosia matches the content of natural honey except that the percentage of fructose is increased to approx 40%. In very cold weather honey can easily crystallise to the extent that the bees are unable to feed on it. The added fructose in Ambrosia prevents crystallation occurring so providing the bees with effectively their natural but edible food on which to survive. In turn this also reduces the risk of isolation starvation in periods of extreme cold.”

      For more information on Ambrosia syrup the following link may assist: http://www.ambrosia.eu/en/ambrosia-bee-food-syrup/

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