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August 2016 BBKA News highlights

August is the month when, for many of us, surplus honey can be taken as the main crop from our hives, says Julian Routh on page 269. Julian cautions against removing all the supers at one time because this risks overcrowding the bees and he urges you to ensure you leave the bees with sufficient stores so that they do not starve. If you do notice that stores are a little low, feeding will be necessary. On page 277 Margaret Murdin explains what foods are required for a colony during the year, and what you can do to rectify this when there is a deficit.

It is best to extract honey from combs as soon as possible after their removal from the hive and for some this might be a daunting prospect. However, Wally Shaw, a seasoned honey harvester, guides us through the process from hive to jar on page 280, providing helpful advice and tips to ensure you have a successful harvest. As Julian Routh explains, combs from which honey has been extracted can be returned to the hive from which they came so they may be dried by the bees; it is important to remember to put the combs back into the hive they were taken from to minimise any risk of disease spread. Disease inspection and varroa treatment should be undertaken after the honey harvest, and usually before the eggs that will produce the winter bees begin to be laid in September. While inspecting your colonies you may notice that drones are now being ejected, and as Julian says, this is normal for healthy colonies headed by good queens. However, if a colony is retaining drones or raising more drones, it is possible that it is preparing for supersedure. Indeed, you might spot supersedure cells or even two queens, a mother and her daughter, cohabiting. There is some controversy around whether to allow two such queens to continue living together and Mary Montaut has undertaken a literature research on supersedure to uncover various facets of the argument. She presents her findings on page 285 for you.

Supersedure can be necessary to replace a damaged queen before winter, for example, and a colony will be communicate this need to its members even if it is not immediately obvious to us. Similarly, individual bees communicate information about potential forage sources and about potential nest sites to other members of the colony. But how does the colony as a whole reach a decision about the way forward by consensus? Tony Harris has been giving this matter some thought. Having read Tom Seeley’s book, Honeybee Democracy, Tony Harris explains some of Tom’s well considered ideas about the democratic processes used by honey bees and how we might learn from observing their behaviour so we might be better able to improve our group decision-making tasks. Turn to page 271 for some lessons that we can all learn from observing and emulating our bees’ behaviour.

Read these and other fascinating articles in the August issue, including a report on the recent International Meeting of Young Beekeepers by Ian Homer on page 275. Excitingly, the 2017 meeting will be hosted in England, so if you have an interest in taking part or if you know someone who might be keen to know more, keep an eye on future issues of BBKA News for updates and further information. Also, for those visiting London this summer, there is a treat awaiting you at Kew Gardens where the amazing Hive, designed by Wolfgang Buttress from Nottingham, is on display.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and your bees.