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July 2017 BBKA News highlights
‘Busy’ is the word of the month in July. Your bees should be in peak condition now and, as Bridget Beattie says on page 227, they should be taking full advantage of the abundant nectar. You will need to help them by providing supers as required for honey ripening and storage, and to prevent overcrowding, as this is the time of year when the worker population is at its greatest. Bridget also discusses the timing of adding supers so that you do not find yourself with a mix of capped and uncapped cells, and the thorny question of where supers should be added - above or below the stack. Ideally, your bees will collect ample stores to see them through the winter as well as a surplus that you can harvest, so prepare ahead for this now by checking that all your equipment is ready for use and that you have sufficient buckets and jars for your crop.
If, like Tony Harris, you are planning to take your bees to the heather in August you will need to start selecting your queens and preparing your colonies now. Tony takes his bees to the purple-topped slopes of Ben Rinnes in Moray, northern Scotland and he is very experienced in managing his colonies to maximise their nectar-gathering opportunities. On page 231 Tony guides us through all aspects of this process, including selecting the best queens to head the colonies, choosing heather stances, colony preparation and their management during their time on the heather, as well as harvesting and extracting heather honey. You may well find this inspirational article tempts you to take a trip to the heather with your bees.
Heather honey is jelly-like and needs to be pressed from the comb, while oilseed rape honey crystallises readily; both need more specialised processing than many other types of honey. Brian Dennis, on page 243, describes the main methods of processing honey, including centrifugal extracting, cutting comb and creaming, emphasising important considerations that must be made during processing, such as when heating honey. Whether you harvest heather honey, borage honey, oilseed rape honey or mixed blossom honey, there are various legal requirements that you should be aware of and Brian explains some of those relating to food premises, honey jar labelling and selling honey to consumers. He also has helpful advice on presentation of honey and on costing hive produce for sale, so before you begin your harvest turn to page 243 for a quick reminder of how to process and sell within the law.
Although harvesting might be uppermost in our minds, there are other important jobs to be getting on with this month, not least of all is making regular hive inspections. New beekeepers might find summer inspections, when our colonies are bursting with bees, rather daunting. Indeed, one reader asked Wally Shaw: ‘where do I start?’. In response, on page 250 Wally helps us to understand the correct method of inspecting our hives, which may not necessarily be quite as straight-forward as we may think. One important check that needs to be made during our hive inspections this month is the varroa load. As Bridget Beattie emphasises on page 227, this because with their exponential population growth occurring alongside the expanding brood, varroa levels can exceed the recommended threshold limit.
With one exception, registered varroacide treatments are generally to be avoided during a honey flow, integrated pest management strategies (IPM) being preferred. However, many of us will want to use a varroacide once we have harvested our honey to reduce the varroa load on our colonies before they enter the winter. With this in mind, on page 237, Jason Learner starts a new series aimed at helping us to control varroa mite populations in our hives. In this first article, Jason focusses on the available registered chemical treatments. He advises that mite population levels should be monitored before and after treatment and emphasises the importance of treating all neighbouring colonies at the same time. In this article Jason details the ingredients of the available registered varroacides, their recommended doses, treatment periods and approved ways to apply them to a colony. Unfortunately, mites have shown resistance to some of the active ingredients in some products and Jason points to the various NBU resources that describe how to ascertain if your colony will be resistant to a product; following manufacturers’ guidelines, however, will help minimise the chances of building up mite resistance to varroa treatments. The next articles in this series will address what could happen if you do misuse a medicine. Subsequent articles will focus on IMP programs and what could happen if these are not followed properly. Hopefully, this series will allay any concerns you may have and help you feel confident in treating varroa infestations with a variety of strategies.
Finally, the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers (IMYB) will be taking place during the first week of July. This is the eighth such meeting and there will undoubtedly be large numbers of excited young beekeepers descending upon Marlborough, keen to learn, share experiences and, most importantly build friendships through our wonderful craft. Ruth and Ian Homer have done a great job in organising the meeting and on page 242 they reflect upon the how best we can make beekeeping more accessible to young people who, indeed, are the future of beekeeping. Our hobby is one that people of all ages can enjoy on equal terms; experience being something that can be shared across age ranges. Ruth and Ian are eager to extend a helping hand to younger beekeepers and they urge us to consider ways in which we can welcome these enthusiastic young people into our community and help them to build their knowledge. There is everything to gain!
We wish all attendees of the IMYB 2017 and their dedicated helpers a fantastic meeting.