County Wexford Beekeepers' Association
Bees in June
by Pat O' Toole
It takes six weeks from egg laying to gathering the nectar. Three weeks to hatch out and three weeks working in the hive, cleaning and feeding the brood. The eggs that are laid at the end of May are the ones that you want in July for the main honey flow.
Keep putting the supers on in June. If you’re using new foundation, when it’s drawn out you can put on a super. If the weather is good you could be putting a super on every week or so. You could end up with five or six supers on a colony in a good year. It depends on the weather conditions. 2018 was a very good year for honey. It can vary from place to place as well. If you’re in a good place with plenty of clover and blackberry there’s normally a good flow of honey.
Oilseed rape honey
June is a busy time of year, a very busy time. It’s when people take off their oilseed rape honey. It’s normally the last week or May or the first week of June when that comes off. On a good year with oilseed rape, you could have three supers on a hive.
When the supers with oilseed rape honey are taken off it has to be spun off, extracted, immediately. It can’t even be left overnight in the frames as it will crystallise very quickly and then you won’t be able to extract it. Once you’ve extracted the oilseed rape honey, then you put the supers back on again as soon as possible.
If the weather is not good in June, the bees can go into swarming mode, especially once they’re off the oilseed rape and before the main honey flow has started. The hive is packed up with bees at this time of year and the main honey flow might not start till the 10th or 15th of June, when the clover and blackberry comes in.
Once the main flow starts then they settle down and won’t generally swarm if they have plenty of supers to give them room. But before that you have to implement some kind of swarm control.
I usually use the artificial swarm method to control swarming. I take out one frame with the queen on it and put it into a new brood chamber and I fill that brood chamber with foundation or drawn foundation. All the worker bees will come back to where the queen is and they’ll draw out the foundation there.
The queen excluder goes above the new brood chamber which is on the bottom, then the supers go on top of that. I then put the other brood chamber above the supers and let all the brood hatch out.
As the brood hatches out the worker bees will fill it with honey. You have to go back in eight days to check for queen cells in the top brood box. If they make queen cells in the top brood box, you have to break them down. The idea behind this method is the bees think that they’ve swarmed, but you’re keeping the hive intact.
Keep checking them once every eight days up to the beginning of July and after that you leave them alone.
Making a nuc
You could make up a nuc from a very strong colony if you wanted. Take out a frame of eggs and shake in a couple of frames of bees and bring it off. Once there’s eggs in it they’ll make a queen cell themselves and then you have a new colony. Move it roughly about two miles away or else the flying bees would go back to the hive, and not the nuc.
Some people take the old queen out on a frame and put her in the nuc box and shake in a couple frames of bees with her. If you do it like that the bees in the original stock will make a new queen cell automatically themselves.
But you have to go back to the original hive after eight days and break down the queen cells to leave only one open queen cell. You have to do that otherwise the first queen cell to hatch out will bring away a swarm. The next queen to hatch could go out with a cast as well, so your colony would be very depleted.