Success at last

If there are any readers of this blog out there then I apologise for the inordinate delay since the last posting.  My only excuse is that it has been a busy year.

This is the 3rd year I have been keeping bees and yet again it has not been a straight forward year.  In the first two years the weather was cold and wet and the bees struggled to forage sufficient stores to survive the Winters.  This year seemed just the opposite.  The warm weather and plentiful pollen sent the bees into overdrive,  so much so that some colonies in Wales were swarming in April, two months earlier than normal.  Indeed our own bees were also showing signs of swarming and very quickly we had to expand our two hives to six.  One Sunday afternoon we had to shut the plant area twice for half an hour as two of the new queens emerged for their mating flights.  It was a spectacular affair and a privilege to witness the rare sight of the air thick with bees as tens of thousands took to the air to celebrate the occasion.

It was thus a busy Summer as I tried to look out for signs of swarming, splitting the colonies where necessary and checking that the new queens had hatched and mated successfully.  Even so two of the colonies swarmed and were lost to other beekeepers or the Wild.  I also attended a further beekeeping course and passed my first exam on the long path to becoming a master beekeeper (many years away).

Some colonies have proved stronger than others and not all the new queens survived or mated correctly.  One of the queens to swarm was the nasty aggressive one, so aggressive even that my experienced beekeeping instructors were also apprehensive about inspecting her hive.  However, I also lost my best queen too. The net result is that I am left with three thriving colonies, one headed by the daughter of the aggressive queen and the other two from my lovely calm queen.  I am well satisfied with this.  Of the latter two colonies, one has thrived better than the other.  It is odd as both queens share the same mother and the hives are situated next to each other.  However, both colonies are delightfully calm.

Due to the abnormally warm September two of my colonies are still breeding and all three have produced a bumper crop of honey.  I have therefore deemed it safe to remove honey from two of them.  I have still to extract the honey but it is possible that I might harvest over 100lbs of honey in total.  It is a very satisfying feeling.  The good news therefore is that we will be selling our own honey this year and will also be including it in various dishes on our menu in the Garden Café.  At last I can start to recoup some of the investment in equipment.  Watch out for further details.