The end of the beekeeping year is fast approaching. For most beekeepers, blackberry (briar) will be the last major nectar flow from which they will get a crop of honey.
So far, the beekeeping year has been sluggish, with bees building up slowly, later-than-normal building of queen cells and inconsistent nectar supplies due to intermittent “bee weather”.
This year, the white clover seemed to be in abundance. Meadows with clover were a delight to observe and the sweet smell and hum of bees reminded me of my childhood days. It was magnificent and we got about a week of good weather where everything came right.
The temperature was good and bees worked it very well. I noted the bumblebees were even more plentiful on the white clover than the honeybees. It was a pleasure to watch both work the florets as they eagerly moved around them.
Many colonies appear to have delayed or postponed swarming
Honeybee colonies, in most years, would make preparations for swarming by producing queen cells, mainly in late May and through June. This year, very few colonies made any attempt at it until the few good warm days at the end of June. Many colonies appear to have delayed or postponed swarming. While this is beneficial in that the colony strength builds, increasing the numbers of bees available for forage, it also extends the number of checks the beekeeper must make on these hives. Failure to check for swarm preparations could mean the colony swarms, losing most of the foraging force, not to mention the resulting loss of a honey crop.
Given that swarming is a natural phenomenon occurring at the time of year which is most opportunistic for survival, its co-incidence with the main nectar flows is no coincidence. It is the management of this situation which requires the skill of the beekeeper if they want to maximise the honey crop.
Irrespective of which method is used, queens reared from them can, after mating, only fertilise eggs from the random mating with drones
Many beekeepers will have reared queens during May, June and July. Some will have produced them by specific methods, while others use the swarming impulse where these cells are produced naturally.
Irrespective of which method is used, queens reared from them can, after mating, only fertilise eggs from the random mating with drones in a “drone congregation area”, some of which could have very undesirable traits. The fertilisation of eggs laid by the queen can result in a mixed bag of bees, since she will have mated with about 14 drones, some of which will have the very traits which we do not need.
Saturation of drone congregation areas with drones of known high quality can ensure the best bees
Any one of these eggs could produce next year’s queen, thus spreading problems. Saturation of drone congregation areas with drones of known high quality can ensure the best bees.
Ireland is blessed to have the Native Irish Dark Bee in its pure state but for how long? Until Ireland puts protection in place for this bee, there is a risk of losing its genetic uniqueness. Our Government and the EU need to make this happen. This bee is most suited to the Irish climate in every respect. As they say: “You only miss the water when the well goes dry.” Allowing imports of bees and queens into Ireland will undoubtedly affect the status of our native dark bee. No point in closing the stable door when the horse has bolted.