My Murphy bees are still behind netting without much sun, awaiting a new location after the building work nearby finishes. The one strong colony now has 3 supers, even though I have a nuc box at the ready in case they intend to swarm.
I have had many calls regards bumble bees and have used my persuasive powers to keep the nests where they are. I collected one ‘tree bumble bees’ nest from an air vent to a bedroom. It is now in my back garden attracting a few males around the entrance. I am due to give a talk, with slide show, on these bees next Monday 1st June at the Highgate Society when I will explain how they differ from honey bees and wasps. I will also discuss their pollination advantages.
Beekeepers used to refer to the “June Gap”. After the abundant forage available in May, there can be a quiet week or two at the beginning of June before the big flow from the lime and blackberries. These provide our bees with, probably, the prime nectar flow of the season. On good years a strong colony can fill a super per week, a perfect time to try for comb honey, either cut or section. This is the real and traditional way to serve honey. The Irish beekeepers specialise in this and sell it, side-by-side with strawberries, at the roadside, especially in County Wexford.
Cut comb is the most straight forward method. Use unwired thin beeswax foundation in standard super frames and hope that the bees fully fill and cap it. To prepare the filled comb for sale, lay the full frame on a cake grid over a shallow baking tray to catch honey drips (both bigger that the frame). Cut the whole comb out of the frame and then slice up the comb to just under the size of the “crystal comb containers” (from Thorne). You should be able to cut about 7 or 8 pieces per frame, weighing approximately 6 to 8ozs each. Allow the combs to drain before packaging.
Section Comb is much more difficult to achieve, mainly because the bees do not usually fill the sections fully. The equipment is shown on page 22 of the Thorne’s catalogue. Specialised racks are needed to hold the square or round section holders (round ones are more likely to be fully filled).
In all cases there must be a good nectar flow when trying this and it is best to position the super on top of an ordinary one over the queen excluder to avoid pollen being stored with your comb honey.
Lime trees, blackberry, Rosebay willowherb, all to be found on Hampstead Heath.
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