Monday, 5 July 2010

Honey Harvest

I have two bee hives in my garden most of the time, and rather like Alan Bennet's dad, who always had an everyday suit and a best suit which he referred to as "my suit" and "my other suit" respectively, my hives always seem to be "the Hive" and "the other Hive". Except in my case "the Hive" is the good one and "the other Hive" is not so good.

I was very pleased to find enough honey for a decent harvest in the Hive, when I did my inspection the other day. Not so good in the Other Hive, which still appears not to have a laying queen, despite my earlier efforts, so I have transferred another  frame of eggs and larvae from the Good Hive to the Other Hive, in the hope that this will encourage the bees to select one of the eggs and nurture it into a queen which they do by feeding with royal jelly and generally mollycoddling her. Quite democratic when you think about it, she's really just a bee like any other but  is selected to be treated differently, and if I were Richard Dawkins, I would no doubt see this as evidence of  Nurture over Nature, or am I thinking of Steven Pinker?

Anyway Bee queens, rather like The Queen, are very well looked after by vast numbers of servants, and also work very hard indeed, (but without the dodgy relatives). It may even be truer to say that everyone is her relative since everyone is either her sibling or her offspring (I'm obviously back to the bee queen here) - she is the only one who can lay the fertile eggs which will ensure the future of the hive. I really need to set up a bait hive to see if I can attract a passing swarm, as one good hive isn't enough of an insurance against possible future losses. Even small beekeepers like me should always try to have at least two good hives at any one time. One hive and one "other" just isn't safe enough really.

I've made so much marmalade and jam this year, that I've run out of jars, so I have stored all my honey temporarilly in large preserving jars for the time being, and I will decant it into smaller jars in due course. If  I do get another super of honey to harvest I will have too much for myself and my family/friends and will have some to sell, which will be the first for quite a while. But I always make certain that I leave more than enough to last the bees over the winter. It is possible to feed bees on sugar syrup, and indeed commercially this is always done, but I much prefer to let the bees have the food they have worked so hard to make, and only feed sugar syrup in an emergency.
What a good egg I am.

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