August is the end of the beekeeping year. If the beekeeper has been lucky, it culminates in the sticky process of extracting golden honey. For the last few days I have been eating honey spooned over raspberries, strawberries and peaches. Soon it will be apple season and I’ll drizzle it over warm stewed apples. I must also remember to eat it spread over toast, all warm and gooey.
This year has been good to us. On Saturday Jonesie, Emma and I were all busy clearing our bees down from the supers, ready to take the honey off. One of Jonesie’s colonies must have had an inkling what was going on, as they chased us around the apiary. Below you can see Jonesie hiding from them. A visitor made the mistake of entering without any suit on and quickly ran away yelping!
The hives have black tape around them to stop any wasps or bees getting in. We put a clearer board underneath the supers so that the bees could go down but not back up, and then collected the frames on Sunday. We have taken two supers and will soon take another, so I am hopeful that we will actually have surplus honey to sell this year, as well as giving it to friends and family and leaving enough for the bees.
Now that the honey has been spirited away ready for extraction, we can begin varroa treatment using Apiguard. While inspecting I noticed a few bees with deformed wings and also black shiny bodies caused by Chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), which is associated with varroa. It is so sad to see the bees with tattered, useless wings, so it will feel good to nuke some mites.
By the way the National Honey Show website has a good recorded lecture, ‘Ghosts in the Hive – Varroa’s life cycle inside a Honey Bee Colony‘, in which scientist Ricarda Kather talks about her research on the mites. One of the topics she talks about is how varroa mimics the smell of their host bee whilst riding on its back, so that the mites pass undetected by bees. Within the space of three hours a mite can adjust its odour to every single bee it clings to, from nurse bees to foragers (bees smell different as they get older). They can do this even when dead, so the process must happen automatically without any effort being required by the mite.
Above you can see our bees doing a yoga class, displaying excellent balance and posture as they do the downward dog position. They are also revealing their Nasonov glands at the tip of their abdomen, releasing a pheromone to attract fellow colony members back home. They tend to do this when hive parts are moved – here the crown board had been propped up next to the hive.
Here are a few photos of the summer.
Dandelions by water.
Daisies planted in a wildflower style meadow, Walpole Park in Ealing
Evening clouds over Elthorne Park
And finally, this year Britain and other European countries are commemorating the hundred year anniversary of the start of the First World War, known at the time as the Great War. During my lunch break last week I walked down to the Tower of London Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red art installation. The Tower of London website says:
“Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat over the summer. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war.”
It is quite shocking to look down on the moat and realise that each of these thousands of poppies represents a person, someone who died in a place of misery due to the greed of others. The display has beauty in the form of the flowers but also a certain horror, as its flowing lines resemble a splattered river of blood. So much wasted life because of the selfish ambitions of a few. What have people learnt from this? A quick read of the news each morning suggests nothing much at all.