The willows are in full bloom and so are the dandelions. Over the last 20 years they have been getting earlier and earlier but have now returned almost to the start time. I reckon that when they are in flower the bees can fend for themselves and don’t need to rely on their stores, allowing me to harvest from my top bar hives honey that is truly surplus to their requirements. It’s real honey, not partially recycled sugar, as I don’t normally feed my bees.
I visited the first of them today, at the Bee Happy Plants nursery at Tatworth. Working gently from the rear, without smoke, spray or gloves, I moved forward until I found the brood area near the front of the hive. The brood, on about 5 combs, appeared healthy and I saw the large, dark, marked queen. Although she and many of her daughters are very dark she must have mated with a stripey drone or two as a proportion of the workers are striped.
I had brought with me some plastic bags and as I closed up the hive I took the bars with lots of honey, lowered the comb into a bag and sliced it off with a hive tool, leaving a good footprint to guide the bees in drawing new comb. I alternated the chopped off combs with empty ones that I hadn’t harvested to help guide comb renewal. At my next visit, if the colony is looking stronger, I shall move some of the empty bars towards the front so they can rear their babies on fresh comb and I shall cut out any comb that is looking too dark and elderly.
When I got home I weighed the comb and it’s about 10lb. Some might be pretty enough for cut comb but I expect that I shall have to squeeze and strain most of it before bottling.