Beekeeping Calendar -Summer
Summer beekeeping activitiesWhen summer approaches it is high time you added a new level to the hives occupied by powerful colonies in order to allow bees to store their honey. They need a wide space in order to unfold their activities, otherwise they will stop working or even worse they will start swarming. Keep on with the bee colonies monitoring and add a new level after the five central frames are filled up with honey. When all the frames of a level are filled with honey and more than half of the honeycomb cells are sealed with beeswax, you can harvest the honey.
Do not panic if towards summer end the queen bee no longer lays as many eggs as during the spring months. It is normal since winter approaches. During hot and wet summer night you will be able to see a huge bunch of bees hanging at the entrance of the hive. Do not panic! The bees are just getting a chill! If such a phenomenon occurs, than you must ventilate better the beekeeping hive with the help of some extra holes in the hive box.
Towards the summer end the number of the individual in a colony of bees stars decreasing gradually. The drones are still in the hive, but their activity is much more reduced. The honeybees become more restful and overly protective with their honey.
What does a beekeeper have to do in summer?
1.Weekly inspection of the beekeeping hives in order to make sure that the bees are healthy and the queen bees are still alive
2.Addition of new frames and level in order to expand the bees' space
3.Keeping under control the swarming phenomenon which might occur somewhere in the middle of summer; there are few swarming chances towards the end of summer
4.Pay attention to the honey stealing which might be caused by wasps or other honeybees; it is not very pleasant to deal with under siege hives
5.Pay the utmost attention when harvesting honey; do not harvest honey in autumn because your bees will die of hunger in winter and in the following spring your apiary will be honeybee free.
There are other more specific activities that a beekeeper has to do in summer:
1.Identifying the peak of the nectar gathering periods
Honeybees gather nectar all through the summer, but there are times when this gathering is more abundant. Therefore, it is necessary for beekeepers to know when the various types of mellifluous plants bloom.
There are certain signs that point out that nectar gathering is very intense. These signs are:
1. the flight of bees is more intense and there are lots of them at the hive entrance
2. the honeycombs have a yellowish color due to the fact that the bees elongate the cells and seal the honey
3. at dusk, the honey scent is pungent within the apiary
4. the bees responsible with hive ventilation intensify their activity in order to evaporate the water extant in the freshly gathered nectar
How to maximize nectar gatheringBeekeepers know that not all colonies of bees are able to maximize a nectar gathering period. There are certain conditions that allow a bee family to gather a maximum quantity of nectar:
-the colony of bees has to be strong, with bees occupying 12 standard honeycombs, out of which 8-9 have to be filled with eggs
-the colony of bees has to be active; it is well-known that a bee family on the verge of swarming has a highly diminished nectar gathering activity
In order to maximize the nectar gathering process, the following activities need to be done:
1. the colonies of bees have to be kept in wide honeybee hives that allow the normal development of the bee families, the honeys storage and whose dimensions can be either widen or reduced
2. intensification of ventilation by shadowing the hives or placing a sieve under the top of the box
3. replacing old queen bees with young ones able to lay a great number of eggs
4. usage of support families which when gathering time approaches have to be united with the original colony of bees; thus, the hive will have more working honeybees and consequently more honey
5. strengthening the weak bee families with bee brood taken from strong families
Once spring comes to an end, the colonies of bees reach the peak of their development. If the beekeepers do not intervene with firm actions, the honeybees will start swarming and the other nectar gathering will be compromised. Creating new bee families and the applying of all the above measures can prevent lots of problems and corresponding damages.
Preparing the colonies of bees for nectar gatheringThe preparation activities differ from one hive type to another:
1. Horizontal beekeeping hives:one week before the nectar gathering each bee family has to be provided with five to six honeycombs so as to offer the bee enough storage space; when placing these new combs within the hive we have to arrange them as it follows: first we place near the entrance a honeycomb with pollen, then come the honeycomb with bee brood, then a pollen and honey honeybee comb, combs filled with honey and then the empty ones. During the gathering the bees will fill first the combs that already have honey and then they will more forward to the empty ones. There are times when it is necessary to put new frames with artificial combs.
2.Vertical hives with storage spaces:the necessary space is created by adding a storage space on top of the hive; if the bees fill this storage space too, it is necessary to add another one; the arrangement will be as follows: first the hive, than the new empty storage space and then the full storage space
3.Multilayered hives:if there is an abundant nectar gathering, than a third box has to be put on the top of the other two; the bees store the honey in the second box and start to seal it; now it time for making the switch between the second and the third box.
The period following the nectar gathering is a rather difficult one for the colony of bees. The bee population increases while the food decreases. In order to keep the colonies active, some beekeepers feed them on a sugar and water syrup.
How to harvest and store the honey?After abundant nectar gatherings the hives are filled with honey, which is probably the most precious hive product. The honey gathering and harvesting has to be done with care so as not to destroy in a few days an entire year's work.
The honey honeycombs must be taken out only when more than half of their cells have been sealed. It has been calculated that the honey extant in a 1/3 sealed surface has a water content of 18-20%. However, when the weather is very rainy the content of water in honey might be higher. Thus, the frames have to be kept inside the hive for as long as possible, so as for the honey to mature. Beekeepers prefer to add some extra frames rather than prematurely removing the full ones.
The honeycombs filled with honey are taken out from the hive by using a smoker and a hive tool. The honeycombs are kept above the hive and with a few sudden movements the bees are removed from the comb. Pay attention not to kill the queen bee. The reaming bees are removed with a bee brush and the honeycomb is put in a special box. The whole process has to be done quickly and cautiously so as to prevent bees from stealing honey.
The room where the honey is extracted must be clean and disinfected and so has to be the extractor. The honeycombs have to be sorted according to their color. If the extraction process is delayed, than the honeycombs must be preheated at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. The heating is done with the help of a warm gust of air.
There are two processes connected with honey extraction: honeycombs unsealing and the actual honey extraction. There are certain tools that are needed during this stage: a small recipient with a sieve in order to separate homey from beeswax, an uncapping knife or fork, an extractor, a recipient for the honey and several sieves. All the equipment must be made of stainless steel. After the extraction the honeycombs are put back into the hives for the bees to clean them up.
The honey clarification is the process through which honey impurities are removed. The honey gathered in a recipient that is one meter high must be cleared at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, the whole process taking three days. If you want to finish the whole process within 36 hours, than the purification has to be done at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. After decantation honey is put in some special recipients where the percentage of water decreases until reaches the limit imposed by the law. The final storage has to be done in stainless steal recipients.
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