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Bee blog for August: The harvest begins

August; the month to take stock, reflect and begin preparations for the winter. This is certainly the case for a beekeeper and, after consideration, it is appropriate for the gardener as well. However, whilst the bee’s year is almost over the same cannot be said of the garden. Late summer and autumn can be glorious months particularly if we are lucky enough to enjoy an Indian Summer. There is a healthy amount of moisture in the ground so the floral display should continue well into September and October so long as there are no early frosts.

 

The summer honey flow has been late this year. Happily I was able to take off three supers (boxes that stack up to make the honey storage element of a hive) of honey in advance of our August opening for visitors to view. Everybody was fascinated to see the combs of honey fresh off the hives; all the honey comb cells neatly capped with brilliant white wax. I should have had a ‘guess the weight of a super of honey’ – it would have been a fun competition. For those that are interested, a full honey frame can weigh 3lbs and there are 10 or 11 frames in a super.

Bee related items of interest at Southlands Lodge:

  • Main apiary in the cherry orchard
  • A demonstration hive that allows visitors to see into a working colony through as glass screen
  • A Long Hive in full operation (containing 2 colonies of bees)
  • A nuc hive (small starter hive)
  • Honey removed from the hive, still in the comb
  • An insect hotel
  • And, for those lucky enough to witness it, a swarm did emerge from one of my hives and settle in a nearby fruit tree on the July Sunday. The best laid plans and swarm control measure are not always 100% successful.

The time has come to relax and enjoy the late summer garden and look forward to extracting honey once the main crop has been brought in. The bees are still busy on the bramble so the nectar flow continues. However, it will not be long now before it is time to remove the honey crop. Planning for 2022 begins at the end of the month. One always hopes that ‘next year’ will be bigger and better than the last, but every year one finds out that there are more lessons to be learned!

 

Southlands Lodge opened as planned in early July and again on the 1st August to support the BBC Big Bee Challenge weekend. The latter occasion was as a pop-up opening.

Six lessons learned from our 2021 garden openings:

  1. As parking is limited at Southlands Lodge, the pre-booked, timed entry, facility provided by the National Garden Scheme worked well. Our July weekend was sold out and visitors were evenly spread out throughout the day.
  2. Teas and homemade cakes were provided free of charge. Visitors were incredibly generous and donated wonderfully into the charity jar. National Garden Scheme visitors are the best!
  3. Contingency planning delivers results. Gazebos worked just as well to provide shade from the sun as they did shelter when we had a sharp rain shower. The supplied umbrellas were also appreciated.
  4. The unexpected will happen. The bamboo canes and twine came in handy when a part of the garden had to be unexpectedly cordoned off.
  5. A paper map suggesting a route round the garden was popular.
  6. The planned opening weekend was slightly better attended that the ‘pop up’ opening, however, in both cases the majority of bookings were made at the last minute. Happily we catered for a sell out.

You can read all of Colin David’s bee blogs and more bee-friendly stories here.

 

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