Generally speaking beekeepers will be taking their honey off roundabout the first week in August if you are in an area where your bees can forage on Heather. You must remove your flower honey before the Heather comes in to flower. I hear you ask why on earth should I do this? Well simply Heather honey without going into too much detail will spoil your flower honey sample. In other words simply, it will not be a nice clear sample. Heather honey is thixotropic and will be of a jellylike consistency and will not be crystal clear so if you are thinking of putting one or two jars in the honey show please be sure to remove your flower honey before Heather comes into flower.
Timing is important
Many beekeepers leave honey harvesting far too late in the year, not giving the bees sufficient time to remove any excess moisture and settle down for winter. Generally speaking bees will not do much after the 1st to 2nd week of August. There may be a little late honey such as ivy, balsam and Rose Bay willow herb but generally speaking these are not available in quantities. I hear you say well my bees are working well into September. That may be the case but generally the bees are in decline and giving them too much work to do later on is a bad thing for the general health of the bees.
Bees that pass through winter put on special body fats to enable them to pass through the winter. They are quite different to the normal bees which are bred in the summer months. This is why it is quite important to give the bees time to assimilate the food and prepare for winter, all this takes a little time and needs to be undertaken in September. Any colonies which have failed to get a laying queen should be repaired ASAP
There is an outbreak I’m told in the Herefordshire area. Please be vigilant- looking at your 5 to 6 day old larvae will give you some idea. Remember if you don’t look at your larvae you will not spot it. Many beekeepers do not examine their bees on a weekly or monthly basis, they simply take the honey off at the end of the year and leave them to it. Given that they are wild insects why should I look at my brood? I have some sympathy with that but on the other hand if you do not look at your brood you may well be harbouring disease going undetected which will undoubtedly spread to your neighbouring beekeepers if left. Now this is fine for hobbyist beekeepers who do not rely on their hobby for a living.
However if you are a commercial keeper of bees and are trying to make a living from keeping them, doing pollination work and producing honey, it is a different ball game. A commercial beekeeper needs to know where the disease is at the time it is found so that he may not bring his or her bees into an area where there is disease. I call that common sense, you would not wish to take your bees to an area where there is disease. You must accept some responsibility yourself and be responsible keepers of these precious insects, routine inspection is an absolute for those wishing to bring about some control.
The Foul Brood order is administered by the NBU and the inspection service is run by them, if you feel you have problems please get in touch.
Back in 1960 Herefordshire was almost impossible to keep bees in without coming into contact with various forms of foul brood. We do not wish this to return so please look at your bees. You may not be able to recognise the diseases because you do not see them on a regular basis but any beekeeper worth his or her salt will know if there is something wrong. Remember with EFB pearly white larvae is the order of the day. If you see discolouration look very carefully, of course it can be mistaken for one of the other diseases which bees can get -chalk brood, sack brood and indeed some of the advanced stages of these can be wrongly interpreted. If you feel you have a problem call somebody who is more experienced than yourself.