First step when planning to open the hive is allow smell of smoke to waft across the entrance of the brood box. It masks human smells and distracts the bees into thinking a fire is more of a threat than the beekeeper.

Not a good year for my bees. With the frequent showers, the queen bee was thwarted in her efforts to fly high and mate with as many drones as she can in the ‘drone zone’. The drones congregate 30 – 90 feet above the ground. The queen needs good dry weather during the first 10 – 20 days of her life so she can fly high and mate profusely to collect all the sperm she needs for the egg laying season ahead.

Given the lack of good queen mating conditions this year, I was surprised that  I got any honey at all. The more established of my two hives showed a healthy population of bees. They managed to make the best of any dry days to forage for pollen, nectar, water and propolis, with the result that two ‘supers’ ( the boxes of honey storing frames placed above the brood box) had a reasonable weight of honey when I checked them in the last week.

Another downside to the inhospitable bee-weather is that the bees are tetchy and irritable when I have to open the hive. The fact that I am effectively stealing their winter stores of honey is another upsetting factor for the bees. However, I do replace the honey removed with a thick mixture of dissolved sugar in water. After the honey has been (partially) extracted from the combs in the ‘supers’, then these ‘supers’ are returned to the hive to be cleaned up by the bees. The bees will no doubt make good use of any residual honey I have left behind.

The honey extractor is owned by the Fingal North Dublin Beekeepers, www.fingalbeekeepers.net . As a member I can hire it for a modest amount to carry out the one day operation of extracting the honey from the frames in each ‘super’. To find out more see www.irishbeekeeping.ie for more information about your nearest beekeeping association. In my case Thursday, 6th September in the CBS secondary school, Dublin Road, Swords at 8pm, is my next meeting to help me get my bees ready for the winter. Meanwhile, I hope you can see and enjoy our  video about ‘Getting Honey from the Hive to the House’.


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