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Month by Month in your Apiary: August : 11 Cut Comb

You can use Porter escapes in a crownboard to clear the bees from the honey supers

borage, golden rod, herbs, purple loosestrife, snowberry, fuchsias, heleniums and wild (single) roses, to name a few, to produce nectar, which will be frantically worked by our bees. The honey will stay liquid longer than any crop containing oilseed rape honey, due to its lower glucose and higher fructose content, so it can be extracted at any time it is sealed or, if unsealed, when it is so viscous that a sharp downward shake does not cause drops to fl y out.

Earlier in this series, I described how you could ‘snatch’ honey by brushing bees off honeyed super combs and placing the frames in a covered box, one by one. This approach is not recommended in August because the bees are more possessive of their precious winter food and are likely to react accordingly. Instead, you need to clear supers you want to harvest using a clearer board. This is often a crownboard with Porter bee escapes placed in both holes. Make sure the TOP is on the top so that bees go down into the supers through the one-way valve and don’t return. You place this clearer board under any supers that are ready and wait a day or so. When you return, the super will be practically empty of bees so you can remove it to your extracting facility. Unlike the June harvest, fi ltering and bottling can be done at a more leisurely pace. Once the honey has been fi ltered, it can be stored in bulk buckets or you can bottle it there and then. Tiny specks and bubbles will rise to the surface over the next few days so you will need to skim these off the surface before checking the weight. When I am covering this enjoyable aspect of beekeeping in my kitchen with the beekeeping course students, I usually leave a window open. Sure enough, a bee will come in after a few minutes to demonstrate what we should not do!

August 2013 Vol 95 No 8

If you have used unwired foundation in some of your super frames, you can cut the honeycomb into blocks to eat as cut comb. Place each block onto a mesh for a few minutes to drain off the honey, then put the block into a container. As with all forms of honey storage, this must be air tight. If it isn’t, water can be absorbed by the honey from the atmosphere until it contains too much, which can lead to fermentation.

manipulation cloths while inspecting, to cover supers and the brood chamber.

• Reduce the way in by using an entrance block so that the bees can defend the colony successfully against wasps.

• When clearing supers, check that there are no tiny gaps where wasps or robber bees could enter.

• Make a wasp trap from a large jam jar with a hole in its lid. Fill it with jam mixed with hot water. Wasps will enter and drown in it in large numbers. Colonies can live next to each other all summer long, seemingly without noticing their neighbours. But if you leave honey exposed, return emptied supers or feed during the day, the excitement caused can result in the start of robbing. This is much easier to prevent than to overcome, once started.

If you use unwired foundation, you can produce cut comb

Heather Going

Despite living in Derbyshire, I don’t move my bees to the heather moors. This is simply because there is so much forage nearby that I don’t have to lift a fi nger and I usually obtain another crop in August and even into September. The idea with ‘going to the heather’ is that, if you can fi nd a spot where there is nothing but heather fl owering as far as a bee fl ies (a circle of about three miles radius), then the incoming nectar will be almost entirely from the ling heather. This commands a premium which goes some way to covering the extra costs involved. Heather honey is thixotropic, ie, like ‘jelly paint’, and is only liquid for a short while after stirring, which makes it more diffi cult to extract than other honeys. For this reason, heather honey specialists often aim to produce heather honey cut comb.

Wasps and Robber Bees

Wasps can be a big problem in August and September. They love sweet liquids and will soon fi nd their way into your beehives to steal the nectar and honey. They can be so numerous that a small bee colony can give up the struggle and fade away. To prevent this: • Never leave nectar or honey exposed where wasps can fi nd it. Use

If you think a colony is being robbed, watch the bees near the entrance. Robbers make a characteristic zig-zag approach, then dart straight in. They will continue their raids long into the evening, well past the time other colonies have ceased working for the day. A sheet of plastic or glass in front of the entrance can help, as robbers bump into it while residents on their way out rapidly learn to crawl to the edge.


I well remember one August when half a dozen candidates were taking their basic assessment in my apiary. I issued strict instructions NOT to squash any queen cells they found. This is because the raising of a replacement queen without swarming, ie, supersedure, is quite common at this time of year. Some clues that the queen cells are

Margaret has been Bee Craft’s Deputy Editor since 2005. Her apiary perched atop a windy hillside in Derbyshire boasts four colonies (of locally adapted dark bees) in winter and up to ten in summer. Her aim is to produce nucleus colonies for her mentees which they will enjoy nurturing. Margaret teaches four courses a year in the summer months.

Claire Waring

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